The Dead Weather are a band that more than live up to their name. Dark and bluesy, malevolent and loud. Given the rock credentials brought by each of the musicians attached, you expect nothing less. A multi-headed musical beast comprised of Alison Mosshart, the chain-smoking siren from The Kills, Jack White, leader of the status: in hiatus White Stripes, Dean Fertita of Queens of The Stone Age and Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather were birthed from an impromptu jam at White’s Third Man studio. Their riff-ragged debut album, Horehound released last year hit the upper reaches of the charts in the UK and the US and the band are now back with a new single “Die By The Drop” from their follow-up album Sea of Cowards, released on May 10.
In the middle of wowing/deafening audiences in Australia, our resident voice of the airwaves, Chris Berkley of Static, caught up with three quarters of The Dead Weather, Alison, Dean and Jack ‘LJ’ Lawrence, who it should be made obvious from the onset were in exceptionally good spirits. Black eyes, bear wrestling, tears, laughter and violence — who thought being in a band could be so much fun?
I was told you were going to be smoking, Alison, just for being outdoors.
Alison: Did someone call you and tell you earlier I was going to be smoking?
It wasn’t the reason for doing the interview, it was the reason for being outside. So I hope you can spark up between now and the end of the tour.
Alison: I’ll try to do that for you.
Is it good being in a band with so many people this time around? You can actually bum cigarettes off more than one person in this band?
Alison: Nobody smokes but LJ a little bit sometimes.
You haven’t been tempted to smoke more from Alison then, LJ?
Jack: I did steal some the other night. Usually I get really drunk and then I want a cigarette but I’m trying to stop.
So you’re the social smoker.
Jack: Not drinking though, just smoking (laughs).
Is it good to have a different bunch of people to knock around in a band for you guys?
Alison: A bunch of people to knock around? Yep.
How’s the dynamic in this group, Dean?
Dean: Abusive. Incredibly violent. Everybody keeps each other in check. I think she needs three people to keep her in line.
And they gang up on you as well, Alison?
Alison: A little bit.
Dean: She would like you to believe that, but it’s hardly the case.
Alison: Look at this black eye!
Did The Dead Weather come together reasonably quickly and painlessly?
Dean: I don’t know about painlessly, but yeah, pretty quickly. We decided to record a 7” and before we knew it we had almost half a records worth of material. We made time to get back together and then we had a full record and decided we should play some shows. So yeah, it was pretty quick
Was it unconventional in that way, Jack, that you worked out the songs before you did a lot of live things in The Dead Weather?
Jack: No. Jack had just built a studio and we just threw ourselves in and that’s the when we made the first album. We didn’t really come in there with anything, so this time was a little different. We had been playing a little in soundchecks and writing stuff while we were on tour.
Did it feel weird to be making the record and not having played those songs out?
Jack: Yeah. I think it was a different experience. I can’t speak for the group, for me at least that was a really different way to go about recording. It was enjoyable.
How about you Alison?
Alison: I don’t know. Everything about this band has been super easy and natural. We got in a room and just wrote songs and it seemed to go really quickly and suddenly we had a record. Playing was the same. I remember the first time we played and it felt like we’d always been playing together.
Did the songs for The Dead Weather come out of a different place than the other bands that you’ve been in? For the first record, did you get in the room and jam the songs out? Did The Dead Weather start out as a jam band, Dean?
Dean: Well, I don’t know if it started out… I guess a jam band. There was no pretence. We had a day. We had 24 hours and we wrote 4 or 5 songs. There was no possible way to plan it.
No-one walks in with an already written song. The four of you stand in a room and work it out?
Alison: We’ve never walked into the room with anything written. I don’t think I’ve done that before.
Did that need to be the brief for The Dead Weather? Did you all feel like you wanted to do something different from your day jobs or the stuff you’ve done before?
Alison: There’s no brief, no way of doing it. We’ve never even discussed how we do things or what we should do. Absolutely everything comes from being inspired by each other and being in the same room.
Dean: Like I said before, there was no forethought. We didn’t have rules as who was going to play what.
Did Jack White have to wrestle you for who was going to play drums? Is that what he zeroed in on when you first walked into a room?
Dean: Yeah. The first thing we played he did play drums on. I kinda remember wrestling, but that was something else.
Jack (under his breath): A bear.
What was that sorry?
Jack (in exaggerated Southern accent): I was sayin’ in Nashville, Tennessee we like wrestlin’ bears. We wrestle bears all the time down there.
Dean: LJ’s gonna wrestle bears at shows pretty soon. Any way to get people to come and see us play.
You guys aren’t going to have much time to wrestle any animals in The Dead Weather as already the second album’s finished.
Dean: It is. Our third and fourth one are kinda in the works too, I think. We had a lot of stuff kinda left over from the first record and we did a lot of writing on the road, so it was very easy to take advantage on the few days we had off to get this new one together.
You’re obviously laughing a lot more in this band, Alison.
Alison: Yeah, and crying a lot more (laughs).
Without anyone having heard it then, I think you should try and put it in 25 words or less of what the second Dead Weather album is going to sound.
Alison: Woah, oh no. 25 words or less? Who’s counting my words… Really great. I really love this record. It’s super heavy, heavy and bluesy and dark and twisted and done.
Well that was 25 words, alright. Does Sea of Cowards sound different in that you’ve already had time to discover the dynamics of what you do?
Dean: We were battling personal demons the entire process.
Alison: We didn’t have a chance to play too much of it. Only a couple of songs we wrote ages ago that are on this. The rest of them are really new to us.
The artwork itself is ominous as it is without having heard anything. It looks like a Black Sabbath album cover from the 70’s. It’s all cloaks and piercing eyes.
Alison (laughing): What do you want me to say?
First broadcast on Static on 01/04/10. Static can be heard on Sydney’s 2SER (107.3 FM) and via the Internet (www.2ser.com) every Thursday evening (AEST).