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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

It’s common in scientific study to do a forensic review of literature already written about a subject. Certain articles best present the core themes, motivations, influences and attitude of a subject that others will take their lead from. Examining them in turn enhances our understanding of the subject.

If someone was to do a review of articles written about The Black Keys these two articles written about events in 2003, I think, would stand out. Both reflect the raw touring band experience which is quintessentially what The Black Keys are all about.

1. Tour Of Duty by Denise Grollmus (Cleveland Scene, February 23 2005)

2.  On The Road With The Black Keys and Sleater Kinney 2004 by Peter Relic (Arthur Mag, May 2003)

Tour of Duty‘ was written by Patrick Carney’s then girlfriend, later to be his wife, Denise Grollmus. She happens also to be a journalist with the Cleveland Scene. Irrespective of her close connection to Pat and insiders view on The Black Keys, it’s so honestly written, concise and slightly dark in tone.

The article is Denise’s account of going on a three month tour with The Black Keys to Europe, Australia and the USA in 2003.

Some highlights from the article:

On meeting Pat in High School…

Pat looked like a ’70s basketball player — a slender torso attached to long, skinny legs ending in high-top Chuck Taylors. His long face was exaggerated with Mick Jagger lips and thick black-framed glasses. A Sonic Youth T-shirt hung from his coat-hanger shoulders. He was exactly my type.

On being offered drugs…

After some small talk, the two [Har Mar Superstar and Conor Oberst] politely invited us to do drugs in Oberst’s room. We declined. As they tucked in their chairs, Pat asked what kind they were doing.

“Blow,” answered Har Mar.

“Nobody does cocaine,” I said. “It’s so ’80s.”

“That’s why I like it,” he said.

On The Black Keys burgeoning fame in Australia – their first tour there and the first country outside the USA to really embrace the band…

The Black Keys are to Australia what David Hasselhoff is to Germany. The band’s rock-star status granted comforts we could never afford back home. We even had real laminated backstage passes and spiral notebooks mapping out a busy itinerary of radio appearances.

On the not so glamourous life on the road…

“I’m sick of bars,” Tarrah [Dan Auerbach’s girlfriend] said. “I’m sick of music.”

When we reunited with the boys in Iowa City, everyone was irritable and anxious. That night, Pat and I ate at Subway. His skin was leathery in the neon light, and he had big bags under his eyes. He was stressed and jet-lagged. On top of it, he was also worried about me.

I told him taking the girlfriends on tour was a bad idea. “This isn’t ‘Take Your Girlfriend to Work Day,'” I said. “This is a job. This isn’t vacation.”

On The Road With The Black Keys‘ is a really lengthy article written at a time when The Black Keys were rising in popular music consciousness. The story behind the article is best told by this excerpt of an interview The Black Keys later did with ‘Sup Magazine:

Marisa: The first thing I read about you guys was the tour diary article that Peter Relic wrote for Arthur when you were on tour with Sleater Kinney. Now he’s your manager? How did you hook up with him?
Pat: There was a local paper in Cleveland called The Free Times that got shut down. Before it got shut down, Pete got assigned to do a story on us. Actually he didn’t get assigned, he found our record and wanted to interview us. He came down to Akron and wrote the first feature on us. We became friends and started hanging out. He’s like family now. He knows my girlfriend. He’s friends with our dads. He became a friend. We didn’t know he wrote for Rolling Stone, but he sent the record [Thickfreakness] to the new editor over there and they wanted him to review it. One day we discovered it all. It was really weird. One of our friends called and was like, “Dude, have you seen the new Rolling Stone? You’re in it.” Apparently Janet Weiss [from Sleater Kinney] talked it up to the editors at Rolling Stone and the next week Pete was like, “Hey, I have this new band to review.” And they were like, “Oh yeah, we’ve heard of them.”

The fact that Peter went on to be the band’s manager shows his ongoing guidance to their career.

It’s hard to find articles written in this style and depth in (any) publications in recent memory. Certainly the rapport Peter had comes across in the conversational style spread over many days of The Black Keys tour supporting Sleater Kinney.

