Mark Lanegan Stretches Out with New Project Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe (FEATURE)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when most people have been sticking close to their home turf, Mark Lanegan has actually done the opposite: last year, he moved to the other side of the world, from California to Ireland. During a recent call, he says he did this for a “change of scenery.” He finds that his new surroundings suit him fine: “I dig it.”

Judging by his ever-prolific musical output, Lanegan also seems to have avoided the Netflix binge-watching sessions that so many people have turned to during these uncertain times. His latest project, billed as Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe, is a collaboration with Joe Cardamone that takes on experimental electronic music and gives it a menacing vibe. Their self-titled debut album came out on October 15 via Rare Bird/Kitten Robot Records.

They met in 2004, when Cardamone’s band, The Icarus Line, was the opening act on Lanegan’s tour. They’ve remained friends ever since, so Lanegan says he didn’t hesitate to write together when Cardamone suggested it. “I’ve known Joe for years,” he says. “Big fan of his music. He’s like a little brother, so I was happy to do it. We just like hanging out and bullshitting, and occasionally a song comes out of it. He wrote music and gave it to me, and I wrote words – usually right before I sang it. Just threw caution to the wind. Best way to make a record.”

He speaks from experience: since rising to fame in the early ‘90s as the frontman for grunge rockers Screaming Trees (who had a worldwide hit with their 1992 single “Nearly Lost You”), Lanegan went on to join Queens of the Stone Age from 2000-2014, as well as doing dozens of collaborations across a wide range of genres. He’s also released twelve solo albums, most recently with Straight Songs of Sorrow in 2020. Through the years, he’s earned a reputation as a particularly insightful lyricist.

“I toiled for years trying to change Screaming Trees lyrics to fit me, and that was a fuckin’ losing prospect,” Lanegan says, “so I finally picked up a guitar and learned how to write a song myself. And then just through years of being handed music from other people, I have learned how to do it, I guess. It’s something I enjoy.”

Lanegan chuckles when asked how he always manages to keep up with such a high volume of work. “Well, it’s not like digging ditches, is it?” he says. “Considering the jobs I did before I started singing, it’s a cakewalk.” When asked what those jobs were, he laughs again. “Oh, Jesus Christ, too many to name. Terrible agricultural jobs. Demolition jobs. Restaurant jobs. Illegal jobs.”

Lanegan still seems somewhat surprised to find himself with a long career as a professional musician. “I never thought it would amount to anything,” he says. “I definitely never thought I’d make a living at it. But one thing led to another and here I am, an old man still doing it. I get to do something that I thoroughly enjoy, and make a modest living at it. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed.”

Photo credit: Olivia Jaffe

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