Mark Lanegan, Joe Cardamone Mix Something Alchemical with ‘Dark Mark v. Skeleton Joe’

Just as Mark Lanegan was ready to leave Los Angeles for good and begin his new life in Ireland, and in the throes of his memoir “Sing Backwards and Weep,” he began documenting different vignettes of chaos, paranoia, and unavoidable reflections with electronic artist and producer Joe Cardamone that would become the duo’ debut Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe.

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“He was going through huge transitions at the time,” Cardamone tells American Songwriter. “He was leaving California, leaving America, getting ready to flee the country, and shit was kind of falling apart, so it was a cool moment to be able to capture what he was going through. It’s him looking backward a bit and then looking at his current situation.”

Cardamone adds, “It just felt like he had a lot to mull over at the moment. I actually feel really fortunate for the time that we got to make this thing because I feel like we captured a moment that was kind of important in his life.” 

Friends for years, the two always wanted to work on something, so Cardamone started sending instrumental arrangements to Lanegan, who immediately placed the lyrics and vocals around each, resulting in the duo’s debut Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe. 

“I would come up with the instrumental fully fleshed out, send it to him and he would write lyrics, and we would just record the vocals the next day,” shares Cardamone. “I would put a working title, which he would work off for the theme of the song, and it was really effortless and just pure. He would text me vocal ideas hours later. This happened over the course of a month, and we had about 25 songs ready to go.”

Moving around unease and lightness with Lanegan as narrator throughout, DMvsSJ plays into the spectral synth drones of a Goblin- or John Carpenter-executed soundtrack, from the opening “Living Dead” to the industrial dance around “No Justice.”

“The original intention of it was day to night, but whether the night was a four in the morning night, that was kind of left up to Mark’s lyrics,” says Cardamone. “There’s a struggle between the two where there are these paranoia episodes that erupt here and there in the record. Then there are these calm contemplative moments between all hell breaking loose. He had a vision for the sequence and a firm grip on where he saw the songs going, so I just acquiesced.”

Unsettling, and caught between paranoia and betrayal, DMvsSJ has a more tender moment on the eerily sweetened “Hiraeth” and the soulful “Cold Summer,” where Lanegan’s vocals take on more classical form.

“It’s almost like Chet Baker with electronic beats,” says Cardamone. “It’s super soulful and deep and reminds me of a classic singer like Chet Baker or something like that. It was a voice I had never heard before.”

He adds, “Mark has such a God-given gift with his voice. He could sing the phonebook. Knowing that kind of frees me up as a producer and writer. I know that he can deliver on almost anything.”

Photo courtesy of Reybee PR

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