The Dead Weather: INTERVIEW [Dodge and Burn]
Interview published for the cover story of Indie Rocks! (January, 2016)
Alejandro De Luna
Thundering noises. A female silhouette. The overwhelming smoke of cigarette that fills a dark room. Raw guitar riffs. The soundtrack for a night of waste. Archetypes of darkness and light incarnated in four figures. Leather jackets. Unsettling voices. Fearless audacity. The Dead Weather is back with their third full-length plaque after a long lethargy of over 5 years.
Let get things straight. This is not only the group of Jack White or Alison Mosshart. The Dead Weather is a unit – much more than a single individual. In this band there are no hierarchies. The democratic essence, the tremendous line-up and the unique noise that characterizes The Dead Weather, make this project even more fascinating than the insolence of their vocalist on stage.
Dodge and Burn does not disappoint. It is violent at times and darker than their previous releases. It has tracks covered with guitars and bass lines that hit the eardrum, but there is also room for introspection with a piano ballad that takes a different musical direction, thanks to Alison Mosshart.
A matter of agendas
As with the other members of The Dead Weather, Alison Mosshart´s journey transits over a busy permanent creative process. Her agenda includes “900 things at a time”, which included the conclusion of the North American leg of the tour with The Kills; recording the new album; writing; painting and, of course, to comply with media commitments due to the return of The Dead Weather.
“Everyone is so busy with other projects and touring around the world. Although we live in Nashville, the reality is that we’re never here, “says Alison Mosshart in a telephone call from Nashville, Tennessee.
Across the speakerphone is this interviewer in London – Alison Mosshart´s second ‘home’ since 15 years. The singer answers the phone. She is in a good mood; her voice is clear and captivating, and the answers are long and thoughtful. Alison quickly dictates the tone of the conversation and begins with a comparison between both ‘homes’:
“Culturally, London fills any gap that Nashville may not have. But in London I cannot get many things done. The pace of life is too fast, the space is very small and everything takes time. On the other hand, Nashville is beautiful. The people are very friendly and you can easily control your existence. It is an ideal place for music.”
Although both cities serve as strategic headquarter, due to the proximity of her projects (The Dead Weather in Nashville and The Kills in London), Alison Mosshart is a nomad saturated by overloaded agendas. “I spend very little time in these places, not more than two weeks in a row. I’m always traveling; my life moves in between airports and hotels,” she laughs.
If we multiply this situation by the modus vivendi of the four members, is easy to understand the delay on releasing Dodge and Burn and the struggle to go on tour: “If we would not have any other commitments, we would have easily recorded five albums,” says Alison.
Recording sessions and creative processes
“I am very proud of this record. It sounds like we worked on it for two years, but the reality is that we wrote and recorded it in less than a month.”
The previous plates of The Dead Weather (two studio albums, a live album and a couple of singles) were crafted in less than two years. Similar deed comes from Dodge and Burn: “Four months ago we had this moment when we returned to the studio and without thinking the album was ready. It was like the first time we played together. When this happens, you can create a lot of music. For example, we recorded five songs in a day and a half,” she explains.
But beyond the speed of The Dead Weather composing material, what truly enhances the group signed by Third Man Records is the amalgamation of four disparate and extremely talented personalities offering sound variations but without leaving behind the unmatched essence of the band: “There is a crossover style on us; if you listen to the music that we´ve played for years with our respective bands, you will see that what defines us is a similar musical footprint.”, says Alison.
The unavoidable question about the difference between the creative process of The Dead Weather and The Kills comes and Alison´s response denotes polarities in terms of the compositional style: “They are totally different experiences. It’s like London and Nashville. The Kills requires a more technical process, and is more demanding. It is more meticulous and psychotic. It is about creating sketches separately and seeking the human component with drum machines,” she explains. “On the other hand, The Dead Weather’s approach is based on getting caught up in your instincts and be open up to the natural and human aspects of music.”
Soulmates and the democracy of sound
“The connection is the most important aspect. It’s very hard to find. It’s like finding your best friend, or lover. It’s like being with your soulmate.”
The singer has the privilege that many musicians have been searching for decades: having two musical projects in which the affinity and connection is a given: “The four members in The Dead Weather are soul mates, and I’ve only felt this twice in my life; it´s the same thing happens with Jamie [The Kills]. It’s something you cannot describe, it only exists.”
In The Dead Weather there are no hierarchies. The sound comes from the four members in a room under the wizardry of improvisation and jamming, “when we’re together something indescribable happens that I cannot describe,” says Alison. “Dodge and Burn is a heavy, dark and energetic album, which is rare these days. [The album] has a human component and this can be felt if you listen to the record.”
For Alison Mosshart, the crucial aspect in this album comes from the six strings of Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) – listen to the riffs of ‘I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)’, ‘Let Me Through’ (her favorite song) or ‘ Cop And Go’. “It’s a sound that I cannot fuckin’ describe. After listening to those guitars I just want to smash everything around me”, explains Mosshart.
Introspection of the four strings
A couple of days after talking with Alison Mosshart, Jack Lawrence answers the phone in Nashville. His voice is cautious and the answers are shorter than those of Florida´s femme fatale. The also member of The Greenhornes, City and Colour and The Raconteurs meets the stereotypical profile of a bass player: the quiet one in the band, but with something essential to add and with an invaluable (sometimes underrated) contribution to the overall sound. It seems that Lawrence let his work speak for itself rather than explaining: “The bass simply fulfills the same purpose as in the previous albums,” he flatly states. But just listen to the bass synth effects on songs like ‘Mile Markers’ or the bassline on ‘Buzzkill(er)’ to understand its colossal importance in the band.
Jack Lawrence agrees with Mosshart on the excellent work of Dean: “raw and incredible riffs strongly influenced by his work with Queens of the Stone Age.” But for him, Alison Mosshart is the most important persona in this album “Her energy, talent and commitment are impressive. She was the one who put the pieces together and came up with ideas on how to transform the songs, and to elevate them to another level. Her ability to compose and versatility as a vocalist are terribly underrated” he says.
And what about the other Jack? “Working with someone like Jack White gets the best of you. He is a very talented musician, full of ideas and always looking for more. He is an excellent drummer and his knowledge as a musician is beyond comprehension.”
If Jack Lawrence previously defined the sound of The Dead Weather as “music with nicotine stains”, with Dodge and Burn he reaffirms this and adds that the record is “dark, full of guitars and unsettling riffs.” And if there is a song for him that defines the sound of the record, this is ‘I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)’: “It’s where all four forces are aligned perfectly. It is the song that defines the career of The Dead Weather.”
After knowing that this interview will be published in Mexico, Jack Lawrence drops a compliment to remember that night in October 2009 when the band set foot in the country for the first and only occasion: “The concert in Mexico has undoubtedly been one of the best in my life, maybe the best. The energy of the audience is indescribable, I cannot explain”, he ends.