They say that in every joke, there lies an element of truth. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the original idea for The Gutter Twins, the super-duo comprised of gruff-voiced Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age) and soulful Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) was actually hatched more from a mischievous sense of humor than any actual intent to start a new band.
After working together on Lanegan’s solo outings and Dulli’s Twilight Singers, Lanegan says that, “People in the press started asking if we were going to collaborate. And I told them that we were, and that it would be called the Gutter Twins, thinking it would never come to anything. The name just came off the top of my head, although it was kind of appropriate at the time.”
Dulli only got wind of the concept through his own interviews with the press, after which he called up his longtime friend, and the two began planning a record. But because both men had their hands in many projects, initially the Gutter Twins had to be developed at a snail’s pace. Lanegan recalls, “The first couple of sessions were about a year apart. We wrote four or five songs, and came up with the bulk of the record last spring.”
Despite the lengthy breaks between songwriting sessions, their focus never wavered. Lanegan says that the music developed easily. “We never really talked about what it was going to be like. It came together and naturally took shape. We just knew we didn’t want it to sound like anything we’ve done before.” With songs ranging from bluesy folk ballads to electronic pop, to straight up guitar rock, they can be sure they’ve accomplished this feat.
But although the music is varied, there is a common thread in the lyrical content of Saturnalia, which incorporates themes of a spiritual nature that are characteristically dark and mysterious. Lanegan says, “We just sort of followed where it took us, and that’s where it went. We came into it without having any songs at all. We wrote specifically for this.” Although neither was stranger to the art of collaboration, notably through Lanegan’s efforts with Kurt Cobain, Isobel Campbell, and PJ Harvey, and Dulli’s with Lucinda Williams and the revolving cast of the Twilight Singers, writing for The Gutter Twins was unique because the two wrote the lyrics for many of the songs together.
Produced with Mathias Schneeberger, Saturnalia is sprinkled with guest appearances including Eleven‘s Natashia Schneider and Alain Johannes, Quintron, QOTSA‘s Troy Van Leeuwen, and a haunting lead guitar on “Bete Noire” by iconic stoner rock axeman Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson). Bringing in other musicians made the recording process even more enjoyable. “As we came up with songs, we thought ‘That person would be great,’ or ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have this person play here?'”
Some might wonder if The Gutter Twins could be merely a onetime deal, but Lanegan is confident that the future will hold a second Gutter Twins record. “I’m sure of it, yeah. We enjoy each others company, and enjoy traveling together. So I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t do another one.”