Monday, January 02, 2006

The White Stripes play Brazil, pt 4

Sao Paolo

The Sao Paolo show, Saturday June 4th, the last date of the Brazilian tour, brings a deluge of guests, invited and uninvited. Of the former party, a young Peruvian girl and her family are the most honoured. The teenager’s name is Claudetta, and last year she emailed the Stripes’ organisation, begging them to play South America. Her plea was a very real influence on the band’s current touring plans, but logistics demanded the band miss Peru off their itinerary. Though poor, Claudetta’s family scraped together enough cash to take a short holiday in Sao Paolo, and the four of them are now seated side of stage, as the band stride out and greet the audience of the imaginatively-named Credit Card Hall.
You can tell the uninvited guests, the parasites. They’re the ones who still hover around the dressing room door while the band are playing, laying in wait for their prey. Like the guy with the video-camera, filming a documentary of his nomadic experiences for MTV, toting a vintage Lou Reed album he wants to give to Jack. Actually, make that ‘wants to be filmed giving the album to Jack, for his documentary’. Via John Baker, the film-maker’s self-serving offer is denied, but this doesn’t stop him offering one of the production crew cash to pose as Jack’s hand ‘receiving’ the album on-camera.
“Some kids chased us down the street a few blocks, in Panama I think,” muses Jack, in the bar of the Unique Hotel, Sao Paolo, where the White Stripes are staying the night of the show. “Once they caught us they said, ‘hey, we just wanted to say thank you, we saw you play the other night’. They gave to us, they didn’t take from us.”
The most intriguing of a very enigmatic clutch of songs on Get Behind Me Satan, ‘Take Take Take’ was inspired by an autograph by Rita Hayworth that he once saw, her lip-print on a handkerchief, next to which she’d written ‘My heart’s in my mouth’. “It blew my mind,” he remembers. “For her to have written something so metaphorical, as an autograph.”
‘Take Take Take’’s drama unfolds over dramatic dustbowl strum, the awestruck protagonist demanding first an autograph, then a photograph, and then finally a kiss from a passing Rita Hayworth.
“Give me a little credit,” White protests, pointedly. “I can think of something more interesting to write about than how terrible it is to be famous. It’s more about how kids today aren’t taught how to be humble, or when enough is enough. Like the other night, this kid asked us for an autograph; then, five minutes later, her friend asked for an autograph, and, five minutes later, she asked for a photograph, and then her friend asked for an autograph. We’re not at the zoo here, you know, we’re trying to eat dinner. But I’m not whining about celebrity; I’m whining about parents not teaching their kids manners.”
We meet many Jack Whites during our stay with the band: Jack the giddy newlywed, Jack the uncomfortable celebrity failing to elude the paparazzo’s flashbulb, Jack the young rocker stung by cynics who snickered at his collaboration with Loretta Lynn and his work for the Cold Mountain soundtrack, who felt he had to use his newfound fame to direct a new generation to the music he loved, but who now says “We’ve done too much paying respect to the past, we can’t move forward on our knees anymore.”
We meet the offended, old-fashioned boy griping about reality TV shows called Are You Hot?, “Where they bring out people onstage, and judge them. The presenter has a laser pointer,” he elaborates, shaking his head. “Parents tell their children not to make fun of other kids in the playground, and then they watch garbage like that. What are they teaching these kids? What kind of a role model is someone like Paris Hilton, dressed, basically, like a slut, and behaving stupid, because it worked for Ozzy Osbourne…
“I’m not some old fuddy duddy,” he adds. “America suffers, because they have this stupid, ridiculous, Conservative viewpoint on everything, they’re so mixed up about right and wrong. Seeing as they voted in that President, Americans obviously have no interest in the Truth. They only know what they’re told, and reality television’s telling them to judge everything around them. It’s really ugly. I think we should be ashamed of ourselves.
“You know you’ve matured when ask yourself, why do I bother?” he continues, darkly. “The politicians, they’re doing anything they want to do, taking whatever they can get, making themselves happy, and they don’t care who gets hurt. And when you reach that point and ask yourself, ‘why bother?’, that’s when you really turn into an adult. Because you make the decision, yes, it is worth bothering. If only for it’s own sake.”
There’s a common thread to all these Jack Whites, a stoic indignance, a forth-rightness, an old-fashioned sensibility that’s unafraid to express itself, to argue it’s case. A grounded common-sense that, you imagine, they share with John Gillis, so key is it to all their characters.
Like his alter ego, John Gillis has another obsession, one closely related to their shared passion for the truth. A hankering for a musical purity, a sonic fidelity with the ’truth’ of the music as was played. Asked about the proliferation of unusual instruments like the marimba on Get Behind Me Satan, he’s quick to point out that it doesn’t contradict the Stripes’ ongoing spartan aesthetic, “As we can only be playing two instruments between us at any one time.” And talking about modern music, his lip turns up in disgust, discussing lazy modern production methods, the reliance on cheap effects, the way clumsy application of something like artificial reverb can ruin his enjoyment of a whole song.
“If I can not even pay attention to such things, if I can listen to the song and not even think how it was done, then I love it a lot more,” he decides. “It becomes more beautiful at that point.
Like any illusion, once you know how the magician does it…
“…Then it’s ruined, yes,” he nods. “That’s exactly true.”
Jack White and John Gillis were both born in a poor, mainly-black area of Detroit. ‘Rock’n’roll’ meant nothing there, the kids were only into hip-hop, and sub-cultures like ‘punk’ or ‘goth’ only existed in the suburbs. Spending his spare hours obsessing over the Who, picking apart all their myths and trying to make sense of grand opuses like Tommy or Quadrophenia, he was entirely alone.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” he says, brightly, “To feel like you ‘owned’ a band. I guess, in America now, it’s not the ‘coolest’ thing in the world, to be a teenager who’s into The White Stripes. Most kids are probably into 50 Cent or Green Day.”
Perhaps, to those kids, the White Stripes mean as much as The Who meant to you, as a teenager.
“That would be amazing,” he stammers, again lost for words. “I wouldn’t be able to believe it… Women are always telling me, ‘My son loves your band, you’re his favourites’, and I usually think, that means he’s got a record of ours, maybe he likes us. I can’t imagine their son could love our band as much as I loved the Flat Duo Jets as a kid.”
But that’s exactly what’s happening, on a small but profound scale. Their record sales might not match the column inches they enjoy in the rock press, and the band’s red’n’white’n’black aesthetic might struggle against the Green Day tees and 50 Cent merchandise as the couture of choice among most American teenagers. But The White Stripes are a burgeoning cult in mainstream America, certainly in a commercially and culturally stronger position than contemporaries The Strokes. And like Jack with his Who obsession, those kids who manage to find the White Stripes, to make that connection, will have a much deeper connection with their music. Minority passions are like that and, besides, a group as rich with myth and innuendo are always going to win a more rabid fandom than anything the mainstream could easily clasp to its chest. You reckon that Jack White, the man who doesn’t like to play venues where he can’t feel the audience’s energy coming back to him, likes it that way. The White Stripes, thriving far outside their ‘little room’, but never losing touch with what fired their ambitions in the first place.
“It was just too big of a deal,” he reflects, on the media frenzy that greeted The White Stripes’ arrival in the UK as feted unknowns, only four years ago. “Our way to ‘handle’ it all was to dig deep, and push real hard against all the bullshit. We knew, once we broke through that barrier, we could always get back to where we used to be. And look where we are now, right back where we used to be. We were playing Panama the other day, to people who’d never heard of us, and we were playing music and winning people over.”
He smiles, newly married to one of the most beautiful women in the world, a man who has rediscovered his creative spark, who feels, in his own words, “reborn”. “You can’t beat that, that felt good to us - that’s a better success than selling millions, than getting the platinum records.”

