Next week, Jack White will return with Boarding House Reach, his third solo album. And it looks like the album will take some unexpected turns, something that early singles like “Connected By Love” and “Over And Over And Over” have already foreshadowed. While White has spent his entire career restricting himself with obsolete analog recording processes, there’s a whole new Rolling Stone profile about how the new album represents some attempt to leap into the present and to make things easier for himself.
For instance, on the new album, White plays Eddie Van Halen’s new signature guitar, an instrument specifically engineered to make things easier for the person playing it. And for the first time ever, he’s started piecing tracks together with Pro Tools. All of this was supposedly based on Chris Rock telling White that nobody cares how music is made. And from what we’ve heard thus far, this change in process will lead to a wilder, more all-over-the-place sound.
But maybe the strangest thing we’ve heard about the new album is that it features a cover of a song written by Al Capone. That’s legendary gangster Al Capone, not Memphis rapper Al Kapone, though that would probably be interesting, too. Here’s the relevant passage from the new Rolling Stone profile:
Last year, White purchased a musical manuscript written by Al Capone in Alcatraz (in the 1920s, even gangsters could read and write music) for a song called “Humoresque”: “You thrill and fill this heart of mine / With gladness like a soothing symphony.” Capone, it seems, played tenor banjo in a prison band with Machine Gun Kelly on drums. The song, a take on a Dvorák work, turns out to have been recollected, not composed, by Capone, but White still ended up recording it as the closing track on his new 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.”
This feels like the moment when Guns N’ Roses covered a Charles Manson song — except, since it’s White, everything is way older. Some other interesting tidbits from the profile: White doesn’t think a White Stripes reunion could ever happen, he doesn’t regret the time he beat up Von Bondies frontman Jason Stollsteimer, and he doesn’t dislike rap music anymore. Earlier in his career, White was publicly dismissive of rap music in general, and he’s now walking that back. Here’s what he says now:
A lot of that 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.”
But you will be not be surprised to learn that White still has no respect for someone like DJ Khaled, or that he hates the song “Wild Thoughts” in particular:
It’s just Santana’s song in its entirety. 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!”
You can read the full Rolling Stone profile here.