“SONG FOR EWE”
with GARY LEE CONNER of
THE SCREAMING TREES
“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.
Today we have a genuine Velvet Sheep legend – Gary Lee Conner, guitarist and songwriter for the Screaming Trees. I first became aware of the band when I was a musically naive teenager; I was in Tower Records, London with Velvet Sheep’s sonically experienced founder Nick Hutchings, when ‘Nearly Lost You’ blasted over the in-store speaker system. In complete awe I declared it the “best song I’d ever heard” before begging Nick to tell me who it was.
My next exposure to the band was through a recording of The Late Show special ‘No Nirvana’, a program dedicated to the best BBC archive performances in grunge era rock, with the obvious exception of one legendary band. For me ‘No Nirvana’ was very much an awakening, featuring exhilarating performances from Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, The Smashing Pumpkins and of course the Screaming Trees. On the recording the first thing that grabbed me was the husky vocals of singer Mark Lanegan, quickly followed by the Conners (Gary and his brother Van on bass) who I vividly remember rocking out in the background – two big, awesome guys with a sound to match. To this day ‘Sweet Oblivion‘, home to classics ‘Nearly Lost You’ and ‘Dollar Bill’, is still one of my all-time favourite albums.
The Screaming Trees were often hailed as the best band of the grunge era never to truly hit the big time, to never become the mega stars they deserved to be. And the truth is there’s no good reason why obscene levels of success didn’t turn their lives upside down, as their music was as great as everyone who suffered that curse. Mark Lanegan’s voice is totally unmistakable but it’s when you listen to Gary’s solo work it becomes clear that if Lanegan was the soul, then Gary was very much the throbbing heart and the band’s sound was his. The Screaming Trees left an impressive body of work behind that I implore you to check out and if there was ever a band I hope will reform it’s this one. This may never happen, and the truth is it doesn’t really matter, on top of their legacy Gary is still writing, recording and releasing killer albums. A true grunge legend.
OVER TO GARY:
“Out of LA’s early eighties paisley underground. The Salvation Army was the original incarnation of The Three O’Clock (wikipedia link) This and the album it was from (originally released as Befour Three O’Clock, and not under the Salvation Army name) was a seemless mix of punk and psychedelia. This same spirit permeated much of the SST era Screaming Trees work. We always played everything twice as fast live.”
The Salvation Army – ‘She Turns To Flowers’
Gary’s also done us the great honour of providing us with his Lucky 7 and we have a forthcoming interview, so please check back soon for these unmissable features.