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Interview:
Raconteurs Say They're The Real Deal
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Since their surprising formation two years ago in Brendan Benson’s home studio in Detroit, things have been, well, “Steady As She Goes” — and full speed ahead — for the Raconteurs. Comprising Benson, the White Stripes’ Jack White and the Greenhornes’ rhythm section of drummer Patrick Keeler and bassist Jack Lawrence, the quartet’s fi rst album, “Broken Boy Soldiers,” made a Top 10 debut in May and has been a critical triumph — though it’s sold less than 200,000 copies so far, well below the White Stripes’ platinum stature. The group also shot two videos for its first single, “Steady As She Goes,” but White feels the quartet will really build its following on the road — where it’s abetted by another Detroiter, Dean Fertita of the Waxwings. “It is a band and not a side project that’s just a throwaway thing that doesn’t mean that much to us,” says

If you go

The Raconteurs and Kelly Stoltz perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor. Tickets are sold out. Call (734) 668-8463 or visit www.livenation.com. White (ne John Gillis), 31. “I think the only way to solve that is to get out and play live shows, and have people see that.”

The road to the Raconteurs began in the late ’90s, when White, still in the fledgling days of the White Stripes, befriended Benson, a fellow member of Detroit’s underground rock scene. The relationship led to writing songs together, and eventually “Brendan had a song and Jack started working on it with him, and then I think they just said ‘We should get Jack and Patrick to play on this, too,’ ” says bassist Lawrence, 29, who’s also a member of Detroit’s Blanche.

“It kind of started from there, and we decided to make an album.”

White notes that even though the four musicians all had other creative concerns, “the timing (for the Raconteurs) was really good.”

“I think we were all on a semi-break for a minute,” he says. “We just happened to all be in the right place at the right time to finally say, ‘Hey, look what’s happening, maybe we should start a new band. Can we do that? Yes, we can do that.’

“So we just made it happen. It was nice to have another way to explore our creativity, especially with such great musicians.”

The Raconteurs became a big story in early 2005, when Benson — promoting his third album, “The Alternative to Love” — described the in-progress project to British reporters as a Detroit version

of Nirvana’s landmark “Nevermind.” “That got out of hand,” Benson says with a laugh.

But he acknowledges that he always felt the Raconteurs were something special.

“We all kind of respect and admire each other,” Benson, 36, explains, “and this gave us an opportunity to kind of almost do, like, impressions of each other. It was my chance to kind of rock out more and (White’s) chance, maybe, to kind of think about what I do or whatever it is that he likes that I do.”

White, meanwhile, says the Raconteurs did, indeed, offer him an opportunity to create something outside the two-person stricture he and ex-wife and drummer Meg White imposed on the White Stripes.

“I knew I wanted it to be nothing like the White Stripes,” he says, “because the White Stripes is so constrictive on purpose. We always purposely keep ourselves limited and box ourselves in, and that wasn’t happening with this group, so I knew it was gonna be completely different.

“And I’ve never really written songs with another person before, so that was a whole different world, and really inspiring to me.”

Recording “Broken Boy Soldiers” was about as smooth as the Raconteurs’ formation, Benson says.

“We recorded it pretty much live,” he says. “It was a lot of fun.”

Despite its local roots, however, the Raconteurs now exist in a whole different city — Nashville, where all four members have taken up residence. White moved their fi rst with his wife, model Karen Elson, and their 3-monthold daughter, Scarlett, and Benson followed after his Detroit home was robbed a couple of times.

White, however, has even deeper issues with his home town. After the release of “Broken Boy Soldiers” he told The Associated Press that he moved because, “I couldn’t take the negativity anymore. ... It was draining me. I had to get somewhere I could breathe again.”

This comes in the wake of a 2004 assault conviction — which carried a fi ne but no jail time — for an attack on the Von Bondies’ Jason Stollsteim er and an unsuccessful lawsuit by Detroit studio operator Jim Diamond, who was seeking royalties and production credit for the White Stripes’ fi rst album.

Regardless of the locale, the Raconteurs say “Broken Boy Soldiers” is just a beginning. They have enough material already for a second album, and they’re confi - dent the group can co-exist with their other endeavors.

“I guess people who are coming to see us live are watching a band evolve,” White says. “The White Stripes were set out to never evolve; we were set up to stay the same from beginning to end because of the constrictions and rules. This band is still forming.”



DOING DOUBLE DUTY

Jack White is hardly the first, or only, rocker to log concurrent full-time memberships in two high-profi le bands. Here are 15 others who have played in double-time:

Maynard James Keenan

— Tool, A Perfect Circle Taylor Hawkins — Foo Fighters, Coat Tail Riders Ann and Nancy Wilson — Heart, the Lovemongers David Crosby — Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young), CPR John Taylor and Andy Taylor — Duran Duran, Power Station Jeff Tweedy — Wilco, Golden Smog Warren Haynes — Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule Zakk Wylde — Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society Josh Homme — Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal Mike Rutherford — Genesis, Mike + the Mechanics Daryl Palumbo — Glassjaw, Head Automatica

Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casaday — Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna



The Raconteurs and Kelly Stoltz perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (August 5th) at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor. Tickets are sold out. Call (734) 668-8463 or visit

Web Site: www.livenation.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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