The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

In Conversation

Shared Blessings: Duke Garwood & Mark Lanegan
Luke Turner , September 3rd, 2013 06:14

Duke Garwood and Mark Lanegan offer up some insights into the collaboration that led to this year's excellent collaborative album, Black Pudding

Men! In the desert! MEN! Walking, yomping, fighting, struggling across the barren land of rock and cactus and wobbling horizons and lizards doing the two/four hot foot dance... MEN! Purifying their souls in the sun's hot gaze as their lips crack and beards drip with sweat... MEN! Setting this all to song... This sort of thing has resulted in all sorts of terrible musical hokum over the years, trad, canonical and blokey, and as progressive as a mule train. Which is why Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood's Black Pudding is such a refreshing listen (not like a well/oasis/woman's lap in a godforsaken town &c). On Garwood's criminally-underrated solo albums he played a warped, Anglicised blues, recording in rural rooms that lent a real presence to his work. Here, the collaboration with Lanegan continues the experimentation, creating an otherwordly and warm place for their musical voices to meet.

Can you tell us about the first time you met?

Duke Garwood: It was backstage at Bush House, Soul Savers show, I was there to play  with Steve Gullick and his band Tenebrous Liar, Mark walked over and said 'Are you Duke G?', I said 'Yes I am.' Then I heard the man sing live for the first time, and I thought, this cat is as heavy as Coltrane, and holds the stage like a volcanic statue.

You're both frequent collaborators with other musicians. When you first went on tour together, was the idea that you might work together always lurking in the back of your mind?

Mark Lanegan: I have always been a fan of Duke's music and thought it might be cool to sing with him.

DG: It seemed like a thing that could work out. Like all creative ideas it needed a spark, and the tour provided that in the form of a grand piano.

Do some musicians take it for granted that you might want to work with them?

DG: I wouldn't know, give me a call.

Is it hard to say no?

DG: It is always hard to say no, we all seek the new, nature has programmed us to say yes.

ML: I feel like it's best to be straightforward, but if I say 'no' to something its almost always because I don't have time for it. I'm not asked very often to work on stuff that I'd prefer not do.

What do you look for in collaborators? 

ML: Someone who's doing something that I like musically. Someone interesting and interested.

DG: A skill I do not have, a sound, a vibe, a vision. I am a lone wolf most of the time, but I want to do a lot more collaborating. The music that comes from the process has unique qualities that can not be accessed alone.

Is part of collaboration not doing what people expect?

DG: Perhaps, or doing the thing you do best and then inspiring the best out of your comrades, and to open the mind to new angles, thus create the unexpected.

What was the best moment of the Black Pudding project for you both?

DG: When Mark hit the vocals, hearing it all come together, I knew we had it down and the thing was alive. That was a moment of beauty.

ML: Quite a bit of time went by between beginning to think about it and actually finishing, so I'd have to say the best part for me was seeing the thing get finished.

Was it always strictly delineated - Duke making the music, Mark the vocals, or did that emerge?

DG: That's the way it is, I make sounds and rhythms for Mark to find songs in. The awesome 'Shade Of The Sun' is written by Mark, I have yet to be in the desert long enough to make a tune like that.

ML: That was the way I brought the idea to him. I love Duke's singing but wanted to hog the limelight myself, as usual.

Is part of the pleasure in collaborating the testing of self and surrender of ego? Does the surrender of ego get easier with time?

DG: One's attitude must be flexible, in conjunction with one's skill and technique. It's no good, as I have discovered to great pain, to be unable to change a detail, to loosen or tighten up a phrase or theme because one is holding on to an idea that is not working. I do not surrender easily. There is always much to learn. 

ML: For me, the pleasure of making music is simply making something where there was not. I'm not sure what part ego plays for me in the creative process. It's not the Olympics.

I've long had the feeling that you're musical travellers in a very old tradition - the wandering bluesman or folk musician. Do you feel like that yourselves?

DG: That is a lovely thing to say, we certainly have the duende and guts to live that way. I love the road, I feel very fortunate to have traveled with music, like a blessing of some kind.

What's the worst thing about collaboration?

DG: The worst thing that could happen is bad music. And bad music should not happen - not on my watch.

And the best?

DG: Good music, possibly great music, and then we are talking life-affirming good feelings all round...

What's the best way to get past creative tension?

DG: Fist fighting, fine cuisine, brutal humor, dog walking.       What have you both learned from each other in the Black Pudding process?

DG: To skip the part of the conscious brain that gets in the way of expression - the over-intellectualising part of the mind that blocks out the good stuff.

Mark, there's a big stylistic leap from Blues Funeral to Black Pudding. Will there be another jump to the next one? We hear talk of crooning...

ML: The covers record is partially orchestrated, some songs I've wanted to sing for a while. Some I heard on records my parents played when I was a child... but then I'm making another Mark Lanegan Band record, more along the lines of Blues Funeral.

What plans do you have next? Duke, is there a new Duke Garwood LP on the way?

DG: There is indeed. It is called Heavy Love. Mixed by the wonderful maestro Alain Johannes and Mister Lanegan. It is heavy.

Has the Black Pudding project had an impact on your future plans? Do you think you'll work together again?

DG: I feel very good about music after Black Pudding, like a fresh breeze blew through my life... The work has just begun.