Like any band exposed to increasing public adoration, pressure and expectation band members slowly retract to those they can trust and don’t so freely express themselves. The article breathes with the innate possibility of the moment when the The Black Keys were finding their own fans.

Ahh those fans…

“I saw these guys play at the Ale House in Upland last year,” he screams. “They’re awwwwesome!” DA [Dan Auerbach] has told me repeatedly that the Upland show was the worst Black Keys show ever. The lesson being that awesome is in the ear of the beholder.

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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:

Listen to the interview here

Mathew Sweet – ‘Girlfriend’

Dan Auerbach w/ James Quine – ‘Trouble Weighs A Ton’

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This is the 2nd Part of an extended interview with Pat Carney from The Black Keys exclusively for The Black Keys Fan Lounge.

Part 1 can be found here.

I wrote a post relating The Black Keys to ideas of  being an ‘outsider’. Are the conclusions I’m drawing there fair comment?

We are outsiders in the sense that we are from and live in city that is out of the loop. Besides that being out of the loop is the way to be I think and we both are drawn to misunderstood weirdos.

What does it personally mean to you and why do you support other up and coming bands, collaborating at a grass roots level, and producing their music as you (and Dan) have?

We like music and if we can help bands we like because of the position we are in we will try and take advantage of it. We wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for people like Sleater-Kinney, or Beck or whomever giving us opportunities early on.

Up until the last album, The Black Keys hadn’t worked with any other producer or recorded with another artist. When choosing someone to collaborate with on a song (Jessica Lea Mayfield) or produce the album (Danger Mouse), what sort of qualities are you looking for? Or is it more of a simple gut feeling or do you realise they fill a hole in the sound that you can’t find/make yourselves?

Well we picked musicians we like and Dan was working on Jessica’s record at the time and we are both big fans of Ralph Carney (who is one of the most talented musicians I have met) and Marc Ribot as well. We respect their work and wanted to borrow some other talent I guess.

Do you know how many live shows you played in 2008?

I don’t but I can guess 75 with another 45 days of travel.

Express to me the importance of the live show to the success of The Black Keys?

Nowadays a band has to tour to make a living so it is how we earn our living so we try and make it as good as it can be.

At the last 2 shows I’ve seen you play in 2008, it’s my personal view there’s a struggle to bring some of the increased subtlety of the Attack and Release album to the audience. At one Dan played the organ yet at another it seems you are playing increasingly to an audience who just wants the heavy beat and cranked up guitar sound. Fair comment?

I don’t know how much of that is the audience or us. I think that we preferred to just play the loud stuff this last few months of touring.

Why don’t more girls like The Black Keys? Are they really all at Kings of Leon shows, as has been suggested?

I don’t know. I am afraid of them anyway so it is best they stay away. And we look like managers from a sbarro.

Drummer the band. Is it good to have people talking about how your side project might break up The Black Keys rather than people bleeting on about Dan’s side project doing this?

I don’t know why people would say that stuff. At this point the Black Keys can only release like 12 songs every 18 months because of the way everything is structured. So if you figure we spent like a month on the last record that leaves a lot of time making music and sometimes it gets released.

Your own solo music making is very different to The Black Keys. The limited tracks on your MySpace site are very spare, hip hop related, and all I can think is that you will score a soundtrack to a major movie one day. Is that a possibility, the Spiegelman project after all is a start down that track?

I would love to do that. Who knows.

What bands should fans keep an ear out for that might be coming out of Audio Eagle Records in the next year or so?

The next release is a record by a group called Other Girls which comes out June 9th. They are from Cleveland and are a pretty classic indie rock/pop band. I am really excited about it.

The Royal Bangs, they have already released a record on Audio Eagle which I licensed to City Slang in Europe which has just this past week gotten four star reviews in the Sun and Uncut. Their next record comes out on Audio Eagle and City Slang and hopefully in Australia in September.

I am also doing the Drummer record which should be out in the Fall.

