Still play­ing by his own rules

Jack White broke the mould with his lat­est record with the help of Aussie od­dity CW Stonek­ing, writes Mikey Cahill

Herald Sun - Hit - - COVER STORY -

RULES are made to be bro­ken. It’s a very rock’n’roll at­ti­tude, one that cer­ti­fied rock star Jack White can re­late to.

“I make my own rules so I can bend them,” cor­rects the 42-year-old Detroit cre­ative.

White is a song­writer, la­bel boss of Third Man Records, tal­ent scout, pro­ducer and fur­ni­ture up­hol­ster.

The man who came up with the Seven Na­tion Army riff while sound­check­ing in Aus­tralia (more on that later) also har­bours an am­bi­tion to be some­thing else.

Deep down, White would like to be a badass rap­per.

“There’s more free­dom in hip-hop than punk rock ever had,” says the al­ways-dap­per, vir­tu­ally-in­ex­haustible fel­low. We can be thank­ful he hasn’t done an Ed Sheeran and spat verses about Gal­way girls. Warn­ing: he does have a crack on funk burner Ice Sta­tion Ze­bra

from his new al­bum Board­ing House Reach: “In prison you can learn a les­son from the ana­log to the hot box ses­sion.”

“You can say you’re the great­est rap­per alive but what if you were a punk-rock gui­tarist who said you were the great­est gui­tarist alive? Then peo­ple would say ‘Whoa, wait a minute’,” he says, a guf­faw es­cap­ing his less-se­ri­ous-than-you-think frame.

A re­cent New Yorker pro­file ti­tled “Jack White’s In­fi­nite Imag­i­na­tion” de­tailed his many wild ideas and flights of fancy, in­clud­ing own­ing an is­sue of Ac­tion Comics No. 1, from 1938, which in­cludes the first ap­pear­ance of Su­per­man, that cost him nearly $2 mil­lion.

We wouldn’t be speak­ing to­day if The White Stripes hadn’t ex­isted for six stun­ning al­bums. They had two rules.

Three colours: red white and black. And three in­stru­ments: drums, gui­tar and vo­cals.

Meg White called time on The White Stripes in 2011 (cit­ing anx­i­ety is­sues) which led Jack off to form other bands: The Ra­con­teurs and The Dead Weather and em­bark on a solo ca­reer, now three records deep, Blun­der­buss (2012), Lazaretto

(2014) and ‘Reach.

Board­ing House Reach taps into a new lan­guage, that of our own CW Stonek­ing, the deep south wan­derer, sleep mouth pon­derer. He does spo­ken word on Abu­lia and Akra­sia.

“He’s ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble. He’s one of those peo­ple I can’t


be­lieve ex­ists, he’s too good to be true. I wrote him a poem and luck­ily he could come over when he was in NY. I didn’t know if it was gonna work.”

Stonek­ing swal­lows a dic­tio­nary, say­ing ve­he­mently, re­pu­di­a­tion and ir­re­vo­ca­bly.

“It’s al­most like you’re talk­ing to a ghost,” White says.

Abu­lia and Akra­sia is a hard sell but even­tu­ally it pops.

Board­ing House Reach is like that, a white-knuckle ride through grandiose, stomp­ing blues (Con­nected By Love),

bleepy pi­ano jazz-funk

(Hyper­miso­pho­niac) and scuzzy noir (Over and Over and Over), with many songs cry­ing out for cho­ruses.

White and his band are busy on their own trip. Rules are bent right out of shape.

“I of­ten read about other artists and what they’re do­ing but mod­ern singers don’t seem to put rules down. I don’t say I’m gonna make a ca­lypso LP but I set up rules then take con­trol.”

Would he make a ca­lypso record with CW Stonek­ing?

“That ac­tu­ally sounds great,” he says, tak­ing a men­tal note.

White last toured Aus­tralia in 2012 with his solo pro­ject and not one but two bands. One male, the other fe­male.

“It was prob­a­bly one of the best artis­tic ex­per­i­ments I’ve been in­volved in,” he says, buffer­ing. “It was very, very try­ing on ev­ery­body.

“If hu­man be­ings are good at be­ing cre­ative they’ll have com­pe­ti­tion in them and will want to play it dif­fer­ently the next night,” he says.

White has more than a healthy level of com­pe­ti­tion. He had a heated al­ter­ca­tion with The Black Keys’ drum­mer Pa­trick Car­ney at an NYC bar in 2015. It wasn’t a good look.

Now a di­vorced fa­ther of two (Scar­lett and Henry), the hot­head has mel­lowed. A lit­tle.

“If I’m watch­ing Satur­day Night Live and I see a band, I want them to blow me away and be en­ter­tained but I also want them to do some­thing ...” he pauses, choos­ing his words like gui­tar picks, “that in­spires me to take the next step with what I’m do­ing.”

Some­times in­spi­ra­tion hits when you’re tun­ing up.

“I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber the Cor­ner Ho­tel in Mel­bourne as the place I wrote the riff for Seven Na­tion Army at sound­check. That ob­vi­ously changed my life,” he says, laugh­ing up­roar­i­ously.

Writ­ing a mega-hit at sound­check?

That’s one way to rule.


HEAR BOARD­ING HOUSE REACH (Third Man/Colom­bia) out now

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