The Afghan Whigs have built their legacy as alt-rock pioneers on nearly three decades of life-affirming music about love and its complications.
But when Whigs singer-guitarist Greg Dulli calls to talk about the band’s upcoming fall tour to support its “In Spades” (Sub Pop) album, including a stop at Brooklyn Steel on Saturday, death is understandably on his mind. In June, Dave Rosser — who played guitar with Dulli for more than a decade in Twilight Singers, the Gutter Twins and in Afghan Whigs when the band reformed in 2012 — died of complications from colon cancer. He was 50.
“The last run was hard,” Dulli said. “We were so far away and disconnected from our friend, who was really fighting. It was hard to concentrate.”
Rosser played on “In Spades,” which was released a month before his death, and Dulli said his presence remains in those songs. “This whole record felt guided by his spirit anyway,” he said. “It’s the 15th record that I’ve made and each story is different . . . This one was more channeled than written. I felt guided on this record.”
Maybe that’s why “In Spades” feels like the Whigs’ record most steeped in nostalgia — something Dulli doesn’t normally seek. The most nostalgic song on the record is the current single “Birdland,” the nickname for an area near his hometown of Hamilton, Ohio.
“That song happened so innocently,” he said. “I was in Memphis working on the ‘Black Love’ reissue and we had some down time. I said, ‘Oh, you have a Mellotron’ and I started to play it and got something that sounded cool. I said, ‘Please record this’ and it started to happen. It came so quickly. It was the ‘guided’ thing . . . I never wrote down the lyrics. I just sang those off the top of my head. That song chose me to come through.”
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Following a short break from touring and a New Orleans-style funeral and memorial for Rosser, Dulli said that he is eager to get back on the road to play the “In Spades” songs, though he will miss his friend. “I played 600 shows with Dave Rosser and it will always feel strange to turn around and not see him there,” Dulli said. “Rick Nelson, the Swiss army knife of rock and roll, now plays his parts and Rosser walked him through them to play them in a way Rosser knew I would like. It was a little gift he left for me.
“It’s hard to watch your friend suffer,” Dulli added. “I feel like he’s free now. That brings me comfort.”
WHO Afghan Whigs
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, Brooklyn Steel, 319 Frost St., Brooklyn
INFO $40; 888-929-7849, axs.com
ON VISITING PAISLEY PARK
Though Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli has always been a major Prince fan, he has no interest in seeing the late legend’s Minnesota home now that it has been opened to the public. “When I went through Graceland, I felt creepy as I was doing it,” he says about visiting Elvis Presley’s Memphis home. “There was a robot telling the story. I was walking through his kitchen. I thought, ‘This doesn’t feel right.’ But when I went on the Motown tour with Martha Reeves showing me around, I thought that was rad, really cool. It made me realize that I’d rather see where someone worked than where someone lived.”
— GLENN GAMBOA