Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: We catch up with Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan

By Chris Jones

The frontman of iconic US grunge band Screaming Trees, who plays Belfast next month, talks about turning 50, working as a painter, and his friend Kurt Cobain.

Q: You recently turned 50. Do milestones like that mean much to you?

A: Well, somebody once said 'You get to be old or you don't'. I'm quite happy to have gotten this old, but it's pretty much just another day. They say that 50 is the new 49, so I've got that going for me. 

Q: Do you have any role models among the generation that came before you, in terms of how they have carried on as musicians into their 50s and 60s?

A: Neil Young has always made great music and done exactly what he wanted to do; Leonard Cohen just turned 80 and put out a record; Mark E Smith; Nick Cave is not that much older than me but he is a little bit older. There's a lot of examples of guys that are still making vital music and are great examples for someone like me. 

Q: You have always been a prolific collaborator. What draws you to it so often?

A: Well, I get asked to do a lot of stuff and it's usually something that I'm into. Collaboration is part of what keeps me interested in music. Having been doing this for almost 30 years it's always fun to work with others and see things through somebody else's eyes and try and see if my thing fits with somebody else's vision, or vice versa. Even if I'm making records that just have my name on them, I'm still collaborating with whoever is working on those records with me. It's all relative. 

Q: You generally release and tour an album every year. Do you take much time out for yourself?

A: Well, you naturally do. The making of a record only takes a month and you might tour three or four months out of the year, so there's always at least six months where you're not doing either one of those things. But that said, there's work to be done outside the studio and off the road. The writing of the material takes some time, but that doesn't really feel like work. That's just something I enjoy. To be honest with you, none of it really feels like work. It's certainly not like digging ditches.

Q: Did you ever have jobs other than music?

A: Yeah, I had a lot of jobs when I was younger. Where I grew up there was a lot of agricultural jobs so I worked on a lot of farms. I worked in the pea fields, harvesting peas. I worked as a breakfast cook in a lot of different restaurants. In 2005 I worked as a scenic painter for a while when I was taking a break from music. I did some stuff for this show called The Biggest Loser, which is a reality show where people lose weight. I'm not even sure exactly what happens in it.

Q: There's an officially sanctioned Kurt Cobain documentary coming out next year. Given the fact that you were friends, were you approached to take part?

A: No, I was not asked to take part and I never do take part in that kind of stuff. It's not something I'm interested in. But it's not a surprise that people are interested in Kurt and his life because he was obviously one of a kind, a game-changing talent and for me he was just a really sweet and gentle guy who I loved and I miss.

  • The Mark Lanegan Band will be playing The Limelight, Belfast, on January 16. For details, visit www.limelightbelfast.com

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