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Duff McKagan Interviews Jack White, Surreal Brodown Ensues

“It was great to talk with you, Duff.” These are actual words Jack White said in an interview with ex-Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, published last night in the former Guns N’ Roses bassist’s Seattle Weekly column. Also: “Hey, Duff, how are you doing?”

Although White did call McKagan’s music “a big influence,” the 1,500-word chat between the former White Stripes frontman and the current member of Velvet Revolver and Loaded is worth reading more for the surreal quality of seeing two rock legends bro down than for any specific revelations. You know how they always talk about which presidential candidate you want to have a beer with? You want to have a beer with these guys. (In other words, this went better than Jack’s chat with astronaut Buzz Aldrin.)

McKagan, who noted modestly that he’s not exactly a seasoned interviewer, did get White to open up about his lyric writing, his all-male and all-female backing bands, and how White’s approach to recording solo debut Blunderbuss was more spontaneous than usual for him. White also dished on what he likes about Mark Lanegan, how he became a fan of Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life-era rhythm section, and that time he persuaded Wanda Jackson not to make a crappy Santana-style album with different collaborators on every track.

As for the songs on Blunderbuss, it turns out “16 Saltines” started with a riff White came up with on the spot while testing a reverb unit, and “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” was the result of a 4 a.m. burst of inspiration. Some guys have all the luck.

If you’re into White or McKagan, it’s probably worth reading the whole thing, from the first “hello.” But here are a few choice White quotes:

  • On lyrics: “The funny thing is, I always think I’m writing about, you know, a couple of characters, but by the end I’m mixing the song and listening to it back and thinking, ‘Oh, now I know exactly what this song is about. I’m the only one who’s going to know.'”
  • On spontaneity: “I used to really force myself to go in there like, oh, a White Stripes album, or Raconteurs, we got to record this, and we have eight days to do it, and we’re going to do it for only $5,000, and have all these limitations to myself. But now that I have my own studio, I can take advantage of those things right now — actually record something off the fly and come back to it.”
  • On why he has two separate backing bands: “I don’t want to recreate something that a two-piece band did with six people in some really regular, perfunctory way, or a nostalgic way.”
  • On drummer Hunt Sales, who played with Iggy Pop: “Hunt was a punk rocker 10 years before punk.”
  • On what he said to Wanda Jackson when she wanted to do an album where every song is a collaboration with a different person: “Well, you know, I don’t even really know who buys those records, Wanda, and maybe it works for Santana once, or something, but I just don’t know if it works for anybody.”
  • On Mark Lanegan: “I love that he … is working on music because he needs to and can’t help himself. That really appeals to me.”
  • On Duff: “I listened to so much of your music when I was younger, by the way, and [it was] a really big influence on me. Thank you for all of that, I appreciate it.”