Sunday, June 01, 2014

Jack White explains why his disdainful comments aren't disdainful

Remember Jack White? Nice kid, interesting music. Haven't seen so much of him since he went off on that big journey he made. Where was it he was off to again? Oh, yeah. Up his own asshole. That's where he went.

Last week, there was dispatch from his fundament, where he took time out of his busy preening ritual to slag off the Black Keys and Meg White in the pages of the Rolling Stone. He's now attempted to row back on the comments, while still explaining how he was right all along.

So, Meg, for example - Jack's former wife and someone who has, in the past, had anxiety problems. In the original piece, Jack laid into her:

"She's one of those people who won't high-five me when I get the touchdown," he said. "She viewed me that way of 'Oh, big deal, you did it, so what?' Almost every single moment of the White Stripes was like that. We'd be working in the studio and something amazing would happen: I'm like, 'Damn, we just broke into a new world right there!' And Meg's sitting in silence."

White recalled a quote from Ringo Starr that rang true to him during those moments. "I remember hearing Ringo Starr say, 'I always felt sorry for Elvis, because in the Beatles we had each other to talk about what it felt like. Elvis was by himself.' I was like, 'Shit, try being in a two-piece where the other person doesn't talk!'"
Oh, how frustrating for Jack not to have someone constantly high-fiving him. And him being so very very clever, too.

Now, though, Jack is keen to stress that he didn't mean anything by that:
"Meg White, who I also talked about to Rolling Stone about our working conversations, or lack thereof, is, of course, a musician I’ve personally championed for 15 years," he wrote in the statement. "She is a strong female presence in rock and roll, and I was not intending to slight her either, only to explain how hard it was for us to communicate with our very different personalities. This got blown out of proportion and made into headlines, and somehow I looked like I was picking on her. I would never publicly do that to someone I love so dearly. And, there are mountains of interviews where my words are very clear on how important I think she is to me and to music."
"Hey, what are you complaining about? I've said elsewhere she's important to me, so why does the fact I painted a picture of her being a closed-off, cold-fish hermit suddenly become a problem? In what way is saying she sat in silence when I'd been brilliant a bad thing?"

The Black Keys White took to task for being copyists:
"There are kids at school who dress like everybody else, because they don't know what to do, and there are musicians like that, too. I'll hear TV commercials where the music's ripping off sounds of mine, to the point I think it's me. Half the time, it's the Black Keys," White says. "The other half, it's a sound-alike song because they couldn't license one of mine. There's a whole world that's totally fine with the watered-down version of the original."
The White Stripes did the same thing, and in our absence, you're gonna find someone to fill that. And you get a band like the Black Keys, who said they never heard of the White Stripes? Sure.
It looks like what really irks White is not that the Black Keys supposedly sound like a watered-down White Stripes, but that they, too, refuse to high-five him by admitting his influence on their work.

Still, full marks for his clarification on this, which manages to be more snide than the original remarks:
"I wish the band the Black Keys all the success that they can get," he said in the new statement. "I hope the best for their record label Nonesuch who has such a proud history in music, and in their efforts to bring the Black Keys songs to the world. I hope for massive success also for their producer and songwriter Danger Mouse and for the other musicians that their band employs. Lord knows that I can tell you myself how hard it is to get people to pay attention to a two piece band with a plastic guitar, so any attention that the Black Keys can get in this world I wish it for them, and I hope their record stays in the top ten for many months and they have many more successful albums in their career."
"Yeah, good luck guys, and all those other people who are doing all the work for you. I hope your children are beautiful, and your grandparents long-lived, and your fingers remain supple into what will be a long and active old-age, and that you're too stupid to notice that this reads like a piece of douchey sark."

Oh, White also found time to slag off most women artists working at the moment, too:
Some people will hear that and say 'Oh, Jack White thinks he's the first person to play the blues.' But certain acts open up a market for a certain style. Amy Winehouse: Did she invent white soul? Wearing a beehive? No. But she did something brand new and fresh, altogether as a package, and you see who's in her wake, from the Duffys to the Lana Del Reys," he says. "Adele selling 20 million records? That would not have happened if Amy Winehouse was alive."
Adele's two albums were both released during Winehouse's lifetime, actually. But this isn't about facts, it's about Jack. And Jack knows what he thinks.

Although, er, maybe he's going to clarify that, too:
White also apologized to the artists he appeared to dismiss in his explanation of how "certain acts open up a market for a certain style." White said that he attempted to avoid giving a "no comment" answer to Rolling Stone because he thought it would sound petty, but ended up making comments that should have been reserved for "shop talk" among producers, engineers and managers.

"I wish no slight to the talents of Winehouse, Duffy, Lana del Rey, and Adele," he explained on Saturday. "All of whom are wonderful performers with amazing voices. I have their records and I hope for more success for them all as the years go on. They deserve all they’ve gotten. And, I also would love to state that I personally find it inspiring to have powerful, positive female voices speaking out and creating at all times in the mainstream, and all of those singers do just that, so I thank them."
There's a couple of things here. The first is that he seems to have noticed that he wasn't even apparently slighting Amy Winehouse, so maybe even Jack White starts to tune out and not listen properly when Jack White starts banging on.

Secondly, saying that Adele wouldn't have sold records if Amy Winehouse was alive - even if factually incorrect - is clearly saying that Adele had got success she didn't deserve.

So that's White's apology saying sorry for something he didn't even do (slagging Winehouse) and claiming he hadn't done something he had (slagging Adele). This is the most ham-fisted thing White's done since his last record.

But what really galls is that bit about "shop talk" - the sweeping imperiousness of the idea that the little people who read his interviews and (albeit in decreasing numbers) buy his records can't be trusted to understand such complex ideas as how Adele wouldn't have sold records if she'd had to compete with someone else without thinking he sounds like an arse.

Unless what Jack means is that he should only really talk to the sort of people he's paying, rather than people who aren't being paid to agree with his every shining insight.