“I find it irresistible to play the curmudgeonly old vampire”: the late, great Mark Lanegan on why it’s important to keep your sense of humour

 Mark Lanegan performing live.
Mark Lanegan performing live.
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Mark Lanegan’s gifts were many. Yes, the late singer-songwriter and Screaming Trees frontman was blessed with one of rock’s most remarkable voices, a grizzly, great vocal that swing from bulldozing menace to wounded brute, but he was also in possession of hard-won wisdom and a darkly comic turn-of-phrase, as anyone who read his incredible 2020 memoir Sing Backwards And Weep can testify. Around the time of the book's release, this writer spoke to Lanegan and came away, as I imagine anyone who crossed his path did, feeling a bit like they’d been handed some tools to deal with life a little better. One crucial rule Lanegan imparted was that it was important to keep your sense of humour intact.

“In this age of technology and social media, people like me who make music are privy to immediate criticism or praise, and are able to comment in return just as quickly,” he explained. “I admit being guilty of spending too much of my rare down-time taking shots at the low hanging fruit of the cliched descriptors, less-than-informed reviewers, and the speculators who seem to know the motivation and meaning behind every song lyric. I sometimes find it irresistible to play the curmudgeonly old vampire and show up with a surprise ball-buster at a super-fan’s feed on occasion as well. I’m probably the only guy out there who will find faux-fault when someone writes “It’s his greatest record ever!” Usually the ensuing brief internet conversation ends with me laughing and hopefully my target doing the same.”

The Nearly Lost You singer, who would definitely have taken issue with being described like that (sorry Mark), went on to detail a run-in he had with a music website that had him smirking to himself. “On my birthday one year a music blog tweeted out one of Screaming Trees’ songs as a tribute,” he explained. “I replied “Thanks. And by the way, for my next birthday you could choose something from one of my dozen solo releases, many tunes from which can be found on one of two box sets, two remix albums, countless full-length collaborations, or any other number of one-off non-Trees releases that number close to the hundreds.” They tweeted back “Wow! Thanks for being such an informative one-man-human-Google. We will keep that in mind.” A priceless come-back.”

The lesson from the great man here is: enjoy the sport, have a laugh to yourself about it, it’s only social media/the internet/life. Next time you get wound up by an idiot, ask yourself: What Would Mark Lanegan Have Done?