Most artists simply don’t listen to their own music, and Greg Dulli is no exception. Having been away from his Afghan Whigs days for more than a decade when he dipped into the band’s catalog for his 2010 acoustic tour, the songs were like familiar strangers.
“Playing something I had frankly forgotten about was completely like rediscovering the songs,” he tells Rolling Stone. “It was like cleaning out your drawer or a closet – ‘Oh, look at this, I remember this. I used to love to wear this.’ It was sort of like that. There were certain songs I was overjoyed to meet again.”
Now the reunion that Whigs devotees thought would never come has arrived. Dulli, John Curley and Rick McCollum will reunite for several shows this year after 13 years, and steadfast Dulli refusals. “The planets aligned, and that’s really the only way I can describe it,” he says. “Everything that had happened, John and I playing together, me spending the day with Rick McCollum in Minneapolis last May and then speaking to Barry [Hogan], those were the three variables.”
Barry Hogan is the head of the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival and the man who initiated the reunion by asking the band to step in when Guided By Voices had to bail out of the London festival. “He’s the crucial piece of the puzzle, because he needed a favor,” Dulli says, laughing. “After I spoke to him and then John, Rick and I spoke, we got together and played before we made any kind of answer. We played, and it went well so we agreed to step in and help out.”
Surely Hogan wasn’t the first to ask. “A lot of people have asked,” Dulli confirms. So what made Hogan special? “He’s someone I’ve admired for a long time. The world of festivals is strange, and the purity in which he’s kept his festival, I found it to be the one I most admire.”
Still, none of this would have happened if not for the acoustic tour. “That was the most crucial element of the storm – me singing the songs again, which I had not done in a long time,” some for as many as 20 years, he says.
While it was songs off the album Black Love, which Dulli once called his “misunderstood baby,” that most stood out for him, the upcoming reunion tour will cover the whole Whigs repertoire. “I think we’re gonna spread it evenly over basically the five main albums, and there are some songs that we never released that we may or may not revisit,” he says. “There are a couple of cover songs we used to do that no one ever heard us play that we are going to do. They not only held up for me, but I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we never put that out. I’m very excited to build the show. I think it’s gonna be a really great time for everyone involved, performer and audience.”
Dulli is well aware of the audience demand for this tour from old fans and those who’ve come to the band since their last studio album, 1965. The mix is very exciting to him. “The unknown factor is also very attractive to me, not knowing exactly what’s going to happen,” he says. “[But] I’m confident that it’s gonna be a warm celebration.”
One reason Dulli has been able to stay away from his celebrated past for so long is that he’s enjoyed a very active and successful post-Whigs run with the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, his partnership with Mark Lanegan. While 2012 will see a lot of time devoted to the Whigs’ live shows, his new music output will come in other forms. “I’m actually going to start work on some electronic music with a friend of mine from Spain, Jorge Sierra,” he says. “We’ve been talking about it for a year and a half, and we’re finally go do something about it. I haven’t stopped working since I was 16, so I have a wealth of material. It’s just what to do with it.”