Mark Lanegan Goes Back to the Future With ‘Imitations’
At a time when his peers in Nirvana are being remembered with the deluxe reissue of their final studio album, In Utero, former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan has no interest in celebrating his past. Rather, the singer, who is perhaps best known for the Screaming Tree's 1992 alternative rock hit "Nearly Lost You," is looking to the future with Imitations, a collection of his interpretation of songs that have influenced him throughout his life, due on Sept. 17.
The 12-song set features Lanegan — with his trademark deep, soulful voice — covering Nick Cave's "Brompton Oratory," the Twilight Singers' "Deepest Shade," and John Cale's "I'm Not the Loving Kind"; as well as such classics as "Mack the Knife," "Solitaire," and "Autumn Leaves." The latter two songs are closely associated with that sweater-wearing crooner Andy Williams.
Some might be wondering how Lanegan happened to stumble across these tunes. "I heard them somewhere," he says. "Might have been at my parents' friends' house when they were playing cards, but I know I used to hear Andy Williams a lot and it sort of stuck with me. I consider him to be one of the great, great singers." Photo by Steve Gullick
Photo by Steve Gullick
When we mention that Williams isn't appreciated by most rockers or rock fans, Lanegan acknowledges, "Yeah, most people consider him to be a bit schmaltzy, but I once heard that [David] Bowie's biggest influence was Anthony Newley, so inspiration can come from everywhere."
As Lanegan explains, he's been performing covers since he first started singing way back in 1982. "It's a time-honored tradition," he says. "It's a different kind of satisfaction, different kind of enjoyment than making your own songs, to remake someone else's song that you really like. I enjoy my own songs, but I can never love them in the way that I can love someone else's song."
To that end, Lanegan carries a deep emotional attachment to most of the songs on Imitations and the artists that originally recorded them. As for John Cale, Lanegan says, "I've played with him a number of times. He's been one of my heroes sine I was a kid. I love all his records and all his different directions. If there's anyone if I sort of used their career as a guidepost, it would be him because he just does exactly what he wants. It's always interesting. It's always great. He's probably my favorite artist of all time."
He has similar admiration for Nick Cave, who he's toured with and performed with in the past. Lanegan has collaborated with Greg Dulli in the past as the Gutter Twins, as well as in the Twilight Singers, so there's a connection there.