The Black Keys

The Black Keys
Pat Carney and Dan Auerbach of gritty rock duo the Black Keys are often men of few words, but when they do open their mouths it speaks volumes. The twosome believe strongly in their convictions, but neither member shies away from making a good joke and running with it – exhibit A: the end of this interview. Both Akron natives sat down on cinder blocks with me outside Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre to chat about their new record, Attack and Release, and a few interesting people they’ve encountered along the way.

I was supposed to talk to you last week on the phone, but something happened to your plane out of Halifax.
Dan: I was supposed to get back on Wednesday, but my flight got delayed, so I got home at 5:00 a.m. and I wanted to kill everybody. It was just delayed planes and lost luggage. For both of us and on separate planes. I think every time we’ve flown there have been delays at least one way.

So other than that, how’s the touring been going?
Dan: Good. It’s been going great. The bar graph looks exceptional.

You guys have often said that you’ve remained a duo because no one else really clicks with you. How was it working with other musicians on the record?
Dan: Well it’s different now. I think when we started we didn’t want to communicate with anyone. Nowadays it’s cool. But working with somebody on the record is different. The songs were pretty much already recorded and all they had to do was put their parts in the song, so it wasn’t like we really had to work with anybody. But working with Brian [Burton, aka Danger Mouse] was actually the first time we really worked with anybody.

You were going to do a record for Ike Turner, but that obviously didn’t end up happening. How did that affect the record you just made?
Dan: Well, I think the biggest thing that affected it is that we hooked up with Danger Mouse, who had asked us to work on the album. He just called us. Our manager called us and said we might want to expect a call from him, and then he called us and was just like a normal dude. He just dug our band and wanted to make an Ike Turner record. He just liked the way we sounded and thought that we’d compliment Ike with a really raw and stripped down rock’n’roll method.

So this was the first time you went into an actual studio to record?
Dan: No, we actually tried it a long time ago. Can we say where it was?
Pat: I don’t know. Well we did this thing and it sounded too clean. There was this one engineer working there that didn’t help us out. It could’ve sounded cool, but it sucked because he wouldn’t let us turn knobs. He wanted to run all the equipment how it was supposed to be run.

What was it about this studio then that made you want to record there?
Well, a couple good things were that it was close to home and the guy who ran it is a local legend. He let us do what we wanted to.

You encourage fans to make audio recordings of your live shows and to share them amongst themselves and with you. What makes you want them to do that when everybody else is freaking out about how their music is distributed?
Dan: I think it’s cool to trade live shows. Live shows are sort of public domain. It’s fine to trade those around. It’s good for the band because it gives you a community of fans to enjoy it.
We do have opposition to video recording. We had some guys videotape us and sell shit on eBay. If anybody’s going to be doing the selling, it’s going to be us.

Would you ever consider collaborating with Gnarls Barkley?
Dan: I don’t think so. We have nothing planned.

Is there anyone you would want to collaborate with?Br> Dan: I don’t know. There are lots of people. We get asked to do stuff like that occasionally.

So who has asked you?
Dan: Rod Stewart. Well he mentioned that he wanted to make a record with us. That sounds like it’d be fun. But he does ballad records now. If he gets his shit together and makes a rock’n’roll record, then it’ll be fun. We wouldn’t do a ballad record.

You’re considering it then?
Dan: We told him we’re down.

So what’s the plan?
Dan: We’ve got no plans. Well, secret shit. You’d get a promotion if you found out.

No hints then?
Dan: We’re doing [a collaboration] with George W. Bush.
Pat: And a show in Washington on January 21, the day he’s out of office.

Sweet, that’s my birthday. I’ll be there.
Dan: It’ll be a G.G. Allin record. George W. loves that.