MAGIC POTIONS AND CRYSTAL BALLS Black Keys

Contemplating the ifs
of the Akron
band’s career to come.

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

A few years ago when we first spoke with The Black Keys’ Pat
Carney, the Akron blues-rock duo was hot; now they’re kinda huge. They’ve moved
on from backwoods indie label Fat Possum to Nonesuch,
the suburb of Major-label-land where bands like Wilco go when their hipster fan
base reaches critical mass.

 

You probably know plenty about these guys, or have at least
heard one of their tunes in a TV show (Sons
of Anarchy
, The O.C., Big Love, Entourage…), commercial (Victoria’s
Secret), video game (Grand Theft Auto 4),
a movie (School of Rock, Black Snake Moan, Cloverfield). That is to say, The Black Keys don’t need much promo
right now. There’s no new album to plug-Attack
& Release
came out almost 16 months ago. Even frontman Dan Auerbach’s
solo record Keep It Hid is old-ish
(came out last February). But damn, they’re good… and usually pretty funny. So
we called Carney anyway, if only to contemplate the ifs of The Black Keys’
career to come.

 

Onanistic Opuses

What’s good for Dan’s good for Pat, ain’t it? If he did a
solo record, Carney says it’d be “less about traditional songs and more about
atmosphere and rhythm.” He’s already working on “semi-improvised jams” with his
uncle Ralph, who plays sax with Tom Waits. And there’s Drummer, the indie rock
supergroup band where Pat Carney plays bass alongside members of Teeth of the
Hydra and The Six Parts Seven (Feel Good
Together
comes out Sept. 29). “People tell me we sound like Journey,” he
says. “I hope we don’t.” As for a truly solo effort, he says he’d love to have
guitarist Marc Ribot guest on it, along with Uncle Ralph. But not Carney’s
buddies Gil and Ultimate Donny (from Gil Mantera’s Party Dream). “I can’t hang
with those guys. They’re my friends, but they’re legitimately, awesomely
crazy.”

           

Dirty Laundry

Public figures are subject to the pressures of fame, which
may lead to meltdowns and scandals. Carney, who says he has “trouble relaxing,”
figures he’d have the meltdown. “A scandal would probably be Dan; he keeps his
cool better than I do.” Would that meltdown involve fisticuffs? “No, ‘cause I
can’t fight. I’d probably just talk a lot of shit.”

 

Dirty… Whores!

Long careers can result in weak, repetitive albums-or worse,
bids to stay relevant, usually by licking up a mainstream, or
flava-of-the-month, producer. How would The Black Keys sell out? With P. Diddy
or Kanye? “If we were really gonna
sell out, it’d be P. Diddy ‘cause I don’t think he’s done anything that hasn’t
been disgusting… It’d probably be us covering a Sting song, with P. Diddy
producing and a couple of American Idol runners-up
singing on it.”

 

Splitsville

The inevitable breakup. Like Cormac McCarthy wrote, “You
can’t stop what’s comin’.” For one reason or another, bands grow tired of each
other and seek the Strange. The Black Keys are already doing that with their
record labels (Carney owns Audio Eagle), protégés (Auerbach’s Jessica Lea
Mayfield), etc. Could the duo someday go their separate ways (Ha-Journey
joke!)? “Dan and I have been through so much shit together-good shit and
bad-that at this point in our lives, if we were to stop making music together
it’d be a mutual decision. But I’m sure if I was like in a Nike commercial, air
drumming, that’d probably end the band.”

 

Talkin’ Some Shit

It’d be an amicable split, sure. But you gotta have some
juicy tidbits for the Behind the Music episode.
What kinda dirt do these Akron boys, who’ve known each other since “the fuckin’
sixth grade,” have on each other? “We have brutally damaging information about
each other, just as far as former musical tastes,” Carney says. “But I think I
would keep my mouth shut. I think he would, too.”

 

And It Feels So Good

Might as well reunite, right? Like fake encores, fake
breakups/reunions are virtually required. Will the TBK recommencement feature flashy
stage shows with bigger tire piles? Fancy entrances on flying harnesses or
spring-loaded sub-stage platforms? “We’d probably hire personal trainers in
order to be presentable 20 years from now,” says Carney. “[As for the tires], I’d
like to think we wouldn’t rehash the same old shit.” And though he’s “all
about” bands swooping onstage from lighting rigs, he demurs. That’s for party
rockers. “But we would encourage our opening band to do it. Maybe the Party
Dream could reunite at the same time.”

 

Hall of Lame?

Let’s assume The Black Keys are as adored as Michael Jackson
forty years from now. They’ve made their artistic mark, given younger artists a
leg up only to be outsold by them, scored films, organized huge charity
concerts, and it’s time to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “I
don’t see it happening,” says Carney, “because I don’t see anybody givin’ a
shit about rock n’ roll in 40 years… and [the HoF] keeps inducting a lot of
irrelevant shit-I think Madonna’s in there. I don’t know, man. Awards and
stuff… it’s completely pointless. But if we did [get inducted], we would
definitely have B.B. King’s skeleton onstage with Joe Perry and Slash.”

 

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