Love or loathe him, Jack White is always a pretty interesting topic of conversation.
With his more recent adventures involving making the ‘World’s Fastest Record’, aiding Neil Young’s new album of lo-fi covers, and inventing the amazing looking ‘Ultra LP’, it’s little wonder that Rolling Stone have dubbed the 38-year-old musician, “Rock & Roll’s Willy Wonka” in their upcoming cover story on the prolific Third Man Records boss.
Conducted in anticipation of releasing his second solo effort, Lazaretto, this June, Jack White has given a particularly candid interview with Rolling Stone for the feature article. The print issues isn’t set to hit newsstands until Friday, but with a series of highlights from the RS chat already cropping up online, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to compile the most intriguing highlights of the feature, starting with the rather sad relationship White now has with his former White Stripes bandmate, Meg White.
Jack And Meg “Almost Never” Speak Anymore
The RS interview finds White revealing that the pair rarely speak these days, as Consequence Of Sound points out, but then “I don’t think anyone talks to Meg” according to Jack. “She’s always been a hermit. When we live in Detroit, I’d have to drive over to her house if I wanted to talk to her, so now it’s almost never.” Meg’s shy nature may also have contributed to the band’s eventual split in 2011, he adds.
“She’s one of those people who won’t high five me when I get the touchdown. She viewed me that way of ‘Oh, big deal, you did it, so what?’ Almost every single moment of the White Stripes was like that. We’d be working in the studio and something amazing would happen: I’m like, ‘Damn, we just broke into a new world right there!’ And Meg’s sitting in silence. I remember hearing Ringo Starr say, ‘I always felt sorry for Elvis, because in the Beatles we had each other to talk about what it felt like. Elvis was by himself.’ I was like, ‘Shit, try being in a two-piece where the other person doesn’t talk!’.”
But He’s Still Got Huge Respect For Meg
“I don’t think she understood how important she was to the band, and to me and to music. She was the antithesis of a modern drummer. So childlike and incredible and inspiring. All the not-talking didn’t matter, because onstage? Nothing I do will top that.”
Lazaretto Took Nearly 75 Times Longer To Make Than White Blood Cells
The White Stripes’ breakout 2001 LP was famously knocked out in less than a week, while White’s new solo album took nearly a year-and-a-half, beginning in 2012 with initial recording sessions with members of his Blunderbuss touring bands: the all-male Buzzards and all-female Peacocks.”I wanted to catch stuff while we were still on tour, while we were still electric,” he explains.
“I did a lot of things we hadn’t done before, like, we’d record three live versions of a song and move on — ‘I’ll figure it out later.’” That led to many months tinkering with the recordings and creating new edits and overdubs, deliberately extending the work pace: “I thought, ‘How about the challenge of working on something for a long time?”
White Doesn’t Have A “Women Problem”
“I’ve worked with more women than anyone you’ll ever meet,” White tells Rolling Stone in response to a 2012 article from The Atlantic that criticised White of a “long lyrical campaign against females he can’t control.” White, who’s produced albums for Wanda Jackson, Loretta Lynn, ex-wife Karen Elson, and in a band with Alison Mosshart, tells RS that the confusion lies in the line between the narrators of his songs and his personal beliefs – but that there is a line. “If you’re that chick who wrote that article — and I say chick on purpose — she won’t understand that line, because she doesn’t do her research.”
To illustrate, White refers to the lyrical references to digital photography in ‘Three Women’, the opening track of Lazaretto; “If you know anything about me, do you think I like digital photography? No. I don’t. So obviously this song is not about fucking Jack White, so fuck you!” Speaking of which…
Smartphones Are Ruining Live Music
White has never been shy about his dislike for modern technology, banning phones entirely at some legs of the 2012 Blunderbuss world tour while complaining to media at the time that “the gadgetry for the experience of a live show has gotten ridiculous. You look out and see a sea of blue screens.” And it’s a situation that hasn’t gotten any better two years on, he laments.
“People can’t clap anymore, because they’ve got a fucking texting thing in their fucking hand, and probably a drink, too!” he tells RS. “Some musicians don’t care about this stuff, but I let the crowd tell me what to do. There’s no set list. I’m not just saying the same things [every concert]. If they can’t give me that energy back? Maybe I’m wasting my time.”
He Almost Collaborated With Kanye West & Jay Z
West invited White to work with him on Yeezus, the cover story reveals, but West never followed through on his offer. That disappointed White, who was a big fan of the Yeezus arena tour. “That might have been the greatest show I’ve seen in my life,” he says. “It was more punk, more in-your-face than anything I’ve seen.” As for Jay Z, White worked with Hova on several unfinished tracks a couple of years ago but nothing ever got released, Why? “I’m not sure he liked them,” White remarks.
He Was An Amateur Playwrite In His Youth
Many of Lazaretto‘s songs and lyrics were inspired by plays and short stories written by a 19-year-old Jack White, after the musician re-discovered a box of his old “mediocre” work.
“I was going to throw away a bunch of it, but I was just coming up with new styles of attacking songwriting for the album,” he notes. “What if I talk to my younger self and work together with him? What if you write songs with your younger self’s ideas? … so I’m actually collaborating with myself from the past on a song.”
Jack White is a gift that keeps on giving and he's just announced the arrival of the world's first ever "Ultra... read more
The Vintage Enthusiast Has Turned To The Dark Side
The famously lo-fi, vinyl-endorsing White has always been a major champion for the benefits of authentic recording technology’s charm, no matter how antiquated. But he had to bend his own dogmatic rules a bit for Lazaretto.
“Some of it I could edit on tape, but some of it, I had to print it to computer, edit it in ProTools, and print it back to tape, to make the edits work. I’ve done that in the past.” But never fear, he’s not going cutting edge anytime soon. “I’ve still never mixed and recorded an album in ProTools. I can’t bring myself to live in that world.”
He’s A Curb Your Enthusiasm Fan
“I’m very much like Larry David in my everyday,” White tells RS, comparing his critical nature to that of the Seinfeld co-creator and HBO star. “Complaining about, you know, why they make shoelaces so much longer than they need to be.” And just like David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm character, Jack’s the first to crack up at an offensive joke; “I’ll be the only one to laugh, just to ease the tension in the room.”
Being A Solo Artist Isn’t Like Being A Movie Director
There’s a lot of “hired guns” that feature on Lazaretto and in getting the most of his session musicians, White is cautious about how to best get his desired results. “Explaining art to the people who are making it? I’m not good at it. It feels to me that I sound like I’m full of shit,” he explains.
“If I’m with session musicians in Nashville and I say, ‘Guys, this character is dying, on his deathbed, and you need to play the bass like you’re the sister of this dying person…,’ those people are gonna say OK and walk off and tell funny, shitty stories about me. But if I’m in a Hollywood table read, and we say, ‘This is a bus driver, he lost his job, his rent is due, the kids are sick with polio,’ everyone will say, ‘Yeah, and his brother could be in jail!’ You can’t give musicians notes like that. Sometimes I’m in those rooms and I say, this is where I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to be directing this movie.”
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