The Swarm

September 21, 2012

Exclusive: Greg Dulli Breaks Down His Picks For This Weekend's ATP in NYC...

Matt Diehl

“It’s a sign of love, deep respect, and in some places, awe,” Greg Dulli says of the choices he made in curating the latest edition of the famed All Tomorrow’s Parties’ I’ll Be Your Mirror concert festival series, taking place this weekend in New York City. The event commences today, Friday, September 21st, with Dulli’s picks spread over the entire three days of music: starting with acclaimed headliner Frank Ocean tonight, the roster moves to a full day Saturday spanning Dulli’s close collaborators Mark Lanegan and Scrawl alongside the likes of José González, topped off by performances by Dulli’s reunited soul-rocking gods The Afghan Whigs and a night-closing set by The Roots, then climaxes with N’awlins visionaries Quintron and Miss Pussycat on Sunday.

It’s destined to be a thrilling genre rollercoaster of a ride, one that lines up topographically with the intoxicating journey through the sounds inhabiting Dulli’s catalog. From his groundbreaking work fusing heavy rock with R&B in the Afghan Whigs to the electronica-laced storm of The Twilight Singers through The Gutter Twins, his darkly spiritual collaboration with Mark Lanegan, the artists playing I’ll Be Your Mirror provide a most rare peek into the sonic personality of its curator. Here, Dulli breaks down the thoughts and passion behind his dream-team roster.

Frank Ocean:

“Frank Ocean is a master of melody. He’s a great storyteller, and an incredibly unique songwriter and performer with a beautiful voice. ‘Strawberry Swing’ was the one that first got me circling the boat; after that, like everyone else, I eagerly awaited what he did next. He’s going for something.”

The Roots:

“I’m a big fan. I first heard The Roots while the Whigs were still in existence the first time around. I remember checking out Illadelph Halflife in the late ‘90s and thinking they were pretty cool. Then they popped onto my scene when they did that jam with Cody ChesnuTT, ‘The Seed’: I love that song, but ‘Don’t Say Nuthin’’ off The Tipping Point is amazing. That concept album made me curious, and was one big reason I wanted them to play: I wanted to see what they would do.”

José González:

“José González is one of those guys who has such a hypnotic thing going on. He’s got a very calm yet emotional voice, and I love his guitar playing; l loved the intimacy of how he presented things as if he were in room singing to you. He is just a deep river. His cover of “Heartbeats” by The Knife made an impression: as someone who likes to cover things, I loved José‘s approach to covers so much I decided to cover him. It’s clear I like ‘Down the Line’; it’s no mystery. But ‘Crosses’ is the jam – it blew my mind.”

Mark Lanegan:

“Really what can you say about Mark Lanegan except that he’s one of the great singers of all time? Who else sounds like Mark Lanegan? There are touchstones on the way, but in my opinion he stands alone as a completely unique creation, who is still as good as ever. I really see him evolving; I don’t know what’s going to happen, and it’s an exciting thing to see.”

Dirty Three:

“There have been many an intimate evening spent with the music of Dirty Three, and various other things: they always provide a poignant and emotional soundtrack to a day, a night, a drive. I think Warren Ellis is a phenomenal showman – he’s got charisma to burn. [Sub Pop Executive Vice President] Megan Jasper turned me on to them in the ‘90s. I heard the first stuff they did for Touch and Go, but Horse Stories and Ocean Songs is when I got in. I particularly love their version of that song ‘I Remember A Time When Once He Used to Love Me.’”

The Antlers:

“A girl I know last year gave me a copy of Burst Apart, right when I was going back to Ohio for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. I listened to that record nonstop: that and the Drake record were the only things I listened to for a week in Ohio, and it felt like I was in a movie. I loved the entire record, but I really gravitated to that song, ‘Corsicana’: the words are great, as is the instrumentation. It’s a sublime moment of music – a perfect song, which is hard to find.”

JEFF The Brotherhood:

“They remind me of Dazed and Confused, and the parking lot parties we had when I was a kid. Great sense of humor, good songs, and the new record is excellent; I’m totally psyched to check them out.”

The Dirtbombs:

“I saw The Dirtbombs play around the time when Ultraglide In Black came out; that was the first record I’d heard from them. ‘Chains of Love’ and ‘Underdog’ were the mindblowers for me – both cover songs, ‘Underdog’ being a Sly and the Family Stone song that I didn’t know that well. On that album, they do Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Funkadelic – it’s pretty wild.”


“Scrawl I saw the first time they played Cincinnati, at the University of Cincinnati, when I’d already dropped out of school: they were fucking badass, man! I mean, Marcy Mays’ voice… She gave eternal life to one of my favorite songs that I ever wrote.”

