Born on November 25, 1964, in Ellensburg, WA. Addresses: Record company--Beggars Banquet, 625 Broadway, 12th Fl., New York, NY 10012, http://www.beggars.com. Website--Mark Lanegan Official Website: http://www.marklanegan.com.
Over the past 20 years, Mark Lanegan has left a distinctive mark on the contemporary rock scene. Between 1985 and 1996, he served as the vocalist and front man for the Screaming Trees, a trend-setting grunge band from Seattle. Beginning in 1990 he launched an overlapping solo career, creating thoughtful, singer-songwriter material deeply influenced by the blues. Reviewers have often noted the prowess of Lanegan's vocals, alternately described as grainy and sublime, as well as his ability to deeply embody his carefully penned lyrics. The singer, however, like many of his friends from the Seattle grunge scene, faced a plethora of personal demons as he worked to achieve his artistic vision. "I thought, if there's a point in being here," Lanegan told Grant Alden in No Depression, "I guess I'll make records. I'm going to try, in whatever way I can, to make it a little more positive. I hope it comes across."
Lanegan grew up in Ellensburg, Washington, a small town about 130 miles from Seattle. He listened to country and folk albums by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and the Kingston Trio, from his parent's record collection. "My favorite record growing up was 'Songs of the Haunted House,'" he told the Seattle Times, "a Disney record that was just wackiness. It's still one of my favorites actually." Lanegan played quarterback in high school, though he preferred baseball. "I think I threw the most interceptions in the shortest period of time in the history of our school," he told Keith Cameron in MOJO. In his senior year, a drug possession charge led to a prison sentence, though Lanegan was able to avoid jail time by entering a treatment program.
Lanegan also found himself drawn to punk and garage rock in high school. Musical taste, in fact, would form the basis for his friendship with brothers Van and Gray Lee Conner, who also liked punk and garage rock. Several years after high school, in the early 1980s, the three friends reunited in Ellensburg with drummer Mark Pickerel and formed the Screaming Trees. Over the next few years, the Screaming Trees released several albums, including Invisible Lantern in 1988 and Buzz Factory in 1989, and built a steady cult following. Lanegan and the Screaming Trees played an important role in the development of grunge in Seattle, but the band, noted for drinking, fighting, and breaking up, never achieved the mainstream success of bands like Nirvana.
In 1990 Lanegan launched his solo career, while still keeping the Screaming Trees on the front burner. He had originally planned to join with Kurt Cobain, Pickerel, and Chris Novoselic, and record an EP of blues songs. The sessions, however, were never completed, and Lanegan went on to release his first solo album, The Winding Sheet. The album included "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," originally recorded for the earlier project (and later to appear on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged). The real shocker for Screaming Tree fans, though, was Lanegan's low-key approach to his solo work, as he relied on acoustic guitars to interpret his haunting lyrics. It was only with his 1994 follow-up, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, that Lanegan's solo career came to the forefront. "Whiskey for the Holy Ghost speaks with a quiet but steely confidence of an artist emerging with his own distinct vision," wrote Mark Deming in All Music Guide.
Following the release, Lanegan returned to the Screaming Trees to record Dust. Released in 1996, it would be the band's last album, leaving Lanegan free to pursue his solo career. When asked by Kevin Harley of the London Independent whether he was bothered by the Screaming Tree's lack of commercial success, Lanegan answered, "No, not really. Very happy to put that behind me. Can't think of any reason to revisit that." Fifteen years, he noted, had been enough.
