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Serious Jibber-Jabber
January 10, 2013 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Conan O'Brien's 75-minute discussion with Jack White In which they discuss their early friendship, shared Catholic values, and Jack's love of upholstery.
posted by Optamystic (50 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jack White is the last true rock star, despite his dalliances with The Kills and Insane Clown Posse. I saw him last year and he still had the charisma to command an entire arena. For anyone complaining that he's weird - if you had all the money and fame in the world, wouldn't you dress up like a combination of Johnny Depp and Bob Dylan?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:19 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, no i would not but I do like jack white, even if Liam Gallagher once said he looks like Zorro on donuts, which is possibly the best burn ever.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:28 PM on January 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


I thought I'd watch 5 minutes and then pop off to get back to my fifteen other open tabs and maybe listen to this later tonight in little chunks, but it's suddenly 25 minutes in and I'm ripping myself away to leave this comment. I'm not a huge fan of either of these guys, and don't entirely agree with all of their sentiments here but this is, somehow, super enthralling. Maybe it's the combined charisma? Who knows.
posted by Mizu at 7:56 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Never did get into the White Stripes, but I happened on the Raconteurs albums recently and loved them quite a lot, and from there to White's solo stuff, and now I think I may have to go back and start listening to the earlier catalog. It's great when you find a musician or band you like that's been around for a while, and then have a deep well of their earlier work to explore. It was the same with the Mountain Goats for me 6 or 7 years back.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:05 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does anyone know if there's an audio edition - authorized or otherwise - of Serious Jibber-Jabber, and if so, where to get it?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:24 PM on January 10, 2013


So I knew Jack White a bit back in the day - nothing exciting, we had a mutual friend and we'd cross paths at parties on occasion. I think we chatted a few times and I saw the band perform in Detroit a couple times when first starting out. Like I said it's a pretty dull connection.

Point is, to this day it's just odd to see this guy on TV or in videos because he was just some dude I saw around. There was nothing electrifying about him at all, at the time. So I find the transition over the years fascinating.
posted by Windigo at 8:27 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I knew Jack White a bit back in the day - nothing exciting, we had a mutual friend and we'd cross paths at parties on occasion. I think we chatted a few times and I saw the band perform in Detroit a couple times when first starting out. Like I said it's a pretty dull connection.

Point is, to this day it's just odd to see this guy on TV or in videos because he was just some dude I saw around. There was nothing electrifying about him at all, at the time. So I find the transition over the years fascinating.


I think that Jack White fulfills a need, a role, that music journalists and rock fans like me have for a Savior of Rock and Roll. We want an outsized personality to represent this perhaps dying art-form, and Jack White wrote some great songs and had the right image to capitalize on it. But if he didn't exist maybe the media would seize on Jon Spencer or Jim Jones or the guy from the Supersuckers or something (who all deserve it too).
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:34 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just always feel bad since I've had friends over the years who really loved him and were excited to learn I knew him. "What was he like?" Ummm, I dunno. Quiet? Maybe? "What'd you talk about." Ummm...I don't remember! I think we talked about the book Catch-22 once. "What was it like seeing them perform at the very start?" I don't remember, I was drunk and trying to hit on some guy I knew would be at the shows! I wasn't paying attention! I had more important things to accomplish those nights than witness the formation of a influential rock band! I was trying to get laid!

I totally failed, too. Shoulda watched the band.
posted by Windigo at 8:44 PM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is a fantastic interview. I love Jack White. But there are two little demons in my head arguing about him whenever I see or hear him. One demon is saying "he's not so great! You could totally do what he's doing!" and the other one is saying "Oh yeah? So why haven't you, then?" And I'm just trying to get them to shut up so I can listen because he's awesome and I'm just some aging dork with a guitar.
posted by The World Famous at 8:46 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that Jack White fulfills a need, a role, that music journalists and rock fans like me have for a Savior of Rock and Roll.

I always thought that was Radiohead's job. I seem to remember, especially, music journalists calling them that around the turn of the millennium.

