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pic... flag US - Michigan - Full Moon 64 - 12/30/01

The White Stripes
- a short conversation with...

Family Ties - a short conversation with the Whites

Unless you've lived on a deserted island for the past six months you will have heard of Detroit's brightest hope, The White Stripes by now. Causing a fuzz in England only topped by the fury surrounding The Strokes in 2001, they actually delivered a great, uncompromising album full of bluesy garage-rock named White Blood Cells, already their third. Luna Kafé met Meg White and her brother Jack for a short interview before their recent show in Cologne, Germany, to find out what they think about their sudden fame.

Jack: "It's about the most hectic year we ever had in our lives and we didn't expect that at all! We came here a few months ago to tour England and thought I'd just be a small tour and it ended up being INSANE, sold out, with tons of press and things like that. They even had us in a bunch of TV shows this time. It's very odd and it doesn't make sense to me! We're not complaining of course. You could have worse problems, I suppose."

LK: Do you remember one specific turning point, a day or an event where you realised: Wow, things are really happening for us now?
Jack: "When we first got to England, we did a [John] Peel Session before playing shows and that seemed to go really well. He seemed to be a really a big fan of ours and supported us a lot. Before that, we only had dreams of even doing a Peel Session, but I didn't think it was gonna happen. Then we found out that he was a fan and was playing our records, which we didn't know. That was a nice surprise."

LK: You're more popular in the UK now than you are back home in the States. Does that matters to you, where you are successful?
Jack: "Not really. Even if there was nobody at the shows at all anywhere. Just the chance that we get to make records and release them - that's better than anything, you can't expect any more than that. Anything else on top of that is just the icing on the cake."

LK: Do you notice differences between the audience reaction over here and in the US, though?
Jack: "Well, there has been a lot of hype about us, and a lot of these places we visit for the first time, so it's not an immediately great reaction, the crowd is kinda standing there, wondering whether they like it or not. They have heard a lot of hype, so they are debating in their minds if they want to like it or not. That happened the last time we went to England, this time around everybody had the records and the shows were a lot more exciting and fun. But I expect a lot of these European shows are just gonna be like standing still." [This proved not to be true for Cologne - Carsten's note]

LK: You played your first show on mainland Europe last night in Groningen, Holland. Did you get a pretty reserved reaction there?
Jack: "The show was sold out, and we had heard that people in Holland are usually the first to catch up on new things, but apparently the people who had been liking us for a couple of years weren't at the show and a lot of the people only had heard about us a week ago or so."

LK: So do you already experience a sort of backlash, that your supporters from the early days turn their backs on you?
Jack: "Yeah. Even before it happened to us, I never liked that whole idea: This is our little secret band and if somebody else on the block likes them, I don't like them anymore. That's kinda lame. But there's nothing you can do about it, I guess."

LK: But especially with the people who got into your stuff through all the media hype - I wonder what other music they listen to if they like a band that basically plays the blues? I guess people our age, in their mid- or late twenties, are "supposed" to listen to Nu-Metal or Brit-Pop or something?!
Jack: "Yeah, it's very interesting, but I have no explanation for that! A few shows ago in England there were some girls in the front row and we played "Death Letter" by Son House which is on one of our records and they were singing along all the words. It was so funny to see 16 year old white girls singing along with Son House (laughs). That's hilarious... and that's great!"

LK: And how did you get into the whole blues thing?
Jack: "It was by accident. Somebody played me Son House, the first real blues musician I felt really in tune with and after that I just couldn't get enough of it. I went on to Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell and those are my all-time favourites now."

LK: You put out three albums plus three singles in just a little over two years. What's the story behind that?
Jack: "I just don't like to wait on things! That's why we ended up never with going with a bigger label [until now], because it would just take too long for our records to come out. I don't want to sit around for a year doing anything, I wanna write the songs, have them come out and move on. These are the young years of my life, I don't wanna waste them (laughs)."

LK: So does having a more popular album and doing longer tour get in the way of the creative process?
Jack: "Yeah, we wanted to record our fourth album before we started this tour, but the scheduling messed it up and we couldn't record, so yeah, it does get in the way! We're new to the experience of not having time on our hands. I like playing live better than working in the studio though. Recording is just a way of documenting what you have written."

LK: Can we expect any spectacular changes from your next record then?
Jack: "No, it's just gonna be more songwriting. More doing whatever we can. There's nothing that has been too much spectacular about the band to begin with and I don't expect that to change in the future (laughs)!"

LK: Last question: Would you please name five underrated records?
Jack: "(1) "The Stooges, Funhouse...I think that's the greatest Rock'N'Roll record of all time!" (2) The Gun Club, Fire Of Love, their first album, it's excellent!"
Meg: " (3) Skip James, Today!.... (4) Karen Dalton, It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best, she only made that one record."
Jack:"(5) Bob Dylan, 'Nashville Skyline'...

LK: Any famous last words?
Jack: "I think it would be nice if somebody wants to come see us live, it'd be good to buy a record first, so it's not hype-influenced!"

Copyright © 2001 Carsten Wohlfeld e-mail address

You may also want to check out our White Stripes articles/reviews: Cologne, Germany 24.11.2001, White Blood Cells.

© 2011 Luna Kafé