In recent years, Greg Dulli—once the frontman of the now-defunct Afghan Whigs—has been concentrating on his moody, R&B-nuanced; project The Twilight Singers. Meanwhile, Mark Lanegan, once the brooding leader of Screaming Trees, has concentrated on his solo career, releasing his sixth album, Bubblegum, in 2004. He's also kept busy as a sought-after bristling baritone, contributing vocals to Queens Of The Stone Age and Soulsavers, and collaborating with former Belle & Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell.
More recently, Dulli and Lanegan have embarked on a musical collaboration as The Gutter Twins, and they've returned to Sub Pop, after years away from the label that nurtured them both early on. They aren't twins, but they have an impenetrable bond, based mostly on sarcasm and in-jokes. From the first bars of "Idle Hands," their new album Saturnalia sounds like they've been at it for years; it's hard to believe this is their first album together. Around Valentine's Day, The A.V. Club sat down with the two notoriously prickly bachelors for some thoughts on the holiday, but their thoughts ran more toward hate than love. And by the time the conversation veered toward Rance Mulliniks (an '80s utility infielder for the Toronto Blue Jays), we'd learned the hard way that outsiders will never understand the bond between twins, fake or otherwise.
The A.V. Club: Rumor has it that this band started off as a joke.
Greg Dulli: Not as a joke. I think Mark told a journalist we were doing it, and then the journalist called me, and I didn't know we were doing it.
AVC: "Idle Hands" is the first single. Do you personally tend to get into trouble if you have a few hours with nothing planned?
GD: I think in our younger days, we probably defined trouble. Now, if we were to have two or three hours, Mark would probably be watching basketball, and I would probably be TiVo-ing History Channel shows.
AVC: Once, in a discussion with the Gallagher brothers…
GD: The magicians?
Mark Lanegan: [Laughs.] Oh, God.
AVC: The band, Oasis. Noel Gallagher was saying that the band decided who would sing each song, that he'd know immediately whether Liam was "getting it" or not, and that would decide who got to sing it. How do you make that decision when writing these songs?
GD: I was personally relieved when Mark decided to sing "Don't Look Back In Anger."
GD: That song's kinda out of my range.
AVC: Do either of you like or celebrate Valentine's Day?
GD: I don't really give it much thought. The only time Valentine's Day has any bearing on my life is when I'm dating someone, or if I'm in a relationship. I would call Valentine's Day the path of least resistance. If I buy you gifts, take you out to dinner, then you won't bust my balls. That is Valentine's Day in a nutshell.
ML: Ditto. What he said.
AVC: Have you had any particularly memorable Valentine's Days? A gift given or received that you remember fondly or with horror?
GD: The only one I can really remember is when The Afghan Whigs played on Valentine's Day at the Kennel Club in San Francisco in 1991. The Dwarves played too, and I'm pretty sure that Blag [Dahlia] peed on the front row of the audience. That's the only Valentine's Day that sticks out in my mind.
ML: I'm sure there's a Valentine's Day I spent with Blag as well.
AVC: The first show of the Gutter Twins tour is in New York City on Valentine's Day. So potentially, your show could be someone's idea of a date.
GD and ML: [Both laugh.]
AVC: With that in mind, is there anything you plan on offering up that evening…
GD: A baby goat. But to be fair, that's what we offer up before every show.
AVC: Who do you think is being dragged to that show: the guy or the girl?
ML: I'd like to think it's the guy.
GD: I'd like to think it's the guy too. I'm hoping the guy gets dragged. Although it's not like we're Slipknot.
AVC: Why do you think music and romance go together so well? It seems like no one can write songs without eventually writing about love.
GD: Well, I'm guessing music is a form of communication. If you're feeling kind of horny or sad or unrequited, then you put a melody or a beat behind it, you get your point across faster than some milquetoast letter that's sprayed with Old Spice.
AVC: What are some of your favorite love songs?
ML: "Sometimes When We Touch" comes to mind. "You Light Up My Life."
