Mark Lanegan: architect of the Seattle grunge scene

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Mark Lanegan, the gravel-voiced singer-songwriter who helped the grunge music pioneer with his rock band Screaming Trees, then launched a career as a bluesy, introspective solo artist while collaborating with bands such as Queens of the Stone Age, died at the age of 57.

As the lead singer of Screaming Trees, Lanegan was an architect of the Seattle-based high-octane grunge scene, which reached a national following in the late 80s and 90s with the rise of bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Garden of Sound. His own band never reached those commercial heights, but did achieve success on MTV and alternative radio with their 1992 single “Nearly Lost You,” which was featured on the soundtrack to Cameron’s romantic comedy Gen-X. Crowe. Simple.

Honing a sharp sound that blended psychedelia, punk and roots rock, Screaming Trees made seven albums before breaking up in 2000, after years of drug and alcohol-fueled acrimony between Lanegan and his bandmates.

By then, Lanegan had also established himself as a brooding, darkly poetic solo artist, teaming up with producer and musician Mike Johnson to record albums such as The winding sheet (1990), which former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl called “one of the greatest albums of all time”, citing him as a key influence on Nirvana’s acclaimed album. MTV unplugged performance.

Reviewing Lanegan’s second solo album, Whiskey for the Holy Spirit (1994), all music Journalist Mark Deming wrote, “Lanegan’s voice, bathed in bourbon and nicotine, transforms the deep sadness of country blues (a clear inspiration for this music) into something new, compelling and entirely his own.

Lanegan has released a dozen solo albums while venturing into new musical territory, collaborating with artists such as Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale, singer-songwriter Neko Case and music pioneer Moby electronic music.

On stage with Screaming Trees in 1993

(Getty)

He joined Queens of the Stone Age as guest vocalist for several records; teamed up with Greg Dulli, leader of the Afghan Whigs, to form the Gutter Twins; recorded with rock supergroup Mad Season; and made three well-received albums with former Belle and Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell, whose airy voice was a warm counterpoint to her own soaring baritone.

For much of his career, he also struggled with alcohol, drug and sex addictions, which he recounted in a heartbreaking 2020 memoir, Sing backwards and cry. Book review for Great Britain new statesman magazine, author John Niven wrote that Lanegan provided “one of the most compelling accounts of misery and misery ever written”, detailing his transition from alcohol to heroin to crack cocaine, and the ways he begged, borrowed and stole to fund his habit.

Lanegan said he used torn tube socks to cover the track marks on his forearms and was hospitalized while touring in 1992 with an arm so infected that doctors considered removing it. amputate. “I almost did [die] many times,” he once said. Seattle weather. “And tons of my friends have. But, when you’re in the middle of what is ultimately just a horrible, nightmarish existence, the last thing you want to believe is that you might not get out.

Lanegan, far right, with Queens of the Stone Age in 2002

(Redferns)

As he said, he helped save his friend Kurt Cobain from at least one overdose, but never picked up the phone when the Nirvana frontman kept calling the day he died by suicide in 1994. “I considered him a darling little brother”, Lanegan mentioned. “It’s a guilt I will always have.” (He later mourned the loss of his close friend and collaborator Layne Staley, the lead singer of Alice in Chains, to a drug overdose in 2002.)

Lanegan said his own life was saved in large part thanks to singer-songwriter Courtney Love, Cobain’s widow, who helped pay for him to go to drug rehabilitation at the end of the 1990s, at a time when Lanegan was homeless. In its wake, he refocused his attention on music and said he was looking to move on by getting away from “everything going on in Seattle”, carving out a career separate from his place in the development of grunge.

“I wish I could say I’m a perfect example of transformation and transcendence, but I’m basically still a guy who thinks of himself as a breakfast cook who’s been singing for a while,” he said. The Guardian in 2020. “I am still a deeply flawed person. The difference is that I am aware of it.

Perform in Italy in 2019

(NurPhoto/Getty)

Mark William Lanegan was born in Ellensburg, Washington on November 25, 1964. His parents were teachers who divorced when he was young – as he said, his mother was abusive, his father neglectful – and at 12, Lanegan had become what he was. later described as a “compulsive gambler, rookie alcoholic, thief, porn fiend”. He left high school with a rap sheet that included shoplifting, drug possession, and insurance fraud.

Lanegan was a teenager when he met brothers Van and Gary Lee Conner, who played bass and guitar and shared his love of punk and garage rock. They formed Screaming Trees in the mid-1980s and, with the addition of drummer Mark Pickerel, released their first studio album, Fortune tellingin 1986.

“The band was sick, violent, depressing, destructive and dangerous,” Lanegan wrote in his memoir, adding that it was also “my ticket out of my dead end life in my hometown.”

His marriage to musician Wendy Rae Fowler ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife, singer Shelley Brien, with whom he moved from Los Angeles to Ireland in 2020.

As a solo artist, Lanegan transitioned from acoustic vocals on his early albums to a rock-oriented sound on Chewing gum (2004), which featured contributors such as English singer PJ Harvey, and to a more refined electronic sound on ghost radio (2014). He began to take off musically after coming out of rehab, when he started working with Queens of the Stone Age and released his album Country songs (2001).

“That’s when I started to feel like I finally knew what I was doing with my voice. I knew what to say and didn’t have to think about it too much,” he said. declared to Los Angeles Times.

“It wasn’t a fight anymore,” he added. “It was, in fact, a joy. A pain turned into something that I thought of as a form of therapy. I found that if I started playing guitar, the rest of the world kind of melted away. When it happened, I knew it was something I was going to keep. It was a good fifteen years to make records. I have a high pain tolerance.

Mark Lanegan, songwriter and musician, born November 25, 1964, died February 22, 2022

Jennifer Hassan contributed to this report

© The Washington Post

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