Jack White Covers THR's 2nd Annual Music Issue
Third Man could be more than the art installation-meets-Seussian factory it is if White wanted it to be. Blunderbuss -- licensed to Columbia for release -- will do fine, but White could fill his coffers by being a star producer. After helming Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose, he could've easily been the next T Bone Burnett, but he'd rather entertain himself by churning out one- off 45s for bands no one has ever heard of (and a few odd choices that everyone has, from Tom Jones to Stephen Hawking to Stephen Colbert).
"There's super-big names and big dollar amounts that get offered to me to produce albums and things that no one will ever know that I've turned down and had no part of," he says. "There are friends and even idols of mine who have said, 'Will you please produce something for us?' and I've said: 'I'm sorry, man. I love what you do, I just don't feel that I can help in any way.' It's a tough thing to say no to." He laughs. "I heard a Nicki Minaj song the other day where she said, 'They gave my 7UP commercial to Cee-Lo Green.' I just thought, 'What if everybody sang about all the things they turn down?' I once got offered to ride elephants with David Bowie in Suriname. That's not true, but maybe I should write that in a song on the next record."
He hasn't often said yes to film work, either, despite a few acting gigs ranging from a cameo as Elvis Presley in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story to Cold Mountain with Zellweger. He'd like to do more, but "if you act in a film, you may be looking at six months of working, and I could produce 15 45s by 15 bands and record my own music and go on tour around the world twice in that time." He was announced to score Disney's The Lone Ranger but exited in December because "their scheduling would not work out. Plus," he concedes, "I record things in a very difficult way. I don't use Pro Tools. I don't have a bunch of other engineers doing all my mixing and edits, so I'd have to find a way of melding my style of production into their digital world."
The things he says yes to mostly emerge out of his own head and satisfy no one's whimsy more than his own. There's that 3-rpm record player on his office shelf. The vintage ’60s Scopitone machine in the shop out front that plays scratchy 16mm transfers of his videos. "The rolling record store truck … releasing records by balloon … hiding records in couches … they're all things that don't really make any money; they're just ways that I want things to exist and ways I want to present what I create. And I love, love, love to f--- with people who think that's fake or gimmicky because they are completely missing the point of art. The beauty of it is clouded by the presentation that they can't get past."
Which is just the way history's first amalgam of Charley Patton and Willy Wonka likes it.