Mark Lanegan & Joe Cardamone discuss the inspirations behind ‘Dark Mark Vs Skeleton Joe’ album
Mark Lanegan and Joe Cardamone (The Icarus Line) have teamed up to explore their gothier sides on their debut album as Dark Mark Vs. Skeleton Joe, which goes from moody electro bangers to dreamy torch songs and lullabies. It's raw and immediate, and not quite like anything either have made before. “When you have done as much stuff as Joe and I," Mark says, "you have to constantly search for the different and challenging to keep yourself engaged." "
I just wanted to make some instrumentals that I thought Mark’s voice would shine on, something hard with space for Mark to let go," Joe adds. You can stream the whole album below.
With this new territory in mind, we asked Mark and Joe if they'd tell us a little about the influences behind the album. The musical touchstones might be obvious, so they draw more from the personal. It's an insightful, compelling, and at times wild read, with stories of dogs, misfired handguns, the pandemic and more. Both do cite button-pushing filmmaker Gaspar Noé as an influence, though. Read their lists below.
JOE CARDAMONE & MARK LANEGAN - INSPIRATIONS BEHIND 'DARK MARK VS SKELETON JOE'
Five from Joe:
1. My dog Rocky who reeks of vomit today. He is a constant reminder that there's little creatures counting on me to put food in the bowl. When the bowl is a little light he takes to eating tomatoes out the garden and flies that are annoying the fuck out of all of us. I appreciate the fly extermination but tomatoes are bad for little guys like him. I can only police the dogs so much, at some point you have to trust that you have taught them well and they won't eat green tomatoes until puking up in their bed in the middle of the night then sleeping in it. All culminating is a sour bouquet that could knock a buzzard or a shit wagon. Don't do it, Rock. Daddy will bring home the bacon.
2. Mark's record Bubblegum was somewhat of a indirect influence on this project for me. I think this one holds a special place for a lot of his supporters, I know it does me. My post punk / post everything group The Icarus Line actually supported Mark on the Bubblegum tour so it was somewhat the soundtrack to my affinity for both his music and his person. Without going over the gorey details, my band was knee deep in the shit at that juncture. Carving up lightbulbs and hitting the streets late at night. Bubblegum has such a euphoric halo around it that it has never left my consciousness. My goal while laying down these instrumentals was to do something completely different but honored Mark's gift in a similar light. When you have a voice and can write like he can it really leaves a broad path. The trouble is more narrowing the field to what makes sense in the moment. Perhaps we have accomplished that here. I think so.
3. For some reason Gaspar Noé kept coming up in conversation during the making of the record. His films have made an impression on the both of us and there's something relatable about his irreverent pissing on the craft while still maintaining critical control. From Irreversible to I Stand Alone to Enter the Void, these are all great love stories told through the lens of romantic tragedy. These themes are something well covered in each of our respected cannons but you just try to get closer to the bullseye each time you take your shot. Climax was my favorite movie whatever year that was it came out. There's something comforting to me about a guy like that being allowed to make films the way he does. Never easy, never a disappointment.
4. Mark's memoir was being completed during the making of DM VS SJ. This means all of those memories were fresh in his mind and while I could tell it wasn't always an easy mine to drop down, it had provided some perspective. Looking back on one's life can be challenging for anyone and for some of us it can be downright torturous. I would be reading the early version of the novel and constructing instrumentals at the same time. I can easily say that the sentiments that I caught from the literature were a huge ingredient in my process. Instantly synthesizing the nostalgia or grief or panic that were caught between the lines without leaning back to the sound of the era. I kinda saw my job as writing a score to pages I was reading. It actually made it easy for me. There's this book of a life that moved me and that I also related to on frightening levels. Some of it felt like I was reading about my own time touring in a group. Honestly it was immeasurable handicap to have that novel running through my brain while blowing down instrumentals. It really made my job into instinct rather than anything cerebral.
5. The pandemic and shutting down of the world hit right as we started to commit vocal performances to tape. Mark got a bad feeling about staying in California and was prepping to become an expat. I was stuck in LA and trying to figure out how long this Covid winter was going to last. We would meet at the studio every day and everyday the rules were changing out on the streets. Information was wild. Trump, Floyd, Riots, Shortages, Death and Sickness. These themes became omnipresent so there was no way it wouldn't have a huge influence on the content and mood of the project. I think that under those conditions you start to look back on your life because at the time it seemed as it could end just by the wrong person coughing in your direction. Stock up on food water and ammo. Figure out how to survive if the lights go out. Who could you trust if everything went left? Despite the chaos we got to the studio and buried out minds in the music. I am still really grateful that we had something new and exciting to work on while the world was burning inside and outside the home.
Five from Mark:
1. I’ve known Joe since he was a kid, loved The Icarus Line, toured with them and was always knocked out by Joe’s wild performances and their crazy-quilt music that I could hear pieces of all this stuff in it that shouldn’t have made sense but did, you know? Timeless…Fast-forward 15 years and now Joe has his own pro studio, is an accomplished and great producer, and was touring with us as a solo act and by that I mean, the only guy on stage singing to recorded tracks and it was fucking great too. Like a demented Dean Stockwell in Blue Velvet crossed with Bowie, crossed with Kendrick Lamar, he had total command of the audience and it always felt like he was just ahead of the rest of the class. I was like “Fuck man, I wanna do something like that!” So when he suggested we do this record I was all in, psyched to get to sing and write some words over his tracks. Really, his whole catalogue and his personality and my love for his music and for him like a little brother was my biggest influence on this record.
2. Things were getting crazy in my personal life during the recording of the record and I would come to the studio with a loaded Ruger 38 in a backpack along with all my fucked up notebooks, phones, laptops, tamarind candy, change, drinks, etc, and I was just getting a little too close to the sun. I nearly blew my hand off while rummaging around in the backpack and I fired off the handgun unintentionally. The situation in my neighbourhood was really Wild West at the time and I decided to throw my shit in storage and split for Europe and by the time my house got sold, Ireland was the only place in Europe that was allowing people from the U.S. in because of the pandemic so I bought a ticket to Dublin with no solid plan, I just wanted out. Meanwhile, Joe and I were meeting everyday at his studio and most of the time we were just talking about the fucked up situation in L.A. and I would be writing the lyrics at the same time and just unloading them on the spot, so it was really immediate and we worked on it right up until the last night I was in the city before leaving. Listening to it mixed and sequenced the other day was a trip because after living in Ireland for a year, the DM VS SJ record took me right back to Los Angeles, the place I loved the most, where I lived 23 years and swore I would never leave. For me, the city, darkness, weirdness and disconnection we were experiencing while making it are indelibly stamped on the music and is a huge influence on the record from my viewpoint.
3. My only expectations for this record was that it would be fucked up and I would love it because that’s how Joe’s music has always struck me and it’s also what I demand of myself for anything I’m going to put out, it has to be fucked up and I’ve gotta love it and after that I don’t really give a damn what anyone else thinks. Musically, I hear all kinds of influences, mostly subliminal and unintentionally put down: Funkadelic, Queen, Daft Punk, Lou Reed’s Berlin, fucked up dance music with some Throbbing Gristle thrown into the mix alongside the last great Bobby Womack record Richard Russell made. It’s all over the map and it exceeded my expectations.
4. The artwork of Cleon Peterson is a direct influence on the lyrics. His paintings are so vivid and strong and violent, they were always in the back of my head at that time and were a mirror image of what the city was starting to feel like.
5. The films of Gaspar Noe. Especially I Stand Alone and Irreversible for me.