When Sally A. Edwards was presented with a list of questions to avoid ahead of meeting The Raconteurs, she created a hilarious, odyssey into the quick witted minds of Jack White, Brendan Benson, Patrick Keeler and Jack ‘Little Jack’ Lawrence using the BLAG Word Game. In what ended up being the band’s dream interview, subjects range from good deeds and dance moves, first impressions, insight, art and tea, faucets, hygiene and an ad-lib story inspired by consequences.
The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 2 Nø 7 print edition in 2006
Interview and Art Direction by Sally A. Edwards
Photography by Sarah J. Edwards
Sally Conducts The Raconteurs' Dream Interview
A while ago we were watching a music channel whilst having lunch and a video came on that just completely captured our attention. It was ‘Steady As She Goes’ by The Raconteurs, directed by none other than Jim Jarmusch. There was something special about it; it was real and grainy, refreshing within the other videos it was sandwiched between.
Since then, The Raconteurs have released numerous tracks from their album, ‘Broken Boy Soldiers’, made more compelling videos including one with magician Dynamo and many have learnt through their 500 plus interviews (within a year) that The Raconteurs are not the ‘side-project’ of Jack White and Brendan Benson, but indeed a band they’re in with friends Jack Lawrence aka Little Jack aka LJ and Patrick Keeler of The Greenhornes.
Well, we’ve been vying for a feature with them for sometime now. It’s probably a blessing it took this long because we were presented with a list of ‘Most Asked Questions’ to try and avoid. Now, this made the writing of questions more complicated, but only tested us to come up with something a little different. We certainly didn’t expect the reaction we got – and don’t think they did either – discovering each have a great, but very different sense of humour: Jack White, big, confident and direct. Little Jack, very quiet and equally as dry. Brendan, sharp and in the moment and Patrick. Well? Jack will soon explain that – purely because he does it far better than me…
GOOD DEEDS & DANCE MOVES
Sally: I wanted to get you to describe each other first. So, Jack (Lawrence) do you mind if I call you ‘Little Jack’?
Little Jack: No.
Sally: Can you describe Brendan and his most good deed done?
Little Jack: Good deed done…
Brendan: Not dirty deeds!
Little Jack: He loves his cat…
Patrick: That’s a good deed! [Laughs]
Little Jack: He takes care of his cat.
Brendan: Well, I rescued her from a freeway.
Patrick: He featured her on the cover of his latest album.
Little Jack: …and he always thanks her in the record covers too.
Sally: Patrick, describe Jack including his best dance move.
Patrick: Which Jack?
Sally: This Jack [gesturing to Jack White]. I’m going to say Little Jack and then Jack if you don’t mind.
Jack: Describe me, including my best dance move.
Patrick: Jack is a brunette, he’s a tall man, so his dancing can be somewhat intimidating, because when he’s getting funky up on top of you, you just kind of want it to stop.
[Jack’s infectious laugh begins and everyone joins in.]
Patrick [whispers]: Sorry Jack!
Sally: OK, Brendan describe Little Jack and the five words that sum him up.
Brendan: OK, Jack Lawrence is… I’d say Jack is the silent marauder, gone array.
Sally: Jack, describe Patrick, including his sense of humour.
Patrick: Oh God! Haha!
Sally: We just witnessed that.
Patrick: I could do that in one word.
Jack: Wow… I guess Patrick has this strong cadence of a Smart Alec! [Laughs] I think that’s good, because you need rhythm for humour. It’s delivery isn’t it? Innit.
REINTRODUCING THE BLAG CARD GAME
Ladies and Gentlemen: We will yet again be playing the BLAG card game sporadically throughout this interview as we did with Beastie Boys. The game is as simple as the rules:
Each card is face down for the player to choose. On the other side is a word, which must then be incorporated into a question for the remaining members of the band. Chosen words appear as relevant Chapters.
Let’s the games commence…
Jack: What was your first impression of me?
