Jack White looking foward to hanging out with Iggy

By Troy Ferguson

Jack White of the White Stripes is amused that he's coming halfway round the world to play the same festival stage with another band from his hometown Detroit.

But - like a fair swag of the folk heading to the Big Day Out - he's relishing seeing Iggy and the Stooges perform.

"Usually, these festival things don't intrigue me very much, but this sounds pretty interesting. Especially all the days off - I wonder what me and Iggy are going to be doing with all our time, walking around on the beach together."

As a teenager, White rode about Detroit on his bicycle listening to the Stooges' Funhouse, exhilarated that the greatest rock'n'roll record ever made had come from his hometown.

He once thought the closest he'd get to Iggy Pop was trying on the cheetah jacket Iggy wore on the cover of Raw Power after it passed into ownership of White's former record label.

The notion of co-headlining the Australasian BDO tour strikes the unaffected White as amusing. It's been only five years since the White Stripes' first New Zealand visit which was their first tour outside America - where they played the Kings Arms.

They played one of the minor stages at the Big Day Out in 2002.

"I saw some quote [about fame] the other day: 'It's not you that changes, it's people's perceptions of you that change.' I think it was a lot easier for Hank Williams to just go out and play some songs he wrote and be happy about it. But then again, I saw a quote from Hank Williams: 'I'd give it all back if I could just have the same friends I used to have, and make the same money I used to make. At least I knew who my friends were'."

White says the band's breakthrough in the wake of 2003's Elephant hasn't affected the way he approaches his art.

"I still attack the music the same way, I know that. I know I'm doing it the same as when we recorded our first record. And we're still making them for the same amount of money, for God's sake."

While the last album, Get Behind Me Satan, did strive to sound different with its marimba and piano-powered tracks popping up among the guitar songs, the Stripes' trademark energy remained.

"I'm sure it's hard when you're a fan of music and you've seen so many shows, your standards are raised to a different level. But you know what it's like when you see a band that really inspires you, and you feel that same energy you felt when you were 10 or 14 years old? You get that experience back again, and can't wait for the next fix."

White says that feeling of excitement has been more evident in the audiences they've been performing to recently while touring outside of the usual circuit.

"I think me and Meg [White, drummer, and his ex] are spoiled from [playing in] South America and Eastern Europe, [because] Americans have so much stuff coming at them in so many different ways. People are really into the idea that everything is at your fingertips - you can have whatever you want, when you want it, and you don't have to do any work for it," he says, frustrated. Going to the movies, you pay your two bits, and you sit there and watch the movie. It's not the same when you go to a rock'n'roll show - I mean, you pay your two bits, but it's also your job to push the artist as much as you can. It's an interactive experience - 50/50, crowd and performer. That's the whole point: there are live human beings there in front of you."

Off the road, White hasn't been idle. His wife, model Karen Elson, is expecting the couple's first baby in the New Year. He's been back in the studio producing local Detroit bands like father-and-sons punk rock trio the Muldoons.

"They're an 8-year-old singer, an 11-year-old guitar player, and their dad on drums," he explains. "I heard a little demo they made, and I just couldn't stop listening to it. So they came over and we tried to do fuller versions of the songs - I set up some mics, did the best I could, and we made a 45. Those kids are really brilliant songwriters, coming out with so much excitement, innocence and danger. I think, lyrically, the stories that this 8-year-old is telling are pretty interesting. Sometimes, experience can kill vitality and energy."

And early next year his other band, the Raconteurs, will release their debut album.

"That's coming together really great. I can't wait for the record to be done and out next year," he says.

"People keep writing little things about it, calling it a side project or whatever, but that's really insulting to those [other] guys. I really want to stress that it's a whole new band - a dual attack, with dual guitars, dual vocals, and dual songwriting. It's me and Brendan Benson, a singer/songwriter you may have heard of; and Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence, the rhythm section from the Greenhornes, who also played with me on Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose album. I can't wait for people to hear it."

The Raconteurs may give White a way of deflecting the spotlight away from his celebrity - this was a guy who dated Renee Zellweger before marrying Elson - and let him simply play music.

"[Public opinion] goes up, and it goes down; it goes back around again, it goes backwards but it's constantly changing. I think people like Iggy Pop can reach a crescendo, and they're that for life. He's Iggy for life, and you can't touch him."

Unless, of course, you are co-headlining an Australasian tour with him. 

LOWDOWN

WHO: The White Stripes are Jack and Meg White
WHAT: Rock'n'roll duo
FORMED: 1997, Detroit
LATEST ALBUM: Get Behind Me Satan (2005)
PAST ALBUMS: The White Stripes (1999); De Stijl (2000); White Blood Cells (2001); Elephant (2003)

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