The morning after Saturday Night Live, Jack White arrives in the hotel restaurant in his coat and hat, wheeling a suitcase behind him. In an hour or so, he will be returning to Nashville with his two bands for more rehearsals, a video shoot, and a debut gig at Third Man. Many of his band members had not appeared on television before, and he is consequently thrilled with how the show went – though one suspects White is not a man to admit any doubts he may have to a journalist. “I think,” he says, “it was perfect for me.”
He has, too, vague plans for another solo album. In between cutting various other Third Man 45s, the Blunderbuss sessions resulted in something like 25 songs being recorded, of which only 13 made the final tracklisting. “When I get back in town in a few weeks, I’m going to finish them off for the next album, whenever that’s going to be, while they’re still fresh in my head. The bands are going to be amped up. When you go out on the road with this many people, you can go home and go straight into the studio with them, and get some stuff on tape.”
Given how much the interview has hinged around questions of truth and authenticity, it seems a good idea to finish with a couple of straight questions that people have been wanting to know the answers to for years.
White laughs. “Why do you keep wanting me to make it so easy for you? Alright, but I want you to know that I think you have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder about me and Meg, and brother and sister and all that stuff, and you should let it roll off your back.”
Well, this is such a fascinating point in your career, where the past takes on a different perspective and is put into a different context. I know these questions seem to be annoying and tabloid-ish and kind of personal, but I’m interested in the way that you use an idea of truth, and an idea of authenticity in how you present yourself and your music, and the way that all these things interact. Does that make sense to you? After all, you’re the guy who mentioned a book called Faking It, about the myth of authenticity in popular music?
“It’s always made sense to me, and anything that’s confusing to people is their own concern, not mine. I could have always played it really simple for everyone.”
Look at the gimmick you pulled last night with the two bands. Maybe I’m getting it wrong, but if people are coming to this project thinking the curtains have been opened, the real Jack White is going to appear and there aren’t going to be any more ambiguities, then they’re going to be disappointed.
“Well, you’re getting to the point, for sure, because I’ve always been there. The quote-unquote ‘Real Jack White’ has always been there, only if the viewer, the listener, can get past all the stuff that shouldn’t bother them to begin with.”
But we have to bother with that stuff, because it seems to be such an integral part of what you do.
“That’s my test for them. That’s my ultimate test. Alright, let’s do it…”
What’s your real name? Is your real name John Gillis?
“Jack White is my real name.” He laughs.
Is Meg White your sister?
“Yes. In more ways than one…”
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