The White Stripes play Brazil, pt 3


The next day, Thursday 2nd June, is mostly occupied by the long flight from Manaus to Rio, where we read up on the press reports of the previous night’s events. The Brazilian press jocularly receives gig’s riotous conclusion with good humour: “The White Stripes rock Manaus!” reads one headline; “The White Stripes’ Delicious Irresponsibility!” teases another. The only downside is the publication of photographs shot without the band’s approval, by a mysterious photographer, of Jack and Karen handling the Caiman during our trip along the Amazon. It seems the paparazzi can even intrude upon the solitude of the rainforest.
By midnight, only Meg and some of the road crew are still standing at the hotel bar, exhaustion taking most to an early bed.
“We’re going over to the beach to get Meg some fresh Coconut juice,” says John Baker, even though we’ve been expressly warned against visiting the beach after dark, due to the local violent crime. There’s something about John Baker that inspires a feeling of safety; that something isn’t, however, the butter knife he slips down his underpants on the way out, for self-defence. It isn’t required, however, as our mission to secure Meg a freshly-chopped green coconut and drinking straw is threatened only by the profound language gap between ourselves and the guys selling the fruit on the beaches, to the assorted hookers, tough looking guys straight out of City Of God, and the few tourists fool enough to traipse by. But getting what the Stripes want, against all odds, is Baker’s mission in life these days.
New Zealand-born Baker first heard the Stripes back in 1999, at a Donnas aftershow party in Australia. However, the Stripes’ music had been taped over another band’s cassette, so he was clueless as to their identity; a little detective work revealed the band’s contact deals, and soon Baker - whose other rock’n’roll pursuits include helping great young Antipodean bands like Mint Chicks, and releasing limited-edition seven inches for the Dirtbombs - was offering Jack a series of shows in Australia. The White Stripes toured down under over a year before setting foot in the UK, though Jack didn’t believe the proposition was genuine until John mailed him the airline tickets for New Zealand.
Like most of the Stripes’ touring crew, Baker has been a part of the band’s ‘family’ since before the ‘madness’ set in, and it’s this closeness, this familial security they encourage with their entourage, that ensures they’re able to operate so efficiently, with such a bare support crew. It’s just another way of keeping touch with ‘reality’, holding everything together. Jack, it appears, is old-fashioned enough to know it’s your family you run to, when everything goes wrong
“I felt kind of lost, I didn’t feel I had anyone to talk to,” he remembers, of his darkest moments at the start of the year. “So I started focusing on my family, the people who gave out love and positivity.”
The very cathartic process of recording Get Behind Me Satan signalled the beginning of his ‘rebirth’. “The ceiling was leaking, the equipment broken, we’d wait days on end for stuff to get fixed,” sighs Meg, eyes turned up to the ceiling, listing some of the maladies plaguing sessions Jack himself describes as “Bizarrely cursed”.
“Just the weirdest stuff started to go wrong,” he continues. “When we were recording ‘White Moon’, Meg’s rack of bells fell over; you can hear it in the background on the album. Nothing was working, everything was broken. And then we wrote and recorded ‘Blue Orchid’, and everything fell together. The riff was so simple, so effective, it cemented the album together. It really rescued our mentality at the time, too, because we were about ready to jack it all in.
“Recording this album relieved so much from me,” Jack adds. “A lot of stuff was filling up my spiritual knapsack, you know? A lot of hopelessness, a lot of ideas that weren’t coming together. It felt good to get those songs, which had been hanging around for a while, on tape and out there. To clear the air, so we could just go out and play.”
Recorded under pressure and flung out to the people less than three months after recording finished, Get Behind Me Satan is The White Stripes’ darkest, heaviest, oddest set yet, paradoxically leavened with some of their most gloriously ‘pop’ moments to date. Like the insanely addictive ‘My Doorbell’, which boils the essence of Led Zeppelin II down to three minutes of bouncy soul-pop with nary a guitar attached, or the vulnerable, dignified balladry of ‘Forever For Her Is Over For Me’. It’s the more unhinged songs that dominate, however: ‘Red Rain’, a monstrous Zeppelin of bloodied blues and swan-diving riffs, revisiting the same slide-scorched landscapes as ‘In My Time Of Dying’; or ‘The Nurse’, a ballad of obsession and betrayal, regularly torn apart by blasts of distortion; or ‘Take, Take, Take’, an epic musing on fame as seen through a rabid Rita Hayworth fan’s eyes.
“That whole album comes from what a lost cause it seems, to fight for truth,” explains Jack. “I had a few weeks there where I didn’t care about the truth at all. And then, one day, uh… I don’t want this to come out wrong, but a miracle happened to me. There was a dictionary on the table, and I picked it up, and at the top of the page I opened was the word ‘truth’.”
“We experience synchronicity a lot,” urges Meg, as if in defence of Jack’s miraculous story. She has a knack of often grounding his wilder theorising. “When coincidences occur, it’s for a reason. That’s happened throughout the whole course of the band. When it happens, you know you’re on the right path to something. When it’s not happening, I worry that something might be wrong.”
The ‘Truth’ is, White admits, one of his ‘obsessions’. “My favourite thing about human behaviour is when it doesn’t revolve around the truth,” he says, slyly. “When people lie to themselves, or are in denial. The ‘truth’ is probably a complex of mine. Irony is so prevalent in our culture now, it’s the easy way out, the easy metaphor. Like, I heard the new System Of A Down single, ‘BYOB’, the other day, and I just assumed its chorus, “Everyone’s going to the party, gonna have a real good time”, was ‘ironic’. Because it seems its all anyone can think of nowadays. I would’ve been more impressed if they’d actually meant it, you know? “Gonna have a real good time!” Yeah! That would be more ‘punk-rock’, to me, to be sincere, rather than ironic.
“Looking back now, on songs that I’ve written, the motivation was always, Why do we do the things we do? What’s the purpose behind them? When it comes to writing about human behaviour, that’s the first thing that pops in to my head: look at what you’re doing. That’s my whole mentality: well, look at what you’re doing. Isn’t that interesting? You could probably rename every one of my songs, ‘Well, isn’t that interesting?’ [laughs]”
Was it your obsession with the ‘truth’ that drew you to the blues?
“Oh, definitely. If you turned on some Charley Patton right now, forget about it man, I’m not leaving the room. I love that so much, it just gets to me. It’s so heavy duty, and it’s so truthful. We romanticise that time period, because we don’t know anything about it - there’s just one photograph of Charley Patton, and he must’ve led a bizarre and romantic life. Of course, he was also a womaniser and a wife-beater, a drunk. But when you really start to dig into what’s going on, the dichotomy of his love for evil and his love for good, and you see the struggle in someone like that. How beautiful is that struggle? Any story is of course about struggle, and the blues gives it to you, in spades…”
Is it a risk, to be sincere?
“Certainly. Because people don’t buy it, you know? I’ve always said, the whole ‘brother/sister’, red-white-and-black aesthetic of the band ensures that anyone who would be put off by these things, who would consider them ‘gimmicks’, wouldn’t buy our records. And I say, good. Because we don’t want to be friends with you, if you aren’t interested in digging beneath the surface.”
The truth is, of course, that for all Jack White’s obsession with the ‘truth’, The White Stripes are a fake, a sham, a big lie. Painted in red, black and white, like a cheaply-printed comic strip, almost everything about them is a fabrication. ‘Jack White’ was born John Gillis, and his ‘sister’ Meg is actually his ex-wife, wedded before the band formed, and divorced before their second album was recorded. This isn’t denied rumour, as it was when the Stripes first hit the UK, back in 2001, but rather fact, backed up with documentary evidence, such as their divorce certificate, available on the internet.
Given this knowledge, almost every aspect of the Stripes’ phenomena gains an extra intrigue - not least the fact that it was Jack’s ex-wife, not his ‘sister’, who urged him to so speedily marry his new girlfriend. The frustration is, of course, that in interview it’s impossible to breach such subjects. The fictional creation that is ‘Jack White’ would disappear in a puff of logic were he ever to acknowledge the existence of John Gillis. Slyly acknowledging that the Stripes’ brother/sister angle might be a fiction is as close as we’ll get to a peek behind this Lone Ranger’s mask, even then accompanied by a gentle chiding for focussing on such trivia.
But it’s Friday night, June 3rd, and the White Stripes are playing Clara Hall, a cold and artificial venue tucked inside a shopping mall in Rio De Janeiro. Before the show, the band were ragged with the head colds that have dogged the tour, Jack’s voice shot, their energies sapped. Also, this afternoon, Karen had to leave for a modelling assignment. Expectations for what we’ll witness tonight are therefore unusually low, and certainly no-one expects a show to rival what we saw in Manaus.
Still, they are magical. Swaggering and seemingly recovered, Jack takes the microphone and sermonizes to his audience, dazed, reefer-smoking Rio teens, electrified by one of the few rock’n’roll bands to play this city. “I tore a page out of the book of cool,” he leers, before delivering the punch line, “It’s a boring book.” Soon, the duo are tearing through a feral set of mostly oldies, mostly crowd-pleasers (“I played ‘My Doorbell’ and just felt all the energy sucked out of the room,” he scowls afterwards, “So we didn’t play any more new songs.”), the kids a sweaty, writhing pit, spectacle-wearing indie boys held aloft by their friends, until the security wade in and they scatter.
The magic and momentum, the sense of danger and occasion of the Manaus show might be absent, but even in such impersonal surroundings, they curate such a sense of communal suspended-belief. It’s akin to churchful of the faithful, every soul in the room implicitly accepting Jack and Meg to be the brother’n’sister troubadours they present themselves as, even in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary. Or perhaps that Lone Ranger metaphor applies here, too. Because, if you somehow discovered the Lone Ranger’s ‘true’ identity, would you really reveal this secret, and bring the legend of the Lone Ranger to a premature end?

