‘CALL ME A LIAR’
. . . well we would, except there are no White lies here. Instead, the busiest man in rock gets honest with Tony Clayton-lea about God, music and his lack of interest in partying
F YOU CAN’T ask yourself the tough questions as a priest – does God really exist? Are all the Christian ways to get to God blind paths, and so on – then you have no business being one. In a lot of ways, preachers, ministers, priests in any religion, are not allowed to say those things out loud. That began to bother me – that I would have to keep those things quiet. Blind faith makes you not ask those questions, and I think that’s where my struggle would have lain.”
The Ticket, Jack White, a London hotel room, talking religion. If you think that’s a conundrum, how’s this for you: born into a staunchly Catholic family in Detroit, the youngest of 10 children, White (aka John Gillis) went from being an altar boy to being accepted into a seminary in Wisconsin.
“I decided not to go,” White says. “I learned later on that music was actually my vocation; that, in fact, spirituality and music are the same thing. Music fulfilled my connection to God in a way that would be unfettered by man’s interpretation and man’s religious ideas. I can become closer to God by understanding the beauty of what I domusically. In this vocation I can vocalise those topics.”
White has just flown over to London from Texas, where a few days before he played a blinder of a gig at the SXSW barn dance. He looks knackered but the raggedness befits his status as one of the busiest and most respected people on Planet Rock. Here is a man who made pared-back blues/rock cool again (White Stripes), successfully fused peak-fit rock with buttoned-down pop (The Raconteurs), smartly refitted blockbuster riffs (The Dead Weather), rebooted the careers of country music legends (Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson), and set up one of the most efficient indie record labels of the past 10 years (Third Man Records). No wonder he’s tired.
White smiles through a mop of black hair that occasionally covers his entire face. Wiry, slim, dressed in head-to-toe black, he is both warm and welcoming. He is in London on promotion duties for his debut solo album, Blunderbuss, which is released right about now. Surprisingly, for someone so established in intersecting circles of credibility, White is as down to earth as you can get. No airs, then, just grace, and a realisation that his busy schedules can occasionally be the cause of problems.
“I love to create struggle to work off, but some of those problems are no fun – sleep deprivation is neither cool nor inspiring. There are times when I have no sleep and end up, for some reason, having a productive day, but the worry kicks in when you have people buying tickets to see a show – staying up all night affects the voice.” No aftershow parties, then? “If you don’t have an agenda like getting loaded or laid then there isn’t much interest for me in those parties.
“Sometimes I just don’t really have anything to gain from hanging out.”
So it’s back to the hotel room for a shower and an episode of Grey’s Anatomy? “Now there’s an idea . . .”