Interview: The Dead Weather Talk Music, Mayhem And Twilight

By Michele Lenni in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 30, 2010 3:40PM

Photo by Jim Kopeny/Chicagoist

Few musicians in the past decade can even think of comparing resumes with the likes of Jack White. From forming the generation-defining band The White Stripes, to producing country music legend Loretta Lynn and later collaborating with his Detroit buddies Brenden Benson and members of The Greenhornes in the form of The Raconteurs, White has seemingly done it all. The journey has been filled with many twists and turns along the way which have included a few acting gigs, his move from his beloved Detroit to Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Karen Elson and two children. But White's not one to stay still and he started a new collaboration with Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and two-time band mate, Jack Lawrence (the Greenhornes and Raconteurs) for what we think is his most interesting and hard-hitting project yet: The Dead Weather. Their sound is rife with intense guitar tones, severely ominous lyrics and vocals that would make most people's hair stand on end, something that we've referred to as "Murder Blues" in Chicagoist offices. Though its influences are abundantly clear, nothing sounds quite like it, and for that matter nothing probably ever will.

We got a chance to talk with White and his gang before their show here at The Congress later tonight (tickets still available as of post time) and here's what they had to say.

Chicagoist: Though the Dead Weather has been given the ever-nauseating label of a super-group, you guys do have an awfully impressive resume: The White Stripes, The Kills, The Greenhornes and, not to mention, Queens of the Stone Age. How does working in this particular group differ from those other efforts? Is there a different dynamic, and how does the creative process take hold on this particular effort?

Jack White: It's hard to work on something together in a room; because in the back of your head you know when you release it to the world they're going to come at it with so many preconceptions. Sometimes it's so overwhelming people end up ignoring these [preconceptions],which is happening a lot with this band. It's also what you want to call it. We could have called this band "Alison Mosshart" and it would be taken differently. It's incredible how much influence a label has on people. Think of how different people's perception would be if we called the band "The New Beatles."

C: You guys have spent a great deal of time in Nashville, Tennessee writing, rehearsing and recording your two records, though instead of creating what Nashville is traditionally known for, [country music], you have opted to record super intense, blues rock. Is there something in that place that inspires the band to create, and does it inspire you to create that brand of supremely fierce rock?

JW: Nashville, and the American south for that matter, can't help but influence you. Is it as silly as you find yourself in Memphis so you write a song like Ike Turner? Of course not. Neither would you write grunge songs if you found yourself recording in a Seattle studio. But your environment is always at work in what you're creating. And then there's the barbecue and biscuits, don't forget about them.

C: The Dead Weather seems to be constantly in the midst of the creative process. I mean, you guys pretty much recorded your most recent effort, Sea of Cowards while touring and it's rumored that you have another record in the can due to come out early next year. What is it about this particular group that brings about such a prolific creative energy?

JW: If we knew we'd bottle it and sell it on It's hard to find other musicians that push you to go somewhere new all the time. That's what this band is doing for all of its members. I'm playing drums onstage and in the studio again for the first time since I was 19. That reminds me of that Vietnam war song 19, but more importantly [the] desire to write with the people in the Dead Weather. It feels like 2010 in the room with them, and all the melodies that hit us are blues from the future.

C: How did it come about that you guys were asked to put a song on the Twilight: Eclipse movie soundtrack? Was the song recorded for this film or was it something that you already had around for the taking?

Alison Mosshart: We were in the studio in Nashville at the time, recording Sea of Cowards. Rolling in on a Burning Tire was going to be the last track on the album; then we got asked to submit something to Twilight. It seemed like the right kind of track for it. We submitted it and they said they wanted it exclusively, so we recorded another track to take its place on the album. I saw the film, though, to see how they used the music, and they chopped the hell out of it. It sounded like they used every bit of the song but spun it down into 10-seconds. I can't say I exactly recognized it.

C: When a band, like yours, that prides itself on a sense of personal creative integrity is asked to put a song on such a commercially successful film soundtrack geared to, well, let's just be honest, it's geared to tweens looking for a hot vampire boy-toy, how does that account into your divergent needs to be true to yourself creatively and commercially viable?

AM: Well, no one plays anything on the radio and no one buys records. The music business is going down the fucking drain, so you gotta be a little bit more open-minded. I'm ok with tweens hearing our music. However they get to hear it. I got into music pulling cassette tapes out of used cars my dad was selling. It doesn't matter how you find your favorite band, does it?

C: We've been watching your interviews a lot, and we must say, you guys are quite the funny group. Is it always so funny and fun to be in this group, even with the constant touring that you do?

AM: We love what we do. I guess that's what you're seeing. We like each other and there's nothing better than getting to perform every night.

C: If the rumor is true about the new record next year, can you tell us a little bit about it? Does it have a similar energy to Sea of Cowards or does it have a completely different vibe?

Dean Fertita: We don't have another record ready, but we did leave the Sea Of Cowards sessions with a few songs we didn't get to. Even though we are all going to be involved in other things soon, I can't imagine we will stay apart for very long. Our time apart should make the heart grow violent.

C: Speaking of Sea of Cowards the record managed to climb the Billboard charts to number five. Did you ever expect such a surge in popularity?

DF: It's exciting to release two records in less than a year and feel like we are getting somewhere that is interesting to us musically. The fact that we can share that with people is really inspiring. We never had expectations with The Dead Weather, so it's all a blessing.

C: Rock has kind of made a comeback in recent years on the Billboard charts. What do you think has made the pendulum swing back that way?

I think it's got a long way to go before we can say it's made a comeback.

The Dead Weather, TONIGHT, 7 p.m., The Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, $35