The White Stripes play Brazil, pt 2

Weddings, Riots, Rock'n'Roll

The White Stripes could hardly have chosen a more iconic venue for the start of their Brazilian tour. Shipped brick by brick from Europe in the late 1800s (when three million dollars really meant something), Teatro Amazonas inspired Werner Herzog’s classic treatise on insane ambition, Fitzcarraldo, centred around the titular impresario’s effort to haul a 320 ton steamship over a small mountain (a foolhardy feat Herzog’s hundreds of native Indian extras had to recreate without the aid of special effects). The Stripes could be accused of using the movie as a metaphor for the similarly Herculean task of touring these odd venues in South America, shipping their gear from venue to venue at great expense, even installing whole new electrics set ups for the more poorly-appointed venues. Only, as Meg shame-facedly admits, “We‘ve not managed to see it yet. It was out at the video-store the whole time before we left.”
The White Stripes are the first rock’n’roll band to play Teatro Amazonas, an event auspicious enough for the Brazilian Culture Secretary Roberio Brasa to attend, his teenaged daughters in goggle-eyed throe. The venue itself is breath-taking, a puce-shaded folly of faux-Renaissance splendour and opulence, surrounded by graffiti-strewn houses with wrought-iron window-guards and piles of discarded corrugated tin that pass as shanty towns; the opera house is a reminder of the flush of money the rubber barons enjoyed at the peak of their industry, smack dab in the poverty that colours even Brazil’s lushest corners.
A quick guided tour reveals a venue rich in history and robed in fine arts and furniture, the auditorium ringed by balconies, boasting a painted curtain by Brazilian artist Crispim do Amaral, while the ceiling’s four painted pillars depict the Eiffel Tower, so someone in the stalls looking up might think they’re sitting under the tower itself. Some rooms deeper in the opera house are floored with tiles so precious, so frail, visitors have to don fluffy slippers to pad around in and admire the paintings exhibited within.
Onstage, the Stripes road crew struggles to ready the venue for stage-time, setting up their PA system, and pitting their wits against the elderly room‘s many eccentricities, to avoid the band being electrocuted when they walk onstage. Our first location for the interview, a dressing room furnished as it would have been in the Nineteeth Century, luxuriously appointed with all manner of antiques, had to be abandoned, because Meg couldn’t smoke in there. We’re now congregated in the band’s own, less salubrious dressing room, Meg receiving a pre-gig shoulder massage from band manager Ian Montone, dressed in the road-crew’s black suit/red tie/black bowler combo, while Dave Swanson, of Jack White-produced art-punks Whirlwind Heat, films the interview from the corner of the room for a projected documentary on the tour. Reluctantly, Karen leaves the room, saying that she has to try and call her mum again, that she’s had trouble getting through but she has important news for her.
“It’s a surreal life, but the best ever,” beams Jack White, snuggled in the corner on a sofa, ten or so minutes into the interview. “I’ve never felt so comfortable…”
He stops for a second, then dissolves into a helpless cackle. “Why am I so talkative today?” he asks, barely choking the words out between laughter. Then, with the generous bonhomie of a new father handing out cigars in the waiting room, he adds, “I’m having a good day… I got married today! You caught me at a good time… I’ll tell you anything you wanna know!”
They rose before dawn on the morning of Wednesday, June 1st, the day of the Teatro Amazones show, chartering a long boat to take them even deeper up the Amazon than we’d ventured the night before. The spot they chose, the confluence where the Ponte Negra and the Salimones merge into the Amazon, had special resonance for Jack, as he explains, purposefully (Jack seems to do everything purposefully, and gives the impression of entering every interview session with at least an hour or so of pre-researched spiel to share).
“I’d seen photographs of the spot many times, in the National Geographic; the waters are black and white. The guide told us there are three reasons for this…” As he begins his explanation, his brow furrows; he looks like a child trying to explain something he takes very seriously. The number ‘3’, after all, has been an obsession for White ever since he was an upholsterer in his teens, and he realised that a table needed at least three legs to stand, that the number was key in carpentry, and in life (like the 3 chords of rock’n’roll). And so what seems like an impulsive act, what amounts to an elopement, is soon rationalised with the elemental, most earthbound ‘rules’ that govern his every artistic expression. With considerable authority, he continues, “It’s because the waters are two different temperatures, two different ph levels, and running at two different speeds…”
“But eventually they must combine,” giggles Meg. She doesn’t say much in interview, more a result of her own natural shyness than any dictats on the part of her stage-brother (as has been alleged), but, like Silent Bob in Kevin Smith’s movies, what she does say is worth hearing. When discussing their woes back in Detroit later, for example, she quietly cuts to the quick of the matter, when Jack gets lost in all the surrounding issues.
It was “an inevitable thing,” he says, of their marriage. They’d met only three weeks before, on the set of ‘Blue Orchid’, the first single from Get Behind Me Satan. She, a hot and hugely successful supermodel with a willowy figure, alabaster skin, and a shock of striking copper hair, famed for shaving off her eyebrows for the cover of Italian Vogue, played the female lead.
“We just fell madly in love. It was either gonna happen today, or a year from today, some time… It was gonna happen, we knew it was gonna happen. There was no stopping it.”
They gathered at a key point - Jack, Karen, and a handful of their entourage - the sun shining upon them through the trees. A traditional shaman priest, sourced by the ever-helpful promoter Phil, married the couple, and Ian Montone, on hand as Jack’s best man, allegedly shed a tear at the ceremony. Meg was Karen’s maid of honour. Shortly after the ceremony, they repaired to Teatros Amazonas, and then on to the nearby Catholic cathedral Igreja Matriz. Within its grand white and yellow walls, mere feet from the filthy bustle of Manaus harbour market, their marriage was blessed by a Catholic priest. Jack is, after all, a traditionalist at heart. And if the idea of marrying in such haste seems uncharacteristic for the typically old-fashioned Jack White, blame it on a newfound sense of urgency since completing the troubled sessions for the new album. Or blame it on Meg.
“It was Meg’s idea,” grins Jack. “She was the maid of honour.”
“From the first time I met her, I was telling Jack, marry that girl… And he did.”

