Jack White Talks MC Lyte’s Influence, ‘Seven Nation Army”s Soccer Anthem Status for KROQ
By Brian Ives
This morning, Jack White stopped by Los Angeles station KROQ‘s Kevin and Bean show for an interview and live performance on the Red Bull Soundstage. During the session, he discussed how he wrote a new song after listening to MC Lyte, he recalled Neil Young‘s first visit to Third Man Records and revealed what the original title of his new album, Lazaretto, was going to be.
Here are some of the highlights:
On Lazaretto‘s original title: “It has a couple of meanings: I heard it was a quarantined island. I like the sound of it, and the look of the word, even. You try to collect those words. I was going to call it ‘Wit of the Staircase,’ I thought it was too much of a mouthful. It’s a French phrase about when you think of the perfect retort at the end of an argument as you’re walking up the stairs.”
Although he’s a vinyl lover, he doesn’t mind if you listen to his music on mp3: “I think all formats are cool. It’s all about where and when. Digital in the car, vinyl in the bedroom.”
On recording Neil Young’s A Letter Home at the Third Man recording booth: “For about 10 or 15 years, I’d been looking for an old recording booth. I finally found one through these coin-operated machine collectors. And when we debuted it on Record Store Day at Third Man Records, Neil Young just happened to be in Nashville and he stopped by. When he was there, I was telling him about the booth. And a kid came by and recorded one of his songs in the booth, and when he came out Neil [was there]! Freaked him out!
But Neil said, ‘I gotta come back and record in here.’ And a couple of months laster he called and said, ‘Hey, I wanna do my new album in the booth.’ I said, ‘I’m not gonna stop you.'” [A Letter Home] is how you would hear if Neil Young recorded under the same conditions as Jimmie Rodgers or young Hank Williams. In a sense, you’re getting as close as you possibly can to Neil Young: he wrote a letter to his mom in heaven, that’s the first track on the album. I’ve never seen something so personal from him.
Lo-Fi, explained: If you see a black-and-white photograph, it takes on a aura of romance. You have to concentrate and imagine so much of the materials that aren’t present there. It forces your brain to get involved. If you listen to a 1920s Al Jolson record or a Charley Patton record, I can see how it would turn off a lot of people: it’s very crackly, you can’t hear what they’re saying half the time. But if you can get your mindset into that idea, it becomes incredibly romantic.
Revealed: How MC Lyte influenced “Lazaretto”: It was an experiment: I heard about a songwriter writing when you listened to other music and think about it for a second, and then erase it from your mind and then write a song immediately right then. And the song I had used was ‘Cha Cha Cha’ by MC Lyte. So I was listening to ‘Cha Cha Cha’ and the band were listening to it. ‘Now, everybody: forget about it.'”
He realized “Seven Nation Army” was a hit when… It had become a soccer anthem years ago in Europe. A friend of mine was on his honeymoon. And sat on the beach, and there was a cruise ship, and the passengers on the ship were chanting it. He wrote me a letter and said ‘I can’t believe what just happened.’ That year, the president of Italy chanted it from a balcony in Rome, because Italy won the World Cup. So those were a couple of moments where I said, ‘I think the song is connecting with people.'”
Nashville may be big enough for White and the Black Keys after all: “I moved there and I didn’t know anybody, and now there’s a huge family of people there. There are so many bands there that are cookin’, the Kings of Leon, the Black Keys. There are so many people in the town that are totally different from the country world.”