J ack White is back in the UK for the first time since the Army of the Seven Nations became the unofficial war cry for Jeremy Corbyn. But he does not know much about Corbyn and anyway: "I feel like I have to be incredibly careful these days because the press has had a lot of fun with me over the years."
White wears black sports pants with green and yellow panels, and is quite athletic (he has shares in a company that produces quality baseball bats). His most famous song was also used, without warning, in a video made by a fan for the nomination of Donald Trump to the presidency. Through his record label Third Man, White and Meg, his partner in White Stripes, issued the usual disapproval and Third Man began selling "Icky Trump" shirts, making a pun on the title of the final White Stripes album. .
When one of his songs is a hymn used in stadiums and presidential campaigns, it is fair to say that he has reached a certain position. All the principles that White defends – that the music must be held in the hand, and paid for – dissolve when a song sounds graceful, abstract and royalty-free, around a vast stadium. "The more people do not know where it comes from, the happier I am," he says. When there is a game on television, their children, ages 10 and 11, say: "Dad, listen, it will never get old." The song has also been badimilated into the repertoire of the marching band of the high school, "another strange world in which to enter".
White has long been part of the fabric of life, but then, he made sure of that. When he ran his tapestry business after graduating from business school in Detroit, he sewed records on the sofas he finished. Those sofas are falling apart in landfills these days, offering musical time capsules: two were found in 2016. As part of the paraphernalia that accompanies their new album Boarding House Reach, fans can buy a "vault package" It includes a commemorative one dollar coin, which also works as a 45 inch vinyl adapter, and offers you a 10% discount on other things in its stores. One of the co-founders of Third Man, Ben Swank, wrote an article in The Guardian that said the company would continue to auction its eccentric items on eBay because: "We are Americans and Americans do all kinds of crazy things for capitalism. Hell. "
Trump has White thinking about business. "It was always a joke," he says. "People like Trump do not use their own money, they use other people's money, and if they give up for lost or go bankrupt, it does not hurt them." If White has a bad year, it comes out of his wallet, "as if it was a corner store. " In my neighborhood you grew up thinking: "Maybe I own a store." But in your world, it's like: "I'm going to grow up and have a corporation." Which is something that no normal, everyday person can do. "
There's a song on this track on the new album, his third solo album, an experimental storm of rock & n '' roll and hip-hop sampling that uses live musicians who have worked with Kanye West and others.There is another song called Ezmerelda Steals the Show, a Learish interlude about a six-year-old boy at a rally, fooling the crowd in a magical fog, White notes that Trump is still going to rallies after being elected, as no other president. "You need the ego boost you get from a live crowd. He misses glory, because at home, or in the White House, all he gets is negativity. "
The difference between a president and a rock star? A president does not have to do anything once he goes up On stage, says White, meanwhile, he feels like a comedian: "If I make a joke and it does not make me laugh, I know I have to win it again"
However, the most difficult thing to face is technology. In a show, when White sees the "blue faces" (people with their heads tilted towards their phones), he badumes that people do not like the song. He partnered with Yondr, the company that supplies lock bags for mobile phones at concerts and promises to "help you turn your phone off and tune in to life." On his farm in Nashville, White had the channels read and the sound be transmitted to his room: he likes to show his daughter how he can "turn on the rain". It has collections of tangible objects: "how to get involved in the small, beautiful things in life," including scissors, small alarm clocks, and coin-operated machines. Other collectors harbad him through the internet: they know what he is looking for. He has an aluminum TWA Lockheed constellation, he tells me, the plane designed by Howard Hughes. A model? "Uh-huh!" Nod, quickly, innocent looking and dimpled. In his artisan "curatorship" of beautiful things and his expansion of small business into a lucrative empire, he is the original nonconformist, even down to the hats.
His great commitment to his musical persona was impressive, or a little annoying, depending on his point of view. He had a messianic attitude towards badog recording and vinyl in the era of digital. "If it was in 1999 and they asked me:" What do you think about digital music? ", It was my job to say:" Is that what others do? Then I do not like it ", He says. "If the world had been badog, I would have said that I loved digital." As an artist, it's your job not to take the easy way. I want to be excited when I hear an artist talk: I want them to show something that nobody else is doing. "
What was the broader purpose?" At that time, the vinyl records had almost completely disappeared, "he says. "House music and DJs kept them alive. The garage rock scene in Detroit, and the Hives, the Strokes, the Vines, were a breath of fresh air for guitar rock and it was our duty to help save the vinyl. A lot of that is due to a lot of effort from Third Man Records. "
Did your company help save the vinyl?" Oh, there's no question about it. "People thought we were being old, retro and cute But our point was: this is a format that really makes sense to music lovers, it's the only part of the music industry that is increasing in sales. " In 2016, long before Elon Musk and his Tesla, White sent a rotating platform to space. The vinyl, gold-plated to help it resist temperature changes, played 28,000 meters above the ground, then descended into Idaho.