What’s the biggest compliment a Black Keys fan can pay the band?

Just coming to a show.

Thanks for your time.

Thanks for running the site. It is pretty amazing…it’s a huge compliment!

pat-carney

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It’s been a long term goal to interview The Black Keys for The Black Keys Fan Lounge. This goal has now been achieved. It was a great experience to recently interview The Black Keys drummer, Pat Carney.

Pat was kind enough to take some time answering a whole range of questions. These included general questions about The Black Keys, his own music, fast food (of course), why more girls don’t like The Black Keys, fans generally, Audio Eagle records and much more.

This then is Part 1 of the interview. Part 2 can be read here.

Thanks again, Pat.

I noticed you’ve proudly bought a cello recently, and you are playing bass in Drummer the band, yet you are universally known as a drummer. What other instruments do you play?

Well I can’t play the cello but I can buy the cello as of right now. We will see I would like to be able to play it but i have been pretty busy. I started out playing the guitar when I was 12. I never really got that great though but I can play it. I actually played a few guitar parts on the last Black Keys record but it is kinda silly since Dan is such a great guitarist. When I was 15 I got a job washing dishes and saved up all summer and bought a drum set and a bass mainly because my friends couldn’t drive and I wanted to have the equipment so we could play. After years of owning this things I kinda learned how to play them all decently. I also have a small obsession with synthesizers which started when I was 14 and got way into Devo so I have a few old synths that I can play as well.

How has this musical awareness affected your album production skills? And equally how you want your live sound to come across?

I think in the past year my whole approach to recording and music in general has changed. I used to have very strong opinions about how things should always sound but lately I am way more into working with other people who have ideas and compromising more. But I do think if you play a lot of instruments you are going to be more aware with how they work and how they are intended to sound which helps a lot. I am also very lucky that I have a lot of very talented friends who teach me shit everyday.

Can you tell me about how your musical relationship with Dan has evolved over the years?

I think we are still coming from the same place it all started 10 years ago but now we are better musicians and also more schooled on music. Playing music always feels exciting and natural.

You’re obviously great friends, there’s a brotherly affection there, and Dan has mentioned since when you first started playing together something special is always created when you play together. Do you see it in the ame way?

Yeah for sure. We have been through some shit together and have shared the same bed and van and all that shit. We have been touring usually over 150 days a year together for seven years so our relationship is very brotherly. And yes I see it the same way.

What can we expect from the next Black Keys album? There’s debate among fans whether you’ll continue the journey started on Attack and Release or you’ll retreat to a ‘traditional’ Black Keys thump-thump blues sound or you’ll move off in another direction?

We have it all planned and studio time booked and it will be what it is. We are both very excited about it and I prefer to let people hear it rather than describe it.

I’m hoping you’ll also tell me The Black Keys and The RZA are working on a track! Or he’s going to produce the album? I’ve long predicted it.

No RZA tracks in the works. But we would be into it.

I’ve always noted the contradiction that in interviews Dan and yourself come across as parts goofy, funny, and ironic yet on stage there’s a seriousness, earnest approach, some might say, predictable presentation of the music. Why the absence of the humor that we see in your personalities away from the stage do you think?

Dan and I and all of our friends spend most of our time making fun of each other. I like funny shit and prefer to talk about stupid shit in most interviews but I hate funny music. Trying to be funny on stage can be a disaster as well so it is best to just play I think.

Why do you seemingly always talk about fast food in interviews?

Fast food is real edgy and seems to be real important right now as well. I think fast food is very taboo and therefore it is extreme to talk about.

I’m led to believe Dan’s favourite hot dog topping is sauerkraut and mustard. What’s yours?

Well that is Dan’s favorite hot dog topping while he is in NYC (mine too) but I think we are both partial to the Chicago style dog, although Dan has ventured timidly into the chilli cheese dog lately.

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Check out this awesome video interview with Dan Auerbach when he was in Melbourne, Australia, recently.

Some really good work from the Student Youth Network to get this interview.