In 1998 Lanegan returned with his third solo album, Scraps at Midnight. As with his previous releases, the material drew deeply from folk and the blues, while also delving into the artist's personal emotions. Fans received a pleasant surprise in 1999 when Lanegan released I'll Take Care of You, his second release in two years. "Even if you think you've heard it all from Lanegan before," wrote Steve Huey in All Music Guide, "I'll Take Care of You really is one of his most affecting, accessible recordings." In 2000 Lanegan temporarily reunited with the Screaming Trees for a band tour. In 2002 he started a part-time residency with the Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA). He temporarily left the group in 2003 to record Here Comes That Weird Chill with the Mark Lanegan Band.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks in Lanegan's growth as an artist was drug abuse. "The only time that I could work ... was when I would stop for a while," he told the Seattle Times. "That's why in 10 years I only made three records. It wasn't something I was capable of." Lanegan's abuse of heroin and crack cocaine eventually left the singer very ill. He had watched a number of friends, including Kurt Cobain, become drug casualties, and feared he was on the same path. "I almost did (die) many times," he told the Seattle Times. "And tons of my friends did." Finally, with the help of the Musicians Assistance Program, he entered a drug rehabilitation program in California.
In August of 2004 Lanegan released Bubblegum, an album that delved deeply into the singer's past. Songs like "Methamphetamine Blues" harked back to traditional rural blues but added a contemporary twist with references to the pain of drug addiction. "It sure doesn't sound like a life most of us would wish to lead," noted Mark Deming in All Music Guide, "but it makes for damned compelling art." Lanegan also included a rare duet with PJ Harvey in "Hit the City." "In terms of songwriting," wrote Sam Taylor in the London Observer, "Lanegan has moved far away from the two-dimensional conventions of heavy rock towards a more mysterious, blues-soaked landscape."
Teaming up with an unlikely partner (Isobel Campbell, an ex-member of the Scottish pop group Belle and Sebastian) in 2005, the pair released the well-received album Ballad of the Broken Seas on the V2 label.
Lanegan returned to QOTSA at the end of 2004 to record Lullabies to Paralyze (released in 2005), and joined the support tour during the spring of 2005. "My relationship with these guys is one of the most satisfying that I've had," he told Christina Fuoco in Live Daily. "It's great to play with, essentially, my best friends." Before the tour was finished, Lanegan left the band, citing exhaustion, but he returned once again later in the tour. Speaking of the differences between QOTSA and the Screaming Trees, Lanegan told Fuoco: "It's all rock 'n' roll to me. A band is a band. They're really not that radically different. It's all rock music."
by Ronnie D. Lankford Jr
Mark Lanegan's Career
Member of the Screaming Trees, early 1980s-96; initiated solo career with the release of The Winding Sheet, 1990; released Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, 1994; issued Scraps at Midnight, 1998, and I'll Take Care of You, 1999; briefly reunited with the Screaming Trees, 2000; began part-time residency with Queens of the Stone Age, 2002; released Here Comes That Weird Chill with Mark Lanegan Band, 2003, and Bubblegum, 2004; toured with Queens of the Stone Age, 2005.
- Selected discography
- Solo albums
- The Winding Sheet Subpop, 1990.
- Whiskey for the Holy Ghost Subpop, 1994.
- Scraps at Midnight Subpop, 1998.
- I'll Take Care of You Subpop, 1999.
- Field Songs Subpop, 2001.
- (With Mark Lanegan Band) Here Comes That Weird Chill Subpop, 2003.
- Bubblegum Beggars Banquet, 2004.
- (With Isobel Campbell) Ballad of the Broken Seas V2, 2005.
- With Screaming Trees
- Clairvoyance Velvetone, 1986.
- Even If and Especially When SST, 1987.
- Invisible Lantern SST, 1988.
- Buzz Factory SST, 1989.
- Uncle Anesthesia Epic, 1991.
- Sweet Oblivion Epic, 1992.
- Dust Epic, 1996.
- With Queens of the Stone Age
- Songs for the Deaf Interscope, 2002.
- Lullabies to Paralyze Interscope, 2005.
- Independent (London, England), July 30, 2004, p. 14.
- MOJO, October 2004.
- No Depression, July-August 1998.
- Observer (London, England), September 5, 2004, p. 11.
- Seattle Times, August 30, 1998.
- "Mark Lanegan," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (September 10, 2005).
- "Live Daily Interview: Mark Lanegan of Queens of the Stone Age," Live Daily, http://www.livedaily.com (September 10, 2005).