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Back Stories | My 2010 Interview With Dan Auerbach

The Black Keys guitarist on work vs. play, secrets in his lyrics and his brother in arms.


In 2010, shortly after the release of The Black Keys’ sixth studio album Brothers — and just before Dan Auerbach left their Akron home for his current digs in Nashville, where he now runs his Easy Eye Records label and studio in a nondescript building just south of downtown — I interviewed the singer-guitarist over the phone. I recall him being nice enough, but not particularly chatty, though I suspect that might have had something to do with the sheer volume of interviews he was doing at the time. Anyway, with the release of the Easy Eye compilation Tell Everybody!, I figured it made sense to pull this one out of the files. Enjoy:


Some bands hate getting stuck in a groove. The Black Keys can think of no better place to be. “For us, the groove is king,” maintains singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach from the duo’s home of Akron, Ohio. “That’s more important than any kind of guitar solo or anything. It’s all about the groove.”

In keeping with that philosophy, the nine-year-old blues-rock stompers — 31-year-old Auerbach and 30-year-old drummer and producer Patrick Carney — have been in quite a creative groove lately. They’ve released three albums in as many years: 2008’s trippy Attack & Release (produced by Danger Mouse); 2009’s rap-rock outing under the handle Blakroc, which found them jamming with Wu-Tang Clan members and other hip-hoppers; and this year’s eclectic Brothers, recorded at the legendary Alabama studio Muscle Shoals Sound, the birthplace of countless soul and rock classics. Somewhere in there, Auerbach also found time to make his first solo album, 2009’s rootsy Keep it Hid. The Keys’ groove train rolls into Canada for shows this weekend — but not before the laid-back Auerbach shares his thoughts on work vs. play, the secrets in his lyrics and his brother in arms.

You’ve released four albums in a little over two years. Are you just on a creative roll or what?
Actually, if you include all the records I recorded and produced, it’s up to about 10 in the past year and a half. It’s just what we love to do and we’re lucky to get to do it all the time.

Don’t you ever take a vacation?
I live a vacation. And really, my idea of a vacation is different from most people. The last thing I ever want to do is sit on a beach. I go crazy. I need to do something constructive with my time. I can’t just sit around. I don’t like swinging on hammocks. I like work. I’m from the Midwest; we’ve got a work ethic.

You’re certainly showing it. You made Brothers within days of the Blakroc CD, right?
Sort of. We cut five songs in Akron for Brothers. Then we went to Brooklyn and finished Blakroc. Then three days after that, we went down to Muscle Shoals for 10 days to work more on Brothers.

Was it hard to shift gears between those projects?
There was no shifting gears. It’s all the same thing, really. We love hip-hop and are influenced by hip-hop and always have been. And since we made all the music for Blakroc, it was the exact same process as making a Black Keys record.

If you had already done five songs at home, why go to Muscle Shoals?
Pat was going through a divorce, so we wanted to get out of town. And I’m a studio disciple. I’ve got my own studio, and I really love recordings made in the mid-to-late ’60s. I think that was the pinnacle as far as sound. And there are certain studios in the U.S. that are known for making those records. But not a lot of them are still running. Most of them have been closed or run down. Muscle Shoals is one that’s still around, though. So we rented the room and brought all of our own gear — recording gear and everything — and just set up camp.

Did you find what you were looking for?
Yeah. It was inspiring to be in a place where they cut all that genre-bending music. We feel like we don’t really fit any one genre and we want to do it all. So it was a good place for us.

There’s a lot of unrequited love in these lyrics. Are you revealing anything?
Aw, hell no. I’m not telling anything. The secrets wrapped up in those songs are mine. Everybody can interpret them however they want. But they’ll never get the truth out of me. And there’s probably a lot of that in every song ever written. That’s just humanity.

To make as many albums, as you do, you must be writing all the time.
Yeah, I’ve got a ton of songs. Some of the songs on Brothers are two years old. I’ve got stacks of books and I’m always writing in them. I just like to feel as if I’m prepared.

So have you already got your next two or three albums planned?
Yeah, we’ve talked about it. But Pat and I both have short attention spans, so anything can happen.


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