How Queens of the Stone Age's Mark Lanegan survived grunge and Anthony Bourdain

Mark Lanegan is the grunge era survivor, a modern-day Johnny Cash who bites the musical bullet traversing bluesy ballads singing about life and near death experiences. Now 52, he's known for his baritone voice and collaborations with the late Kurt Cobain, PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone Age as a cameo balladeer during the Songs for the Deaf period in the early 2000s as well as his close friendships with some of the world's most infamous folk including celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

Lanegan, who will tour Australia to promote 2017's Gargoyle album in September, finds it hard to speak about the passing of his close friend.

The pair shared a love of punk rock, a past with heroin addiction and an appetite for good food and would often dine together.

In fact, Bourdain used Lanegan's music as the introduction to his series Parts Unknown and guest starred the musician in an episode in January this year. They talked about Seattle and his first band The Screaming Trees over tapas.

The pain of loss

Bourdain told his audiences: "Lanegan is one of the greatest living singer/songwriters making music today". He related to his songs, and lyrics "that were reflective of long hard life and cut me right down to the bone".

"If a friend of mine died 15 years ago, I would get a call from Rolling Stone magazine to make a comment, it's no different now," says Lanegan.

"It hurts when you lose your friend and losing a close friend like Anthony who was also a champion of mine, man that really hurts."

"That's the nature of life, you have to accept it," he adds. Lanegan was also close to the late Chris Cornell from Soundgarden.


"The weird thing is the last time I was talking to Anthony we were discussing about losing friends as you get older and how much that sucked," he recalls.

"I feel compelled to pay tribute to him and social media is one avenue I wouldn't have used years ago. It's a public place I can pay my respects and reach out to others who are fans of mine and also his. My guitar player David Rosser (of Afghan Whigs fame) who toured with me in Melbourne many times died from colon cancer last year, and loss, no matter how it happens hurts,."

In hindsight

The LA musician first toured Australia in 1992 and became good friends with Melbourne local Billy Walsh – the original Cosmic Psychos drummer who started Cherry and Ding Dong Lounge in Melbourne. They've remained friends over the decades – both as champions of the grunge era where post punk rode the dirge wave.

When he looks back on the grunge era, Lanegan has mixed feelings.

"It was certainly a very strange time," he says.

"I don't think there has been any other time as far as I know where so many bands from such a small city became so vastly popular. You had Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden all charting and selling millions of albums. I think that kind of set it apart, but for me, I had been making records since 1984, so by 1994 I was ready to quit," he jokes.

A self-made man

Inspired to perform after listening to The Gun Club's Power of Love and Joy Division's Closer, Lanegan set himself up on a musical path without any training or ability to play an instrument. He trades his comics for collecting vinyl and never looked back. It has served the rock survivor well – who is now also living a life of sobriety – yet still writing about life's trials and tribulations and his unease with it all.

"I get to travel the world and do what I love and get to make a living out of it," he smiles.

"I've had my struggles and moments, but I am certainly glad I've stuck around."