She placed the barrel
under her chin and smiled big
quick, take a picture
Amid the flurry of renewed Afghan Whigs activity over the last couple of years (their new album, Do to the Beast is 100% worthy of the band’s legacy, in case you wondered), an altogether different project by that band’s singer Greg Dulli is attracting notice. Dulli’s contributed his photographic work to illustrate I Apologize in Advance for the Awful Things Im Gonna Do, a book of haiku (you read that right) written by former Cat Butt/Dwarves member (you read that right, too) Danny Bland. Bland and Dulli aren’t the only figures from independent music involved in I Apologize… Calligraphy was contributed by X vocalist Exene Cervenka, the book was designed by Camper van Beethoven/Monks of Doom’s Victor Krummenacher, and it’s been published by Sub Pop, the record label that introduced Cat Butt and Afghan Whigs to the world.
I hid the razors
you bought, you sucked the pills from
my throat, quid pro quo
Though they all strictly adhere to haiku’s typical 5-7-5 syllable count, Bland’s haiku are far from traditional—not only do they not take nature as their subject, these poems are just downright raw and seedy. His debut novel, last year’s In Case We Die, was a junkie fable of porn, bad relationships, and damaged humanity, and his haiku hit all the same notes, often with a brutal sense of humor.
I paged my sponsor,
I paged my dealer, then I
waited; heads or tails
While Dulli’s lyrics can often revolve around similar themes of wastedness, obsession, and human relationships gone horrifically wrong, his photographs don’t particularly strike those chords. The most engaging shots seem intended to evoke moods or represent emotional states, concealing as much about reality as they reveal. (The least interesting images just straight up look like they could have been culled from a random art student’s Instagram account, but thankfully there’s not a whole lot of that.) Dulli talked a bit about his photographic work in an interview with the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger:
I think a picture presents itself. For me, photography and songwriting both seem to start with a strange inspiration. I don’t necessarily go around looking for photographs, I wait to find them. [Pauses] It’s hard to quantify it exactly. Catching a picture is the same kind of spirit as catching a song. You hear a melody in your head, you start to interact with it—that’s what photography is to me.