the afghan whigs

Photo by Piper Ferguson

After a 16-year hiatus, seminal nineties band the THE AFGHAN WHIGS released a new album this year, Do To The Beast. From the same time period that saw alt-rock along the lines of MUDHONEY, DINOSAUR JR and THE REPLACEMENTS appear, THE AFGHAN WHIGS brought their fierce, angst-ridden guitar rock to a new level. With Do To The Beast, they bring fans a mix of songs that announce they are back and still just as energetic.  The record has an almost film score feel, it could be the lyrical narrative of the classic loner looking back on life as much as forward: like a soundtrack to an Alexander Payne film. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION was lucky enough to catch affable front man Greg Dulli via phone at his home in Los Angeles. We talked about losing people close to you, adapting to changes, and what he would title his death record. Read on.

Tell me about the transition from reunion tour in 2012 to new album. What things changed, what things stayed the same?
I think that reunion tour showed us we were still capable of playing at a high level and we enjoyed the experience. We stopped playing for five months and then we did a show with USHER, and that was kind of the show where we thought ‘Hey, let’s book some studio time.’ Again, we didn’t put a lot of pressure on it. We just booked some studio time to see what would happen, and we got some good songs, so we kept at it. We ended up writing and recording the album in the seven months after the USHER gig. It was pretty quick, quick for us. We were notorious for taking our time and that was a fast one.

Was there any sense with all the time going by between your break up and reunion (I know you were all doing other projects) was there any kind of stored up animosity or was it easy to get back into?
It wasn’t a nasty breakup, we all decided to do other things; we stayed in touch and stayed friends. It wasn’t a situation where we had to repair a friendship or get over any of that.


What about songwriting themes as you get older? I read an interview where you mentioned the specter of mortality. Tell me more about that.
I’m not THAT old.

Hey you said it.
I’m giving myself my own caveat; I’m not putting it on you. [laughs] I think, in recent years, I’ve lost some friends. And when that happens to you, and it happens to everyone, you start to be reminded of it a little more than when you were a younger person.

So it’s more about losing people close to you and sort of reflecting on that?
Not only that, I don’t consider this a  ‘death record.’ Most likely the song Lost in the Woods.

What would you title your death record?
I Told You I Was Sick.

I Told You I Was Sick, Why Didn’t You Call?
Thanks for the Cards and the Flowers.  [laughs]


So this time around, you’ve been able to collaborate with this really eclectic mix of musicians: you’ve worked with USHER, and the last album ‘Do To The Beasthad cameos from VAN HUNT, members of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, CHAVEZ, to name a few. Now that you have that clout to ask to collaborate with people and have it happen, who would be your dream collaboration?
My dream collaboration is Jimmy Page. There’s so many things I would want to ask that guy. I’d love to listen to him play guitar. I’d love to write songs with him. I really like this hip hop artist ODDISEE. He’s just a really, smart, melodic, musical cat I love all his records. So those two guys would be at the top of my list.

This is just for my own fan girl-ness I want to ask you what your favorite NEIL YOUNG album is?
The live record, Rust Never Sleeps. We played with CRAZY HORSE in ’96, we did 15 shows with them and I watched them every night. It was phenomenal. Probably Tonight’s the Night means the most to me, because I know the story behind it. He lost friends and had been losing friends and it’s really kind of a harrowing record. He’s made so many great records.


Okay my next question is about the 1990s in general. You guys are part of a pretty big wave of reunions that have happened. What is that like to be a part of and what are your opinions on that?
Well, my opinion has always been people should do what they want to do. After THE AFGHAN WHIGS split up, I continued making records. The other guys did other things. I continued to record and tour. To me it’s just a continuation of what I’ve done since I  was a teenager. I’ve written songs since I was 14 and it’s kind of what I do. As far as people reuniting I tend to gravitate toward the ones who make new records. I really love that MY BLOODY VALENTINE album. Obviously they took their sweet time making a new record, but they made a great record. I was excited to hear that live as I was all the songs I already knew and loved. I think DINOSAUR JR. has continued the excellence that they laid down many years ago. They made a great template and they continue to make great music. In 2012 we came out and we did the songs we already had, but I told everybody I would never do it again unless I had new music to play.

It’s appropriate you should say that because I interview J MASCIS tomorrow.
Oh, tell him I say hello.

I will. So let’s talk about the music industry. From the 1990s to now there’s been a huge change in how music is recorded and distributed. What’s one thing that’s gotten easier or better with the digital revolution and one thing that’s gotten harder or more frustrating?
I’m not frustrated in anyway. Life does what it does. You adapt or die. Bemoaning change –eh, you’re asking yourself to be put in a box and thrown to the bottom of the ocean. If you have a problem with how things are going you either do it or you don’t do it.  The easier thing is you can do music anywhere now. I’ve made records in my home, I’ve collaborated with people who live on other continents and never left my living room, that’s a pretty amazing feat to me. I’m kind of into it.


You sound like a pretty positive person, Greg.
It’s the only way to live, in my opinion.

Well brace yourself, our magazine is called NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION. And we always ask: what do hope and passion mean to you?
[pause] They’re parts of my life that I wake up to everyday. Without one there’s not the other. They’re kind of a couple, aren’t they?

See THE AFGHAN WHIGS on tour right now in Europe, NBHAP will be watching them at the C-Club in Berlin, Wednesday July 2.