Jack White plays songs from his new album, “Boarding House Reach,” at the HD Radio Sound Space at KROQ on Monday, March 19, 2018. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren)
For Jack White, preparing to play new songs from his third solo album live on tour has been difficult but ultimately rewarding, the idiosyncratic and independent-minded rock star said during an intimate performance and conversation in Los Angeles a few days before the new record “Boarding House Reach” dropped.
“The rehearsals for the new songs have been the most difficult,” White said in response to a question from DJ Stryker after a 45-performance in the HD Radio Sound Space at KROQ. “In the White Stripes it was just two individuals.
“We’ve got to memorize them so we can forget it,” he said of the work done in rehearsals by his band: drummer Carla Azar, bassist Dominic Davis, and keyboard players Quincy McCrary and Neal Evans. “I want the songs by the end of the tour to sound completely different than they do today.
“But you got them the best,” White quickly added with a smile to the 200 or so fans who won tickets from the radio station.
White focused his set at KROQ on songs from the new record, his first in four years, opening with “Over and Over and Over,” one of the singles released in the run-up to the album, and a song he said he’s been kicking around for a dozen years or so, all the way back to the White Stripes, his original duo with drummer Meg White.
“I sent a couple of tracks to Tom Morello, he’s one of my favorite guitar players,” White said when asked about the audibly apparent influence of Morello’s band, Rage Against The Machine,” in the song. “There’s definitely some Rage DNA in the song.
“That song is very old, too,” he said, describing how he’d tried to record it with the White Stripes, later with the Dead Weather, the group he formed with singer Alison Mosshart of the Kills, Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence, and eventually with rap icon Jay-Z for a collaboration that failed to produce any releases.
“Finally it worked and felt like something,” White said.
Other new songs from “Boarding House Reach” in the set included the funky “Corporation,” a slower groove in “Why Walk A Dog?” and “Respect Commander,” which opened with a long instrumental and like much of the new album featured White’s bluesy guitar god licks above the groove set by his rhythm section and over the synths and programming of his keyboard players.
White acknowledged the new album adds hip-hop influences to the gritty blues-based rock he’s often fancied, describing how he spent time watching videos of artists from Jay-Z and Kanye West to Kendrick Lamar asking, “Who’s that guy?” as he looked for musicians who could recreate in the studio and on stage the sounds the hip-hop stars got on their own releases.
Asked from where his love of hip-hop came, White described spray-painting squares for the playground game foursquare on the streets in his Detroit neighborhood as a kid, and playing all day while a boombox pumped out classic rap from the likes of LL Cool J and Run-DMC.
“It’s amazing just how much of that is in your blood,” he said. “From foursquare!”
A sense of humor that doesn’t often come through when he’s on stage playing showed up in his conversation with Stryker. When the DJ asked him the source of a line in “Connected By Love,” another of the standouts in the studio session, White deadpanned: “There’s a website called WriteASong.com, I go there often.”
He seemed to enjoy himself more at the end of the chat when Stryker pulled out a note with three random speed-round questions on it, which included:
Have you ever watched an episode of any TV show that has “Real Housewives Of” in the title? “I’m not going lie,” White said with a grin. “I do not know what you’re talking about.”
Waffle House, Denny’s or I-Hop? “Oh yeah,” he replied. “Waffle House for sure. Many’s the time my children be jumping up and down on me shouting “Waffle House.”
And finally, who’s a better guitar player, Jimmy Fallon or Conan O’Brien? “Ummm, Johnny Carson was a great drummer, by the way.”
White played one of three pre-album release shows in the United States at the Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the day after the KROQ show, which featured a few more new songs and a whole lot more songs from his other solo and band releases. At the radio station he included only two: “Steady, As She Goes,” which he did as a member of the Raconteurs, and “Lazaretto,” from his last solo album.
KROQ broadcast the performance and interview at 9 p.m. Thursday and then posted it at KROQ.com.