Q&A: The Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli On Getting The Band Back Together, The Art Of Comedy, And Bad At-Bat Music
Tonight at the Bowery Ballroom, the Afghan Whigsthe Cincinnati torchbearers for damaged soul musicreturn to the stage after 13 years on hiatus, and if their performances on last night's Late Night With Jimmy Fallon are any indication, tonight's sold-out show will be full of the band's trademark self-lacerating fury, with Whigs frontman Greg Dulli leading the charge as he spits out twisted tales of love gone spoiled. In advance of the band's return, which includes a Whigs-selected lineup at this fall's I'll Be Your Mirror festival in Asbury Park, I spoke with Dulli from his home in New Orleans shortly before he left to rehearse in Cincinnati with his bandmates; the parts of our chat that didn't make it into last week's Voice are below.
Is this the first time that the band is playing together, or have you guys been playing a little bit?
We played together in January, and we've played together like 11 or 12 times now.
Were there any surprises that you experienced, or any songs that took on some new life?
I was surprised at how many we could play. I think we made a list of 12 to play and we played 30.
Did any of those stick out?
They all stood out, Maura! [Laughs.]
[Laughs] You know what I mean.
I mean, they all brought up various feelings. In our true fashion, the first songs we played together were cover songs. The first song we played together was Thin Lizzy.
Do you think you might bust that out on tour, or was that just a warm-up thing?
I hope we do.
Are there any songs, aside from the covers, from your catalog that you've never played live before that you might bring out?
Um, yes. [Pause.]
That is a very short answer.
That's fine. So many of your lyrics are really raw and passionate. Do any of the lyrics strike you differently now than they might have 15 or 20 years ago, when they were written?
I felt connected to that person, I did. In a lot of ways, this was emotional anthropology.
Well, you're going back and examining someone who used to live and breathe and felt those stories, you know? In that respect, it's a unique experience.
I started listening to you back when I was in high school, and it's interesting watching the way my reaction to your lyrics have evolved over time. You might've written a certain song 15 years ago, and then something happens to bring that into a new light. Do you think there are any songs that have achieved greater depth because of things that happened after they were written?
Yes. I think depth showed up in every aspect of my life, whether it was a song or a story graph or a painting or anything I did. You have to walk away from anything, really, to have perspective. Sometimes I've written a song and [been intrigued by the lyrics'] vowel sounds[the way] words come off my tongue. But later I'll go, "No, the words." The reveal is not always instant, in most ways, especially if you're dealing with any abstraction in your lyrics. In a lot of ways, you could be fooling yourselfor at the same time, laying bread crumbs for yourself to discover something.