Jack White might be his generation’s last capital-R rock star, which, by definition, means he must live out his days as a caricature of a rock star. All those beefs, his obsessive fixation on the mechanics of recording, feeling like the internet is out to get him — they just come with the territory. It’s a tough role, but someone’s gotta fill it. In his new Rolling Stone profile — where all Rock Stars go to air their grievances and muse about the state of Rock — Jack White is in full Jack White mode: confused about what DJ Khaled does, hung up on the time Chris Rock accidentally sent him spiraling, learning the meaning of fun from Bruno Mars, bitching about nurses, and, thankfully, so much more.
He has no concept of what, exactly, DJ Khaled does:
White follows current music closely enough to have developed an amused contempt for DJ Khaled, especially after watching this year’s Grammys performance of “Wild Thoughts,” which draws heavily on Santana’s “Maria Maria.” “It’s just Santana’s song in its entirety,” says White, embarking on an extended sarcastic riff. “It was nice of DJ Khaled to sit down and write and perform and record that – that was good of him! He’s an incredibly talented man. There’s no doubt about that. He does so much! He said, ‘They told me I would never be on the Grammys.’ Really? Like, ‘Hey, man, like, I know you’re headed to lunch, but I just wanted to let you know that you’ll never be on the Grammys!’ ”
Chris Rock accidentally triggered an existential crisis about process:
But it was Chris Rock, who did a set in Third Man’s event space last year, who really got under his skin. “Nobody cares how it’s done!” Rock told White, in passing. He was joking, but not really.
“I wish he wouldn’t have said that to me,” White says, shaking his head, “because it’s haunting my days. Because I’ve built my whole artistic creativity on this. But he’s right, because nobody fucking cares! Even musicians don’t fucking care. You know?” He describes showing “modern musicians” his setup – the tape reels, the vintage Neve recording console – to which they respond, “Well, I’ve got a computer.” White bursts out with that laugh.
He’s still out here being rude to Meg White:
“I’m not telling people what to think about the White Stripes. They can think whatever they want about it. But there is a case to be made that in a lot of ways, the White Stripes is Jack White solo. In a lot of ways.”
Bruno Mars unknowingly taught him the meaning of fun:
He recently saw a Bruno Mars live clip that made him think. “He said something a lot of artists say: ‘I hope you guys are having fun tonight.’ It’s the simplest thing in the world! I’ve never said that and I don’t know how to say that and I don’t know what that would mean.” He blinks. “Is that really why we’re here?”
He bought the lyrics to a song Al Capone wrote in Alcatraz and recorded it for his album:
He’s moved by the idea that a famous murderer had a weakness for such “a gentle, beautiful song.” “It shows you, like, what we were talking about earlier,” he adds. “Human beings are complicated creatures with lots of emotions going on.”
That grudge he’s got against nurses runs real deep:
“I just despise them and their trips that they’re on all the time,” he says, with still-fresh animus. “Like, I told this lady, ‘How dare you tell me to be quiet when I am in extreme pain! You’re supposed to be helping somebody who’s in pain!’ It’s like talking to a cop. They hear so much bullshit all day long. They don’t wanna hear what you have to say!”
He only used to say he hates rap to be a cool contrarian:
“A lot of that,” he explains, “was my job as an artist. My role in my own brain is to not go along with the status quo, ever. At that time, digital was taking over . . . so of course it was my job to preach the idea of ‘This is a person singing and playing an instrument. This is the blues.’ I would just be like, ‘Here’s an unpopular opinion.’ ”
He’s a big fan of Reddit philosopher Jordan Peterson, but he doesn’t know about all that other stuff he’s said:
“He’s got more intelligence in his brain than his body can handle,” he says. Later, I mention the anti-feminist, anti-political-correctness screeds for which Peterson is also known. “I didn’t know about that,” White says. “Maybe we should drop that whole thing now!”
He knows you think he looks strange:
“A majority of people in the pop world, they’d just make fun of the way I look,” he says. “I mean, I can dig that I’m, for some reason, weird-looking for them. ‘This guy looks like Edward Scissorhands! Like, what the fuck is this crap?’ ”
His workout regimen sounds, uh, intense:
“I run as fast as humanly possible, for short bursts.” It’s my turn to laugh. “It’s true! I do! I’ll run at top fuckin’ speed . . . on a treadmill. I can’t run outside. It’s too dangerous to run that fast outside with rocks and shit, I’ll probably break an ankle. But whatever the top speed on the treadmill, I’ll go. For short bursts. So I don’t have a heart attack or some shit.” He thinks that’s what human beings are meant to do. “You run as fast as you can to catch up with an elk. Then you hide for a couple of minutes, and you run really fast again.”
He sometimes misses having a label boss him around:
“What cool problems to have! How easy to rebel against that and make something cool and new happen.”
His hobbies include collecting scrapbooks from old mental asylums:
“I’ll be reading this the rest of my life,” White says, flipping through with reverence.
He can’t get married again, because #art:
“As an artist, it’s very difficult for me to have regular everyday-life things.”