The White Stripes Jack White Talking
by Kurt Hernon
The White Stripes are an unusual configuration of a band. Brother/sister
duo Jack and Meg White form the potent minimalist base of a group that
messes the Delta Blues into a wicked burst of punk-ish pop rock and roll.
Their latest record De Stijl is their best to date (their second disc)
and beyond that, it is one of the finest out-and-out pure fucking rock
records in quite some time. A must hear.
Jack White talks about it.
bS - You guys have a unique get-up in this group, being brother and sister
and all, and the simple blues influenced sound is unusual to hear these
days also...Tell us about it.
JW (Jack White) - Well, we're brother and sister of course. My sister
Meg on drums, I'm on guitar. We started playing a couple years ago and
just wanted to work on some simplistic kind of music, whether it was blues,
punk, or just real simple rock and roll. Just real stripped down type
of stuff. That was the main motivation behind it. But of course we're
now getting more into old melodies and things like that. Kind of a 1930's
feel to things with piano and stuff on this new album.
bS - Have you guys always been rooted in such minimalistic blues?
JW - I am. Meg's not really, she's more rock and roll. I listen to a
lot of Mississippi delta blues. That's certainly my favorite music to
bS - Any artist in particular?
JW - Well I listened to a lot of Blind Willie McTell while making this
record. We do that McTell song at the end of the record that Meg also
sang on. It was the first time Meg sang on any of our records, so that
bS - So, can it be said that "strict" or "pure" blues
is your main inspiration? Or does the "evolved" blues (i.e.
early Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, the Stooges etc.) play a part in what
JW - I don't know. I think of the evolved blues - what those people did
in the Sixties and all - as something that we are doing similarly, but
also as something that almost makes us want to stay completely away from
it. I don't, and never have, liked the electric blues very much. Stuff
like B.B. King and Buddy Guy. So sometimes I kinda feel bad because it's
like I'm doing some form of that. I dunno, sometimes it feels like the
most naturals thing to do, while other times it's like, Oh man, we don't
want to be Led Zepplin or Cream or anything like that.
bS - You seem to do a good job avoiding that sound by remaining less
bombastic than those bands. Your songs sem to have more of a pop/punk
JW - Yeah, I've always wanted to write songs that people could at leat
sing on their way to work and stuff like that. That kind of really melodic
poppiness to it. I like the idea of people singing your songs even when
they're not listening to you.
bS - Have you and Meg always played together?
JW - No, we've been playing for a couple of years now, but we never did
before. I've always played the drums and guitar and stuff, but Meg just
started playing the drums a couple years ago. That's why we started out
keeping things so simple (musically). It was kind of nice that she didn't
know what she was doing at first because our stuff was able to remain
so simple. We still try to keep it that way. Meg never does and drum fills
or (laughs) solo's or anything like that. And I just love that drumming
style. It's really cool to work off of, to play guitar off of, and to
sing off. It's really nice.
bS - The sound of the White Stripes has filled out a bit on De Stijl.
Will we see more players on stage now than just you and Meg (i.e. a piano,
JW - No. It's still just us two at shows.
bS - You guys hail from the Detroit area, what is it with that area and
the rockroll blues? It seems that there is something in the water up there.
JW - (laughs) Yeah, I know. I am working on, and almost done with, producing
a compilation for our label (Sympathy for the Record Industry) of all
Detroit bands. I've been recording it in my attic with everyone playing
through the same amps, the same microphones, that sort of thing. It's
almost finished and it's coming out great! There are so many great bands
up here (Detroit) right now.
bS - A lot of "scenes" end up sinking into a "retro"
type of trap, yet the Stripes have seemed to mix things up and stay above
that so far...
JW - Yeah, I don't like music that ends up like that. I mean, it can
be fun I guess, but just trying to make something that sounds like someone
is a dead end. Maybe it's true that nothing is original anymore, but you
can at least try.
bS - This records title - De Stijl - has a lot of implications. It's
not everyday that you catch a young band naming their record after a highly
influential early twentieth century art and cultural movement. Does this
reflect anything in particular for the White Stripes?
JW - Well, sort of I guess. I'd read a lot about the (De Stijl) movement
at one point and it was just my favorite art movement because it was such
a simple concept. I thought it was almost the equivalent to what we try
to do with our music. The most interesting thing to me though, the reason
I thought De Stijl would be a good name for the album, was the idea that
when the De Stijl movement had been taken so far it got so simplistic
that they decided to abandon the movement in order to build it back up
again from nothing. That's kind of how I felt about this album. We had
wondered how simple we could get things before we would have to build
it back up again. How simple we could get with people still liking what
we do. And on this record we added some piano and violin and stuff, so
I though it fit kind of perfectly - that structure, that building it up.
In the same way, we always wear red and white (or black) at our shows.
It's kind of like our "colors". We always do everything that
way to kind of keep order. And that philosophy is reflected in the De