When Jack White Got Behind the Drums for the Dead Weather’s Debut, ‘Horehound’
The corporate buzzword "synergy" sums up the Dead Weather's 2009 debut album, Horehound perfectly. A peculiar set of circumstances put four people together in such a way that they decided to form a band and knock out a genre-bending blues rock record like it was a normal thing to do.
Unsurprisingly, this whole thing started with Jack White. The ubiquitous White decided to jump behind the drum kit while writing and recording "Another Way to Die" for the James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. The experience proved a good one for the rock star.
So when what would become the Dead Weather actually started jamming, White jumped back behind the kit. The Kills' Alison Mosshart took on main vocal duties, Queens of the Stone Age's Dean Fertita played guitar and organ, and the Raconteurs' Jack Lawrence filled out the group on bass.
These four impressive individuals convened at White's Third Man Studios in Nashville in January 2009. Three weeks later, they had Horehound in the can. White recorded the group on an old eight-track reel-to-reel that made fixing screw-ups difficult.
"We were recording at a very low speed on a tape machine," he told Clash, "the lowest speed you can record at for this format, and it’s very hard to edit, which is a constraint that I chose for my studio. It would just be an eight-track with that slow speed. So edits, it goes by really slow, right, so if you wanted to edit from this point of the song to another point that you did well without the mistake in the middle, it’s an obvious edit the way you cut it. Say the tape was going by very fast: the edit is invisible. So you get to a point where something is in there - and this is the beauty of it - and you’ll leave it in there because it’s too hard to fix. Which wouldn’t happen if you recorded on ProTools - you’d just look at the screen, take your mouse and wipe it off.
As a result of this, along with the fast recording pace, the Dead Weather's debut album, released on July 14, 2009, is a thing unto itself. The first single, "Hang You From the Heavens," is simultaneously off-kilter and driving. It's somewhat confusing, but still very compelling.
Even behind the drums, Jack White doesn't stray from the spotlight. Some people were just born to be out front, no matter where they are on the stage. He even brought back the drum solo, albeit in a quite tasteful manner. White indulges his artistic ego, but never past the point of bad taste.
Watching the Dead Weather perform is always entertaining, perhaps mostly because all four members always look like they're thoroughly enjoying themselves. That enthusiasm comes through in their music, especially in small improvisations each of them adds to songs.
Because its members have other projects, the Dead Weather have only worked together a few other times since Horehound. Although a second LP, Sea of Cowards, came out in 2010, it took them five years to re-convene and record Dodge and Burn, which came out in September 2015.