The wedding is just one reason for Jack’s high spirits today. He has, he says, experienced something of a “rebirth” since the start of the year, following a dark period beset with what Jack and Meg perceive as betrayal, as “Being burnt”.
“A lot of extreme behaviour was going on. I was fighting a lot of losing battles,” White sighs. “It was one of those moments when I felt like giving up. My mistake is, I continued living where I’m from, Detroit, after I got successful.” He laughs, mirthlessly, like he were chiding himself for his naivety. “You’re not supposed to do that. I lost a lot of friends, a lot of people burned us… It seemed like the family of musicians that we’d found, that I’d loved and that had embraced us, had in some cases turned its back on me.
“I just have too big of a heart, you know?” he continues, his face screwed up, like he’s still caught up in the confusion, the self-doubt of those days, trying to size up what the ‘right‘ thing is to do. “I wanted to know why they hated me so much. I couldn’t just blow it off, say, hey, it’s their problem. That seemed egotistical to me. Maybe it is my problem,” he ponders, for a second, before shaking his head. “I was hurting myself too much, being too open to all that. You can’t keep tearing yourself apart.”
The attacks, on his name and on his honour, came from close quarters – firstly his infamous fist-fight with lead Von Bondie Jason Stollsteimer, and then a lawsuit from long-time friend and erstwhile producer, Jim Diamond.
Jack had taken The Von Bondies along as support on an early UK tour, produced their sublimely-spooked debut album, Lack Of Communication, and was dating guitarist Marcie Van Bohlen. What media attention they were enjoying (later parlayed into a lucrative major label deal) appeared to be thanks to The White Stripes affiliation, but Jason was soon bad-mouthing his patron every chance he got, telling this journalist, back in May 2002, that Jack stole his riffs from old blues songs without acknowledging the sources, and that “Jack had little influence on the sound of Lack Of Communication, he ‘recorded’ it, more than produced it.”
Simmering tensions came to a head at the launch party for the debut album of Detroit band Blanche, on December 13, 2003, at legendary local venue The Magic Stick. Following a fracas between Stollsteimer and White in the audience, from which Stollsteimer sustained a well-publicised and photographed black eye, Jack was charged with assault and battery, to which he pleaded guilty in a Detroit court, paying $500 in fines and $250 in fees. He was told not to contact Stollsteimer, and forced to attend anger-management classes.
“People say Jack has a short temper,” insists Meg, “But he went years of being fucked-with by Jason, and not punching him. Jack had been holding himself back, you know? There’s nothing you can do sometimes. The negative people are going to get burned. You have to keep that in mind sometimes,” she muses, with a very old testament logic: “They might hurt you, but they get their ends.”
Jack, if you could have the time over again, would you still have punched Jason?
“Oh yeah,” Jack snaps back. “Very much so. It’s definitely something that should’ve happened. It should’ve happened a long time before that. I don’t know what took me so long. One of the Detroit Cobras told me about this Sean Penn movie, Mystic River, and a line about how, when you’re a leader, sometimes you have to be the janitor too. And that’s true, sometimes you have to clean house,” he concludes
Following the incident with Jason, late last year the band were sued by Jim Diamond, former member of the Dirtbombs and owner of Ghetto Recorders, the local studio where many key Detroit garage records were recorded, including The White Stripes’ eponymous 1999 debut album. Diamond was demanding past and future royalties on the first two albums, and an ‘ownership interest’ in the master-tapes.
“That’s another ridiculous situation,” sighs Jack. “He’s claiming he produced our first two albums, but I recorded our second, De Stijl, in my living room, by myself. It’s a stick-up. He called me up beforehand, and he said, ‘I’m gonna sue you, let’s settle out of court, so the lawyers don’t get all your money’. We would’ve gone back and made another record with him. He’s ruined one of the more beautiful things that’s happened in his life, the family of Detroit musicians he was a part of. He won’t be able to look back on that period and remember the great time we all had, all he’ll see is a lawsuit. I told him, I hope you feel good about yourself, because that’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever heard.
“I started to realise, when you fight for the truth in this whole environment we live in, then it’s a lost cause. You can’t win.”
Its characteristic of Jack White to see the pursuit of truth in terms of a battle, specifically one where the chips are stacked against him. As he’s admitted, for him such challenges serve as a powerful animus for creativity, to push him to strive for the best. But how healthy is it to place oneself in such a constantly adversarial position, to fight battles you’ve already admitted you can’t win? The album title, Get Behind Me Satan, seems to suggest a battle of epic proportions, an awful, inexhaustible enemy.
“It’s super-appropriate for everything the album is talking about,” he replies. “It can mean, You’re either for me or against me. And if you’re not going to help me, get out of my way. Or maybe it relates to the Devil’s music, and having the Devil back you up while you’re playing it. Or, perhaps it relates to aiming for the truth, for doing the right thing, and telling the Devil to take his temptations away.”
Are you spiritual people?
“I’m very spiritual. I’ve recently gotten into the cult of the Saints, in the past year. Pushed aside a lot of my musical idols, and put the Saints up there instead. The church defines them as people who have definitely made it into heaven, no matter what path they took. That’s interesting to me. I have statues of various saints sitting on top of my speaker stacks, onstage.”
Are the White Stripes an Old Testament or New Testament band?
“We’re, uh…” stammers Jack White, momentarily thrown. “I don’t know… That’s a good question. Maybe we used to be Old Testament, and this new album is the New Testament?”