The famous white stripes recorded at the fully badogue Toe Rag Studios in East London, and a wave of The Acts duly appeared in the late 2000s drenched in the same vintage production. The studios would boast of having Elvis 'mixing desk, or Hank Williams' microphone stand, as if they were talismanic objects. In an episode of the hipster-Portland situation comedy, someone builds that place ("They brought us this Detroit lamp!") And White appears, floating on the terrace. When the Black Keys went to record at Muscle Shoals, they were annoyed to see that the original flock on the walls had disappeared. White has waged a long war with two-piece blues-rock (physically, he supposedly tried to fight with one of them in a bar). He said he could hear his influence in everything he did.
White wrote Boarding House Reach as much as would be expected, renting a flat in Nashville and hiding there with the same kind of four-track recorder he had as a kid in Detroit. He did it with his headphones on, silently: "The most beautiful part was that nobody could catch me." As he descended to his childhood state, his own family life was suspended. "They're used to it, they know that if I get in the car, they will not see me for a while"
But there will be no more guitars made with pieces of wood these days, or twanged interpretations of Froggy Went A Courtin & # 39; He "will not be sitting here talking to you about Son House today," he tells me. Old Jack White was a means to an end.
Today, with his mission accomplished, White loves CDs. "You can play them very loud, they're portable and you can read the composition credits," he says. The downloads and the transmission are also perfectly fine. And once he considered ProTools to be the work of the devil, he recorded all of his new album on tape and then "released" it to ProTools for editing. With all his live instrument samples, the album "corresponded" (his word) complicated editions, and that required more than his tape and razor blade.
"This was the hip-hop production style that I had kept away from for years because I thought it was a trap," says White. Always a bit of a rapper, he once produced the Insane Clown Posse. He has written some songs with Jay-Z in recent years, but they never came to fruition (he is vague about why). Instead, he put his hands on the best hip-hop musicians: the drummer of Q-Tip, the bbadist of Kanye and many more, calling the production of hip-hop "the punk rock of now".
As a teenager, while other children listen to songs no matter where the samples come from, the 14-year-old altar boy shouted to his friends for not knowing that EPMD's Strictly Business was stolen from I Shot the Sheriff. Her older parents have something to do with this attitude: they were around 40 years old when she was born and, like Ray and Dave Davies, she had much older siblings who felt like aunts and uncles. His points of reference were also different, similar to those of the musical generation that is above him: the music of big band and Roger Miller. He likes to tell his mother that he is older than sliced bread. "A kid at school would say:" Oh, it's a great plane. "And I'd say:" Yes, but it's not like the P51 Mustang they used in World War II. " "
But more than smartphones, more than poorly listened to samples, their biggest mistake is still the press. When he presents Boarding House Reach for journalists at King's Cross in London the night after our interview, with the same pants, he takes the microphone with his head down, says a quick word about the title and leaves again, a comedian who did not say a joke. The crowd nods soberly at the new record. While it's playing, you wonder if White is still here somewhere, looking at their faces from behind a curtain.
While he talks about journalism, his body sinks more and more into the sofa, so that after an hour he is almost lying down, elbows on a cushion, a hand trapped in his hair. Look in the distance looking slightly at Byronic. Mojo magazine gave three stars to his new album, he is a volunteer. "They did it to punish me for giving Q the cover story."
For a while, the press saw him as a very inspiring figure in the world of guitar and two-guitar rock, partly because he worked with so many women: with Meg (he said he had the key to White Stripes because he did not he understood it); with Alison Mosshart in his band Dead Weather, then producing Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson. He even alternated his male touring band with a totally feminine rock band, dressed in white like Virgin Suicides. Once he remembered a dream he had had in which a 30-foot lady rose in front of him and grew so big that he could not contain himself in the room.
"Someone once wrote something about 'White Jack Feminist', he says, looking a little melancholy.But times have changed People talked about their" women's problem "(including gossip about their divorce) by Karen Elson), her control-freakery, and explored her rock characters & # 39; n & # 39; n roll bag (devil women, little girls) with modern eyes.
new album there is a song called Respect Commander ( "She commands my respect.") And a strange figure stares from the deck: the upper half of the face is white, the lower half is a woman's. "I do not feel like a man or a woman," he told Mojo. he became a headline, have you ever wanted to renounce the press completely?
"Oh, yes!" he yells. "Damn yes. The written word is so powerful. It's different when I'm in front of the camera: people see your body language, your face. I could tell you right now: & # 39; I love your voice to talk. & # 39; And that would be one thing. But if I wrote it on a piece of paper and I slid it on the table towards you, it has a totally different connotation. "
That would be very strange." It would be super weird, "he says." But it shows how powerful it is. "
Boarding House Reach came out on March 23 on Third Man Records.