Interview: The Black Keys
Tue, 08 Apr 2008 14:40:02
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After four albums, The Black Keys had firmly established themselves, attracting critical success and commercial demand, and achieving a signature sound through their gruff but melodic blues-rock and their "medium fidelity" production stylepioneered by drummer Patrick Carney. So it's understandable that fans were sent into a surprised tizzy by the announcement that the duo would be enlisting the services of an outside producer for their fifth album, Attack and Releaseand that the producer was none other than Danger Mouse (he of Gnarls Barkley and mash-up fame). What would transpire? An electronic Black Keys album?
Not exactly. While Attack and Release does qualify as the band's most expansive and polished record to date, it also sticks close to their strengths. Auerbach spoke to ARTISTdirect recently about the Danger Mouse collaboration, the beauty of snow days and the band that really showed the Keys the ropes.
What is that message on your voicemail?
That was my cab driver in London last week - he was ranting about Paul McCartney's wife taking his money. He started really going off on a rant, so I put my phone up and recorded it.
He sounded like he was really taking it to heart.
Yeah, I think most people in England are. I think we'll see a lot more of her in the States because I don’t think anybody wants her over there.
There's been some debate amongst your fans as to whether the new album is a surprise departure or a natural continuation. Were you surprised with the way the album evolved?
No, not at all. I think it was all pretty natural. The record was done in eleven days, which is really quick as far as records go these days. It felt really natural to me.
“I like winter. I like being stuck inside and hibernating.”
Was there a conscious effort going into the album to do some things differently?
We really wanted to use instrumentation that we hadn't used before. That was the plan even before we had Danger Mouse on board. When we went to the studio, we brought everything we hadcrazy stuffwith the idea that if it could fit on a song, we'd give it a shot. It was fun.
How do you guys protect against leaks?
You can't. You just can't. Our American label sent out CDs [to press] and they were all watermarks. But the Europeans sent out CDs and they weren't. [Laughs] So it's pointless. The only thing you can do is move up your release date. It really kinda sucks. It's how we feed our families and it's something we put a lot of hard work into. I think most of the people who downloaded it early aren't going to pay for it.
I did notice that some fans on your website forum were taking pride in holding out for the release date, even though they knew leaks were out there. Some people still like that release date rush.
We've been talking about this kind of thing a lot. It used to be that you'd see a review in the magazine and you'd have that magazine for a month and you'd be staring at it, looking at it over and over, obsessing. I think that made it easier for records to be larger-than-life. Nowadays, people go to blogs and they fucking change every day. There's an overabundance of information. I think it's not helping the music industry. There should be a mystique involved in the making of records. That's what I lovedit was really special and important and worth waiting for. It sucks waiting for something, but it always feels better when you get it.
Oh yeah. Growing up, I was big into Metallica and I’ll never forget waiting for…
The Black Album? [Laughs]
Yeah, and it was like a 45-minute drive just to get somewhere that had the album on the release day.
Yeah, and how do you think records like that would be perceived now? Two months in advance everybody would fucking hear it. You know what I mean? There wouldn't be those kids at the record stores at midnight.
Is the creative process for The Black Keys affected by the winters in the Midwest? I know some people in Wisconsin would shut down until spring, and other people really got inspired to work.
I like winter. I like being stuck inside and hibernating. It's fun for me. I think of that as time to really knuckle down and work.
I don't know that people out here in California can relate to that.
No, not at all, man. If you've grown up where it really snows and you grow up sledding… shit like that. I can't imagine not knowing that. Snow days for schoolI couldn't imagine not knowing that.
You guys have logged some time in basements making albums, but this time you went off to a "proper" studio. How much of an impact did that have?
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