Sunday, December 09, 2007

HUM JOB: Jack White's tips for tools

Hopes to be picked up by motorcycle gangsters.

This week's dose of rock star coddling comes courtesy of Richard Cromelin and the LA Times' Calendar section in a story entitled, "Jack White's energy plant is humming."

And it certainly is a hum job, informing readers that Jack White is better than you at everything from taking pictures and making cameras to going to the hardware store to buy a saw. Filled with witless descriptions and meaningless bromides (uttered by White), it's a perfect example of why no one who isn't on the payroll takes music journalism seriously.

DD has chopped and screwed the essence of it. Which parts are inserted ad-libs? Which parts are direct copy?

Pfft, he was gone

Jack White resembles one of those improbable characters from a Coen brothers movie as he leans against his late-50's Ford Thunderbird, dressed in red and black, popping bennies and holding a hard shell camera case.

Like a mysterious fop, he walks across the steakhouse parking lot in the bright autumn sun. He leaves his thin cigar on a low wall -- that's littering -- and steps into the restaurant's bar, at ease among the midafternoon regulars even though he stands out like a toucan in a chicken coop.

"You see this ... This is my camera ... It's a very excellent camera," White says as he extracts its parts one after another and lays them on the table. Boxes of peppermint pattern filters, a fisheye lens, a roll of film, a manual with a camera-headed monkey on the cover! And the centerpiece, a customized White Stripes model of the cheap plastic 80's vintage Holga camera, in red and white!

There's a Meg camera, too, also in red and white for White Stripes drummer Meg White.

Jack White takes pictures of the waitress, exclaiming wildly, "You have no idea what that was going to turn out like!"

"Was I even aiming it right? I cut off the top of her head here, but we got the drinks. I need something calm me down, take off the edge. So good things are coming out of that. It's a different camera world. It's got its pluses, too, no doubt. But I like the idea of pushing yourself, not making it easier on yourself."

"This is not making it easier on yourself, this is making you work, and when you work, something good is going to happen," concludes White, his teeth chattering ever so slightly.

The room is getting noisier as more locals drift in and start talking about SEC football. White, his expression alert and inquisitive under the brim of his black hat, glances at the bar as he again begins putting together and taking apart his camera.

"I really like the idea of collaborating," he says, as a piece of the camera rolls across the table. "You really get something out of it. I'm sure out conversation would be different if we were the only people in this room. These people right here are inadvertently pushing us to react with one another differently and say things differently, and the volume we're speaking at is determined by these people here and nobody even knows it. It's a collaboration."

A number of Stripes new songs will come out on three 7-inch discs Dec. 18, two of them paired with the Icky Thump track "Conquest."

"I See Said the Blind Man As He Picked Up His Hammer and Saw," "Honey We Can't Afford to Look This Cheap," "If You Could Afford a House Like That You'd Buy a House Like That," and "Pfft You Were Gone" touch on the Stripes' country/folk side rather than their aggressive garage rock identity, but they will come as a reassuring sign of life for White Stripes fans unsure about the band's future.

Must buy saw

White's glass is now empty as he reaches into a pocket and tosses a piece of lint under the table. The camera is back in its box. He's sitting still but seems to be humming with energy, like a gyroscope that stays upright by perpetually spinning. The motion might be a little erratic, but it's better than stopping and falling over. Or slowly running down.

"I'm going to buy a saw today, that's why I got to go," says White. "Because we're meeting somebody and we're going to buy a saw, and I have to get the right one that's going to push me harder. If you don't get the right saw for the right job, you could wind up just a lazy bum and nothing good will happen."


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