Brendan: Hhmmm. I thought you were a girl! [Laughs] It’s true.
Patrick: I thought you were somebody I wanted to know.
Patrick to Little Jack [Whispers]: You thought he was gonna kick your ass.
Little Jack: I thought he was gonna kick my ass.
Brendan: When was the last time you felt ecstatic?
Jack: I think last night when I was de-tuning your guitar during your solo.
Brendan: You were de-tuning my guitar!
Jack: He was playing his guitar and I just grabbed his tuners and was de-tuning it on the stage. I felt ecstatic during that. Little Jack?
Little Jack: I don’t have feelings, I’m…
[Everyone laughs again.]
Sally: Isn’t there anything to do with bowling?
Little Jack: Bowling?
Sally: Yes, I read that you like bowling.
Little Jack: Actually, yeah there was an ecstatic moment when I…
Patrick: Oh yeah, here we go…
Little Jack: When I beat Jack White… by one… pin.
Brendan: So can you feel the ecstasy, that’s he feeling?
Little Jack: Like I said, I don’t have feelings.
Sally: Ok, you can either pick another card, or I can ask another question and hopefully it’s not on your list of ‘most asked questions’.
Patrick: You can ask another question.
Jack: This is good. You don’t want to play the game?
Patrick: I figured we’d get back to it.
Sally: You can do either.
Patrick: I’ll do it right now, here I’ll pick this one.
Little Jack: Why d’you take that one?
Brendan: You know she’s just going to ask us how we met!
Sally: No, I’m not, I know that already. I learnt that loads last night.
Patrick: How much insight went into making the record?
Brendan: Not much!
Sally: That was on the list wasn’t it?
Brendan: There was a lot of outsight.
Jack: A lot of short sightedness.
Patrick: Record was the…word.
Little Jack: Do you like the record, ‘Smile’ by Brian Wilson?
Brendan: Which one? The new ‘Smile’, ‘Smiley Smile’ or ‘Good Vibrations’?
Little Jack: The new ‘Smile’.
Patrick: I do personally yes, I love it.
Brendan: I love it.
Sally: Pick your favourite track each from the album, and tell us a story about it.
Jack: I like ‘Broken Boy Soldier’, that was the second song Brendan and me wrote together. I like it because Brendan came up with the riff rather than me, so it showed that things weren’t always going to happen the way we thought they were, and I got to play the little pump organ at Brendan’s house which I’ve always wanted to play. It was good times!
Brendan: I liked ‘Intimate Secretary’ and I still do actually, because when it was time to write the lyrics, Jack and I split off into two separate rooms and each wrote a section for the song, and it came together with just completely different stories and a different interpretation of the song. It just fitted together and it worked out really well.
Patrick: Mine is probably ‘Yellow Sun’ just because I like the song a lot and I don’t know it just started off… I mean when we recorded that one it was pretty much live, like how you hear it. It was like some of the songs have a bit of over dubs and there weren’t a lot of vocals finished for a lot of the songs, but that one just seemed to like… well, the way I remember is just all of us going at it and it was really cool. To me it really captures the mood of how we recorded it – which was in this attic and it’s got this really cool wood kind of vibe to it.
Little Jack: I lost track of the question, what was it?
Sally: Pick your favourite track from the album and tell us about it.
Little Jack: Well…
[Everyone laughs again.]
Patrick: ‘Broken Boy Soldier.’
Jack: ‘Blue Veins’.
Little Jack: ‘Blue Veins’ is different.
Patrick: Why don’t you tell them about ‘Call It A Day’?
Little Jack: Hmm… I don’t remember that one.
Patrick: Why don’t you tell them about what you played on ‘Blue Veins’? That would be an interesting little story.
Little Jack: Should we?
Brendan: Mmm, we’ve never talked about that.
Jack: How does ‘Blue Veins’ make you feel?
Little Jack: I er… I didn’t play bass on ‘Blue Veins’.
All: Woah! Ouch!
Jack: Look out!
Patrick: But what did you play?
