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I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My A.V. Club interview with Patrick Carney of The Black Keys

Once known as the bluesy indie-rock duo from the Midwest not called The White Stripes, The Black Keys finally made its name with 2004’s awesome Rubber Factory. That record wiped out any and all comparisons with arty faux-family bands—this is gutbucket rock ’n’ roll in the style of Faces and early ’70s Rolling Stones, and there is absolutely no color coordination. The Black Keys are back with their fourth album Magic Potion, another righteous blast of soulful vocals and filthy riffs. Drummer Patrick Carney recently spoke with The A.V. Club about his hometown, the 9/5 recording style, and why he hates Jim Belushi motherfuckers.

The A.V. Club: A lot of great rockers have come from Akron, including Devo, Pere Ubu and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. Why?

Patrick Carney: There isn’t much to do. One of the few things you can do is be in a band. I think the best bands come from the Midwest, Milwaukee included. You guys are home to The Frogs and many other bands, none of which I can think of right now.

AVC: Why have you guys stayed in Akron?

PC: There’s never been a reason to leave. I wouldn’t leave Akron in order to further my musical career or something, which is why most musicians leave their hometowns. That’s completely the wrong thought process. Moving to Chicago or New York or L.A. to start a band is what most people do, so you have all this competition. I like Akron. All my friends and family are there. We get to travel so much and I’ve seen enough cities that I don’t feel like I have to leave.

AVC: How did you meet fellow Black Key Dan Auerbach?

PC: I don’t actually remember how we met but we’ve known each other for a long time. My dad and mom got divorced, and my dad got a house in the neighborhood where Dan lived when I was 8 or 9. We didn’t really start playing music until high school. Dan and I both got into music on our own, and we realized we were the only two kids in the neighborhood who were into music.

AVC: Why have you stayed friends for so long?

PC: Most of my friends in Akron I’ve had since I was 6 or 7 years old. Akron is so small, even when you actually hate your friends because they’re assholes in high school you’ll still be friends with them after high school because there is no one else to make friends with. I actually have a couple friends like that, who I hated for 10 years because they were dicks but then we just became friends again because there aren’t enough people around.

AVC: Are they still assholes?

PC: Yeah, but not to me as much.

AVC: Magic Potion is the third Black Keys album recorded in your basement. Why do you like making records there?

PC: We started doing it this way because we didn’t have any money. When we made the first record, our recording budget was zero dollars. So I got a credit card and bought a digital recorder. I had interest in [recording] to begin with because I had a couple of four-tracks in high school. It turned out to be a lot of fun. Then we did the next record that way, too. Before we did thickfreakness, the guy that used to manage Green Day called us up and asked if we wanted to fly out to his studio and record demos. This was right after The Big Come Up came out so we were like, “All right, we’ll check it out.” So they flew us to Berkeley to record demos. They were super-nice guys and everything, but they kept talking about how the drum sound they get is like John Bonham. Who the fuck doesn’t say that? [Later] I find out that the drum sound is more like Cinderella or Warrant. We decided it was best to record ourselves, because there is no one else to blame.

AVC: Do you record quickly?

PC: Most of the songs on our records we have only played three or four times. Basically what most people would consider demos become our actual record. There’s a bunch of songs we’ve never even played other than the day we recorded them. Dan and I have short attention spans and are not perfectionists. You can definitely take something to the point where it sounds boring because it’s so perfect. We actively avoid that. Anybody that wants to start a band should go out and buy a four-track and record their practices and possibly consider that a record. A lot of bands used to do that, and not many do it anymore. Now you get bands that have a debut record and it sounds like a bad Ramones record.

AVC: Your Wikipedia entry says you are a pioneer of the 9/5 recording style. What is that?

PC: I don’t know. I’ve searched myself on there and wondered who put that. I’ve been trying to edit my thing for a while but every time I put something in there it doesn’t stick. I wrote, “He is a very attractive man. He has something like eight girlfriends.”

AVC: In interviews, you and Dan often say The Black Keys is not a blues band, and yet people continue to label you a blues band. Do you feel the label is inaccurate, or do you worry about “white boy blues” baggage?

PC: That fucking label sucks. There are a lot of people who like our records who consider it blues music and other people who consider it rock music. Dan and I consider it rock music, but it doesn’t really fucking matter. It just is what it is. There are just so many really bad Jim Belushi motherfuckers out there. I was watching some piece-of-shit talk show—the Carson Daly show, which is the worst show on television, by the way. I don’t understand how the fuck that dude is able to be on television. He’s a fucking idiot. David Cross was on the show and he was talking about how he went to see Jim Belushi play. And then he started making fun of white people playing the blues. It’s fucking gross. Chicago is to blame for that. That’s where all that crap music started.

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