The Black Keys
The new Brothers cover reminds me of This
Is Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album (the psychedeli-cally tinged late-’60s album that Wolf himself despised), and the sound reflects that
period where psychedelic, soul, and blues
were all colliding. Did that LP or Muddy
Waters’ Electric Mud influence this record?
Oh yeah. We love that stuff. But those
records didn’t necessarily change my guitar
sound or playing. How those bands play
as an ensemble was more important to us.
We’re more into the arrangements as a whole
and how the guitar fits in that mix.
The guitars almost take a backseat on some
songs, but they seem much more varied in
terms of texture. Did the songs call for that,
or were you working from new influences?
Actually, I just started to worry about guitar
a lot less and just concentrated on playing. I
was less concerned about the perfect guitar
or pedal for a song. I’ve realized that when
I play guitar, it just sounds like me. But the
songs were really what affected the way I
played more than a specific guitar or pedal.
They were built around heavy bass and keyboard lines, and it wouldn’t have been right
to jump in there with a super bassy, heavy
fuzz-tone guitar like I do a lot of the time.
That would’ve been kind of stupid in the context of these songs. So it was fun to play the
kind of thin, buzzy lead tones that were coming out of my Supro when I plugged it in.
The record also sounds influenced by more
obscure late-’60s and early-’70s funk and
soul. Did you discover any new players
from that period that moved you?
I was listening to a lot of this band called
Invincibles—they’re kind of like the Impressions
mixed with Stax, but less Chicago and more
Memphis. I got really into finding obscure soul
and stuff. My soul collection must have quadrupled over the last year. I also got way into
Electric Mud and the electric Howlin’ Wolf stuff
we were just talking about. That’s how I am,
though. I do a lot of research and get way into
things and players, and I dig—and then dig
deeper. So yeah, I was listening to a lot of soul.
I did the same thing when I first got into the
blues. My dad played me Robert Johnson and
Son House and from there I started listening to
Skip James and Fred McDowell—getting further
into the country-blues stuff. There’s still so much
out there that hasn’t been played, and it’s so
exciting to keep digging and finding inspiration.
Auerbach and his Bigsby-equipped, three-pickup Harmony H77 onstage with drummer Patrick Carney.
A lot of the guitar parts on the new album
sound like horn lines.
that fuzz bass was an important part of
what was going on.
Well, I was thinking much more like a team
player than a soloist this time around. I really
started thinking about what was better for
the song. So sometimes I would be playing
fuzz bass like a trombone. [Laughs.]
And the shot of you with the Rickenbacker
4001 on the gatefold reinforces the idea
Well, there’s a ton of clean bass, too. But
yeah, we worked from a lot of bass grooves.
I was playing all those bass parts through a
little silverface Fender Musicmaster Bass amp
with a 12" speaker. There’s just a volume and
a tone knob on the thing. I used it a lot for
both guitar and bass.