Little Jack: They hired some guy to come in and do it… No. I played guitar and Jack White played bass.
Jack: You’re the first to hear about that BLAG.
Sally: Thanks. Alright, I’ve got some individual questions for you again and the first one is for you Little Jack. Which artist would you most like to make a guest appearance on for a track and why?
Little Jack: For our stuff, or on their record?
Sally: No, on someone else’s.
Little Jack: Oh, ok. Alive? Can they be dead?
Sally: Whatever you like.
Little Jack: I guess if I’m playing bass…it’s hard.
Brendan: I’ll go.
Sally: It’s not for you though.
Jack [Whistles]: ‘Uh oh.’
Sally: Sorry! [Laughs] Yours is: Which artist and which track would you most like to remix and why?
Jack: This is your dream interview by the way. It’s everything you’d ever wanted and you can’t handle it.
Brendan: We can hardly contain this, because it’s different and fun. I would like to remix… I would like to remix any Led Zeppelin track, only because I would just have access to all the tracks.
Jack: You would like to be given access to all the original tracks? That’s different than just remixing one track.
Brendan: Well, then I would just do a job, I mean remixing, that would be beside the point I guess. Just being able to listen to each track would be exciting.
Sally: Alright. Jack. Who would you like to produce and why?
Jack: Oh wow. I don’t know, I might like to be able to produce Peaches someday, but maybe just a 45, not an album. I don’t know, I just love everything she does. She’s really great at what she does and I don’t even know what it is that she does! [Laughs]
Sally: Patrick, if you were to curate a tour or festival, what would be the line-up and why?
Patrick: Ultimate? Well, The Greenhornes would headline. Then it would be The Raconteurs. Is this the ultimate? Do we have to be in it?
Sally: It’s up to you; it’s your thing.
Patrick: Oh shit. I guess it would be The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Kinks with The Animals and The Zombies on side stage.
Sally: This is for everybody. What song do you wish you wrote and why?
Patrick: ‘Happy Birthday’.
Jack: ‘Don’t Fence Me In’, Cole Porter.
Little Jack: ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’.
Patrick: That’s a good one. B?
Brendan: ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, George Gershwin.
ART & TEA
Sally: Alright, do you want to pick another card?
Jack: Brendan, can you describe in your words quickly, the art of making a cup of tea?
Brendan: The art of making a cup of tea…
Jack [clicking his fingers at Brendan]: Quickly, the art of making a cup of tea.
Brendan: Ok, ok, ok, ok.
Patrick: What do you need first?
Brendan: You need tea and you need water. You need a very… You need to um…
Jack [raising his voice]: Well, tell them how you would do it in a perfect scenario? What kind of tea would you use?
Brendan: I mean if we’re just doing a quick cup of tea, not a pot of tea or anything, Tetley or PG Tips or something. You’d have to get it here in England – you can’t buy it in the States, because it’s different. You boil some water and then you let it settle for 15 seconds say, and you might want to warm your cup up first. Then you pour the water over the tea bag and you leave it undisturbed – unlike I’m doing now (Straining off tea bag and setting aside.) for four minutes and then there you have it.
Brendan: Strong? Like a mug of tea, not this?
Sally: Yes, and then do you put milk in it?
Brendan: Yes, I put milk in it. Sugar, I don’t think you should put sugar in it, but the milk should be low fat.
Jack: I have a follow-up comment to this…
Brendan: Not skimmed, it should be like 2%.
Sally: How would you order that really quickly in the morning, on the way to work, with a big queue of people behind you?
Brendan: Oh God. You see, that’s my nightmare… No, I’m just kidding.
Jack: I think that I’d like to make a possible controversial statement here… I think that England and all of the countries in the English Commonwealth do not own the ability to make a good cuppa. I think they all think they own it. The proof is in the pudding, because if you go to New Zealand or Australia or some island that was once in the English Colony, they all make it differently and they all say, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing. I’m English, I can make a cup of tea,’ but they all make it differently. So if there was one proper way of making an English cuppa, everyone would do it the same, but they don’t. It’s like me saying ‘I’m from Detroit, so I can build you a car from scratch.’
