Few outsiders have ever been able to penetrate Jack White's private world. But in the new issue of Rolling Stone (on stands Friday), contributing editor Jonah Weiner gets a one-on-one furniture-upholstering lesson from the 38-year-old musician in his Nashville workshop — and captures a very rare glimpse into the mysterious life of rock & roll's Willy Wonka.
On the eve of the release of his second solo album, Lazaretto (hear an exclusive premiere of the album's pounding blues track "Just One Drink" here), White speaks candidly about Meg White, opens up about his children and fatherhood, gripes about his alleged "women problem" and much more. Here are five highlights from the interview:
Lazaretto's lyrics were inspired by his teenage years.
A few years ago, Jack found a box of plays and short stories he'd written at 19, when he dropped out of Wayne State University. He calls this work "mediocre" but used phrases and characters in the album's songs. "It was a way of stimulating me," he says. "What if I talk to my younger self and work together with him?"
White's relentlessly critical nature has led him to compare himself to a very famous curmudgeon.
"I'm very much like Larry David in my everyday," he says. "Complaining about, you know, why they make shoelaces so much longer than they need to be." White says if he's in a social situation where someone tells an offensive joke, "I'll be the only one to laugh, just to ease the tension in the room."
He's a fan of more popular music — including Kanye West — than most fans would imagine.
White calls Daft Punk "amazing" and reveals he worked on several unfinished tracks with Jay Z ("I'm not sure he liked them"). Kanye West also asked him to collaborate on Yeezus, but never followed up — which bummed White out because he was so blown away by the MC's arena tour last year. "That might have been the greatest show I've seen in my life," he says. "It was more punk, more in-your-face than anything I've seen."
White says he's figured out why crowds at concerts can suck nowadays.
"People can't clap anymore, because they've got a fucking texting thing in their fucking hand, and probably a drink, too!" he says. "Some musicians don't care about this stuff, but I let the crowd tell me what to do. There's no set list. I'm not just saying the same things I said in Cleveland last night. If they can't give me that energy back? Maybe I'm wasting my time."
White has a message for the female journalist who wrote he has a "Women Problem" in the Atlantic in 2012, accusing him of having retrograde attitudes regarding gender.
"I've worked with more women than anyone you'll ever meet," he says, adding there's a difference between the narrators of his songs and his own beliefs. Referring to Lazaretto opener "Three Women," which references digital photography, he adds, "If you know anything about me, do you think I like digital photography? No. I don't. So obviously this song is not about fucking Jack White, so fuck you! If you're that chick who wrote that article — and I say chick on purpose — she won't understand that line, because she doesn't do her research."
Also in the issue: Bill McKibben on a massive upcoming climate march in New York City; Josh Eells on the last Bee Gee, Barry Gibb; David Kushner on the Vine superstars who sparked a real-life romance — until things went horribly wrong; Andy Greene on how Ariana Grande made the song of the summer; Brian Hiatt on the origins of the X-Men; Peter Travers on the return of Godzilla; and much more.
Look for the issue on stands and in the iTunes App Store this Friday, May 23rd.