It’s early Wednesday evening, June 1st, the day of Jack’s wedding, and of the show at Teatro Amazonas. The crew have pulled off another one of their so-called everyday miracles, and rewired the glorious relic in preparation for the live show. The Stripes play a brief, relaxed sound-check, Jack pounding out Stripes oldie ‘Sugar Never Tasted So Good’ on his newest toy, a red’n’white concert marimba (the only instrument he ever received a formal lesson on), and strumming Get Behind Me…’s ‘As Ugly As I Am’ with Meg cross-legged at his feet, tapping on the bongos and smiling sweetly up at him. Karen Elson - still on a very perceptible high from her wedding that morning, stumbling about the venue as if she might be dreaming, as if it’s not all quite real yet - ducks into the balcony we’re watching from, gazes over at Jack, and conspiratorially mock-swoons, before dissolving into giggles.
“See you in a bit,” she whispers, “I’ve still not managed to phone my mum and tell her... She’s going to go mental!” The next day, her local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News, announces the wedding with the bathetic headline, ‘White Stripes star marries Oldham girl’, which seems an oddly fitting description, given her absolute lack of celebrity or supermodel affectation.
A couple of hours later, and in the bathrooms the Brazilian rock kids slick their thick black hair back into killer quiffs and licks, running excitedly about the venerated hallways and hanging off the ornate balconies, screaming in adulation, looking wild and lusty, like the audience for the Muppet Show crossed with the cast of Richard Linklater’s 70s stoner memoir Dazed & Confused. The stage-lights are shaded by exquisite white porcelain shells, the plethora of red and white instruments - marimba, old vox keyboard, Meg’s drum-kit and tympani, four old amplifiers with Jack’s guitars and mandolin resting against them - scattered across a number of scarlet rugs. The black backdrop is painstakingly stitched with white palms and bushes, an apple glowing white and red at its heart. Jack’s signature, ‘I I I’, spots the stage, on the amplifiers and the guitar monitors.
A strip of white gaffer tape leads the band safely through the cluttered, blacked-out backstage, to Meg’s drumstool (white leather shaped into a crumpled ‘starlite mint’, the peppermint candies the band’s aesthetic favours, an unsolicited gift from Paul Frank, the designer and now a friend of The White Stripes). Cheering from the get-go, the audience, perhaps overawed by the grand venue, keep their seats, even as Jack ditches his black Bandit’s jacket, to reveal a blood-red shirt and black Mariachi pants, causing all the girls to scream in abandon.
They remain riveted, until the very moment Jack hollers at them, “Y’all gonna stand up or what?”. Jack then lurches over to the marimba, hammering at it and kicking his mute pedal to switch the guitar feedback on and off, unleashing an ungodly roar akin to a carnival. Which is how the audience receives it, the din riling them into an ecstatic chaos, swamping the MTV cameramen filming the show. The song is ‘The Nurse’, the first of a suite of songs from Get Behind Me Satan that pepper the set, nuggets like ‘My Doorbell’ swallowed whole by the unfamiliar audience.
Soon, Jack’s whip-sharp slide is snaring in verses of ‘Motherless Children’, and blasts of Son House’s ‘Death Letter’ howled as if Jack were some breathless, hellfire-consumed preacher. The joyful mania rises and rises, until Jack trips over a cable and hurtles strikingly into Meg’s drum-kit, sustaining purple bruises that’ll leave his leg looking like a side of ham. But he staggers back to his feet, pride and adrenaline nulling the pain, strumming the first chords of ‘I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’, the crowd instantly singing along (the song is apparently the Stripes’ biggest hit in South America), only to break from the song a verse in.
A broad grin pulled across his face, he gazes up at the main balcony, directly opposite the stage, where Karen is standing. If there’s ever a sense that Jack is simply playing a character or putting on a performance onstage, that dichotomy dissolves in this moment, as he soaks up the joy and the romance of the moment, and sings her a deftly-altered version of Neville Fleeson’s 1920s ballad, ‘Apple Blossom Time’ (a different song to Jack’s own ‘Apple Blossom’, from De Stijl). “One day in May, You’ll come and say, Happy is the bride the sun shines on today,” he croons. “What a wonderful wedding there’s going to be, What a wonderful day.” Karen, overcome by tears, blows a kiss to her husband, the audience gazing as one in her direction. Returning finally to the Bacharach/David classic, the Stripes close out the set, leaving to chants of “Come back! Come back!”
“Excuse me,” proclaims a breathless Jack, minutes later, addressing the audience. “My sister and I want to try something special.” With that, and a Zorro-like panache, he takes Meg’s hand and bounds offstage, tearing with her down the aisle and out to the neighbouring square, Praca Sao Sebastiao, followed by a clutch of the Stripes crew, in their red and black costumed frenzy looking like Penelope Pitstop’s Anthill Mob. Like kids following the Pied Piper, the Opera House audience tear after the Stripes, as Jack and Meg set up an acoustic guitar and bongos and play a stripped-bare version of ‘We Are Going To Be Friends’ for the hundreds of kids who couldn’t get tickets for the show, watching it broadcast on video screens in the square.