Sarah: You can’t?
Jack [In English accent]: No I can’t! [Laughs] Was that controversial?
Sally: Not really, it’s fighting talk.
Sarah: Some would say you need to put the milk in first.
Brendan: Tea making has become so bastardised and I mean it’s quick. I mean even in England you go to a café, you know a ‘caff’ and you get tea that’s been stewing. Some people say you put it all in at once, and this is all to be quick. I mean, if you went to visit the Queen and you got tea, it would be served to you properly. (Update: Sarah and I can confirm that this is, in fact true.)
Jack: Yeah, but…Ok. If you went and saw the Prime Minister of New Zealand it would be served to you differently.
Brendan: I don’t think so. Also, a big misconception: Never squeeze your bag…Which I just did.
Jack: Why are you doing it then?
Brendan: I want a quick cup of tea and I want it now.
Jack: Is that why they have the most horrible, hot scolding water coming out of English faucets?
Patrick: Is it just so you can have tea? [Laughs]
Sally: We can just handle it hotter.
Jack: Why don’t you make them come out of the same spout? It’s scolding hot! 170 degrees of hot water coming out of the left pipe and then ice cold coming out of the right.
Sally: Oh, you’re talking about taps now.
Jack: So if you want to wash your hands, you’ve got to like, touch it and run to the cold tap.
Sally: You know we have mixer taps?
Jack: You actually have like a three second window to wash your hands in England.
Brendan: You know what they say, you’re supposed to fill the sink up, but it’s kind of unhygienic.
Little Jack: Yeah, it’s dirty.
Brendan: It’s gross. You know like if you go into a public restroom, what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to fill it up? People have been spitting in there…
Little Jack: I always spit in them.
Brendan: Yeah, me too.
Jack: You know what I like to do? I like to put about three tea bags in, run scolding hot water and wash my hands in that.
Little Jack: Do you add milk?
Jack: After I’m done washing my hands.
Patrick: What do you think? I’m barbarian?
Brendan [choosing another card]: That card [game] brought some serious…
Sally: What do you reckon you’re going to get now?
Brendan: Yeah, let’s see if we can… Ahoo! Jack! Jack White! How do you like London, England?
Jack: See, I’m going to get slaughtered for this answer.
Patrick: Spell London. [Laughs]
Jack: No, I got it. I have never been a fan of any major city in the world. Tokyo, Paris, New York, Los Angeles. I don’t like busy large cities, so I can’t say much for any of them. So that’s no diss against London. Even though I didn’t actually say anything against London.
Brendan: Can I rephrase it to somebody else?
Brendan: Which do you prefer London, or New York?
Jack: Dude, this is an English magazine. What if he doesn’t say… Ooh, you’re setting yourself up for a disaster.
Brendan: What do you mean?
Patrick: It depends on where I am Brendan. When I’m in England, I would say London.
Sally: Do you ever get here and say, ‘God, I wish I was in New York?’
Patrick: No! [Laughs] I don’t think I’ve ever been in New York and thought, ‘I wish I was in London,’ either. So I’d probably feel about the same…
Little Jack: I don’t know I’ve ever been anywhere and wished I’d been in London.
Sally: Ooh, dear!
Little Jack: [Very quietly] Sorry.
Patrick: I’ll do one of these. Quickly. You guys must feel pretty lucky, you know being in a band with your friends and touring the world, making a great album.
Jack: Album of the year, some might say.
Patrick: Yeah. Now that you get to look back on it, how lucky do you feel?
Sally: Wow, you’ve used it twice.
Brendan: I think the word is lucky. I feel pretty lucky, Patrick. You know what? A lot of good things have happened to me this year. I feel very lucky, grateful and appreciative.
Jack: He paid off all of his med school debts.
