- July 24, 2017
Seminal indie rock band The Afghan Whigs’ frontman Greg Dulli speaks exclusively to Joe Fuller on how gigs are like sex, why New Orleans is the best city in the world, and much more.
I’m developing a theory that reformed bands have more of a vital gig if they’re playing new material along with old stuff, rather than playing an old album through.
It is of the utmost importance to me. When we did the reunion tour five years ago, obviously we went out and played our catalogue, but I will tell you that I put two cover songs in the shows that were radical covers of songs I like. And those songs, having them in the show, was very important to me because I had something that was in the now, while I was playing all of the older stuff.
Promoters kept wanting us to play, and I’m like “look man, I would never go back out unless I have a new record”. So we made a new record. The great thing about the audience that my bands [The Afghan Whigs & The Twilight Singers] have cultivated over the years is that the audience is very welcoming of us doing whatever we want.
[Playing a whole album in order] is almost like doing a play. You’re trapped in the confines of the record. You can’t play three songs and then say “hey here’s another one I want to play”. That’s not the game. I’m pretty against doing that. I’m not saying I will never do it again but it’s nothing I want to make a habit out of.
I was sorry to hear about guitarist Dave Rosser’s death. Was the plan for him to tour recent album In Spades?
When he was first diagnosed, they gave him a year to live and he lived for nine months after the diagnosis. Optimism is everyone’s friend, and certainly all of us, including Dave, were hopeful that he would be able to play the shows. That he would triumph over his illness and life would go on. But it did not work out that way. He was such a vital part, he’s all over the record, he’s on every song. For that we get to be with him every night in that regard.
I’m into the symphonic nature of rock’n’roll
What can people expect from the Brighton gig? Is it a raucous rock assault, or is there more of a soul element? Is it a mix of different styles?
We swap songs every night, we’re doing eight albums’ worth of material. We spread it out so there will probably be a cover or two. Perhaps even a nod to The Twilight Singers. Sometimes there is, sometimes there’s not. We roll around. There’s 40 songs we can play and we’ll probably play half that many in the show. So we have the ability to swap out a show pretty substantially as we go along.
That said, sometimes you get a setlist that you like, and things that roll together, and it’s fun to play them in that order. So it’s hard to say what the Brighton show will be like, but it’s always a ride.
I’m into the symphonic nature of rock’n’roll. If you can bring a crowd up, bring them down, bring them back up again, it’s like dancing or sex. You don’t do the same thing over and over again, unless you’re AC/DC or The Ramones.
You’ve spoken before about the importance of recording in New Orleans, and how it can be musically inspiring. I was wondering what’s special about New Orleans and how did it affect the recording of In Spades?
Well, I’ve recorded all or parts of records for the last 20 years in New Orleans. It’s really an inspirational place for me, and it’s also a great creative environment for me.
There is music everywhere all the time. It’s easy to get turned on there. It’s architecturally beautiful, culturally beautiful, demographically beautiful.
You mentioned cultivating an audience that’s quite understanding or forgiving of doing your thing and playing new stuff. How did you cultivate that? Was that luck or the nature of the fans?
We never had a hit record so we never felt like “oh we have to play that or have to play this”. We just made the best records that we could every time. That’s my goal in life and my aim every time I make a record. This is my best at this time. I’ve been lucky that we have a really small but incredibly fervent and loyal audience and they go with us wherever we wanna go, and that’s a beautiful place to be as an artist.
The Afghan Whigs, Concorde 2, Friday 17 August, 7.30pm, £20