A blaring ambulance siren momentarily blots out our fuzzy cell phone connection. "It seems like everywhere I go, I find myself near some kind of trauma center," the singer laughs.
So it seems, considering Lanegan's bleary songs and rocky past, the emergency room is his muse's home. He first neared fame in the mid-1990s with the grungedelic pop group, the Screaming Trees. The band's brief success from its lone hit song, "Nearly Lost You" helped worsen the vocalist's drug addiction and tore the group apart.
Today a sober Lanegan is probably best-known for his work with Queens of the Stone Age. But it's Lanegan's captivating and expressive solo albums that evoke the greatest sense of life hanging in the balance. His broken-folk songs and world-weary words portray the beautiful side to enduring life's various traumas.
"I'm usually fond of my songs that are the most fucked-up somehow," the singer admits. "If something's unfinished or not right, that's the stuff I'm drawn to."
With each of his six solo albums, from the 1990 Sub Pop solo debut The Winding Sheet to the forthcoming Bubblegum on Beggar's Banquet, Lanegan has refused to ease into the cozy confines of Adult Contemporary folk-rock. Instead, the raspy, plummeting deep-voiced singer's tunes sound more distorted, damaged and soulful than ever before.
"I consider my records to be rock," he says. "But they're definitely not the loud, in-your-face variety." Certainly not; they're something more tarnished and unique. New songs like "Methamphetamine Blues" reflect the Screaming Trees' droning psychedelia and the distortion-drenched "thinking man's" hard rock of QOTSA, while still sounding like a mutant variant of Delta blues.
Remorse and redemption are frequent subjects in Lanegan's lyrics. But "it's not druggy music,'" the singer contends with a self-effacing chuckle. "I [just] like the maimed, the dead and dying, the imperfect."
The Mark Lanegan Band plays with Enemy Saturday, Dec. 13, at Dante's, 1 SW 3rd Ave., 226-6630. 9 pm. $15. 21+.