After The White Stripes decided to call it a day, Jack White later went on to say he wouldn’t be joining any new bands. But while most of us are getting caught up in the drama of life post-White Stripes, Mr. White himself is just doing what he does best: working on the most random projects imaginable. So, to better understand the man behind Third Man Records and three wildly popular rock bands, NPR is beginning a weekly series of interviews with White called The Flipside.
With the series, the public broadcasting giant hopes to highlight a few things that fans may not have been aware of in regards to their savior. In this week’s edition, along with the mention that he’d be restarting his Third Man Upholstery business he ran before he was famous, the charismatic frontman talked a whole lot about his recent 45 with auctioneer Jerry King. Head here to listen to the interview and to check out a transcript.
How could you describe the album & its themes?
Jamie: “Obsessive and claustrophobic… After we’d made the record, Alison and I talked about the theme: there’s a lot about gender, about relationships; it’s about sex – so, blood pressures.”
How has your music developed since the last album, ‘Midnight Boom’?
Jamie: “The music’s changed because Alison was on tour with The Dead Weather for much of last year. It was really freeing to take ideas of hers and to change them musically. “The Last Goodbye” for instance changes from 4/4 to waltz time.”
Alison: “The Dead Weather is a very different kind of band. For one, it’s a 4 piece band with a lot going on… So I think I got better at using my voice as an instrument to make sounds and noise that could compete with guitars and feedback, rather than just delivering lyrics.”
The album was recorded, like ‘Midnight Boom’ at Key Club Studios in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Was there a reason for returning there?
Jamie: “It was an absolute second home, with no distractions. I delved into sampling and programming. I spent a lot of time with drum kits. That isolation was just great. You get absolutely high off playing music all days long. Being unaware of what’s going on in the rest of the world – I just love that.”
The music writing process is a real collaboration; can you tell us more about the balance in the relationship?
Jamie: “I’ve been in loads of bands and done my share of thinking too much about it. But it’s better to free yourself up. Alison really helps me with that. I would definitely gravitate towards things taking too long, but she forces me to be more spontaneous.”
And what about the actual writing process?
Alison: “We’ve always written songs apart with the occasional song from start to finish together. I suppose what I do is write melody and lyrics on an acoustic guitar, and then the songs like this that Jamie likes, he takes and transforms, gives them real music and form. With his own songs, he works them out from start to finish.”
Tell us about a couple of key tracks for you.
Alison: ‘The lyrics for “DNA” are Jamie’s. The second he finished the last line, I was singing it in the studio. I think it was the last night of recording the album actually. I love that song so much. “The Last Goodbye” is my lyrics: that song came out really quick. It was one of those really natural songs to write that seemed to come out of nowhere. Jamie heard it and decided it would be best on an Optigan. He made it really special.”
From where do you draw the inspiration for your music?
Jamie: “She’s still finding something new in the blues, and working with Jack White made it even more exciting for her. After “Midnight Boom” I was slightly frustrated and it’s a perfect antidote to racing round, thinking about trying to reproduce Compass Point and Grace Jones”
What are your influences?
Jamie: “Link Wray, Little Milton (‘the start of R&B’), Dave Bartholomew (Fats Domino’s arranger/ producer) and Captain Beefheart. And I’ve been listening to reggae. I got into it from Grace Jones, Sly and Robbie, and Peter Tosh. It was the last bastion of music that I hadn’t really delved into.”
So many bands reference you as an influence, do you find this flattering?
Jamie: “The XX citing us an influence. They want to meet US?! That to me is quite phenomenal. We’ve given up quite a lot to do it our way. Some of our things work, others don’t. But there’s not too many bands that have that feeling, unfolding their music over six or seven albums. And there’s not that many labels who would support that.”
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