Being his own boss at Third Man Records, Jack White has grown accustomed to setting his own rules when it comes to recording music. Many of these rules see him taking an old school approach in the studio, a mindset which he’s described as “the liberation of limiting yourself.” However, in a new Rolling Stone cover story, the Detroit-born artist reveals he’s starting to loosen up his grip. In particular, he’s finally begun using Pro Tools; what’s more, it’s all because of a certain comedian.
In the interview, White recalls how he’s always mixed his records without using automation, which means he and his engineer have “to nail every tweak in real time.” According to the White Stripes rocker, when he told longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich about this intensely tedious process, he was “aghast” and replied in disbelief, “Why were you doing that? Jesus, man!” White says he couldn’t offer up much of an answer to Godrich. “Because I just got to,” he told him. “I got to know in my heart it was done the right way, the hard way, the difficult way.”
Godrich will be happy to know that White’s changed his ways and adopted Pro Tools on his upcoming album, Boarding House Reach. And the person to thank — or, perhaps for some, blame — is Chris Rock. The comedian had performed at Third Man Records last year and dropped off some studio advice for White. “‘Nobody cares how it’s done!’” Rock told White. The comment eventually got under White’s skin:
‘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 f-cking cares! Even musicians don’t f-cking 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.”
Switching to Pro Tools, which he once called “cheating,” has been “a gigantic scary thing,” according to the Nashville native, but falls in line with the rest of his less regimented strategy for the new album. “It became, ‘I’ve got to let this go,'” White tells Rolling Stone. “This album is the culmination of, like, ‘I don’t care.’ I want it to sound like this. I don’t care how it was made.”
Elsewhere in the interview, White notes how he’s also let go of using pawnshop guitars and even bought himself a new St. Vincent signature guitar (“I love that she was making a guitar for women”). Additionally, he discusses recording a cover of Al Capone and the very, very slim chance of a White Stripes reunion. Read the entire thing here.
Fans will have to see how they like this Pro Tools-assisted version of White when Boarding House Reach arrives on March 23rd.