This interview was pretty good, and it strikes me after reading the other comments that maybe Jack White (or anybody, really) would seem a lot less interesting at some random bar after a set or at someone's house party. Part of what makes this interesting is that Conan is an experienced interviewer and knows his subject, so he does a good job of drawing out interesting conversational topics. Any of us has some set of things we can yammer on about and seem intelligent and well-informed on, and some other larger set of things we don't know shit about. A good interviewer will know which questions to ask.
posted by axiom at 9:02 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I always thought that was Radiohead's job. I seem to remember, especially, music journalists calling them that around the turn of the millennium.

Radiohead's music is too muted and depressive, and Thom Yorke doesn't have that sort of outsize, rock and roll, showman style charisma. He also doesn't serve the curatorial role Jack White has, where he produces albums by old greats (Loretta Lynn) and stamps Third Man Records on worthy new artists (Sydney's great rockabilly singer Lanie Lane, for one). Like the others I've mentioned he's engaged with that old rock and roll culture, that obsessive hoarding of vinyl and tracking down old blues singers. He feels like 'one of us', where 'one of us' is a very specific subset of old dudes in nice basements and rock clubs.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:06 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jack White's numerous appearances (and semi-earnest collaborations) with Stephen Colbert are also very amusing and can be found on Colbert's site. White's music isn't much in my tastes but it's clear he's a really cool and thoughtful person, with a kind of effortless expertise that few in showbusiness really posess.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:07 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


No way man, Thom Yorke has HUGE charisma on stage. I'm not just saying that because I've seen Radiohead on the rail over a dozen times. The man has charms.

Ok, maybe I'm a little subjective on the topic.

But live, Radiohead is anything but muted.
posted by Windigo at 9:09 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've really enjoyed all of Conan's Serious Jibber-Jabber interviews -- he's an excellent interviewer.
posted by spiderskull at 9:11 PM on January 10, 2013


I think that Jack White fulfills a need, a role, that music journalists and rock fans like me have for a Savior of Rock and Roll.

There has been and always will be great rock bands and musicians so no savior is needed. I quite like some of his material though I have to say the Strokes went instantly into my personal pantheon and he has not, but then that's just it, such things are very personal, and I've never seen any lack of great rock bands and don't anticipate a lack thereof in the future. I don't envy having such a feeling and if White has fulfilled that role that's great.

That said I couldn't give a fuck about the personality side. I don't care to know a damn thing about any artists' lives really so I don't know a thing about what any of these people do or are famous for beyond the music other than hearing about spats and drugs, the typical things.
posted by juiceCake at 9:18 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The mantle of "Savior of Rock and Roll" is a fleeting thing. It's not so much a title as it is a sort of holy ghost of rock that falls upon an individual or a band at key moments and makes manifest the eternal spirit of rock. It certainly fell on Jack White for a time, just as it fell on others before him. In the grand scheme, it did not rest upon Jack White for nearly as long as it has with others. The mantle has, indeed, rested upon various members of Radiohead at different times, but was only with the entire band for a brief moment. It visits Dave Grohl often, as well. It was even with Urge Overkill for a week or two. I like to think that Jack White is as a voice crying in the desert and that there will be a far greater Savior of Rock and Roll to come whose shoe's latch Jack White is not worthy to unloose. When Julian Casablancas' first solo album came out, I thought that might be the time. But it was fleeting, as well.

Ultimately, though, I think the mantle of Savior of Rock and Roll must rest upon all of us at one time or another. We carry it in our hearts and through our faith the Rock and Roll is made manifest. Or something.
posted by The World Famous at 9:20 PM on January 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's Jim Jones, but nobody knows that yet.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:30 PM on January 10, 2013


I love the Catholic Throwdown that Jack White had with Colbert.
posted by mokin at 9:35 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The fact that he and Colbert are buddies makes me like him even more.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:54 PM on January 10, 2013


stavrosthewonderchicken - if you haven't already dipped back for it, don't miss brendan benson, especially the early stuff. if you like moutain goats and the raconteurs, i think you'll like brendan solo.
posted by nadawi at 9:58 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, I've been a huge Letterman fan from day one. I watched the first episode of Late Night back in '82 and continued watching him consistently until about a year ago, when I cancelled my cable and gave up TV entirely. The reason? I discovered that the long-form interviews I can watch and listen to online (ie Pollak, Maron, Bennington) were way, way more entertaining and fulfilling. If I'm going to give an hour of time to something at the end of my day, it'll be listening to two smart people talking at length. Six minute celebrity "interviews" just don't don't do it for me anymore.

