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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

They'd make beautiful music together
Remember when Jack White said current hip-hop sucked? Remember how you all attacked him for it? Well, see, thing is... Andre 3000 agrees with him. And everything Dre says these days is gospel. So, now what?

Transcript of a chat between the Los Angeles Times, Andre and Jack (quite long, but well worth the read):

What do you think of most of the new music on the charts these days? Do you find much that inspires you as an artist?
Andre 3000: I can't say because I don't play a lot of it because I'm probably too busy thinking about my own music. Of what I do hear, however, there isn't a lot that inspires me, which is good in a way because that in itself is a form of inspiration. What I like to do is make music that fills the voids, something that I would like to hear but can't find. And there is a lot I would like to hear that I don't find other people doing these days.
How about you, Jack?
White: That's certainly not where I look for inspiration.
What about the state of your respective fields? Dre, do you find hip-hop very exciting these days?
Andre: No, right now it's going through a phase of making records to be played in a club. In the days when I loved it, people just tried to make great records and then hope they crept their way into the club. Now it's like focusing directly on the club. So there's no meat to the records anymore. But I think it's just a phase. At some point, we are going to see a reaction to what is missing. I hear a lot of people complaining all the time that most music today isn't doing this or isn't delivering that. It's kind of like what you heard with disco, when there was such a reaction that it felt like a revolution.
White: That's what is good about OutKast's records, because they are pushing things forward. I feel hip-hop generally isn't regenerating itself like it should. There has been 15 years of almost the same stuff over and over again. If I see one more video with sports jerseys and gold chains, I'm going to...."
Andre: Exactly. I agree.
What about the state of rock the last few years? Is that any more exciting to you, Jack?
White: No, it's terrible. The scene in Detroit when we started out had nothing to do with listening to what was on the charts at the moment. We were into everything — soul, blues, real rock 'n' roll, but we figured no one else liked it because all you saw on MTV was that commercial stuff that they just keep shoving down your throat. And what are you going to do if you are 11 years old and you come home from school and that's what's on TV? Of course that's the record you are going to buy because you don't know any better.
How have you both been able to resist the commercial compromises of the music business and keep moving forward artistically? Dre?
Andre: I think any real artist is always trying to move forward. That's one of my frustrations with touring. By the time an album is released, I'm on to something else.
White: I agree. I feel like I am always searching. You never want to think you've found the perfect formula to something.
Who can you turn to, to always be renewed or inspired?
Andre: Prince. He's a total artist. He lets himself be totally human, and that means he shows you all the different feelings he goes through. He's that honest.... George Clinton is also someone who stands the test of time; all that great stuff he did with Parliament and Funkadelic. There's always something to discover in his records. He's amazing.
White: I agree about Prince, and again it's the honesty. He may change a lot, but there is always the feeling you are listening to a real person. He doesn't limit himself to one thing or one sound.
Who always inspires you, Jack?
White: Blind Willie McTell, for one. I like the sense he wasn't just a blues singer. He was a street-corner entertainer who would play in front of Piggly Wiggly markets and stuff.
Andre: Tell me about him. I don't know him.
White: He's from your town of Atlanta. He was a 12-string [guitar] player who had a bunch of great songs. There's one that goes, "I got three womens, yellow, brown and black. Take the governor of Georgia to judge which one I like. One woman's Atlanta yellow, the other Macon brown. But the Statesboro blackskin will turn your damper down."
Andre: That's great. I'll have to check it out.
Who else, Jack? Maybe from your country side.
White: I'd probably say Johnny Cash ... or maybe Hank Williams, who isn't complicated but is profound. It's easy for anyone to relate to what he's singing about. He's also an example of music that feels totally honest.
When making a record, how much are you thinking "I'm trying to make a great record" versus "I'm trying to make a hit record"? How do you balance those goals?"
Andre: When I'm making a record, it's hard to think that I'm making a great record or a hit record. You just do what you do and at the end of the day, you might start asking yourself who is going to like it. You may come up with a line that makes you think, "Now I bet people will like that." There's the line in "Hey Ya!" that everyone talks about ... "Shake it like a Polaroid." When it came to me, I immediately thought, "Hey, I bet people will like that." But all that is kinda after the fact. I wasn't sitting around going, "Now how can I think of a line that people will like?"
Everyone wants to make records that are popular, but that's different than trying to make a pop record, if you see the difference. I don't think any of us sets out to make music just for ourselves. We want to reach out to people, otherwise you should never even sign a record contract. When I started making music, people who turned me on were performers who touched people with their music. I want to do that same thing.
