Asked to discuss the music that meant the most to him growing up, White recalled how he used to poke around the dumpsters that had been installed around Detroit to fight the city’s rat problem. “I found the Stooges’ first album on vinyl in one of those dumpsters – and that really changed my life,” White said. “I recorded ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ on 4-track because of that, and it led me into punk rock in a bigger way.”
White also name-checked rock standbys Deep Purple, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, arguing that Led Zeppelin I could be considered the best debut album of all time. He also mentioned his early love of Roger Miller, saying, “I liked that cross between country, folk and Forties tunes – that sense of humor he had.”
Elsewhere in his interview with Questlove, White spoke about his aversion to cellphones, working at an upholstery shop up until the White Stripes released their second album and how his love of the number three developed. “I was about 15, 16,” he recalled. “We were working on a couch, and it was three staples I’d put down, and it was the minimum amount to hold a piece of fabric on a side of wood, left, right, center. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s great. That doesn’t leave everything black and white so there’s two choices: Republican, Democrat; black and white. There’s a third option, which sort of means everything.’ And I thought, ‘That’s a great balance for anything I do artistically.’ So I’ve been holding onto that for dear life ever since, to sort of ground me whenever I’m working on anything.”
White released his latest album, Boarding House Reach, in March. He recently wrapped the first leg of his world tour in support of the album, and will head on the road at the end of May, starting with a set at Boston Calling Music Festival.