Although it's been more than a decade since former Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli was hospitalized in Austin after an altercation with a bouncer, the current leader of The Twilight Singers insists he hasn't mellowed with age.
"Mellowing out is relative," he says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. "I'm still me. I'm just an evolved version of me."
Dulli's evolution from a rude and brooding lout to an intense and somewhat less strained singer-songwriter is one of the most fascinating transitions in rock. Yet, even though Dulli would now rather share a laugh with someone than swing punches at him, he insists that nothing has dulled the intensity of his music.
"I write songs the same way I've always written them," Dulli says. "I've been writing songs since I was a teenager, and the only difference now is that I have access to better equipment."
Such access has allowed Dulli to take his band The Twilight Singers in all sorts of interesting directions. The band's recently released fifth effort, Dynamite Steps, is another fine collection of dark, atmospheric rock. Elements of funk and electronica fade in and out of the murky mix as Dulli's anxious but impactful vocals help create an air of danger that the singer appears to live for.
"There are a couple of smokers on this new record," he says. "A few songs that are much harder than anything the Whigs ever did."
It's a little hard to believe that things could get more severe than the songs the Afghan Whigs made in their heyday. Notorious for Dulli's sexual (and sometimes misogynistic) wordplay, as well as a manic stage presence that brought out the worst in many an audience, it's little wonder that Dulli burned out and broke up the band in 1997.
"With the Whigs, it was entirely possible that my spleen left my body," Dulli says. "I'm really not sure where my spleen is."
Before the Whigs imploded, The Twilight Singers were originally intended to be one of Dulli's many side projects. But shortly after Dulli began collaborating with the likes of former Screaming Trees leader Mark Lanegan under their Gutter Twins moniker, The Twilight Singers became Dulli's main gig.
"I love collaborating," Dulli says. "I always have. When you get the chance to work with great people, you better take it."
As such, even though the Twilight Singers remain his focus, Dulli also promises at least one more effort from The Gutter Twins in the future, in addition to more Twilight Singers material.
"I'm having dinner with Mark tomorrow, so I'm sure we'll discuss many things," Dulli says.
How about a reunion of The Afghan Whigs, then?
"No," Dulli says rather quickly. "Not going to happen."