Brendan: Yeah, I was able to pay off my credit cards, and I do my best not to take it all for granted, or any of it for granted.
Jack: You’re lucky that tea turned out so well.
Brendan: It’s fucking Twinings man. [Putting cup down fast.]
Sally: Ok, what’s next? Is it right you’ve done about 500 interviews?
Brendan: Probably, yeah.
Sally: What three things do you never want to be asked again?
Jack: How we met. Anything about Detroit.
Brendan: How’s the tour going?
Little Jack: Do you like festivals? Or how does our festival compare?
Patrick: How does London compare to New York?
Jack: [Laughs] The cadence of a Smart Alec.
Sally: Alright, name three words or expressions that should be banned?
Sarah: At the beginning or end of a sentence?
Brendan: No, before. ‘Well, basically blah blah blah.’
Jack: Awesome, amazing and dude. I think, do you agree? I thought we were all in agreement on that. That was a band rule for a minute, to try and eliminate those words from the band’s conversations, and it’s been proved quite difficult. The funny thing I hate now about the word amazing, especially in a lot of hipster circles, or maybe like fashion, or acting circles, like if you ever hang out with these kinds of people at a party…
Sally: It’s stretched in the middle.
Patrick: Yeah. Amaaazing.
Jack: Yeah, it’s like, ‘Have you had this water? It’s amaaazing’. But if they went and saw an art show that they really liked, ‘There’s this amaaazing, amaaazing, amaaazing artist.” Like, you just have to say more amazings. It’s like ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, it’s like doublespeak, you know?
Patrick: That’s hilarious.
Jack: Awesome, I think should not be banned. It should be used correctly. Like, ‘The Grand Canyon is awesome.’
Patrick: This coffee’s not awesome. It’s amazing.
Jack: Generally speaking, the ability to describe things is…
Patrick: It’s come down to those two words.
Brendan: Like is the other word I want to get rid of. No one uses it like it actually should...
Jack: You’re right. No one does. Someone from Romania told me years ago, ‘Everything in America is like. Why can’t it just be it? Why can’t it just be?’
Brendan: It’s like non-committal. Nothing is actually it.
Jack: Also, I might go so far as to say, man.
Brendan: Ooh, I like man.
Patrick: I like dude.
Sally: What about guys calling girls dude. Or mate?
Brendan: Oh, that’s lame. That’s inappropriate, but what’s very cool is how men in this country will call other men, love. Did you hear Craig say that to me yesterday? I wanted to make a point of it, but didn’t want to say anything then – because I keep hearing it and I’m like, ‘Did you just…?’ A cab driver said it to me one time in London and I was shocked. I didn’t know if he said that actually and I asked people. I’m like, ‘Do men…?’ and no one will admit to it. I asked Craig something the other day and he said, ‘I’m not sure we’re going to be able to get to it, love.’
Patrick: I worked at this deli and there was this old guy who used to work at the circus and he was pretty old, so I just always imagined it was from in the 30s, 40s, 50s or whatever, but he used to call me babe. I always thought that was weird. He’d be like, ‘How you doing, babe?’
Brendan: Wow, that’s awesome. I mean that’s amazing. I mean…
Jack: In the book I’m reading, ‘In Cold Blood’. One of them calls the other honey all the time.
Sally: I’ve got another idea here for a question, but I don’t know if it’s going to work.
Sally: Did you ever play the game Consequences? Do you know that game?
Brendan: We had ‘Truth or Consequences’.
Sally: You would sit in a circle and you’d have a piece of paper each. Then a question would be set. You would write down the answer and fold it over and pass it round. Then you would do more questions in the same way and then you would unravel the paper and the answers would form a story.
Jack: Oh, each person adds a sentence to it you mean?
Sally: Yes. So you’d put a name down, fold it over and pass it round, put another name down, fold it over and pass it. Then you could be given question for what they do and so on.
Little Jack: Oh, like a ‘Mad Lib’.
