Music Geeks, part II. Jack White

Jack White. Image thanks to Esquire.

In the first post on this subject I linked to a bunch of stuff on ?uestlove, the Roots’ frontman.

Because it’s Jack White’s birthday today, I thought it might be time to dig up some stuff I liked on him, too.

The first stop would have to be this brilliant profile in the New York Times Magazine. It covers a lot of ground, from his biography to The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weathers, and now his solo stuff. Then, check out the Esquire piece by Miranda Collinge.

Some music: the definitive version of ‘Jolene’ as far as I’m concerned

White is a bit of an enigma, and he’s been careful to construct and maintain this mythos. He tells people various stories at different times and will often just blatantly mislead everyone. Famously, he told everyone that he and Meg were siblings when actually they had been married (the band carried on for 10 years after divorce. That’s impressive). Then there’s his fixation on simple colors – the yellow and black of his upholstery shop before his music career and now his Label, Third man records. The red and black of The White Stripes (the album “De Stijl” named really appropriately), and the blue of his current phase. He also loves the number 3 (and lots of other bits and pieces).

Let’s get to the music geek part. Jack White is absolutely obsessed with the past of blues music (here is his favorite song). Just a while back, his label announced it was going to do a massive reissue of 20s and 30s records from Scottish Publisher, Document (Great article on that story here, with music). Vinyl in particular is his favorite plaything. He won’t record in digital (more on that later), and Third Man Records have dedicated themselves to really push the boundaries with Vinyl; to showcase its capabilities while exploring different styles that can verge on the gimmicky (here, here, and here). At his record store in Nashville, visitors can enter a booth and record straight to Vinyl.

White on the Artistic Process

This is where a lot of my admiration for him comes in.

White thinks of computer programs like Pro Tools as “cheating.” He records only in analog, never digital, and edits his tape with a razor blade. “It’s sort of like I can’t be proud of it unless I know we overcame some kind of struggle,” he said. “The funny thing is, even musicians and producers, my peers, don’t care. Like, ‘Wow, that’s great, Jack.’ Big deal.”

White was brought up Catholic, and he still feels an affinity for the martyrs and saints. He likes their devotion, the purity of their sacrifice — especially St. Sebastian, the patron saint of endurance, and St. Rita, the patron saint of the impossible.  (NYT magazine article)

He explains this approach in the following clip, which is taken from the Rockumentary “Under Great White Northern Lights,” which you really should watch.

There’s also this video, an interview with Conan O’Brien (dutifully shot on 35mm film) in which the men talk about art. Absolutely worth an hour of your time.


3 thoughts on “Music Geeks, part II. Jack White

  1. Pingback: Psyche! Jack White & Jay-Z Further Their Distribution Partnership | Music Of Our Heart

  2. Pingback: Under Great White Northern Lights – The White Stripes | Lachlan J. Faces The Music

  3. Jack White is a genius, works his ass off, doesn’t cut corners, reinvents… i have the utmost respect for Jack White as he is creating the new in a world full of constant boundaries. He breaks the mold, that’s for sure… LOVE HIS ATTENTION TO DETAIL…

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