It covers everything from Dan’s solo album, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Greville Records to Booker T’s keyboard.

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This is a guest post from regular The Black Keys Fan Lounge contributor, Merlyn. It’s a cautionary tale for anyone preparing to do an interview for the first time or interviewing a band they have always wanted to meet. You too might be able to emphathise with Merlyn’s angst as he prepared to interview Dan Auerbach – an experience he surely wont quickly forget. Thanks for the honesty of your post, Merlyn.

Like any fan, when the opportunity arises to meet and greet their ‘hero’ you take it. So when an opportunity was presented to interview Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys I jumped at it like a fish out of water. But when the phone rang with Dan on the other end of the line, for my first ever assignment as a ‘contributor’ to a well established website, that’s exactly how I felt.

I had actually met Dan before, in a bar after the last concert on The Black Keys January 2009 tour in Melbourne, Australia. I figured out where the after party was, had a few beers and waited. There was no pressure, it was just a casual chat. Dan was  a gentle character, with modesty to match, who kindly humored my questions at 1am. But formally interviewing Mr Neo-Blues is a whole different kettle of sea mammals.

I answered the phone with my stomach in my throat. I was so nervous I forgot to introduce myself. I was very much out of my element. I had so much to ask and so much to say but the words eluded me. I felt like a gun without bullets.

I’d already set the tone as a bumbling fool, whose heart was very much in the right place. Fumbling at every turn I had 20 minutes to shoot off some questions and dig deep for answers. I felt hard pressed, a balloon in a vice – it was agony. In the back of my mind there was a voice urging me to spill out my healthy obsession for Dan, and clear the air. 5 minutes in, the trembling left my voice but I couldn’t get on that ‘buddy’ level and establish a natural ebb and flow.

The minutes melted away. Towards the end I felt I’d reached some sort of personal achievement. We shared a joke or two, or at least Dan did. Mind you I was giggling like a little school girl whose pigtails were held together with a pink hair tie. I confessed my affection and said goodbye.

Hanging up the phone I felt relieved – I’d run the gauntlet. My body was heaving and weezing beneath the weight of what I’d semi-accomplished. I felt 12 years old again, giddy after finishing that gigantic pirate lego set that took 3 days to put together with help from Dad. Regardless of my futile attempt I was happy. I had interviewed a man I’ve dreamed of talking with for sometime.

In retrospect, it is quite a surreal thing to have done. Harder than it’s made out to be in your head and twice as stress inducing. I don’t know why I didn’t break the ice by mentioning I had met him a few months earlier. Maybe he wouldn’t have remembered anyhow, it would at least have put me at ease, and probably him too. At least the published interview didn’t turn out as badly as the interview experience.

merlyn loves dan auerbach

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It’s been a while since I’ve added an off the wall interview with The Black Keys. I hadn’t come across these excellent National Public Radio interviews before until I stumbled on a link to them posted by someone on Twitter. Listening to an interview is always so much better than reading them.

The first radio interview is from 2006. It’s really un-guarded and quirky. Pat as usual is coming up with the one-liners. Great anecdotes about the early days of the band and recording techniques. They cover a lot of ground, name checking early influences which explains much about the dynamic of the relationship between Dan and Pat. Fans and those new to the band will love it.

Compare the 2006 interview with this 2007 NPR interview (21 mins of interview and live radio studio tracks) recorded at the time of the Magic Potion album release. The heavier nature of this album reflects what Dan was listening to at the time, including “Japanese psych-rock music”. Good discussion of the Chulahoma album and the legacy of Junior Kimbrough too. Not to mention what type of cars Dan and Pat both drive. The live recording here of “Strange Desire” is particularly intense.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Black Keys interview without a fast food reference right at the end of the 2007 interview from Pat! Someone really should do a PhD on his obsession.

For good measure listen to:

Update: Here’s an interview with Dan Auerbach by NPR where he talks about his new solo album. Listen and enjoy this revealing chat. Here Dan sing acapella the start of “When The Night Comes” after being prompted by the interviewer.

Bless Public Radio.

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