Interview with Greg Prato – Lanegan – Part 1
by Killian Lher
No More Workhorse caught up with Greg Prato to discuss his new book about Mark Lanegan:
No More Workhorse: How did you get started in your writing career?
Greg Prato: What happened was, back in 1997, I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I graduated from college two or three years before and I did a liberal arts major. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I took some crappy jobs just to make money. And I took one job just because I loved music, it was a music magazine that was maybe about a 40 minutes drive from my house. The magazine is out of business, I believe now.
I took the job as a customer service rep with them just answering the phone and everything. I had no clue at the time, there was no thought that I wanted to be a writer. But I saw how easy it was from the people that were doing the writing there. It was not hard at all! So I was able to convince my boss at the time to let me do a few album reviews. I then consulted with my boss, I said, ‘I really enjoyed doing this, can I start writing more for the magazine?’ My boss made it very clear that they were not going to give me a chance or a shot, and I was getting fed up with that job anyway, so I took a gamble and quit. I had nothing lined up. But I realised at that point was when all the music websites were starting to become very popular, so I was able to start writing for some sites. I also started writing regular album reviews for the Allmusic Guide site. Now it’s just called Allmusic, I started doing album reviews primarily.
Then I realised doing phone interviews was really where I was going to make more money. So I started doing all these interviews and then it just started snowballing. Since 1997, I’ve been doing this full-time while working from home. I’ve been very lucky. Around 2008, 2009, I made the jump to books as well. I do books that I put out myself as self-published books, and also books through traditional publishers as well.
NMW: When were you first introduced to Mark Lanegan and his music?
GP: The first time was hearing the song Nearly Lost You (Screaming Trees) on the Singles soundtrack, which was the summer of 1992. I bought the Sweet Oblivion CD a few months after that. I definitely liked the album, but it wasn’t like I kept up with Screaming Trees and Mark Lanegan’s solo stuff. I was more into Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam at that point. How I rediscovered Mark was when I became a huge Queens of the Stone Age fan around 2000. I was lucky to see them several times on the Songs for the Deaf tour, including one with the very short-lived Dave Grohl line-up. And I didn’t know at the time that Mark was an actual member of the band, so I was shocked when I saw them in the summer of 2002.
I was shocked to see Mark come on the stage and start singing. I also really enjoyed that album and the songs he sang and discovering that he sang on the Rated R album as well. That’s when I started going back to Mark’s solo material, and within a year or two I was a huge fan of his.
NMW: Did it take you long to put the book together?
No. Prior to Mark’s passing, I interviewed him in November of 2021. So that was right around the time that Devil In A Coma came out. I listened back to the interview recently and you could tell he’s kind of weak sounding. He doesn’t sound like himself, really, but he was very sweet on the phone and it was great speaking with him. And then that Christmas, I got his book Sing Backwards and Weep. I was a huge fan of that book and Devil in a Coma. But now with Sing Backwards and Weep, although I think it was a great book, it was just strictly from Mark’s point of view. There wasn’t anyone else speaking in that book. Just like everyone else, I was really shocked by Mark’s passing. I was probably even more shocked than the average person, because I just spoke to him about two or three months before, and he seemed like he was in good spirits and he said he was feeling great. In fact, he said that he thought he had turned a corner with his health. That was his exact quote.
So I realised that it was coming up to one year of Mark’s passing, and late last year I got in contact with Gary Lee Conner, the former guitarist for the Screaming Trees. I did an interview with him for the Guitar World website, which came out late last year, and I became somewhat friendly with Gary. After speaking with Gary, I realised it would be great to put together a book where I just interview people that either worked with Mark, were admirers of his work, or just fans.
But I realised the only way I’m really going to do this is if I can get Gary on board. Then also the fact that Mark didn’t really say very nice things about Gary and his book. I also heard insider gossip that although people enjoyed Mark’s book, they didn’t think it was entirely accurate. Through some people we mutually knew. I’m not saying that Mark just completely made up stuff for his book, but… There’s a famous saying that there are two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, or something like that, which if you think about it, is a pretty honest assessment of things. So Gary said yes, that he would be willing to do the interview, and it was a great interview, two solid hours. He was not saying anything mean about Mark. He just said, “I was hurt with what he said”. But he was happy though, that he was able to make peace with Mark Lanegan prior to his passing. That was obviously very comforting to hear. Once I spoke with him then I was able to reach out to other people and say, look, I’m doing this book about Mark, and I already interviewed Gary. Once people heard that Gary was on board, then more and more people were willing to open up and speak to me.
NMW: Is there anybody that you couldn’t get hold of or you really wanted to include, but you couldn’t?
GP: Yeah, there were several people I reached out to and they just very nicely said, I appreciate you reaching out, but it’s just too soon after Mark’s passing for me to really take a trip down memory lane. I reached out to Steve Fisk, who produced the early Screaming Trees albums, and he said it was too soon. Also reached out to Greg Dulli through a mutual acquaintance and he just said, Greg told me he’s just not ready right now to speak about Mark.
After the book was done, I realised there was one person I now regret not reaching out to and that is J Mascis from the band Dinosaur Jr. I interviewed John Agnello, who produced a lot of the Dinosaur Jr albums, and also Mark’s solo albums, and I also interviewed Mike Johnson, who played in Dinosaur Jr and also played with Mark as well. They both were telling me stories about J and Mark but for some reason, it didn’t click in my head that I could have reached out to J. But I’m still happy with the way the book came out. And as a fan of Mark, there’s a lot of stuff in it, a lot of titbits that I never read prior in any interviews or books.
Greg Prato’s book, titled Lanegan, is available from amazon
The interview has been edited for clarity. Continued in Part 2.
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