Alison Mosshart: A New Venture with Jack White and The Dead Weather

The Dead Weather – Jack Lawrence, Jack White, Dean Fertita and Alison Mosshart.
Photo Credit – David Swanson

Ten Minutes with Alison Mosshart

Fans of indie rock have long admired Alison Mosshart for her work as singer/guitarist in the hugely successful band, The Kills.

Her newest venture, with Jack White (of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs), Dean Fertita (of Queens of the Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (of The Raconteurs and The Greenhornes) is a band called The Dead Weather and their first album, Horehound, debuts on Tueaday, July 14.

Despite Mosshart’s breakneck schedule, we caught a few minutes with the hard-rocking and extremely hard-working singer. When did you first work with Jack White?

Alison Mosshart: Hmm… I first ever worked with him on the day after The Raconteurs and The Kills tour. I think it was October 2008. Yeah, we did a tour together and then I ended up jumping on their bus going back to Nashville and recording with Jack and Dean and LJ, um, for the first time ever, just kind of jammed some stuff and wrote some songs in a 10 hour period. The Dead Weather has their first album coming out July 14 – Horehound – is the material all original or a combination of things? And where did you guys get the name of the album?

Alison Mosshart: Well, there’s only one cover on the record – which is “My Pony,” a Bob Dylan track. Jack kind of brought that to us – and said he thought the lyrics were good – and I’d never heard the song before, but I loved the lyrics and I thought it would be really cool to sing it from a woman’s perspective.

The name of the record was another thing… it was a word that Jack had kind of in his head for a long time – Horehound – it’s a plant, actually, called a “white horehound” and it’s used to make candies and cough syrups and stuff, or it was a long time ago… it kind of tastes like root beer (laughs). Anyway, we really liked the sound of the word because of all the different things that it could mean. I’d never heard it before, I thought it sounded like a fast car, so I was really into it. You’ve been in so many successful groups – what do you look for when you’re looking for collaborators?

Alison Mosshart: Well, I feel like I’ve never gone looking, you know? I feel like it’s just kind of – things just happened accidentally. I mean, when I met Jamie (Jamie Hince – Alison’s partner in The Kills), I just knew that I wanted to work with him because, I don’t know, we had some sort of… it was almost like a psychic connection where we really loved the same things, we were really into the same things… we got along immediately. When I first met Jack, you know, we immediately became friends, like 7 years ago… and always have remained friends. I don’t think he and I ever thought we’d work together because we were both doing these other kind of 2-piece bands and everything. We always wanted to do a 7-inch record together that was The Kills and The White Stripes (White’s band) and we never got around to doing that. Everyone’s schedule was just so busy. I never imagined being in a band with him. But then for some reason, when we started playing, it seemed to make loads of sense. So The Dead Weather is hitting with such a big splash, everyone’s so excited about it – will you each continue to work with your other bands? How do you handle that?

Alison Mosshart: Yeah, definitely. I mean, everybody’s still doing stuff with their other bands. The Dead Weather is funny because we never intended on being a band – we intended on doing a 7-inch… just the four of us playing, you know… because Jack had set up this record label and the studio and this 3rd Man building and he was doing a series of 7-inches and thought it would be really cool to do one. And I guess what happened is that we just accidentally wrote a record and thought “Oh my god… (laughs) we’d better do something with this!” And it really was the kind of thing where the music sort of pushed us, you know, to do more.

But yeah, we’re all definitely still completely involved in everything else. I mean The Kills is my baby and The White Stripes is Jack’s baby – but these are all just like our other “children.” But, yeah, “How do we do it?” I guess you just don’t take any days off and you fly a lot – I fly a lot… I spend a lot of time in airplanes going back and forth. You sing on the album, of course, but what kind of instrumental work do you do on it?

Alison Mosshart: I play guitar on three of the songs – and some shakers and stuff (laughs) not too much – just mostly singing on this record. A lot of people were surprised a few years ago when Jack White produced and performed with country singer Loretta Lynn on the album, Van Lear Rose. It was a really unusual pairing – yet wildly successful. Is there an artist that you would like to work with that might be an unlikely yet interesting pairing?

Alison Mosshart: There’s one musician who’s alive but isn’t working anymore that I would do anything to do something with – and that would be Don Van Vliet from Captain Beefheart. And I think it would be surprising just because he doesn’t do music anymore (laughs). That’s my favorite band, you know… yeah, I’d like to just be in the same room as that man. In reading about The Dead Weather, the term “super group” seems to be applied to you guys a lot. What do you think of that term – do you like it? Not care about it? Or do you think it’s appropriate?

Alison Mosshart: It’s just not a term I’ve ever used that’s come out of my mouth, um, describing anyone or any band. It’s really one of those journalist words that I don’t think musicians ever mutter. I don’t really have a feeling for the term. No one walks around thinking that they’re “super” (laughs) or working with a group of other “super people” (laughs). I don’t know, it sounds silly to me, but you know we’re just a gang… we’re a group. What else is on the horizon for you?

Alison Mosshart: Well, The Kills are writing another record this year as well – so there’s a lot going on. In the meantime, The Dead Weather are touring and doing all sorts of crazy, fun stuff (laughs) – and I can’t foresee a day off for the rest of my life.

Read More:

The Dead Weather Official Site

Buy Horehound

3rd Man Records

Alison Mosshart in Interview Magazine

New York Times article on The Dead Weather