It’s an electric moment, spontaneous, and not a little dangerous, given the manic fever the Stripes have whipped these kids into. The sliver of a song is cut short a verse or so in, as kids surging up from the square breach the fences keeping them from the opera house. They seep and storm from every direction, grasping at the band, ripping some of Meg’s beads, tearing Jack’s mariachi pants and snatching a couple of the Saint medallions around his neck. Karen staggers about a few feet away, oblivious to the very real threat of being stampeded by all the starry-eyed Brazilian kids hurtling towards her. She calls out to us, tears in her eyes, “This is such a magical day, I’ve married such a wonderful man…”
The duo dash desperately back to Teatro Amazonas, crew again trailing behind, followed by hordes of kids. Security shut and lock the front doors as the venue reaches capacity; the denied patrons kick and punch the doors in anger, but soon disperse and return peacefully to the video screens and the square. Our tour laminates secure us access via the side entrance, and we’re soon onstage with the crew and the band, all ecstatic, wired by the craziness that just occurred, the magic of the day at large. The remaining crowd in the opera house are chanting the riff to ‘Seven Nation Army’, which the band themselves deliver, fantastically raggedly, by way of a closer.
The moments immediately after the show are a blur, backstage swarming with chaos, the Culture Secretary’s daughters dissolving into sobs upon meeting the band, the crew scurrying to dismantle the stage, a battery of police in riot gear waiting outside. Tour manager John Baker bounds out, as fast and forcefully as his crocodile-skin shoes will allow, and barks to the cops, “Who here speaks English?” Within minutes, he has negotiated The White Stripes safe passage out of the venue, back to the hotel, but beyond a few persistent autograph-hunters, their journey isn’t much hassled. The teens still mill about the square, though, dazed and electrified by what they’ve just seen and experienced.
Back at hotel after the show, spirits remain high, and the crew and Meg stay up late into the night, drinking capirinhas (strong local cocktails mixing lime, mint, and local tipple cachacha) and, every now and again, whooping and revelling in the day’s events. Champagne is passed around, and an elaborate wedding cake, topped with fresh strawberries and cream, sits on our table in the bar, both gifts from gregarious promoter Phil.
Before disappearing off to bed, Jack White pauses and reflects on the preceding 24 hours. “That was wild, that was beautiful, in every way,” he grins. “What a great day: it started with a marriage, and ended in a riot.” That riotous atmosphere endures in the bar. Several capirinhas and slices of cake later, John Baker is swapping his gaze between the wedding cake and a minxish-looking Meg. Moments later, the cake has been mischievously smeared over the face and clothes of Mojo photographer Ewen Spencer.

The White Stripes play Brazil, pt 1

[This piece was written for the cover of Mojo in June 2005, and was about the greatest week of my life, certainly the biggest piece I've ever sunk my teeth into. Tackling The White Stripes was such a big deal for me - I wrote the first pieces on the band for NME in 2001, having caught them with Steve Gullick at SXSW that April, following the discovery of their Die Stihl album earlier that year. After Steve and I snuck a picture review of this obscure Detroit duo into the paper's coverage of that year's festival, NME ran the album review of Die Stihl they'd had stuck on a spike since February; as industry buzz on the duo built, I got to review their London show at 100 Club, because the NME live editor who'd taken the assignment for himself had gotten too drunk at the show, and asked me to turn 600 words around for 10am the next morning instead.

I'm really glad I did. The review, a blur of breathless grandstanding for The Stripes, got read aloud on air as part of a Radio 4 piece on the group's whirlwind debut tour in the UK, and reprinted in a number of mainstream papers' pieces on the group, while Neil McCormick interviewed and wildly misquoted me in the Telegraph's hatchet job on the group. It was, however, the last I would write on the White Stripes for NME; as they ascended in fame, more established writers stepped in, and the paper's relationship with the group dissolved. I got to interview Jack, via the telephone, for a piece The Evening Standard ran before NME's first interview with the group, largely because Alex Hannaford, one of the paper's pop writers and a great friend, had crashed at my motel through SXSW and saw first hand how excited Gullick and myself were over the group.

But that would be my only interview. By the time I quit NME, at the start of 2002, NME certainly wouldn't have comissioned me to write on The Stripes. I moved onto Kerrang! and Mojo, writing reviews and thinkpieces on the group, but resigned to never getting to interview them.

Then a funny thing happened... Some time after the Jack/Jason Stollsteimer duff-up of 2003 (?) - which, to anyone who'd ever met Jason, had obviously been a long time coming, given Stollsteimer was badmouthing Jack every chance he got - i wrote a non-interview piece on Jack for Kerrang!, with invaluable assistance from Jack's nephew Ben of The Dirtbombs (a fine, fine writer, by the way), that put forth the argument that Jack, for some reason, and perhaps wisely, was unwilling to express in his own words: that Jason had been provoking White for some time, and that the fight wasn't some vicious outburst from Jack, but the result of several years of friction between the two, and the disrespect from Jason who, in my opinion, owed his career to the media attention Jack's patronage offered (which is not to say Stollsteimer wasn't a gifted singer and songwriter, at least for the duration of The Von Bondies' first album).

