January 30, 2023

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Van Conner, Screaming Trees co-founder and bassist, dies aged 55

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Van Conner, who co-founded the legendary Northwest alternative band Screaming Trees with his brother Gary Lee and singer Mark Lanegan, has died, according to a social media post by his brother. He was 55.

“Van Koner’s bassist and songwriter for Screaming Trees died last night at the age of 55 after an extended illness,” his brother wrote. “It was pneumonia that finally got him. He was one of my closest friends and I loved him dearly. I will miss him forever and always and always.”

The Trees were founded in 1984 by brothers Lanegan – who died last year – and drummer Mark Pickerel in rural Ellensburg, Washington. The band developed a psychedelia-influenced sound that syncretized with other indie bands of the era, particularly Californian “Paisley Underground” groups such as Rain Parade and Dream Syndicate. After releasing a number of low-budget recordings on the small Velvetone label, the band signed with indie titan SST Records and became a staple of the American indie scene in the late ’80s – which blossomed into the grunge/alternative movement when fellow Washington state natives Nirvana Departed in 1991 (Kurt Cobain of Lengan and Nirvana were close friends, and unfortunately, the singer also confirmed drug friends in his autobiography).

The Trees released a series of strong albums on SST, notably “Buzz Factory” and “Invisible Lantern,” and signed with major label Epic Records in 1989. The band released their major label debut, “Uncle Anesthesia” — which was co-produced by Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell — in 1991, but their career really took off the following year when their song “Nearly Lost You” was Cameron Crowe’s answer. -The western-scene-defining film “Singles” was included on the soundtrack and the group was selected for it. Management by powerhouse Q-Prime, which manages metal giants Metallica and Queensryche. The band’s follow-up to its best album, “Sweet Oblivion,” played on the Lollapalooza tour and became one of the era’s seminal acts.

However, lingering tensions between Gary Lee and Lanegan escalated—often resulting in physical altercations—and it was nearly four years before the band released another album, 1996’s “Dust.” Guitarist Josh Homme joined the band for a tour before forming Queens of the Stone Age and taking Lanegan with him.

After another long hiatus – which saw the group dropped by both Epic and Q-Prime – they recorded songs for a new album in 1999 but found no takers; The songs were eventually released as the album “Last Words: The Final Recordings” in 2011.

The band members all went on to solo projects, with Van focusing on his band Gardener as well as contributing to Lanegan’s “Field Guns” album, along with recordings of Vallis, Kitty Kitty and his brother’s solo projects. He previously fronted a side project called Solomon Grundy, which released an album in 1990; The same year he briefly toured with Dinosaur Jr. when that band was between bassists, his powerful and droning bass bringing a psychedelic element to the group’s sound.

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