Monday, February 16, 2015

Riders and the storm: Jack White rolls the guacamole story one more time

Once again, we find ourselves returning to the vexed tale of Jack White's rider. Apparently, White is annoyed about the attention his demands have been getting. So, erm, he's decided to put the story to bed by writing an open letter about it.

Yes, because when you want to calm down a story on the internet, the best thing to do is whip up a dozen paragraphs about it. It's like trying to calm down a fire by pissing on it, only your urine is made out of diesel.

Jack headlines his missive "for god sakes", thereby dragging religion into the mix.

dear journalists and other people looking for drama or a diva,

even in the age of the short attention span internet article, it’s still hard to believe you are STILL writing about this
If the internet has a short attention span - and it does - that would suggest that it had moved on from your avocado dish rather than still being interested in it, surely?

Jack then links to an NPR piece, which is actually about making good guacamole using the story as a hook rather than being about him as such. But it seems to be what's pushed him over the edge.

NPR ends with this:
"If you bite into that, then you're also kind of biting into little explosions of flavor, and that's what Jack White's recipe has."
- but even that endorsement just gets a "wow. classy." from White.
seems like there’s a new rule number one for up and coming journalists: don't let the facts get in the way of click bait.
Now, that's a good point - that is a problem with online journalism. But NPR are using your actual recipe, which is both factual and good story.

I'm sure that somewhere there's a story which claims White insists his guacamole has kitten blood (or worse, sour cream) in it, which might deserve that sort of disdain, but this isn't it.

It's like he's desperate to moan about his mistreatment, but can't be bothered to find an example of what's really upsetting him. Still, why let the facts get in the way of a good rant?
at the risk of incurring even more of this hoo haa (and i’ve definitely turned my cheek more than once lately)
Jack, someone printed your rider. It's not a thing that even requires "turning cheeks". I know you're worried that it gave the impression you're some sort of a diva, but asking for things backstage isn't really diva-like behaviour. Trotting out a few hundred words about why it's rotten for people to read your rider - that's quite rotten.

He makes the fair point that the recipe is actually his tour manager's rather than his personal recipe. And he makes a rather good joke about not being able to make Kool Aid. Trouble is, Jack, the rider is the "Jack White" rider, and although it might not be your personal guacamole, it's the corporate Jack White guacamole. You can't say 'not in my name' when it's guac in your name.
i take with me what i need, and that ain't much. anything on the rider is for the band and the crew. this "guacamole recipe" is my hilarious tour managers inside joke with the local promoters, it’s his recipe, not mine. it’s just something to break up the boredom, seeing who can make it best. though i wouldn’t know because i’ve never had it.
So, from Jack's point of view: making the people at a venue fanny about making guacamole as a "joke" is fine; but people writing about how venue owners are being made to make guacamole for a laugh is a terrible thing.

Imagine if the rider had stipulated that when the tour manager plays a flute everyone backstage must drop what they're doing and dance a little jig for the crew's amusement and a secret competition. That might seem to be an imposition on people doing their best to run a venue and put on a show. Making them fanny about with deveining serrano peppers is no better.
bananas: did it occur to anyone someone on the tour might have an allergy to them? no?
Probably not, as I guess the sort of person with such a serious intolerance to bananas that even their presence, unzipped, in the same backstage area was a risk to their health - well, that's not the sort of person you come across every day. It does happen though - it's happened at the BBC.

But if the reason for the banana ban is a serious issue of health and safety, might be a good idea to mention that in the rider, especially if otherwise it'd be chucked alongside instructions to squirt lime over avocados as part of a humorous in-joke.

Jack then moves on to the vexed question of how this wound up in the paper in the first place:
one day some fantasy journalist out there will call someone in the biz and actually have a rider explained to them, maybe none of them have ever been on tour.
(Again, in passing: the NPR story White links to explains what a rider is.)
oh well, let’s move on, first amendment issues: i fully believe in the freedom of the press (though the supposed search for truth from the press requires microscopes and a some morton salt), and i also defend anyone’s right to free speech (just look at my lack of respect for grammar in this letter and tell me i’m not for communicating freely) and i defend the right to free information in regards to public funds, but never in my 20 years of playing shows has my contract and tour rider been published in the paper that i recall.
Jack's memory must be failing him. In 2005, a White Stripes rider did the rounds. (Back then, bananas were essential items.)

But even if White doesn't recall his own rider turning up, someone who is so steeped in rock history - the sort of person who knows the names of the woman in the factory who packed the valves used by Sun Studios - that he finds the idea of rider being leaked so unusual.

White then explains what a rider is, and comes to this:
what you’re looking for is someone throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their brown m and m’s, sorry to disappoint.
Jack, you're writing a long screed about who actually came up with the sodding guacamole recipe. You are being that guy. You're being that guy right now.

Is White going to go back to Oklahoma? Sure he is.
i love oklahoma, that’s why i booked this show instead of playing chicago or atlanta for four times as much money.
Also the guacamole in Atlanta is rubbish.
our booking agent warned the college that other artists might not book shows there? of course they did, it’s bad business what that school paper did and really rude. of course they are going to tell them to wise up.
Really? It's a school paper which published some details that are in the public domain, and you think that your agency pulling gigs from a different part of the university is proportionate? I suppose if you think 'look at this about bananas' is "really rude", maybe that would be the case.

White then goes on to take issue with some of the reporting of the gig itself - where what he says were jokes about the situation were reported as him being thin-skinned and ranting. If that's the case, you can understand him being upset with this, and putting the record straight is fair enough:
i got pissed during my show and berated the crowd? no. sorry, didn’t happen. i made jokes about the paper publishing that info, so which of us is thin skinned? they have freedom of speech but i don't? at my show? ok. i guess the rules change for different people.
It might be better to say 'look, I was making a few jokes but I wasn't being thin skinned about it' before the six paragraphs of being thin skinned about the story.

There's also a bizarre chunk about whether student photographers (or possibly just students, or possibly just photographers) tried to take pictures of his amps or something. White sees this as an imposition, but - again, in the context of man who clearly understands and values the impact equipment makes on the sound of a performance - seems a bit odd.
i know it’s a fun thing for people to try to turn me into a jerk and a diva, but in this case it’s pretty ridiculous and has almost nothing to do with me.
Thing is, most backstage riders look a bit doofy when stared at hard; I don't even think the original tone of the story was really suggesting White was Carey - but for the recipe, I doubt if anyone would have given it a second glance. It's this sort of response, the desperation for the audience to know that it wasn't a personal recipe - that's what looks a bit jerky.

White does have a pay-off:
i think that’s everything, can i go back to making music now? no? ok. crochet it is.
You know, if you'd just done that joke, you might have closed the thing down. All you've done right now is pick at something that had scabbed over.

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