The upshot was that Jack had apparently liked the piece, and, through a serious of cool coincidences and absolute golden luck, I got the comission to write the Mojo piece (which I still can't quite believe). The experience of shadowing the band across Brazil - a wonderful, wonderful country - was unforgettable, and I've only been able to cram some of it into the following piece, which is the uncut and expanded first draft of the piece. Getting to take this trip of a lifetime, and to be able to write at length, in perhaps the world's most respected rock magazine, more than made up for not getting to write any features on the band for NME.

The word count was 7000, a length I baulked at before leaving for Manaus, but which seemed puny by the time I'd returned, just because of how much I'd seen and experienced out there, all the momentous happenings we'd chanced upon. Phil Alexander and myself worked right up to the wire to get the piece just right, kudos to him. This cut is about a thousand words, so I'm going to chop it up into pieces for easy digestion!

Special thanks due to Colleen Moloney (the group's awesome PR, GBV fan and Argentian steak enthusiast), Ewen Spencer (Mojo photographer, Posies fan and ace card player), John Baker, Ian Montone, the Stripes' crew, Phil Rodriguez, and The White Stripes themselves. Pictures are the author's own...]

Manaus Boat Trip

The prone reptile is lulled safely to sleep by the guide who, moments ago, dived into the inky waters of the Ponte Negra river to capture it. A baby caiman crocodile, it measures less than two feet long, though we are reliably informed they can easily grow up to ten feet. Like the snakes, the mosquitoes, the schools of ravenous piranha clouding the waters, it is just one of the predators we were warned of as we embarked upon this boat trip.
The caiman gets its belly gingerly tickled by all the Stripes’ road crew, a ten-person team whose familial relationship with the band is confirmed by their presence on such private, ‘day-off’ excursions. It’s passed around the boat, to the members of the band’s larger entourage, along for this momentous portion of the White Stripes’ first South American tour, to manager Ian Montone, to booking agent Russell Warby, to Phil Rodriguez (promoter of the Brazilian shows), to Meg White, who grabs hearty hold of the reptile, and to Karen Elson, international supermodel and Jack’s sweetheart. Finally, the crocodile makes its way to Jack, tucked at the vessel‘s nose, sporting a pink gingham shirt, straggly bandito beard and wild, wiry hair.
“Jack doesn’t want to hold the alligator,” grins Jim Vincent, The White Stripes’ guitar tech, “He wants to kill it and stuff it.”
The excursion began earlier that Tuesday afternoon, a fine way to kick off five nights touring across Brazil, as part of their South American tour, the first in support of Get Behind Me Satan. The following night, the band will play the legendary Teatro Amazonas, an 600 capacity opera house in Manaus, a city nuzzled in the nape of the rainforest, the grandest venue the Stripes have ever played, and also the smallest audience they‘ve performed to in some time.
For 90 minutes our boat chopped the waters into a fizzy cola-coloured frenzy, speeding bumpily up the Ponte Negra, past trees growing twenty feet beneath the water’s surface (this is rainy season; in dry periods this ‘river’ is a valley many feet deep), fearsome birds circling overhead. Members of an accompanying MTV film crew, here to shoot the Teatro Amazonas gig for later broadcast, shoot ‘background’ footage from the side of the boat. The surrounding scenery does not disappoint, the grandness of this natural beauty, the profound peacefulness of the ancient rainforests, affecting us diesel-breathing city kids.
Soon, however, our boat puttered to an unscheduled stop at Ariau Amazon Towers, a surreal ‘hotel’ built at treetop-level in the Rainforest, composed of catwalks and jetties and dining rooms fashioned from tropical woods (with mobile phone charge-points drilled into the ancient timbers). As we docked, a scantily clad local girl dancing to tribal rhythms beaten out behind her draped hand-fashioned garlands about our necks. We negotiated our way to the dining hall, spotted with stuffed alligators and tanks full of piranha, silently reeling at the accumulating sense of surreality. It soon transpired that this unexpected detour was the work of Phil Rodriguez, the Miami-based promoter for the Brazilian shows, and a veteran of the Rock In Rio festivals, a decidedly old-school rock’n’roll character who relishes his work with a showman’s flair, sporting a pendant of a razor blade with a crucifix inside it. It also soon transpired that this detour was only the beginning of a much more involved excursion than had been planned.
With night already drawing in and the skies melting into red as we set off, the boats crackled with nervous, excited chatter of Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart Of Darkness’, a bleak tale of madness and awful destiny in the jungle. But all that awaits us on this journey is the odd gargantuan dragonfly, the mesmerising treescapes of the rainforest cut against the striking Amazonian skies and reflecting off of the opaque Ponte Negra, and a short visit of some local indigenous people’s living spaces, bereft of electricity, where they live off the berries they pick and the flour they mill. And as the boats cut their engines, and we drifted softly in the silent waters, with only a ceiling of stars for light, fireflies and magic sparking in the darkness, a calm - rare in the White Stripes’ world nowadays - fell upon the party.
Holding the helpless croc in his hands, Jack says it’s time to let it back into the river. The guide tickles the caiman awake again, and it wriggles from her grip, back into the water. We’re not going to meet Jack White, Alligator Hunter or Celebrity Taxidermist, tonight, and he’s not about to live out the lyrics of the Stripes song ’I Fought Piranhas’. It is very quickly apparent, however, that the band’s sojourn in Brazil will be anything but uneventful; before the week is out, Jack White will have started a riot, married a supermodel at the mouth of the Amazon, and played the most challenging, most electrifying shows of his career, for which Mojo will score you only the best seats.
Not bad work for a man who started the year ready to give up on everything The White Stripes had worked for, and whose latest album, the twisted and brilliant Get Behind Me Satan, suffered the most traumatic, cathartic gestation of any Stripes release to date.