Great post. Thanks.
posted by davebush at 10:15 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I'm going to give an hour of time to something at the end of my day, it'll be listening to two smart people talking at length.

Yeah, as in my actual life, I really do prefer (having or listening to) long-form conversations (with drinks!) with people whose work I'm interested in, or at least people the interviewer is genuinely interested in.

Just finished listening to the conversation in question -- good stuff.

One of my favorite episodes of Craig Ferguson was when he just sat down without an audience and talked to Steven Fry, for example (even if do do enjoy the heck out of Craig's regular stuff, too).

I'm heartened to see Conan doing this kind of thing -- it would be fantastic if he or Craig were to actually get a show on the air that was an unadorned hour-long conversation with people they really wanted to talk to. I'd love that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:50 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


that steven fry episode is great, as is the desmond tutu one. he's probably my favorite of the late night hosts. i hope he never moves off his time slot. i hope there are more puppets. i hope he keeps taking his show on the road. i hope one day the secretariat finds love and that kristen bell and geoff work out their simmering feud (ok, that last one might be a lie).
posted by nadawi at 11:58 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, I've been a huge Letterman fan from day one. I watched the first episode of Late Night back in '82 and continued watching him consistently until about a year ago... The reason? I discovered that the long-form interviews I can watch and listen to online (ie Pollak, Maron, Bennington) were way, way more entertaining and fulfilling.

But this has always been the case for Dave, hasn't it? Johnny Carson had people on like Carl Sagan and let them be entertaining to the viewers. On the Letterman show the focus was always on his jokes and attitude; guests would get a few lines into whatever they wanted to say before he'd be quick on the comeback attack. I don't think Late Night was ever much of an interview program -- more like a comedy performance with straight-men roped into the routine.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:42 AM on January 11, 2013


I think the point there is not the quality of Dave's interviewing or to what extent he actually did it, but that 60 minutes are better than 6 if the people talking together are smart and interesting.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:08 AM on January 11, 2013


If I'm going to give an hour of time to something at the end of my day, it'll be listening to two smart people talking at length.

And the good thing is, it's about the cheapest TV to make. However I think the majority of TV viewers want celebrities and wisecracks, so that's what you get at prime time. You find the genuinely interesting TV on either later at night or on a second channel like BBC2 in the UK.
posted by guy72277 at 1:36 AM on January 11, 2013


Also, this long-form conversation thing, which I love, is the total fucking entertainment opposite of Jerry Seinfeld's new ill-considered, over-produced, all-surface, slightly insultingly dumb web series. It's a shame, because I have respect for Jerry and many of his guests, and it could have been so much more, but it's clear to me which webvideo path and which audience is being courted, and which one leads to a pandercircle of twitter-generation infotweaker juiceheads and.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:44 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you want to see more interaction between the two, check out the documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop about his post-Tonight Show live show tour.
posted by starman at 5:14 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every time I see Jack White I confuse him with Michael Jackson for a second or two.
posted by tommasz at 5:23 AM on January 11, 2013


pandercircle

Wow, this is perfect. I checked.....first ever. Nice, stav. If I had $5 this would be a great Mefi name.
posted by nevercalm at 5:24 AM on January 11, 2013


I thought the White Stripes were gimmicky and shrugged off almost everything else Jack White has ever done. Then Gentleman Caller (who was also indifferent to Jack White) got Blunderbuss, loved it, and sat me down with a pair of headphones and made me listen to it.

