The Black Keys are Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. They hail from Okron, Ohio, the home of Devo but we can honestly say they sound nothing like Devo.
Auerbach plays guitar, Carney plays drums and together they are blues brothers.
They spoke to Tim Cashmere.
Tim Cashmere: Your new album ‘Thickfreakness’ has received rave reviews from all over. Did you realise what you had when you had finished it?
Dan Auerbach: I think we were proud of it.
Patrick Carney: Yeah, I think we were proud of what we had accomplished.
Tim Cashmere: …and on top of that you’ve been nominated for the Shortlist awards. Is that an honorable award to win… as opposed to say… a Grammy?
DA: It seems to be, from what we know about it, you know? The whole idea of awards shows are weird, you know what I mean? But it seems like they’re doing things in an alright way.
PC: It’s cool to see our name up there with all other bands.
TC: Do you see your name out there a lot?
PC: I’ve never seen our name more in any magazine than this issue of Blunt. Our name appears, I think I counted like fifteen times. It’s on the cover, then we’re on page two and three and then you flip in and there’s this whole thing and we’re in the mess hall part. We’re in another part, we’re in the Doors part, we’re in the Vegas Kings part.
TC: You’ve really studied this magazine…
DA: Yeah, no shit…
PC: No I read it on the plane! I was like what the fuck?
TC: The Black Keys magazine… with the White Stripes on the cover. That seems to be almost an inevitable comparison. I don’t particularly think the music is the same… but how do you feel about that comparison coming up?
DA: Yeah it definitely happens, it’s pretty old now though, but I don’t know what to think of it. It doesn’t really bother me. It’s just that I don’t think we sound a whole lot like them.
PC: I like the Blue Cheers comparison.
DA: Blue Cheers is a cool comparison… we get that one a lot too, mostly from roadies and sound guys! [Laughs]
TC: I imagine you guys would be an easy job for roadies.
DA: You’d think so. We can’t afford roadies though! That’s a lie…
PC: We have roadies on this tour for the first time.
DA: It’s great man, you just pay ’em in speed. Yeah having roadies man, it’s the bee’s knees!
PC: The bee’s knees? Hey guess who we saw on the airplane today!
PC: The Australian Idol people! They sat right in front of us. I want to meet the people that idolize those fuckers!
TC: Was the chick that did ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ there?
PC: Oh I saw that!
TC: Your album [getting back to the subject] almost sounds like a demo. You only did it on an eight track?
PC: I think it’s cool if a band wants to make an album that sounds reminiscent of bands that they like.
DA: …but I think it’s really important to make something that sounds like yourself, that you’re happy with.
PC: People are just confused. People go into those fancy studios to make records because it’s the thing to do… The Eagles did the same! Our stuff sounds like the Eagles demos! I just think that bands that make good records sound interesting and every record that is a classic record has its own feel to it. If you listen to Beatles records, those things sound fucking awesome, but they sound nothing like what the standard of good is… they were much more organic and experimental.
TC: …and they were done on a four track!
PC: But Abbey Road was done on an eight track… but our record is much better than Abbey Road! [Laughs]
TC: The drum sounds were quite stripped back in a way. Did you feel like you had to do a big solo or something along those lines?
DA: A drum solo?
PC: I’m known for my solos!
DA: He is known for his solos, but he’s so modest he didn’t put them on the album.
TC: But the beats are quite simple and I suppose the guitar is fairly simple as well. Did you have to hold yourself back to get that sound?
PC: I actually had to push myself!
DA: No, no, no. That’s just the sound we like.
PC: When we recorded that I was just a mere boy.
DA: Now you’re a mere man?
TC: Mere man or merman?
PC: I’m a merman mere man! There’s a Captain Beefheart album called ‘Mirrorman’. Dude, you need to check out ‘Safe as Milk’ by Captain Beefheart. It’s an amazing album.
DA: Yeah, you’d like it. I can tell!
TC: But your album is kind of bluesy… at times especially bluesy… especially in the track ‘I Cry Alone’. That’s the standout track, it’s a little different. Did you feel the need to include something different?
PC: We just didn’t have enough songs!
DA: That was done on a four track… that was probably the first time we’d ever played that song.
PC: It’s the same one with track nine…
TC: I’ve got the CD in my bag if you need it…
DA: Yeah bring it out, we haven’t seen it in a while.
TC: Track nine… ‘If You See Me’.
DA: Yeah ‘If You See Me’ and also ‘Hold Me in Your Arms’, that was a first take. Number six was too wasn’t it?
PC: Let’s see, first take songs were five, six, seven, eight, nine and eleven.
