Mark Lanegan has provided his unique vocal stylings to the Queens’ diverse tonal palette for a number of years, bringing yet another dimension to the band’s deep repertoire. His rock steady stance is unmistakable (one hand on the mic, the other with a death grip near the middle of the stand, and head usually bobbing rhythmically between lines), his usually disaffected attitude is classic, and the resonance of his gravelly, nicotine cured pipes is instantly recognizable.
Before his becoming a solo artist and eventually lending his vocal help to QOTSA, Lanegan was best known as the singer for Seattle’s Screaming Trees, a band included brothers Van and Gary Lee Conner and original drummer Brian Pickerel, who was later replaced with Barrett Martin. The Trees’ bumpy ride started around 1985 and continued, sometimes with personnel changes, until their official end in 2000 at the opening of Seattle’s Experience Music Project museum.
Homme met Lanegan in his downtime after Kyuss and went on to play with the Trees from 1996 to 1998, the same year the certain debut album of a certain band got more people groovin’ to the sound of the desert than ever before.
Lanegan’s participation in Queens began on record with the 2000 release of Rated R , which featured his smooth, smoky pipes on the legendary tune “In the Fade.” He toured with the band in support of this album and played a significant role in the recording of Songs for the Deaf , taking the lead on “Song for the Dead” and “Hangin’ Tree” and contributing backing vocals to a number of other tracks.
Lullabies to Paralyze sees Mark stepping back in a huge way, with his vox only showing up in the intro “This Lullaby” which lasts a mere 1:22. He continued to tour with Josh and co. until the spring of 2005, citing exhaustion as the reason for his departure. Mark contributed backing vocals on “River in the Road” on Era Vulgaris and also provided his vocal talents into the studio for the band’s new album.
Since 1990, Mark has released a total of five solo albums including The Winding Sheet , Whiskey for the Holy Ghost , and Scraps at Midnight were each recorded in separate hiatus periods of the Screaming Trees’ existence, while Field Songs and Bubblegum are testaments to his ability to survive and succeed in a post-Trees experience.
Notably, The Winding Sheet features a cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” recorded with the help of Kurt Cobain and Krist Noveselic of Nirvana, the sensational Seattle super success stopped by the former’s suicide.
Although Bubblegum is said to be a recording by The Mark Lanegan Band, the album’s credits show a revolving cast of musicians including Homme, Nick Oliveri, PJ Harvey, Greg Dulli, Alain Johannes, Troy Van Leeuwen, and even Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin, previously of Guns n’ Roses fame in no particular semblance. This hefty lot of talent made for a diverse, almost erratic record with repeated listenability.
More recently, Lanegan has been spotted on tour with Greg Dulli’s project The Twilight Singers as well as playing UK dates alongside Isobel Campbell in support of their collaboration Ballad of the Broken Seas. Lanegan and Dulli also released their first album as the group known as the Gutter Twins. This release, named Saturnalia, received much critical praise. As previously mentioned, the level of Mark’s gravel-throated contributions to the next Queens offering is still unclear, but the Captain Beefheart comparisons allegedly made by Jesse Hughes certainly sound promising to the Lanegan lovers among us.
Written by Ben Erickson