Raconteurs: the Barrel of Jack White’s Gun

Waster Album Cover
the Footsteps of a Legend:
From the Barrel of Jack White’s Gun
Words by Martin Halo

Belfast, Ireland — You can hear the sounds of European automotive engineering by-passing the Raconteurs’ tour bus as it races towards a date at the Vital Festival in Belfast, Ireland. The European roadwork comes after a short West Coast leg with an appearance at Lollapalooza in Chicago, and culminates with a stateside homecoming as the house band at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards.

Stemming from three critically acclaimed projects, the Raconteurs have fused the melodies of Brendan Benson (guitar/vocals) with the swagger of the American blues in the soul of Jack White (guitar/vocals) and combined with the groove of The Greenhornes’ rhythm section.

“We were all running in the same circles back in Detroit,” says White. “We have been friends for so long and we have all played together in different ways over the years. Brendan produced the Greenhornes’ 7” EP and we all worked on Loretta Lynn’s album, Van Lear Rose, together.”

“All of these things just sort of trickled into the band,” explains White. “We ended up playing a bunch of shows together in Detroit and from there we all talked about making a record.”

The result is a recording focused on melodic vocal phrasings which resonate a message of maturity by a group of musicians who are publicly coming of age in an era where rock fans are desperately searching for their new leaders.  Entitled Broken Boy Soldiers, the debut LP was released in May on V2 Records.

The album tracks exert a tone reminiscent of a psychedelically enlightened Beatles with “Hands,” and John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band on “Together.”

“All my influences came from my parents’ record collection,” says Benson, “I got really into the MC5, The Stooges, and David Bowie, that sort of thing.”  

“The sessions for the record were really fast,” offers White, “we did all ten songs in just a few days. We really didn’t realize we were a band until halfway through the recording process. To us, we all just had some time off.”

“The next thing we knew we were turning into a band and making a record,” explains White, “so instead of taking additional time and trying to make Sgt. Peppers, we decided to just try and get a snapshot of what the band was when we first got together.”

“So we stuck to those ten songs and set them all to live tracks. Brendan did a lot of the engineering but we also hired the White Stripes live engineer, Matthew Kettle.”

“He also did Get Behind Me Satan (The White Stripes 4th LP). We wanted to add a live engineer to the equation, just to see what would happen, and we got some cool tones that way,” White excitedly expresses.

“But if you were to ask me what I thought the record sounds like, I don’t really know,” states White. “I haven’t gotten my head around it yet. Even live, the songs are changing so much every night we play that it is turning into a whole different band than when we first started playing.”

“What I can tell you is that nobody said, ‘let’s make the band sound like this,’ or ‘we should sound like that.’ It has all been off the top of our heads and it’s changing,” offers White, “it is constantly changing.”

“Me and Jack never really had to share songwriting responsibilities with anyone before,” explains Benson, “so we decided to try every different option.”

“Every song was different,” says Benson, “no two songs seemed alike and it has carried over to the constantly changing nature of our live shows.”

Existing as an entity of vintage rock n’ roll in an industry overrun by marketing trends and the corporate influence of record company business strategies, The Raconteurs’ core brotherhood has a musical purist standard and they are a living testament to the legendary elite.

White will gladly explain, “I think music in this day and age has become incidental. All of the arts have become incidental for that matter. Nobody is passionate about art or collecting anything anymore, even records. So what you end up with is the sort of ‘meant to be’ song of the week or flavor of the week, as some people would say. You know the songs that are played on the radio thirty times a day? Those songs that everyone knows but really aren’t that good.”

“I guess the attitude has changed,” says White, “kids nowadays have to make up their minds on music based on everybody else. It is now an identity choice (deciding) which bands they like. The way I look at it is, if you liked Elvis, wouldn’t you want everyone to like Elvis? Why would you want to keep him your own little secret?”

Waster Album Cover


Jack White:
“…Kids nowadays have to make up their minds on music based on everybody else. It is now an identity choice [deciding] which bands they like. The way I look at it is if you liked Elvis, wouldn’t you want everyone to like Elvis? Why would you want to keep him your own little secret?”

“I feel bad for a generation that has to grow up and weave their way through technology and internet blogs, especially with all the cynicism, sarcasm, and the jaded way of living; especially here in America,” states White. “I just wish I could explain to them how much more beautiful and romantic it is to buy a vinyl record and crack it open and smell it. That to me is so much more romantic and powerful than reading some blog.”

White’s response to a personal commitment in changing this cycle came before the entire question was even off the lips. “How would you do it?” exclaims White. “How do you teach new bands that a Fender Twin Reverb is better than some synthesized computer track?”

“You can’t teach these things, you just have to know. I used to think it was rock school everywhere I went, and I wanted to show and tell everybody, ‘Hey guys, do you remember this?’” explains White. “It ended up being that kind of attitude and to be honest with you, I don’t want to do it anymore. I would rather just do what I need to do and let everyone else worry about themselves.”

His comments are an inspiration to the dying moral of the spirit of rock n’ roll and it is not just writers who are recognizing his contributions. His peers also praise his candor and workmanship.

Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips spoke freely about Jack White in an unrelated interview the same week, “he is one of the few people right now that just seems like a real rock star.”

“Just the real deal,” Drozd adds, “he has got the talent, the fucking voice, and he knows how things should sound and look on records. Everything about him just tells you he knows what he is doing.”

But in the midst of a generational blitz of revolving trends, White does indeed feel modern inspirational artists still exist. “I think the Strokes are very influential, and Andrew Bird is very cool. I think a lot of things are influential. If you hear a song and you like it then it is influential. But now we are talking about a level of degrees. I mean Loretta Lynn has more of an influence on me than say… umm… Linda Ronstadt,” white says with a chuckle.

“I mean, somebody in particular would be Danger Mouse,” says White. “He is sort of a real pioneer and hugely influential on me.”

“But growing up I guess I always listened to a lot of blues records. Cole Porter and Irving Berlin and a lot of classic songwriters,” White reminisces. “The whole American folk vibe is something I always find myself going back to. To me, rock n’ roll is now sort of a novelty.”

Up next on The Raconteurs’ road schedule is a highly anticipated Northeast run and selected dates with Bob Dylan, before eventually heading back into the studio to record the follow up to their 2006 debut.

“We have been writing stuff while we are on the road and we have got a few songs ready for the next record,” says Benson. “We have decided not to play them live so they are not leaked on the internet and saved for the record. We don’t know when we are going to go into the studio yet, but a new record is definitely coming.”


TheWaster.com | Myth