Twilight Singers prove educational for Afghan Whig Greg Dulli
Working on his side project the Twilight Singers was an exercise in humility for Afghan Whigs' lead singer Greg Dulli. "I'll tell you this: It's bad to have three lead singers in the same room," Dulli said with a laugh as he discussed the Twilight Singers' line-up, which also includes Shawn Smith and Harold Chichester.
"Egos. I'm talking about mine and his and Harold's. I'm not excluding myself from the situation. It was 'capture the diva flag.' 'My prima donna's bigger than yours.' That's what it became. It got a little unhealthy."
"Twilight as Played by the Twilight Singers" (Columbia), which hit stores on Sept. 12, is a healthy dose of everything that is not the Afghan Whigs.
Ambient and gentle, "Twilight" is grounded in acoustic guitars, dance and fragile arrangements. For "Twilight," Dulli enlisted the help of Fila Brazillia, an underground instrumental dance duo from England.
"I sure learned a lot about drum programming and synthesizers, which I did not know much about before I went to England. I sort of feel like I went to hip-hop synthesizer school while I was there.
"Plus the work ethic ... They take such a very workman-like attitude toward getting it done. You come in like you're doing your job. If there's nothing there, then let's make something. I'd never done it that way. [With the Afghan Whigs,] I'd just ... 'Do I have a song in me today? Nah.' Go play basketball.
"But when you walked in there, if you didn't have a song, you would by the time you walked out. Whether it was good or not. Believe me, we wrote some stinkers, too."
The result, explained Dulli, is a concept album about the "twilight kid. The twilight kid himself has issues. He tries to work through them before he gets to song 12. That's usually what happens. If I get to song 12 and song one, I fill in the blanks in between."
Dulli began working on the album three years ago. The project was shelved when the Afghan Whigs jumped labels from Elektra to Columbia.
"The label wanted to put a Whigs record out before they started confusing people with my alter ego. It just kind of went on the shelf and then I sort of forgot about it. We went out and played 150 shows. I remember people were asking me about it and I was like, 'Oh, yeah. I forgot all about it.'
"I went back and listened to it. I knew exactly what I had to do and knew exactly who I had to do it with. I went out and made it happen."
Those folks included singer Shawn Smith, the frontman for Stone Gossard's side project Brad; and Harold Chichester, formerly of Royal Crescent Mob, who leads the band Howlin' Maggie and sometimes plays keyboards for Afghan Whigs.
"[Smith], as you know, is one of the better singers on God's green Earth," Dulli said. "He has a very beautiful, unique voice."
Dulli will open a tour with the Twilight Singers in mid-October, but Smith will not be involved. The two have not spoken for three years, for reasons that Dulli did not discuss.
"I'm always glad to put something out that I love, and I do love this. The reason why I've been able to stay fresh on this is I've never toured these songs. I've never played them more than a couple times so they're fresh. That's one thing about being in a touring band. By show No. 120 you're sort of like, 'I've got to sing this song again? I hate it.' So that never happened with this."