Dirty Three’s new album Toward the Low Sun is out this week, marking a welcome return for the inimitable Australian instrumental trio. The band’s best-known member is violinist Warren Ellis, who’s also a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and has been moonlighting over the last few years as the fiercely bearded sidekick to Cave’s mid-life crisis in Grinderman. This means that Ellis has been the member of three fantastic bands at the same time, and it got us thinking about other musicians who’ve done the same. There are plenty of musicians who’ve moved from one great band to another, of course, but the list of those who’ve been in two or more worthy projects simultaneously is somewhat shorter. Here’s what we’ve come up with — polite suggestions are, of course, always welcome.
Warren Ellis (The Bad Seeds, Dirty Three, Grinderman)
For all that Ellis’s new role as Nick Cave’s BFF is clearly great fun for them both, we remain most partial to his work with Dirty Three. Ellis’s violin playing is like a force of nature, and it finds its greatest expression in the company of Mick Turner’s sparse guitar accompaniment and Jim White’s constantly fascinating drum patterns. There’s really no one quite like Dirty Three, and we’re glad to see that for now, at least, everything is (still) fucked.
Blixa Bargeld (The Bad Seeds, Einstürzende Neubaten)
Actually, on reflection, we could have included pretty much every past and present member of the Bad Seeds here (especially Mick Harvey, who’s worked with just about everyone). But for the sake of diversity, we’ll restrain ourselves to just Blixa Bargeld, who founded head-crushing German experimental music institution Einstürzende Neubaten in 1980 and continued to work with them throughout his 20-year stint in Nick Cave’s band, which ended in 2003.
Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz)
Now that Blur have re-formed, Damon Albarn most definitely merits a place on this list. We just hope that the renaissance of Albarn’s first band doesn’t mean an end to his wildly successful cartoon side project.
Mark Lanegan (Mark Lanegan Band, Queens of the Stone Age, Soulsavers, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Gutter Twins)
Well, who wouldn’t want Mark Lanegan on vocals? Lanegan has been a part of a wide range of projects over the last decade or so, both as frontman of his own group and as a member of various other bands, and usually doing at least one of each at any given moment. Given that the ’80s and ’90s were by all accounts something of a haze for Lanegan, it’s wonderful to see him so prolific and productive these days.
Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs)
In the same way that virtually every member of the Bad Seeds is in at least one other band, so there is an entire ecosystem of bands based around the four men who make up Wolf Parade. Singer Spencer Krug is also in Sunset Rubdown and has worked with a slew of other projects, Dante DeCaro used to be in Hot Hot Heat, and Arlen Thompson has a side project called Treasure Hunt. But we’re just choosing one, and it’s co-vocalist Dan Boeckner’s “other” band Handsome Furs, a project with his wife Alexei Perry that we actually prefer to Wolf Parade — and not just because of the consistently, um, intriguing promo shots and NSFW videos (like the one above.)
Emily Haines (Metric, Broken Social Scene)
Broken Social Scene are to Toronto what Wolf Parade are to Montreal, except that BSS have about a million times more members, which means a million more bands, solo projects, side projects, collaborations, etc etc. Again, we’re only choosing one, so it comes down to a battle between Torquil Campbell and Stars, Leslie Feist and Feist, and Emily Haines and Metric. We’re going with the latter, but this is ultimately a matter of taste — there’s a Broken Social Scene side project for just about everyone.
David and Stephen Dewaele (Soulwax/2ManyDJs)
The Dewaele brothers manage the rare feat of being both a rather fine band and the DJ duo responsible for the record that basically invented the whole über-eclectic mash-up idea later ripped off further popularized by the likes of Girl Talk. We’re speaking of the 2002 2ManyDJs record As Heard on Radio Soulwax Part 2, which remains a gloriously eclectic classic a decade after its release. The Dewaeles still perform as 2ManyDJs — the rest of the time, they’re the cornerstones of one of Belgium’s most successful indie bands, Soulwax.
Karin Dreijer Andersson (The Knife, Fever Ray)
Fever Ray is strictly a solo project, so we’re not sure it counts here, but given Karin Dreijer Andersson took it on tour with a proper band and all that, we reckon it fits our criteria. And in any case, we’re loath to miss any chance to praise what remains one of our favorite albums of the last few years. Whether or not it’s better than The Knife’s work is open for debate, but either way, she’s been responsible for some wonderful music with both her separate projects.
Lockett Pundt (Lotus Plaza, Deerhunter)
Yeah, if we were going to include Fever Ray, we could indeed have also included Bradford Cox here for his work with Deerhunter and Atlas Sound. But we’ve always been fans of Lotus Plaza, the other project of Cox’s consistently underrated Deerhunter bandmate Lockett Pundt. His work lacks the bombast of Deerhunter’s more animated moments, and is well worth investigating if you’re not familiar with it.
Mike Patton (About a bazillion different projects)
And finally, the gold standard for eclecticism. It’s hard to keep track of the bewildering array of bands and projects of which Patton is a member at any given time, but it’s safe to say that he’s almost certainly a member of multiple groups right now, and probably holed up somewhere in California thinking up ideas for several more.