TC: You mean you sat down and wrote it, and then put it down? You didn’t just write them on the spot did you?
DA: Exactly… that was the first time…
PC: It was the first time we had ever recorded it.
TC: What about the live show… is it pretty similar to what you hear on the CD?
PC: With the exception of the five extra members we bring on stage! We hire the Ravonettes backing band. You know that band the Ravonettes?
TC: Yeah, from Denmark.
PC: Yeah. They’re a duo, but I guess in Danish duo means five. I’ll rip on that band!
DA: No, they were really nice, we met them.
PC: Yeah they were really nice.
TC: I’m confused, do you like them or not?
PC: I’m not a fan of the music, but I like the people. I’m just saying there are a lot of people in the band for a duo, but it’s just the translation!
DA: Did you know the legal age for sex in Denmark is fourteen? Well I’m just a mere man! It’s eighteen in the United States. You got a lot of people getting in trouble in the United States.
PC: If you’re Jerry Lee Lewis it’s thirteen!
TC: …or Gary Glitter?
PC: Come on man, let’s not knock Gary Glitter.
DA: Yeah, let’s not knock Gary Glitter, the person who’s driving us around, her name’s Mishel, she’s a big fan of Gary Glitter… oh… there she is!
PC: Jet are! Remember when we were talking to Jet in London about Gary Glitter?
DA: Yep, they sure are!
PC: Are you a fan of Funkstrom? They’re the only German techno band I’ve ever seen. I saw them at a squat in Cleveland and they were using laptop computers and everybody had fallen asleep while they were playing, but my friend Jamie, he’s in another band called the Party Helicopters, was inspired by Funkstrom to start his own German techno band, and he put on this screen behind him, and the whole set would just be him checking his e-mail! [Laughs] Because like six guys can set up laptops and fuck around with the sounds on their computers or something, but you never know what they’re doing, you can hear it though.
DA: Jesus! That’s some tough tea there… that’s Australian rules tea, that’s hardcore. [Referring to his almost full mug in front of him].
PC: It’s Australian for tea!
TC: You do have this bluesy sound. Was that an intentional thing to go for it?
DA: No that was unintentional. When I started playing guitar I learnt from the blues. I’m actually not that much of a blues fan, but just because that’s how I learned it has to be there as a base because that’s all I know how to do.
TC: Do you find blues fans understand the band a little better?
DA: No. I don’t think so. I don’t know who really understands us better. I don’t know. I don’t think we play blues, I think it’s just rock ‘n’ roll. Who knows? I guess the people who come out to our shows and dance and have a good time understand us.
TC: From a lot of the other things I’ve read from you guys, it seems like quite an important thing for you to stay on an independent label. How do you feel as the band is growing?
PC: Well we’re on an independent label and we’re going better than we ever expected on an independent. I think if you’re willing to work hard and you’ve got a label that supports you, then that’s what counts, so we trust Fat Possum, Epitaph and Shock, more than we could if we were working for a major corporation that owns cable channels.
TC: Have you been approached by a major?
PC: Sure, we were approached by the guy that signed Madonna, Seymour Stein. We were approached by DreamWorks, Warner, Capitol, Atlantic, Polydor, Sony…
TC: Did you have people look over the contract when you got it?
TC: You just took it and signed it?
PC: We’re lawyers! If you ever get arrested, just call us up.
DA: For our first contract we didn’t look at the contract.
PC: …but I think the owner of the label had never looked at a contract either. It was his first time. I think he just copied it out of a book.
TC: How about the Factory Records contract? “The label owns nothing, the band owns everything, the bands have the freedom to fuck off whenever they want.”
PC: That’s the best contract I’ve ever seen. He signed his own contract in blood! Have you ever seen that?
PC: Factory Records, you gotta see that movie ’24 Hour Party People’. The dude that used to run that label manages The Kills now.
TC: Tony Wilson?
PC: Yeah that’s the guy.
TC: The Kills are another duo… they’re popping up all over.
DA: They’re our home-dudes. We just had dinner with them in London a couple of weeks ago. They’re some cheeky cows!
TC: What about your website, do you have much involvement with that?
DA: Kind of, it’s still being set up.
TC: The story of you throwing stuff out the window was pretty cool.
PC: Yeah, that’s because our brothers were the ones that did it! We got kicked out because of them!
TC: Well thanks for your time…
DA: You got anymore questions?
TC: Uhhh… no. What do you think of Melbourne weather?
DA: It’s alright. I like the rain. I wish it were raining a little bit more.
PC: I’m only happy when it rains!
DA: Yeah I know… raindrops keep falling on my head.
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