He has a steely, cobra-hooded gaze, tattoos down his sinewy arms all the way to the knuckles, and a singing voice so sepulchral it could give Boris Karloff himself the creeps.
Ex-Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan cuts a rather imposing figure.
But he’s quick to caution fans that the anticipation of meeting him might exceed the actual event.
“Although I’m not really aware of what the anticipation level is nowadays,” he says. “I’m sure that it just has to outweigh the reality. Because in truth, I’m really just a boring guy.”
Lanegan — who plays a special acoustic show in San Francisco on Tuesday — knows that decadence is a romantic notion, and that it might have worked well for him in his hard-partying youth.
But, at a wiser 46, he’s no longer a misanthrope.
“I quit drinking quite a few years ago, and everything else a few years after that,” he says. “And I even quit smoking almost three years ago, and that’s probably the smartest thing I’ve done in ages. And it was pretty easy, really.”
He also is experiencing a real Renaissance period, creatively.
After five solo sets that culminated in 2004’s “Bubblegum,” his recent exploits have included: touring and recording with his old chum Greg Dulli in both the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins; singing for U.K. electronica duo Soulsavers in studio and on the road; tracking a song with James Lavelle’s UNKLE project; periodically hooking up with his ex-outfit Queens of the Stone Age; and dueting on three albums with Scottish chanteuse Isobel Campbell, including last year’s Gothic-America-flavored “Hawk.”
“I’ve done a lot of stuff in the last few years,” says Lanegan, who just landed a new solo cut, “Burning Jacob’s Ladder,” on an upcoming video game called “Rage.”
“Mainly because I’ve had a lot of opportunities — and the energy — to do these things. And I enjoy it more now than I did when I was younger, when I was abusing myself. So now that I’m free of that stuff, I think this is a really good job. One that I love.”
Lanegan hates to shatter the mysterious myth. But he’s basically a homebody. “I have a couple of dogs, and I love playing with them, and spending time with my girlfriend, watching basketball, and even cooking — just the normal stuff,” he says.
He just finished an alternate version of “Jacob’s” for his forthcoming Alain Johannes-produced comeback. What’s the record called?
Lanegan laughs, dark and ominous. “‘Blues Funeral’” he says, adding “Hey — I have to leave a little mystery, man!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today
Contact: (415) 885-0750; www.gamhtickets.com