GD: "Kiss You All Over" by Exile. That's mine.
ML: "Summer Breeze" by Seals And Crofts. Or is it Seals and Marty Krofft?
GD: "Eat It" by "Weird Al" Yankovic. That kinda gets 'em going.
AVC: The song on the new Gutter Twins record called "I Was In Love With You" has to be about someone.
GD: I wrote that one. How can I put this delicately? I believe that song may be somewhat self-reflective.
ML: As in onanism?
GD: Yeah, it's sort of in an onanistic way.
ML: Sweet. I didn't know that. I knew there was a reason I didn't sing on it. [Laughs.]
GD: Perhaps you'll join me onstage?
AVC: In the history of your relationships, was there a big difference between when you were unknown as compared to now?
GD: Well, I was known as a performer when I was 11 years old. But at that time, I did notice a spike in interest from the fairer sex, the tender trap.
ML: Some say I would've never even gotten laid if I hadn't been a singer.
GD: Some would be right!
AVC: Is it difficult to recognize whether someone is genuinely interested in you personally, or just in you as a star?
GD: Well, that depends on whether you're talking about a potential object of affection or a creepy stalker.
AVC: You're probably both fairly intimidating to a lot of women.
ML: The problem is, we always double date. That can be quite intimidating.
GD: Except now I've resorted to writing love songs to myself and about myself. So I'm kind of gutted all out.
ML: You cut out the middleman?
GD: Exactly. There's been a spike in lotion sales.
AVC: Could either of you become kept men, or are you too accustomed to freedom?
GD: Being a kept man implies that I would be taken care of, my bills would be paid for…
ML: No shit.
GD: I'd get a new car, go on fabulous vacations, and maybe even be allowed to experiment with her friends. So I'm open to being a kept man. I quite think I could get into lockstep rather quickly.
AVC: The title of your new song "All Misery/Flowers" could easily describe someone's Valentine's Day.
GD: Ah, man. Enough said. Or it could be someone's epitaph.
AVC: Do the Gutter Twins love each other?
GD: Occasionally, but in a decidedly non-Brokeback way. May he rest in peace. Great actor, good guy. Actually, we did watch Brokeback Mountain together on the tour bus.
AVC: How'd that go?
ML: It brought up some feelings.
GD: I, however, was able to quit him.
ML: Oh God.
AVC: How long have you guys known each other?
GD: We met in an orphanage in 1968. That was a long time ago: Thirty-nine years, or something like that.
AVC: How do you both feel about returning to Sub Pop after all these years away from the label?
GD: It seemed like the perfect place to be for what we were doing. And it was met with passion and a negligible degree of indifference by Mark.
AVC: How long have you been writing this record?
GD: It began on Christmas Day 2003, and that's the God's honest truth. That's four years ago.
AVC: You both write music that you can take to…
ML: The bank?
GD: Swiss accounts. Diamonds. Furs.
AVC: Mark, you've become a kind of the musical version of a utility infielder…
ML: The Rance Mulliniks? The Ed Armbrister?
AVC: Do you miss being in a band with your longtime mates, like in Screaming Trees or Afghan Whigs?
GD: I will say this about that. No.
ML: If those were my mates, you're better off not having friends.
GD: The band that we're playing with now is the same band we've been playing with since 2006, although we've got a new drummer on account that he became a spokesman for Massengill.
AVC: What? Oh, you're saying he's a douche.
GD and ML: [Both laugh.]
GD: And please print that. Please.
AVC: Did you write Saturnalia together or separately?
GD: The first bunch of songs we wrote, we wrote in tandem. So that made them different from any songs, because we had never done that before. The other songs that we wrote individually were heavily influenced by the other person's contributions and watched over by the other person.
ML: And were written specifically for this.
AVC: What are your long-term plans for this band?
GD: Are you familiar with the locust? The insect? Every seven years, we'll pop out and cause a crazy noise and make the sky go black and cause people to run in fear.
ML: Eat everything in sight.
GD: We'll eat everything in sight and leave weird little shells where we once were.