(Interview by Sara Graham, photo by Michael Lavine)
Jack White is the king of founding hip-as-shit bands. First he created the White Stripes, then the Raconteurs, and now his latest project, the balls-out, bare-boned group the Dead Weather, is spot-on rock gold. The band features Alison Mosshart (of the Kills) sharing vocal duties with White, and Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (the Raconteurs) round out the lineup. Their dirty-blues, classic-rock-heavy debut, Horehound, was recorded in Nashville in White's brand-new studio and sounds like a Pabst hangover feels: trashy, throbbing, and totally nasty.
I meet the band in their Manhattan hotel room on the eve of the Dead Weather's first sold-out N.Y.C. show. While drinking beers in a haze of Mosshart's self-proclaimed 'menthol sauna' of Marlboro smoke, they share the secrets of their success, an affinity for machine guns, loud music in fast cars, and above all else, the virtues of rock and roll.
Alison and Jack, you've both released albums with your own bands recently. How did you find time to make Horehound?
A.M.: Just don't take off any days, ever. I haven't had one off this year.
How do you unwind, with such a crazy schedule?
A.M.: I laugh a lot. That makes me feel good. And I sleep on planes.
Jack, you have two young kids now, ages one and two. Are they going on tour with you?
I've done that here and there. But it';s a lot of damp, concrete-basement backstage rooms that you don't really want to put your kids down on, you know? It's a lot of 'Oh, don't touch that! No, don't touch that!'
Alison, how was it recording with these guys?
It absolutely ruined my life. [laughs] No, it's been so much fun. I think when you start something new, no one knows what you're doing, and you have that secret period where you are really free to be creative.
You didn't feel any pressure?
Well, I was scared to death because they were so fucking good. It was totally challenging for me in the best possible way, because I loved watching them work. It was almost like I could watch them from the sky and suddenly drop down into it and be part of it, which is really great.
How do you like singing with Jack?
It';s amazing, because he is one of my favorite singers of all time. Every time he does a vocal take, I'm just like this [jaw drops], getting every minute of it in my brain, 'cause
it's really exciting.
Were you guys listening to anything in particular during the recording of this album?
J.W.: I try not to. It starts to get a little strange for people who are visiting [the studio], because all I listen to is what I'm currently working on. Sometimes I think, 'God, people must think I'm so narcissistic.' But I'm just analyzing and reanalyzing.
A.M.: Yeah that's my favorite part, being in your car and you driving about 120 miles per hour and listening to the song we did the day before.
Tell me about the new studio in Nashville. What makes it special?
J.W.: It has incredible character and a lot of secret things you can't find in any other studio acoustically. Most studios are designed to have a tiny bit of character, but are mostly just dead.
So it's a much-needed resource in today's overproduced musical climate?
J.W.: I think it's an interesting way to start attacking recording, because there's a lot of invisible music out there right now.
What do you mean by invisible?
A.M.: Nobody has any feelings attached to music. They don't feel like it's theirs or it's not important to them. It's just an endless stream of shit; it's nothing to latch on to.
What do you anticipate needing when you're on tour together?
J.W.: We're gonna need guns.
A.M.: Yeah, we do like those collectively as a band.
J.W.: Yeah. We had a lot of leftover promotional CDs from a party at my record label's headquarters. After the event, we took them and shot them all with machine guns and handguns.
What did that feel like?
A.M.: Like the best feeling you've ever felt.
J.W.: I didn't realize I'd always wanted to do it my whole life until I pulled the trigger. I was like, 'Whoa. I've wanted to do that forever.'