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White Stripes Put Trust In New Label For ‘Icky Thump’
As the June 19 release of the White Stripes’ new album, “Icky Thump,” approaches, Jack White is less concerned about “indie cred” than at any other time in the band’s 10-year history.
Not only is the band now signed to a major label (Warner Bros.), but White, in a first, also used a modern recording facility (Nashville’s Blackbird) to make a record. (Though with “Icky Thump” he still recorded to reel-to-reel and mixed to tape, as is his typical analog approach.) Last year, White quietly recorded music for a Coke commercial that ran briefly in the United Kingdom and Australia. And in touring in support of “Icky Thump,” the band will play venues it attempted to avoid on prior outings.
“At the tail end of [2003’s] ‘Elephant,’ we were touring these hockey arena kind of things, and we were just like, ‘Eh, I don’t know, man. It’s a little cold and sterile,'” White tells Billboard. “But you just take it for what you can do. Right now, we’re just trying to find the right spot for each town.”
For his part, White seems unfazed about life on a major label. “We were leery for a long time … we’d never had the trust in us to do it,” he says. “It would have been a bad idea to do that on ‘White Blood Cells.’ We had them all offering it then. But I think it would have been over very quickly for us. We would have been a new flavor of the week and probably would have been a one-hit wonder with ‘Fell in Love With a Girl.'”
At this point in the band’s career, White says those types of concerns are no longer an issue. “Everything’s happening at the right time,” he says. “In some ways, we look back and we’re kind of like, ‘Man, maybe we were stupid with this naive thing about if artistic freedom and business collide, something bad happens.'”
White’s joie de vivre is apparent on “Icky Thump,” which after 2005’s moody, piano-dominated “Get Behind Me Satan,” marks a return to the raw electric blues that fueled the White Stripes’ breakthrough 2003 album, “Elephant.”
“When it comes to the songs themselves, the songs are in charge, not me,” White says. “Take a song like ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)’ [from “Icky Thump”]. That was pretty much a country song in my mind. If I really was in control I could have just said, ‘Hey, how dare you allow electric guitar and heavy organ on there.’ But I don’t do that. I let the song tell me what it wants.”