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The Weekly interview: the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach

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The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach is ready for his first New Year’s in Vegas.
Photo: John Rahim
Chris Bitonti

Will this be your first New Year’s Eve in Vegas? It is, first time. We were approached to do the two shows, and, we didn’t have any plans and thought it might be cool.

How has having additional musicians onstage with you and Patrick [Carney] affected the dynamic of the live show? I think for us, it’s just nice to be able to play the newer songs the way that we recorded them. It used to be we’d record our songs, and when we went to play them live we’d have to completely deconstruct them to make it work as a two-piece. We were never that strict about the two-piece format when we were in the studio. We’d just add whatever instrument helped the song be better.

With, like, our third or fourth record, we had to come to terms with the fact that it was impossible to recreate it and we’d have to completely re-imagine a song to do it live. But now, we bring on a couple of extra musicians, and we can play the songs really close to how we record them, which is fun for us.

The Details

THE BLACK KEYS with Divine Fits
December 30-31, 9:30 p.m. $95-$171.
The Joint, 693-5222.

For your early work, like The Big Come Up, it sounds like some of the songs are actually recorded live. Was that the case? I mean, we overdubbed some bass and some synthesizer stuff, but it was mostly live.

Those early records were self-produced, and then starting with 2008’s Attack & Release you brought on Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton to produce. How did the process of recording change at that point? We had never actually been in a studio before Attack & Release, so that was a new thing. We’d also never used outside musicians … and, like tons of different instruments. And mixing somewhere really proper. Before, it was all just done in the basement.

There was such a raw sound to your first four records, where the past three definitely sound more polished. How do you feel about that? It’s really just what it is—it’s different, it’s growth, just change. I would hate to sound the same as we did 12 years ago. I think that would be pretty weak. I like being able to try new things every time we make a record. It’s what keeps it interesting.

Is that the lifeblood for The Black Keys, being willing and able to try new things? That’s part of it. There’s another part that’s just this unspoken connection that we have. It’s always been there.

You guys are up for five more Grammys. Do you think winning awards like that can help a rock band can measure its success? I mean, it’s certainly some sort of success, but there are different ways to gauge that. A Grammy is really nice, but having lots of fans is really nice, too. I think just getting a record out is a success on its own. I remember when we got our first record, how excited we were to just hold it in our hand. That was success.

Was there a specific point when you remember looking around and thinking, “Holy sh*t, we made it!” Man, that was after we walked off stage for the first time. And we’ve just been taking baby steps since then, since we started.

Do you miss playing small clubs? No, not really.

You prefer the big venues? It all just depends on the audience. If the crowd is excited and into it then it’s just gonna be a great show no matter where you are.

How did you develop your sound in Akron, Ohio? Because it sounds like it comes from the South. You know, just listening to records. My family played guitar when I was growing up, and they played lots of folk and blues and bluegrass songs, so I grew up around that kind of music. And then you throw in my dad’s record collection, which was all, like, old rock ’n’ roll, soul and blues. It was just what I heard since I was a little baby. Now I’m a big baby (laughs).

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