Over the last year or so Sonny Lanegan and I have attempted to chat about his projects (solo, White Pulp, The Dead Good). It seemed like it would never work out, but over the last month or so we finally had a chance to catch up and chat. It happened to coincide with the release of the debut EP from his new project, The Dead Good – a collaboration with Isabella Knight. I really loved the new EP and was excited to get his thoughts on a few different things (forgot to ask him who his favorite Beatle was, snap). The interview is a must read and after you are done here I highly recommend you head over to The Dead Good’s Bandcamp site to pick up the new EP. (My review).
Jason’s Jukebox – Can you tell me how this project got its start?
Sonny Lanegan – The idea of working on a music project together was in Isabella’s and my mind since the beginning of 2012. But we didn’t actually get started until around Christmas time during our vacation at Big Bear. We were surrounded by snow and it was really cold outside, so we spent most of the time sitting in front of the fireplace in our cozy cabin. The atmosphere was great! I wrote a bunch of music in those few days and Isabella wrote the lyrics for nine songs. During the night we were going out in bars drinking shots and playing pool. It was a really cool way to start writing music together; I have nothing but great memories.
JJ – I know you’ve made some incredible albums both as a solo artist as well as with White Pulp. When you are composing music, how do you decide whether it is a solo composition, a White Pulp track, or a The Dead Good track?
SL – Thanks for the compliment, Jason. I’m glad you like my albums. Well, the three projects are completely different. For example, when I’m working on some instrumental tracks I usually write something dark, trippy, psychedelic, new wave and full of weird sounds. Since there are no lyrics I can pretty much do anything I want without thinking about a chorus or a special.
When I write music for White Pulp, I typically start with a specific idea, which follows a concept for the whole album. Then I develop song after song and only stop if the song doesn’t come out the way I imagined it.
The Dead Good songs emerge from a back and forth between Isabella and I. First I start playing some riffs and if Isabella can picture a story from the sound, we keep developing the song together. Since it is a duo, we try to keep it as simple as possible without losing the excitement. My favorite songs are the ones that we wrote in about 15 minutes. It has to be fun and spontaneous. I have no intentions of writing songs and then going back to the same song over and over… The song would lose its point and especially the magic or emotions we had in the exact moments of creating it. As you can see it’s not even about decision-making… Things go pretty smooth and everything kind of falls into pieces by itself.
JJ – Tell me a bit about your marketing ideas for The Dead Good…
At first Isabella and I started The Dead Good mainly for ourselves, so we didn’t even start worrying about marketing. We got involved with some small events where art show meets life performance. Several friends and artists that we met throughout that time encouraged us to make our duo public! So here we are…
Luckily we don’t have any restrictions from a label about how our marketing needs to look like; on the other hand, we have to do it by ourselves.
We both love art and photography, which is why we like to play around with those elements in our marketing. Using graphic design, pictures from photo shoots or self-shot videos, gives us the chance to create something out of fun and to share news with at the same time.
We work together on the marketing ideas but Isabella is the one who takes care of it the most (including social networks, contacts and everything that comes with it). She is the mind, I’m the dick! Just kidding…
JJ – What do you think of the current state of the music industry?
SL – Let’s be honest… Musicians are struggling and it’s really hard to make a living just playing your own music (which is why you keep seeing more bands playing DJ sets or at fashion shows instead of actually going on stage).
On the other hand, labels want you to be known before signing with you. You need to pack the house and have a decent support so that you can tour and actually sell your music. Problem is, that you can hardly survive as an independent band and you just can’t do everything on your own – otherwise why would you need a label?! Anyhow… It’s the same old story!
Personally Isabella and I decided to keep doing music the way we like it and in this case to release our first EP for free! We are planning on releasing a full-length album at the beginning of 2014. But we don’t know yet if we are going for a self distribution or if we are going to approach some labels that could actually be interested in us and not only to fill up their roster! We are having some meetings with industry people who got interested in The Dead Good, so we’ll see what the future brings…But for right now we just want our upcoming EP “Thirteen Polaroids” to reach as many people as possible and for FREE.
JJ – How do you decide which songs to cover? (The EP features an amazing version of I Put A Spell On You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
“I Put a Spell on You” is one of our favorite songs of all the time. A long time ago, a friend of mine gave me a playlist he did for me – I heard the original version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and I completely fell in love with it. And then, that one day (we didn’t start recording the EP yet) Isabella was listening to the song and I was like: “Fuck, I love that song! Let’s do our own version!” I started playing it on guitar and it came out something a lot more bluesy, rough, hypnotic and the way Isabella started singing it, was amazing – her attitude was perfectly fitting to the lyrics kind of like: “I really don’t give a shit if you don’t want me… You are mine, so deal with it!” The lyrics are pretty simple, but at the same time brilliant, sort of voodoo. To give the song a personal touch, we added a special, which gives the song a darker atmosphere and we changed some word here and there. I’m very happy the way it came out.
SL – I’m not sure when we are going to start playing shows… We started rehearsing the songs to get an idea how it would sound on stage and how to rearrange certain songs live (especially since we are a duo). I have to admit, it sounds really good. The attitude is definitely “plug and play”, which I love. Plus the idea to share the stage with Isabella makes me really excited. We might start after the summer or later on – the most important thing is, that it will be fun for us and maybe to share the stage with some interesting bands out there. Once the shows are booked, it will be pretty easy for us… We’ll take my car, one luggage, two combo amplifiers, a couple of pedals, three guitars, our dog and Good Bye everyone! Haha…
JJ – Who are your favorite artists and why?
David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Jim Morrison, Mark Lanegan, Trent Reznor, Josh Homme, Maynard. These are only a few to mention, but if you think about them, all found a way to be extremely original. When you listen to their voice or to their sound (think about Queens of The Stone Age) you can recognize them from the first two seconds of the riff. I think that’s incredible! It’s like a brand and their music can’t be mistaken with anyone else. They are such talented musicians and that makes them absolutely unique and unforgettable.
JJ – Favorite albums of 2013 so far?
SL – David Bowie – The Next Day , Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito , Depeche Mode – Delta Machine , Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
JJ – To keep a certain level of geekiness, I have to ask – what’s your drink of choice?
SL – Mine is The Godfather, Isabella’s favorite is Cuba Libre
There you have it folks, my sit down chat with Sonny Lanegan of White Pulp and The Dead Good. An amazingly nice guy who is also a talented composer & musician. Please support Sonny & Isabella by picking up the new EP and spreading the word! Here’s some links that’ll be helpful:
The Dead Good Bandcamp – http://thedeadgood.bandcamp.com/album/thirteen-polaroid
Photos by Sven Dreesbach – www.svendreesbach.com