Sally: Yes, I want to try and do something like that, but I don’t know if this is going to work – without the paper – but seeing as you’re storytellers, I’m testing you. So, I want one of you to pick a time of day and a location:
Jack: High noon. Hyde Park.
Sally: Introduce the first character and describe them.
Brendan: A fair-haired maiden…
Sally: Hang on a minute. What era are we in?
Brendan: You didn’t ask me.
Sally: Well, I’m asking you now.
Brendan: We haven’t established that yet. It’s just high noon in Hyde Park, with a fair-haired maiden in a long flowing white gown…
Jack: With petticoat.
Brendan: With petticoat.
Jack: I like this already!
Brendan: Slightly dazed,
Jack: Can she be a red head?
Brendan: Ok, she’s a red head.
Sally: Patrick, what is her current situation and what is on the agenda?
Patrick: She’s just arrived. She’s coming to meet somebody and she’s getting a little distraught because, she’s worried about why she needed to meet this person.
Sally: Little Jack, who is she meeting and can you describe them?
Little Jack: Um… [In a more old-fashioned English accent] She’s meeting a former lover.
[Everyone laughs again.]
Little Jack: Who she hasn’t seen for three years, and she’s coming to see him because she’s finally built up enough in her to tell him that they have a child together.
Sally: Can you describe him and give us some content of the conversation?
Jack: He looks exactly like me; expect he’s a badminton champion.
[Everyone laughs again.]
Jack [In posh, old-English accent]: ‘Did you bring your racket, darling?’
Patrick: Of course.
Jack: Because I’m assuming that you’re going to be the girl’s response.
Brendan: Oh, should I respond?
Sally: Well, you can just ad lib.
Jack: Let’s go! Let’s do this right now. [In accent again] ‘Did you bring your racket, darling?’
Brendan: [In high, girl’s voice] ‘I left it at home, darling’.
Jack: ‘Oh really. Are you pregnant?’
Brendan: ‘Didn’t I just say so?’
Jack: [in English accent] ‘Either that, or you’re retaining some water.’
Brendan: [still in high, girl’s voice] ‘Why must you always be so… harsh with me?’
Jack: ‘Take your hands of my shuttlecock.’
Brendan: ‘Give me your racket.’
Jack: ‘I thought I did.’
Brendan: ‘Like I did three years ago.’
Patrick: It’s my baby weight.
Jack: That’s good enough. Honestly.
Brendan: Because wait, that doesn’t make sense because three years have passed and she’s pregnant?
Patrick: That’s why I said she’s still carrying her baby weight.
Jack: Maybe we should change that to less than a year?
Patrick: No, that’s her excuse.
Jack: I didn’t hear the three years thing.
Patrick: This was a fair maiden though? She wouldn’t be tubby.
Jack: She’s fair and pregs. Let’s take the three years out.
Patrick: Oh man, I had a different impression.
Jack: What were you saying? That she had a small child with her?
Brendan: Can we go back and rewrite this?
Little Jack: She was just going to tell him.
Brendan: What’s your next question?
Sally: Can we just edit this? [Laughs]
Brendan: ‘We have a son. His name is Lawrence. He’s two and a half years old and he wants to be a badminton player.’
Brendan: ‘I was thinking, maybe you could show him.’
Jack: What was your name again?
Brendan: Just fair haired maiden… Georg…ette.
Jack: The red head.
Brendan: ‘You know, but I wish you wouldn’t make me such an object. I’m not a red head, I have red hair. I am not a ‘red head’ as you say.’
Jack: ‘I only saw you darling as a sort of female, living version of a shuttlecock. White gown, red head.’
[Everyone laughs again.]
Brendan: ‘You’d like to send me flying through the air wouldn’t you?’
Jack: ‘Once again, I thought I did.’
Brendan: Thank you. Thank you.
Jack: Thank you very much. The Raconteurs playwrights.
Sally: I just wanted to know the moral of the story. [Laughs]
Patrick: Always know where you put your shuttlecock.