Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Interview with the White Stripes

I was reading this article from Paste Magazine interviewing the White Stripes. I thought there was some pretty good stuff to it:

P You recently moved to Nashville from Detroit after having experienced a lot of jealousy and pettiness from other bands. Do you feel like that ordeal made you gun-shy about participating in Nashville’s music scene?

JW At this point, I don’t think either Meg or I want to be part of a music community in any sense. But I think that if there was one to be around, it would be the country-music community because they’re almost the complete opposite of hipster, underground, cynical garage rock—all that jazz. Country-music people aren’t obscurists in any sense. They’re of the moment. You don’t hear words like “sellout.” To them, it’s an achievement to be on the side of a billboard.

In Detroit, it was so tough to figure out what was happening to us compared to how everyone else was perceiving it. And I think this happens a lot. It happens to the folk artists that broke out—Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary, etc.—their scene. You can’t figure that out. Nobody can figure that out.

Who’s going to sit and decide whether you’re selling out to put your song on a video game as compared to, you know, performing live in front of people and charging them money for it. What’s the difference? Those battles take too much time.

I remember when Get Behind Me Satan was about to come out and we got offered to sell the record at Starbucks, and I remember a couple roundtable discussions with people we knew. It was sort of like, “Well, what do you think of that?” And I was there, and I don’t know. In one sense, I could care less where people buy stuff. What’s it matter? OK, you bought the record at McDonald’s, does that mean it’s no good? I highly doubt anyone in the country-music community gives a darntootin’ about being sold at a point-of-purchase at Wal-Mart. Who cares?

When you’re just trying to create and make music and perform, you shouldn’t have to worry about all that stuff. That just makes your job so much more difficult.


P It seems like the journalistic community is partially responsible for the cycle of building up rock stars and then ripping them down. Like a kid who makes a bunch of sand castles and then gleefully stomps all over them.

JW I’ve never understood it. I’ve always thought it was strange what happened with the underground and punk publications that really championed us when we were in our early days making seven inches. It just seemed like as soon as two other people heard of us they could care less. It’s ridiculous to champion underdogs and once they succeed to abandon them. That’s a whole lot different than building them up and knocking them down. There’s this abandonment that happens.

Where’s your sense of longevity with the things you love? If you abandon a band as soon as other people like them, then you don’t love it for the right reasons. You like music for identity. You have an identity problem. [laughs] That’s not loving music. Loving art for its own sake means you don’t care what people think—which is exactly what they’re supposedly standing for. Somebody explain that. I don’t get it, man.


P You mentioned dismantling your faith in organized religion, stripping all that stuff away, and finding your own path. What have you learned through that process?

JW I just think that everyday, whether it’s finding a good place to eat breakfast or reading a good book, you’re trying to experience beauty in some way whenever you get the chance. But I’m not looking for so-and-so’s opinion, not even my own opinion. I just want to know what the truth is. I mean that’s what I’m looking for. In my opinion, there’s no way God looks at things from 14 different angles. I see God as knowing only one truth, and that’s it. There’s no other opinion about it. And I want to know what that one truth is. Everyone can sit around and have their manly and earthly opinions about things, but I doubt there’s much debate going on in heaven. I’m trying to find whatever that singular truth is in any particular topic. It’s interesting because as humans we’re so stupid, there’s no way we can figure out most of these things. So the question makes for good protagonists and antagonists in stories. It creates those characters.