White: It's very hard for me to even think of what people would like when I'm putting together a record. When we made "Elephant," we had a bunch of songs sitting around, and we just went and did it as fast as possible. I always think that if I spend too much time working on it that I'm going to ruin whatever was honest about it to begin with.
That's one of the things I have a real beef with about modern music. Nowadays, kids who haven't even made their first record are given millions of dollars by record companies and told to take seven months to make your record and do it in a studio with 400 tracks or whatever. One thing that would make all of modern music better right now is if every record company told every new band that you can only record on four tracks and you have to finish the record in four weeks. It would change everything for the better.
Andre: Ha-ha.That would make people show what they can really do, wouldn't it?
How do acclaim and media attention affect you as an artist?
Andre: It definitely puts pressure on you. If you read a glowing review in a big paper or magazine, you feel everybody else is reading it and it makes you feel everyone is expecting a lot from you. A negative review can sometimes make you second-guess yourself — even if it is totally wrong. You find yourself sometimes asking, "Is what he's saying true?" On my last album, someone said it sounded like I wanted to be Prince. In my mind, I'm thinking, "Yeah, I love Prince," but not one time when I was making this record was I like, "OK, I'm trying to be like Prince." But it makes you self-conscious if something you are working on sounds even a trace like Prince.
White: I don't hear Prince on the record. I hear you on it. People have to reference you to something. If you came out with something completely original, people would find people to compare it to.
How does touring affect artistry? Does it drain you or give you good ideas?
White: I don't know. It can be very exciting, and it can be grueling. We work with no safety net. We don't have a set list. We don't have any other musicians on stage. Trying to do a show every night and really connect with myself and connect with other people can be hard. I can't do it for more than three weeks without it really tearing me up. If you have five guys on stage and someone goes out of tune or breaks a couple of strings or something, you have the whole rest of the band to keep the song going. If I break a couple of strings or I've got a bad voice that night, what am I going to do? I've got nothing to back me up.
What about you, Dre? You didn't want to tour behind the new album. Why?
Andre: We've been doing this 11 years and I'd rather move on to something else. I love the new songs, but I have no urge to go and perform them for months. Honestly, when I'm performing them on television shows, it's just to let people know, "Hey, the album is out, check it out." It's not a good thing for my partner because [Big Boi] is ready to hit the road and he's losing a lot of money because we're not touring. That's caused some people to say we're breaking up, but it's not true.
How about fame? How does that affect you as a person or an artist? You've both been on the cover of every music magazine in the world in recent months. Does that turn your head?
Andre: Yeah, it changes you. When I go places now, everyone is looking at your eyes to see who you are or what you may be thinking. You even find people peeking around corners at you. It makes you feel like an alien.
White: That's right. People start to read something into everything you do, even if it's the most innocent night out. A couple of weeks ago I went to a bar in Detroit where I've been going to for seven years. Someone said, "It's really great that you are here to support local music." That is the first place we played.
How do you shut out the distractions when you go in to make a record?
White: You have to just remember what you are doing it for. You don't ever want to start thinking, "How do we follow the last record up?" or "What do people want from us?" You can't think like that because then I'm not going to get anything out of it, and Meg's not going to get anything. Like Blind Willie McTell, you want to please people, but you also want to express yourself. If you start thinking only of what people want, you aren't expressing yourself. You've lost that part of you that makes the music your own.
Are you thinking about the next album yet?
Andre: I have a sound I've been working on, but we need to get in there to see how it turns out. It's going to be one album, not a double album again, and it'll be the two of us.
What about the Grammys? If you win, Dre, it'll be the first time a pure rap album has won. The only other hip-hop winner for best album was Lauryn Hill. Would that be gratifying?
Andre: That would be amazing. I know there's a lot of politics that goes into award shows, but I do like to think it would be an important step for hip-hop because hip-hop is what helped turn my life around and gave me a future and a belief in myself.
How do you feel about being nominated, Jack? There have probably been so many of your own heroes snubbed over the years that it might feel a bit strange being honored yourself.
White: I'm always mixed about these kinds of things. It's nice to honor people, but when you see an awards show, you often get the feeling that the people who really deserved the award aren't being recognized. Then again, it's nice to be honored by anybody, even if it's just someone patting you on the back in the local bar.

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