The last time I interviewed Jack White it was early in 2001, for the London Evening Standard, his first interview with a UK daily paper. We were talking specifically about Sympathetic Sounds Of Detroit, the compilation he’d recorded, showcasing Detroit’s coterie of homegrown garage-rock talent, and latterly bringing the sweat-beaded party music of groups like The Dirtbombs, the Detroit Cobras and The Von Bondies to a world audience, following The White Stripes’ own meteoric rise later that year. White Blood Cells, The Stripes’ third album and the one that catapulted them from a garage-rock cult to the phenomenon they swiftly became, had yet to hit the shelves, but one lyric on the pre-release promo was particularly intriguing.
‘Little Room’, in its elliptical way, seemed presciently aware of the challenge that would face a humble little band like The White Stripes, should fame come knocking.
“When you’re in your little room / And you’re working on something good / But if it’s really good / You’re gonna need a bigger room,” hollered Jack, warning, “When you’re in your bigger room / You might not know what to do / You might get to wondering how you got started, sitting in your little room”
Aware of the growing industry fascination with the oddball blues-punk duo, but with not an inkling of the media-wide Stripes-mania that would greet their first tour of England in June 2001, I asked Jack whether he thought great success might sour The White Stripes. “We’d never change what we’re doing, we’d never let it affect us like that,” he replied, adding, dismissively, “But we’ll never have that kind of attention. A band like ours would never make it onto MTV.”
Four years and two albums later, and the White Stripes’ unlikely interim success has made a lie of at least some of Jack’s words. While sales-wise they don’t quite trouble commercial behemoths like 50 Cent or Green Day (“Everyone‘s adopted our red black and white colour scheme,” snorts Jack, later, “Green Day, My Chemical Romance, everyone…”), they’re certainly highly visible, thanks to appearances on the covers of magazines and last year’s Grammy Awards, and to Jack’s extra-curricular activities, from recording Loretta Lynn’s recent Van Lear Rose album, to his relationship with Hollywood actress Renee Zellwegger, and his high-profile punch-up with Jason Stollsteimer, singer/guitarist of Detroit band The Von Bondies. And while their Get Behind Me Satan set might seem unlikely to beat the initial sales of the new Coldplay and Oasis albums released on the same date, the latest issue of Rolling Stone, still somewhat influential among music listeners in the US, has given the record a four and a half star review, in sharp contrast to the lukewarm reception afforded the aforementioned acts.
Certainly, their decision to begin touring duties for Get Behind Me Satan in South America, playing countries rock’n’roll groups rarely visit, suggests Jack’s wilful ambition, a desire to play outside the comfort zone, outside their ‘Little Room’.
“We asked our agent to find us some places nobody plays,” offers Jack later, backstage at the grand Teatro Amazonas. “We planned a tour of them, probably the first tour we’ve not made money on, even with our small crew. It doesn’t matter. This is the best tour we’ve ever done.”
The Stripes played Rio once before, in October 2003, for the TIM music festival, sharing the bill with Public Enemy, Peaches and jazz legend Illinois Jacquet. They were in town for one day , the highlight of which was meeting Flavor Flav in the hotel elevator.
“It was Hallowe’en,” grins the excitable Jack, backstage at the grand Teatro Amazonas on Wednesday afternoon, hours before they take the stage. “He asked us what we’d been doing, and we said we’d been to see the art deco Christ, up near Sugar Loaf mountain. And he said, ‘Yeahhh Boyeee, I gotta do that, cuz that’s a famous mountain!’ [laughs] It was a great moment. He didn’t know me from Adam.”
The South American tour began on May 11th, at the Fundidora Amphitheatre de Coca Cola in Monterrey, Mexico, and ends with the Sao Paolo show on June 4th, taking in Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. Jack’s favourite moment so far has been the gig in Panama, where almost nobody clapped as they walked onstage. “It felt like we were the opening band,” he laughs, eyes agape, Meg White grinning demurely in agreement across from him, the band’s appropriately red, white and black touring wardrobes cramped around her in the tiny dressing room. “It was like a challenge. Dustin Hoffman said something recently, that a lot of his motivation as a struggling actor was a sense of proving wrong the people who thought he couldn’t pull a performance off, kind of ‘I’ll show you!’. It’s a good motivation, like walking out in front of an audience hipsters with their arms crossed: when you win them over in the end, it’s the greatest feeling in the world, like winning the toughest chess match.”
Not all of South America has received The White Stripes so coolly, however. Jack and Meg, with Jack’s supermodel girlfriend Karen Elson in tow, were greeted by the flashbulbs of the paparazzi upon their arrival at Manaus airport, and photographers slyly wander about the Tropical Resort hotel where the band are staying. Indeed, in the lobby shortly before our boat trip, a snapper dressed as hotel cleaning staff fires a flashbulb directly in Jack’s face, with no warning. Unthreateningly, but with authority, the six foot-plus White ushers the elfin photographer away, saying “Okay, you have to go now…”. In this moment, he seems more the harassed Gentleman of his lyric book, than the fist-friendly troublemaker his episode with Stollsteimer suggested.
The press are much more respectful at the official Press Conference for the following day’s Teatro Amazones show. A hotel conference room swarms and writhes with cables and flashbulbs, journalists with notepads and dictaphones, cameramen teetering in for a closer shot of the duo, a collected, professional chaos. Sat behind a table cluttered with microphones, Jack fills Meg’s glass with water between answering the press’s painstakingly-translated questions, shooting her conspiratorial grins, like, ‘Can you believe we’re getting away with this?’ Out of place, and silently, respectfully bemused at the tumult around them, they have the outsiders’ rapport of desperadoes, of a Butch and Sundance. They seem grateful, however, that the journalists avoid asking the more obvious, well-trodden topics, like whether Jack and Meg are really brother and sister, or questions about Jack’s private life.
Journalist 1: “The new album is being released less than three months after it was recorded… Why so fast?”
Jack: “The longer you take working on something, the more likely you are to ruin it. That‘s how you end up with ‘fake’ music, music for 12 year olds, which is, unfortunately, very popular in the US today.”
Journalist 2: “Meg, was it your idea to sing on the new album?”
Meg: [shyly] “Um, Jack wrote the song and gave it to me to sing. Which I thought was great, because I love singing.” [Meg, with typical politeness, doesn’t point out that she also sang ‘Cold Cold Night’ on 2003’s Elephant]
Journalist 3: “What is the meaning behind choosing Get Behind Me Satan as an album title?”
Jack: “I chose it because it’s my favourite thing that Jesus ever said…”
Journalist 4: “Are you excited to be playing at such an historic venue?”
“Most definitely,” replies Jack, sincerely. He then adds, impishly, “I hope we’re not too loud and no plaster falls from the ceiling.”
Fabiana, the band’s translator for this trip, wisely chooses not to translate the last chunk of this reply into Portuguese for the attendant Brazilian journalists.