“I think it just kind of popped out of his mouth,” says Greg Dulli, remembering how his late friend, longtime collaborator, and former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan came up with the title for The Afghan Whigs’ ninth album. The christening of the band’s record was a full circle moment since one cold night nearly 20 years earlier when Dulli blurted out a phrase Lanegan would end up using as the title of the 2003 EP, Here Comes That Weird Chill. “In a way, he returned the favor,” quips Dulli.
Lanegan’s contribution to The Afghan Whigs’ release stretched beyond naming the album How Do You Burn? since the singer, also a bandmate of Dulli’s in The Gutter Twins and The Twilight Singers projects, sings backup on two tracks—one of his final recordings before his untimely death on February 22, 2022.
“How Do You Burn? basically means what turns you on,” says Dulli of the band’s third album since reforming in 2014 after an 11-year hiatus. “What makes you go? What turns your crank? It’s almost like a jazzman term. As soon as he [Lanegan] said it, all of my senses came alive, and I was like, ‘I’m gonna take that one from you buddy.’ “I said ‘Can I have it?’ and he said ‘Yes,’ so it’s not stealing when they give it to you.”
Working out the songs as the cloud of the pandemic had yet to lift, Dulli made a regular pilgrimage, along with drummer Patrick Keeler, from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree, California, to flesh out the 10 tracks at the studio of Afghan Whigs and founding Blind Melon guitarist Christopher Thorn. Recording on “Pro Tools” and FaceTime, parts were then disseminated to the rest of the band, including bassist John Curley in Cincinnati, guitarist Jon Skibic in New Jersey, and multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson in New Orleans.
Playing off the first song the band initially recorded together in 2019, How Do You Burn?began building around “Take Me There,” which Dulli initially wrote in 2018 before starting his 2020 debut solo album, Random Desire. “It was the last song that we played in the same room together,” says Dulli of the hypnotic march, offering its harmonized gospel chant take me there / whatcha waiting for—and also one of the two songs featuring Lanegan. “Once my tour was canceled, and canceled again, I decided to make a Whigs record because I had done it before this way. We did The Twilight Singers’ record Powder Burns  in a similar way, because we were in New Orleans just after [Hurricane] Katrina, and we had to farm stuff out.”
Dulli at first contemplated an Afghan Whigs double album, but that thought dissipated as he whittled the 24 songs he had already written down to the now-remaining 10.
How Do You Burn? is the question, and the spontaneous burst of the rocker “I’ll Make You See God” is the band’s opening retort—Come kiss the night awake / Closer now as the wind…Closer still as the room / Reveals your disguise. “‘I’ll Make you See God’ is very bare bones but that is its power,” says Dulli. “There’s not a whole bunch of stuff on it. When you overload a track, when you go all in on tracks, it can lessen the effect. That song is very powerful and nimble because of how stripped down it is.”
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