Reader, if this album had come out when I was 13, I would have hitch-hiked to Nashville to either join the Peacocks or lose my virginity to Jack.

I'm retroactively kicking myself for writing the White Stripes off. Anyone have good suggestions for what I should listen to next?
posted by pxe2000 at 5:27 AM on January 11, 2013


The Kills are great, the Dead Weather was not bad, and I am lucky to have come by the White Stripes honestly when they opened for Boss Hogg.

To this day, my mantra for getting through crummy opening bands is "remember the White Stripes."
posted by whuppy at 6:43 AM on January 11, 2013


To this day, my mantra for getting through crummy opening bands is "remember the White Stripes."

I saw the White Stripes open for Pavement on the Terror Twilight tour in '99, before they blew up with White Blood Cells. They were awful. To be fair, most of the problems stemmed from equipment problems, but Jack kept getting increasingly frustrated and Meg looked like she was going to break into tears at any moment. They would start a song, stop it, start again, and stop again. It was a trainwreck of a set.*

So the moral of the story is, anybody can have an off night. That crappy band you saw open for somebody else could be your favorite act a year later.

*Of course, then Pavement came out and we got to watch Stephen Malkmus barely try to conceal the fact that he really, really didn't want to be there. Lot of emotions on the stage that night.
posted by Rangeboy at 7:05 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jack White is the last true rock star

I have to say I'm a little disappointed to read this from a member whose user name is Charlemagne In Sweatpants. "The last true" anything is the mating call of the Aging Person.
posted by yerfatma at 7:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


For clarity's sake, my last comment was with tongue firmly in cheek.
posted by yerfatma at 7:16 AM on January 11, 2013


The stuff Conan's doing aside from the actual broadcast show is really interesting. And I hope he's making TBS and Team CoCo enough money they get to keep experimenting.
posted by DigDoug at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2013


Of course, then Pavement came out and we got to watch Stephen Malkmus barely try to conceal the fact that he really, really didn't want to be there. Lot of emotions on the stage that night.

Interesting. I saw them on the same tour in Toronto and it was a great show. Saw Malkmus in Toronto a few months ago and the sound was so awful I left.
posted by juiceCake at 7:32 AM on January 11, 2013


The stuff Conan's doing aside from the actual broadcast show is really interesting
He's always been a freak imo, but to watch him grow old as an artist and just do his thing is a delight. One of the best things about the super democratised web is not just talented unknowns finding an audience but talented knowns too.
posted by fullerine at 10:17 AM on January 11, 2013


Jack White is the last true rock star

*chuckles, recalls when this label was applied to The Boss thirty years back*
posted by dhartung at 12:31 PM on January 11, 2013


pxe2000 - as a big fan, my favorite has always been "de stijl". today i'd say next would probably be "get behind me satan", followed by "elephant", followed by "white blood cells", followed by "icky thump", and finally "the white stripes" - but if you asked me tomorrow, i might switch the order all up. your best bet might be just putting all the tracks in winamp and hitting randomize (that's how i do it).

you might also consider getting back to the white stripes through the raconteurs. i love both albums, but i probably like "consolers of the lonely" more.

some songs i like in no particular order:

hotel yorba
truth doesn't make a noise
hardest button to button
you don't know what love is (you just do as your told)
i'm lonely (but i ain't that lonely yet)
i think i smell a rat
why can't you be nicer to me
my doorbell
one more cup of coffee (originally bob dylan)
jolene (originally dolly parton)
[mnsfw]i just don't know what to do with myself (originally burt bacharach)

raconteurs - consoler of the lonely
raconteurs - broken boy soldier
raconteurs - five on the five

and then just for fun raconteurs - many shades of black and then adele - many shades of black
posted by nadawi at 12:48 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's great to see Conan doing this kind of thing.

Only, don't let young people watch it. It pushes back the 'smoking is not cool' propaganda about 50 years. Jack White makes me want to start smoking.
posted by hot_monster at 1:43 PM on January 11, 2013


I'm retroactively kicking myself for writing the White Stripes off. Anyone have good suggestions for what I should listen to next?

