As Mark Lanegan worked on the 10 songs that would become his third solo
album, Scraps at Midnight (July 28), he and the musicians recording with
him kept an open mind and allowed the atmosphere and accidents to influence
the songwriting process.
Lanegan said "Because of This" -- which guitarist Paul Solger described in an
earlier interview with SonicNet Music News as a "nine-minute
Stoogesesque jam" -- was the product of just such an accident.
"I was listening to Roxy Music with Kenny Richards and the CD started skipping
on a spot that made a noise like the one that Kenny plays on synthesizer," said
Lanegan, 33, who played guitar and sang on the LP. "We wrote the song around
that. I liked it because it reminded me of something the Trees might do."
The simpatico set of musicians on the new Lanegan album included bassist
Mike Johnson -- formerly of Dinosaur Jr -- along with Solger, drummer Kenny
Richards, guitarist Fred Drake and Dave Catching, who alternated between
acoustic slide-guitar, bass and piano.
Lanegan first garnered attention as frontman for the Washington-based
Screaming Trees, whose 1992 album, Sweet Oblivion, released at the
height of the grunge movement, earned the foursome their greatest notoriety. In
recent years, more attention has been paid to the band's in-fighting and
Lanegan's well-documented substance-abuse problems.
"It's been a long time since I've done one that way," Lanegan said about
recording sober. "It's a fuck of a lot easier for me. Music is not something I care
to obsess on, and it's even harder if you're loaded all the time -- it's like pulling
teeth. It always seemed like going to work and I never have liked working. This
was a good time with people I care about and that care about me, and
whenever you're doing that it ain't bad."
Solger suggested that Rancho De La Luna, the ranch house/recording studio
where the album was created, may have played a role in shaping the desolate,
peaceful sound of Scraps at Midnight.
"All and all, the recording of the album was like no other project I've done, it was
so relaxed and unstructured, but somehow this incredibly beautiful album came
out of it," Solger said. "I'm sure the studio and where it was had something to do
with it ... It was up in Joshua Tree, Calif., and in a house, so the atmosphere was
great compared to a regular studio."
Lanegan predicted that more material from the long-dormant Screaming Trees
may be on the way in the not-too-distant future. "We just officially got released
from Sony [on Thursday], so that means we'll be able to do something
sometime soon. We'll probably keep playing until we're 90."
Lanegan pegged "Bell Black Ocean," a subdued tune featuring Lanegan's
gravelly bass and soothing piano, as his favorite track on the album.
"That was a song that Kenny had on piano, and he thought it sounded like a
lullaby," Lanegan said. "It reminded me of something I might have heard when I
was a little kid. Me, Mike and Kenny made a song out of it real fast. That's how
we work. I'll have some music or one of my guys will play me some music and it
makes me think of something, or else it doesn't and we leave it alone."