“There’s a lot of history between us. Marcy grew up in West Virginia near where a lot of my family lived, so we had that regional thing in common. We used to tour together – [Scrawl bass player] Sue Harshe even filled in for John Curley a couple times when he was injured. Then the Whigs started covering them a lot, especially the song ‘Green Beer.’ Scrawl did a great cover of ‘Stranglehold’ by Ted Nugent, and ‘Cold Hearted’ by Paula Abdul, which is amazing, and then this bluegrass classic, ‘Rocky Top’ – in a nutshell, there’s Scrawl for you. They also did really beautiful ballads. One of my favorite songs by them is called ‘Charles.’ It’s basically the answer song to ‘Beth’ by KISS: they even have a line, ‘Me and the girls are playing, and we just can’t get it right.’ Scrawl is just a really fucking smart, moving, super badass rock and roll band. I haven’t seen them in years, and it’s going to be wild.”


“When I first heard Emeralds, I thought it was a German group – and then I found out it’s these young kids from Cleveland! I was like, ‘What the hell?’ Does It Look Like I’m Here? was my entrée point, and beyond that, Mark McGuire’s solo record Living With Myself; those two records ran side by side with me for a while. You don’t have to sing to make people feel, and that’s true all the way from Master Musicians of Jajouka to Miles Davis to Emeralds. Mark McGuire and I have become friends and even collaborated recently; he’s absolutely one of funniest people I’ve met in recent times.”


[Music-industry legend] David Katznelson played me Vetiver for the first time in Hawaii. We listened to two things that entire trip over and over: Vetiver’s To Find Me Gone and ‘Running on Empty’ by Jackson Browne – not the album Running on Empty, but the song. At one point, we played ‘Running on Empty’ seventeen times in a row; it was one of those things ”

“Anyways, I liked To Find Me Gone so much, it led me to Vetiver’s first record, where I discovered the song ‘Belles.’ ‘Belles’ kind of hit me in the solar plexus – it’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I covered that, too, with Mark Lanegan in The Gutter Twins.”


“Really, one of the greatest rock and roll bands I’ve ever seen. I saw them first when The Twilight Singers got asked to do a little run with Afterhours in Italy. They were fans of mine, and invited me to do five dates; we got along real well and they asked to produce their next record, so I moved to Italy and we wrote a bunch of songs together. I ended up living in Milan for ten months, and doing sixty shows with them. I consider myself a member of the band, and they do, too. [Afterhours leader] Manuel Agnelli is one of my closest, dearest friends, and one of the most talented people I know. Afterhours’ last record, Padania, is like Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart smashed together with John Lennon’s songs from The White Album. I’ve never heard anything like it: they always fully reinvent themselves with every album. A really brave band.”

Charles Bradley:

“Somebody sent me ‘The World (Is Going Up In Flames),’ and it had this James Brown, Bobby Womack passion to it. The Menahan Street Band, The Budos Band, Dap-Kings – all of those people play music as it was played in the ‘60s and ‘70s; I’m into that, and Charles Bradley has lived the life, clearly. You hear it in his voice, and see it in his show. I’ve seen him twice, and it’s sheer joy: he’s humbled and overjoyed at what he gets to share with the audience. The guy drips sincerity, is a soulful motherfucker, and a great performer. Fantastic.”

Joseph Arthur:

“Joseph Arthur is a beautiful human being, and he really is a genius. I’ve known Joe ten, twelve years now – we met through [frequent collaborator] Mike Napolitano. I’d heard Come to Where I’m From, which has ‘In the Sun’ on it, and when we met, I liked Joe right away. He’s a real renaissance man: he’s a poet, a painter, and he can write you a song in front of your eyes from scratch. I’ll be in the car with Joe, and he’ll start making up a song, and by the next traffic light you’re already singing along with the chorus.”

“He’s an amazing songwriter. I love that song ‘Slide Away’ he did with The Lonely Astronauts: his falsetto reminds me of Mick Jagger during the Black and Blue era – stuff like ‘Memory Motel’ and ‘Fool to Cry.’ I also love a sad song he did called ‘Take Me Home’ – but Joe has a billion good songs. My favorite recent song of his is called ‘Where’s My Van?’: he got his tour van impounded, which made the news, so when he was looking for it, he did a song called ‘Where Is My Van?’ It’s funny, but it’s also a good song.”

Quintron and Miss Pussycat:

“Quintron, there’s nobody like him. He’s not so much from New Orleans as he is from another solar system; he got off the Arkestra at some point and put both feet behind it! He builds his own instruments, has a great light show, and could do a one man show if he didn’t have his lovely wife Miss Pussycat doing backup vocals, puppet shows, and bringing audience members onstage. I’ve never seen Quintron put on anything less than mindblowing performance. One song of his I just love from the fucking title alone: ‘The Boss Wants To Party With You.’”

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