The musical lineage and influence of the Auerbach and Carney extended families on The Black Keys is often over looked. Until now, I don’t think I really appreciated all the connections.
It’s easy to acknowledge the mythologised road trips Dan took with his Dad to try and see Junior Kimbrough. Whilst that legacy is important, maybe we should pay more attention to the influence of Robert and James Quine on Dan’s development as a musician and guitarist.
Dan Auerbach did a lot of interviews after he released his solo album ‘Keep It Hid’. Not many were as insightful as this one. Listen to the interview here.
In a wide-ranging interview, respected Triple J radio host, Richard Kingsmill, inquired into the musical heritage of Dan’s family and unearthed interesting anecdotes about his Uncle James Quine and noted guitarist Robert Quine his first cousin once removed.
Dan’s full name is actually Daniel Quine Auerbach. The Quine family heritage stretches back via Dan’s Mother’s side of the family. They are all related to the famous analytical philosopher WV Quine (Robert’s Uncle), who was also born in Akron, OH.
In the aforementioned interview Dan tells a great anecdote of playing guitar for and with Robert Quine when he was a 16 year old. The story is even more innocent when you understand the musical legacy of Robert Quine. He was at the heart of the New York punk scene playing with everyone from Lou Reed, Richard Hell and the Voidoids through to Mathew Sweet.
I never knew that it was actually Robert Quine who laid down the instantaneously catchy guitar lines on Sweet’s song ‘Girlfriend’ (listen to it below).
As with Kimbrough, Dan never got to play with Robert Quine in a professional capacity. You can feel Dan’s lament in the interview that Robert died in 2004 just as The Black Keys were making great strides and before they had a chance to seriously play together. It would have been a raucous jam, for sure.
It’s always been too easy to pigeon hole Dan’s guitar style and The Black Keys song book as “blues rock”. Like Robert Quine, Dan has not been fearful to experiment and define his own sound, most impressively on his solo album. Robert’s influence might be reflected in the angular sounds of ‘The Breaks’, through the harsher electric sound on the Magic Potion record, while the country influence on ‘Keep It Hid’ reflects the heritage of James Quine.
James Quine, of course, accompanies Dan on the track ‘Trouble Weighs A Ton’ and took the publicity photos used for the album. He’s actually an acclaimed photographer and it’s worth checking out both his photographs and music. James is the brother of Dan’s mother.
Keeping it all in the family, let’s not forget that Dan’s father Charles Auerbach wrote the words to ‘Whispered Words’. It’s interesting to hear Dan discuss this on the interview. I’m surprised like the interviewer that he didn’t press his father for a deeper interpretation of the lyrics. Charles apparently told Dan about Jessica Lea Mayfield as well, the rest is history.
I also hear whispers that Pat Carney is recording with his Uncle Ralph Carney who helped out on The Black Keys’ Attack and release record. Pat has recently changed his MySpace page to reflect the naming “Pat and Ralph Carney” including a photo. Ralph Carney has had a long association with Tom Waits and interestingly Robert Quine played on Tom Waits’ 1985 album, ‘Rain Dogs’. Both Robert Quine and Ralph Carney have played with guitarist Marc Ribot (also of Tom Waits’ band) who also contributed to the Attack and Release album.
I loved Mathew Sweet’s ‘Girlfriend’ (with Robert Quine on guitar) when I was growing up. I also briefly studied WV Quine’s philosophy at University. Very tenuously, no wonder I like The Black Keys so much!
This version of ‘Girlfriend’ is played from the video game Guitar Hero. Can’t be too long until we hear a Black Keys song featuring on this game also. The Black Keys have after all licensed ‘Strange Times’ to be used in Grand Theft Auto 4.
Come to think of it I’d love to hear a Black Keys version of ‘Girlfriend’. Too cheesy? Maybe, but I reckon it would work.
Dan Auerbach Triple J Radio Interview:
Mathew Sweet – ‘Girlfriend’
Dan Auerbach w/ James Quine – ‘Trouble Weighs A Ton’