As always, we can count on Jack White to save us from a slow news day. First things first: The video for J-Dub’s “Sixteen Saltines” — the second single from his forthcoming Blunderbuss LP — premiered today. Directed by AG Rojas, the clip (above) was obviously shot in Nashville, and that’s not the only thing it has in common with Gummo. Like Harmony Korine’s art-house classic, the video gives a gritty depiction of grotesque, Middle-American suburban decay.
In it, we see unattended-to neighborhood kids (like Useless Eaters frontman/Heavy Cream bassist Seth Sutton) finding creepy and creative ways of making their own fun — such as painting themselves blue, hog-tying Jack White, tossing him in the back of a beat-up old Ford Sierra (I think), dousing it with gasoline and setting it ablaze. Fun stuff. Not all the kids in the clip are misbehavin’, though. Some of them are flash-mobbing and levitating over an asphalt basketball court. It’s quite a vid.
In other J-Dub news (literally), New York Times Magazine published one beast of a lengthy feature on White today. Spanning seven pages, the revealing piece — which proclaims White the “coolest, weirdest, savviest rock star of our time” — chronicles White talking candidly about Third Man Records, his upbringing, The White Stripes breakup, his divorce from Karen Elson, his approach to going solo and more as he shows journalist Josh Ellis around Nashville. It’s quite a read. See highlights after the jump.
On the subject of marriage, monogamy, relationships and divorce:
… “I wouldn’t stay in a band if we weren’t moving forward and progressing,” he said. “It’s more like we’re best friends, pals, so we should be pals, and not pretend we’re something bigger.” He was wearing his wedding ring, a black diamond set in ivory, on his right hand.
White said he hated the limitations society imposed when it came to relationships. “I’ve always felt it’s ridiculous to say, of any of the females in my life: You’re my friend, you’re my wife, you’re my girlfriend, you’re my co-worker,” he said. “This is your box, and you’re not allowed to stray outside of it.” I told him it sounded as if monogamy might not be for him, and he laughed. “You think?” he said. “I gave that up a long time ago. Those rules don’t apply anymore.”
On The White Stripes Break up:
“Some people can live their whole lives in limbo,” White told me one morning at his favorite East Nashville cafe. “I’d rather cut the lifeline so we can move on with our lives. There came a point where I said, ‘If we’re not doing this, we need to put an end to it right now.’ And that’s what she wanted to do.”
I asked him why. “You’d have to ask her,” he said. “I don’t know what her reasons are. Having a conversation with Meg, you don’t really get any answers. I’m lucky that girl ever got onstage, so I’ll take what I can get.”
There was always something slightly condescending in the way White talked about Meg, praising her drumming the way you might encourage a promising 5-year-old. He may have had a point — The Onion once ran a headline that read, “Meg White Drum Solo Maintains Steady Beat for 23 Minutes” — but it also seemed somewhat passive-aggressive, especially after she’d been drumming for a decade.
But White insisted he was never controlling — if anything, it was the other way around. “It was more like groveling,” he said. “Even when we were touring 200 days a year, I would have said: Can we do this? Can we do that?” He added: “Meg completely controlled the White Stripes. She’s the most stubborn person I’ve ever met, and you don’t even get to know the reasons.” (Reached through her husband, the musician Jackson Smith, Meg White declined to comment for this article.)
White said if it were up to him, the band would still be together. “I’d make a White Stripes record right now. I’d be in the White Stripes for the rest of my life. That band is the most challenging, important, fulfilling thing ever to happen to me. I wish it was still here. It’s something I really, really miss.”
On being stood up by The Rza and inspired to write and record Blunderbuss:
At the end of January — almost a year to the day after the White Stripes’ breakup — White announced he was putting out a solo record. He’d been avoiding doing one, mainly because it was what everyone expected. But when the rapper RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan failed to show up for a session at his house last summer, White decided he might as well work on some of his own songs. The album, “Blunderbuss,” grew from there. …
White said he never would have done a solo album if the White Stripes were still together. “I could have made ‘Revolver,’ and people would still say, ‘Where’s Meg?’ ” I asked if it felt weird to play the songs without her. “Maybe it should,” he said. “But it doesn’t. I wrote the White Stripes songs myself. It always felt like the two of us covering my songs.”
White has long organized his albums around a central theme: cowardice, happiness, “the death of the sweetheart.” He said if he had to choose one for “Blunderbuss,” it would be death. “I was writing the liner notes the other day, and it seemed like it had a lot to do with that,” he said. “For some reason, that was overwhelming throughout the lyric writing.”
On his legacy of cool:
White, meanwhile, said he hadn’t thought about his own death much, but as always, he was mindful of his myth. “I told my wife: If we’re on a road trip, and we pull into a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and I die in the car — can you please drive across the street to the hardware store?”
On the Downtown Nashville building that he recently purchased:
... He had recently bought the building next door and was in the process of expanding. Two days later he was starting his tour, and then he was eager to make another record. He also wanted to open a shop in Nashville specializing in high-end gentlemen’s hats. “I would sleep better at night,” he said, “knowing this town had a store like that.”
Read the rest here.