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Interview
The Dead Weather

The Dead Weather

date
Monday 9th August, 2010 12:12PM

Alison Mosshart, the vehement frontwoman of both The Kills and The Dead Weather chats to UTR about balancing two bands, not having a life and working with the genius that is Jack White.

So, from the beginning: how did you guys meet and decide you wanted to try The Dead Weather out?

Well there was actually zero plan for this whatsoever. The Raconteurs and The Kills toured together at the end of 2008 and on the last day of the tour I ended up going back to Nashville with The Raconteurs, and Jack and I and LJ and Dead decided we wanted to go into the studio and do a 7”. And so we went into the studio to do that but instead of writing a song or two we wrote four songs and then I left - I was only there for 24 hours, I had to leave and go back on tour with The Kills – and in the new year of 2009 Jack (White) called and said you know I think this stuff’s really good I think we should try and finish it. So he got me a ticket and I got on a plane the next day and went back to Nashville thinking I was gonna be there for a week, and then I stayed for three weeks and we wrote a whole record and suddenly we had a record and we had a band and suddenly it just got completely out of control. I never saw this coming

So it was an intrinsic musical relationship from the beginning?

Yeah, I think that’s what was special about it. It just clicked together without much effort and wasn’t in any way a forced situation – there was no reason why any of us needed to be in another band – I think that was what was beautiful about it and we were just really enjoying it and there were lots of ideas coming out and just really inspired I guess it was just a good time for all of us to make a record right then – we just really wanted to do it – without even talking about it. That’s what made it so good and the thing with when we started playing shows, it just felt right you know, and I think the audience has felt that way and people who have bought the record have felt that way, like ‘woah I don’t know where this came from but this is cool’. There’s not a day where we don’t look at each other and think ‘what the hell this is nuts!’

There’s a definite overall aesthetic to the album – this Southern swampiness – was this purposeful?

We had no plans or conversation about this – we didn’t even know what we were gonna do. Jack sat down at the drums and I looked at him like ‘you’re crazy what’re you doing ‘ and everyone just took their places and played. There was no conversation about what it was gonna sound like. I guess that might have been kind of like the mood of the time – who knows. We were all on the same page we didn’t know we were on, and good things come out of that you know. We were a group of people at the right time. Those three boys could not be more lovely if they tried to be and it’s such a pleasure to do this.

So you don’t feel like the odd one out being the only female?

Yeah you know what I hardly know any girls and that just always seems to be the way. My first band I was the only girl in a band of four and then it’s Jamie and me – he’s kinda like a girl haha – and then you know this. I guess it’s so normal to me I don’t even think about it it’s just not an issue. I get on really well with boys and I play just as rough as they do so it’s sweet.

Going from the kills to the Dead Weather – what were the immediate musical and creative differences?

The way it’s played like with a full band on-stage - to look round and see all these people – I was like what the hell I’m used to one other person on stage! Also the kind of free-ness that it involves. Because Jamie and I don’t have drums and we have a drum machine - it’s basically a recorded track - so it’s like you’re walking a tight wire the entire time. If you fuck up you have to start the song - you can’t patch up - you can’t do anything like that. You can’t change your mind in the middle of a song and go off on a tangent. For that reason alone I haven’t played in a band that can go into any other song – stop a song in the middle and start something else. It’s a completely different experience on stage because I never know what’s going to happen – in the kills the anxiety comes from the tension that you’re walking the tightrope and in the dead weather the anxiety and the tension comes from I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen next. You know I love them both equally and it’s really strange that I get to do them both and they’re both so different.

That must be the nice thing about The Dead Weather: that things are always unique?

Definitely because we try to change it up, and if we get bored we write a song or do a cover and we can do that so easily because we’re not having to program drums for two days. I really appreciate both things because both are as hard as each other. It’s nice to be able to go off on a tangent though I haven’t been able to do that in ten years so maybe I needed that. You’re working with such prolific musicians in The Dead Weather – you must have learnt so much? I feel like I’ve learnt so much because the situation’s been so different for me. I’ve learnt more about bands, I’ve learnt more about other instruments, I’ve learnt more about song structure and ways of working and ways of producing and all sorts of things. Hanging out with Jack is insane you learn 25 things you never knew every single day ‘cause he’s just inventing shit all the time so it was just a really fantastic environment to be in.

It sounds pretty surreal!

I look at them every single day with the most amazing look on my face – he is possibly a genius and he’s got a brain like no-one else I’ve ever met. I really appreciate and admire him and it’s so exciting to work with him, it really is.

How are you managing to balance all these projects?

I don’t know yet, we’ll see you know if I loose my mind before too long. At the moment it’s fine because The Kills toured for a year-and-a-half and we were done. So it was fine to go with The Dead Weather but we were supposed to be recording The Kills new album and it go a little way-layed but now we’re doing that. I just finished the second Dead Weather record and jumped on a plane to come back here and work on The Kills record and it’s back and forth like a yo yo and it’s this crazy scheduling nightmare!

The same for everyone else that’s in The Dead Weather too, I guess?

Oh yeah, Jack’s doing 95 things right now! Like today and every single day. A million different bands doing a million different projects so I always think about him and if he can do it I can do it. But it takes a really strong constitution you forfeit sleep you forfeit personal life you forfeit pretty much everything and you just do this. I’m up for it for a while and we’ll see how it goes but I don’t want anything to suffer at the same time.

It must make the time that you have with The Dead Weather – because you’re all in the same boat – relatively precious?

It is totally because we can’t tour like we’d like to tour we can’t do all the things we want to do we’ve picked our battles and they’ve all been really really fun. You know it’s really nice getting to know those guys – it’s like a new family and it’s really great to tour with them and there’s no chance of burning out or getting bored or anything or hating the songs – you don’t have enough time to which is always really exciting.

That sounds like the summation – it’s all happened really quickly and it’s always exciting?

Yeah for sure, but I think that’s almost a better way of doing things. Because you know touring for a year-and-a-half straight and going to the same place six times on one record is an absolute waste of time and it’s kind of like I’ve done that with so many records I’ve toured and toured and toured – done all the work for all the record labels by just showing up you know – but it seems a lot more powerful to go somewhere everyone and knows you’re gonna be there and just make it an event and then just leave. Giving your all everywhere rather than spreading yourself so thin that you don’t even know what you’re doing. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot this year doing that because everything’s been like all of your hearts in it. More is not necessarily better.

Courtney Sanders

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Undertheradar is proud to present The Dead Weather live in NZ for the first time, for one show only next month – don’t miss this one!

Wednesday 17th March - Logan Campbell Centre, Auckland

Click here to get tickets.

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