The remainder of the album was written, recorded and produced by Lanegan’s longtime musical amanuensis Alain Johannes at his 11 AD base in West Hollywood. Everything was done and dusted within a month, unusually fast by Lanegan’s recent standards. “I definitely feel like I’m a better songwriting than I was 15 years ago,” he says. “I don’t know if I’m just kidding myself or what, but it’s definitely easier now to make something that is satisfying to me. Maybe I’m just easier on myself these days, but it’s definitely not as painful a process, and therefore I feel I’m better at it now. But part of the way that I stay interested in making music is by collaborating with other people. When I see things through somebody else’s perspective it’s more exciting than if I’m left to my own devices.”
While sharing roots with its two predecessors, on Gargoyle there’s a significant up-shift in the swaggering powerlode of such keynote songs as Nocturne and Beehive, while the lyrics’ tonal palette is more varied. The album title comes from a lyric in Blue Blue Sea – “Gargoyle perched on gothic spire” – and was chosen for its hint of self-deprecation. “I’m most proud of the songs that are atypical to stuff that I’ve done in the past” says Mark. “So I really like Old Swan, because it’s an expression of positivity, which is completely anti-anything I’ve done before!” He laughs. “Y’know, I haven’t played this record for too many people yet. I played it for Greg Dulli, who played on some of it, and he was like, ‘Wow, I had to listen to it twice – it sounds like he’s having a good time…’
It’s been a long journey travelled, not always easy, but in 2017, at the age of 52, Lanegan’s got the look of permanence about him. Like that gargoyle on the gothic spire….