Van Conner Obituary, Screaming Trees Co-Founder and Bassist, dies at 55

Van Conner Obituary, Death – 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 from his brother. He was 55. “Van Conner, Screaming Trees bassist and songwriter, died Friday night at the age of 55 after a long illness,” his brother added. “In the end, pneumonia was what killed him. He was my personal favorite. He was one of the most significant individuals in my life. I’ll remember him for the rest of my life.”

The Trees were created in 1984 in rural Ellensburg, Washington by the Lanegan brothers and drummer Mark Pickerel. Other indie bands of the time influenced the band’s psychedelic aesthetic, particularly “Paisley Underground” artists from California such as the Rain Parade and the Dream Syndicate. After several low-budget albums on the small Velvetone label, the band signed with indie titan SST Records and became one of the major groups of the late ’80s American indie scene — which blossomed into the grunge/alternative movement when fellow Washington State natives Nirvana took off in 1991 (Lanegan and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain were close friends and, unfortunately, drug buddies, as the singer confirmed in his autobiography).

The Trees released several excellent albums on SST, including “Buzz Factory” and “Invisible Lantern,” before joining Epic Records in 1989. “Uncle Anesthesia,” the band’s major label debut, was co-produced by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, but their career really took off the following year, when their song “Nearly Lost You” was included on the soundtrack of Cameron Crowe’s Northwest-scene-defining film “Singles,” and the group was picked up for management by the powerhouse Q-Prime, which also managed Metallica and Queensryche. The band subsequently went on to record their best album, “Sweet Oblivion,” and became one of the most popular artists of the time. Long-running feuds between Gary Lee and Lanegan erupted, frequently resulting in violent clashes, and the band did not release another album until 1996, with “Dust.”

Josh Homme toured with Queens of the Stone Age prior to the band’s founding and the addition of Lanegan. Following another lengthy hiatus during which the band was dropped by both Epic and Q-Prime, the band recorded songs for a new album in 1999 but found no takers; the tapes were ultimately released in 2011 as the “Last Words: The Final Recordings” CD. Van thereafter concentrated on his band Gardener, while also contributing to Lanegan’s “Field Songs” CD and records by Valis, Kitty Kitty, and his brother’s solo project. He previously fronted the side project Solomon Grundy, which released an album in 1990; that same year, he briefly played with Dinosaur Jr. when the band required a bassist, adding a psychedelic element to the group’s sound with his loud and droning bass.

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