I recommend the movie The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights. It has a soundtrack too, but the movie is amazing.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 1:46 PM on January 11, 2013


Jack White is the last true rock star

*chuckles, recalls when this label was applied to The Boss thirty years back*


I feel like I could write a whole book about these two statements, or at least an essay, but I'm barely sure where to start. From how both The Boss and Jack White revitalize rock's future while plundering its past? About how 'Jack White' revels in artificiality while The Boss trades on authenticity?

That might be the key. They're both showmen, in a way, but it feels like blasphemy to label Springsteen a showman. He's a religious and political leader, an activist and a poet. You can see this in his acolytes and collaborators: serious young romantics like Brian Fallon and populists like Dropkick Murphys. Springsteen preaches salvation.

Jack White is the bluesy shaman, the swivel hipped showman with the Baron Semedi hat. He's 'rock star' in quotation marks, building a supernatural mythology of armies and sex and blood. He's not committed to 'rock and roll' as an abstract force, though - he works with rappers and models. Jack White preaches damnation with a wink.

The 'rock stars' in the Jack White mode (Jim Jones, Jon Spencer) have a shorter shelf life because they're almost pop carictures, 'rock star' as guide to the imitated. Springsteen and His disciples seek to uplift everybody, so they're less cool in the short term but have more staying power.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:03 PM on January 11, 2013


Nah. Springsteen's just as much a showman in a costume as Jack White has ever been. And they both have at the center of their stage persona the fiction that they're all about gritty authenticity, whether it's The Boss' aw-shucks-I'm-just-a-simple-guy-from-Jersey thing or Jack White's disingenous "I prefer crappy instruments" thing when he actually plays custom-built super high end boutique Gretsch clones through a POG and a Whammy. They're both geniuses, and they're both putting on an act.
posted by The World Famous at 6:14 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


they're both putting on an act

Everyone on a stage is. I had such mixed feelings when I saw a Johnny Ramone interview where he explained how carefully they planned everything they did on stage. On one hand, I felt betrayed, but I also really appreciate good design.
posted by davebush at 12:43 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


it feels like blasphemy to label Springsteen a showman

I've seen both of them live, for what it's worth. Springsteen is a consummate showman and I have been to a fair number of shows and never seen anyone work as hard as he does to entertain his audience right here and now. It's almost an ethical mandate with him. No matter how many people are in the United Center he's going to make sure every single one thinks he looked directly at them and gave them one of the best shows in their life of show attendance. The level of commitment is incredible and nearly unparalleled.

Also for what it's worth, if White's career had tanked when he broke up with Meg, you could probably label him a flash in the pan, but the breadth of artists with whom he's worked since and the diversity of the material he's involved himself in I think proves his longevity. All that said he looks the most uncomfortable in his faux-70s-vintage costuming as anyone labeled "rock star" ever. But he does bring it artistically.
posted by dhartung at 1:43 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


How is Springsteen not a showman? All those kicks, slides, jumps, and other seemingly spontaneous gestures and yells are pretty much part of the setlist.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:29 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm retroactively kicking myself for writing the White Stripes off. Anyone have good suggestions for what I should listen to next?
Quasi. There are some funny parallels between the White Stripes and Quasi. I enjoy all the White Stripes music I've heard but Quasi puts it up a notch. Start with "Featuring 'Birds'" maybe.
posted by zoinks at 2:29 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


not just "pretty much part of the setlist" - springsteen is famous for rehearsing the show, every lean and jump and slide. it's a well orchestrated show, basically nothing unscripted happens.
posted by nadawi at 4:05 PM on January 12, 2013


and, i love him for it. i'm more a small venue, $10 cover sort of show goer - 5 bands for $5, seeing indie darlings well before they're widely known in drafty rooms with shitty sound and lots of ambiance . even so, i saw him in a shitty venue/sports arena in middle america and it was an amazing show. every single person had a great time in the audience and everyone on stage made us believe they were loving it as well.
posted by nadawi at 4:09 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


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