I don’t think anyone could have predicted the kind of year Jack White had in 2012. From a Grammy-nominated album to touring the world over with two backing bands to putting vinyl records in balloons, White sure knows how to keep busy. He also knows it takes special people to want to come along for the rock ’n’ roll ride. Fortunately for White, Buzzards drummer Daru Jones is just that type of person – Grateful. Humble. And talented as all heck.
“It’s been a cool and great experience so far,” Jones told me back in October prior to White’s second show at Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. He’s dressed more casually and isn’t as boisterous as he will be onstage in a few hours, but there is a level of contagious excitement to every answer he gives me. With a joyful ‘woo’ (of which there were many others), he shares that playing in front of close to 100,000 people at Lollapalooza in Chicago, up until that point, “was one of my favorite experiences.”
As it turns out, the percussionist with the stylish, beret-like hat was the catalyst to get the ball rolling on what would eventually metamorphosize into Blunderbuss.
So how exactly did a self-professed ‘soul-hop’ beatmaker from Brooklyn (by way of Michigan) come to be with Jack White? I’m glad you asked; in his own words, Jones recounted to me how he was working with a hip-hop artist by the name of Black Milk from Detroit in 2010. He recorded on his Album of the Year project, which has a track called “Deadly Medley” with a rock sample in it. White apparently got excited the first time he heard it, and sent word that he wanted to produce a collaborative 7” with Black Milk, who insisted that he bring his touring band down to Nashville with him. While at Third Man Records, Black Milk and his group had a live performance where they played a song called “Losing Out”, which has a drum solo. “That was my time to do my thing,” Jones grinned, knowing full well at the time White was drumming with The Dead Weather.
After the song was over, White, who was at the back of the venue, ran right up to the stage “and was like, ‘Yeah!’” Jones never thought anything of it upon returning to New York, but then a couple of months later, he got an e-mail from someone at Third Man asking if he was free – White wanted him to come back down, as he was now collaborating with RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, who is one of Jones’ heroes. When the excited Jones got to the studio with all the other musicians, they got word that RZA had unfortunately cancelled the session. White felt bad, so he asked if maybe they could try out a couple of tunes he had…
“Trash Tongue Talker” was the first song they recorded, which ended up kick-starting White’s work on his solo debut. Over a 2-day span, “we laid like four joints in,” one of which became “Inaccessible Mystery”, the B-side to Freedom at 21. The rest of the year then went by, with Jones occasionally wondering whatever happened to that stuff he worked on. Another e-mail from Third Man soon answered that, although they couldn’t really tell Jones what White’s plans were exactly; they just wanted to know what his availability for the year was. White eventually reached out to him personally to break down the idea he had with the two bands. (“It’s going to be an experiment, we’re just going to see how it goes.”) Jones had to make some really tough career decisions; he had two potential tours, and considers himself a loyal person, but for this opportunity with White, it just all worked out for the better.
I can only imagine the jam sessions that took place in preparation for the tour; now THAT would be a cool Vault package! With a smile and nod to his hip-hop roots, Jones revealed that Run-D.M.C.’s “Walk This Way” would be a song he’d love to cover as a member of the Buzzards. He’s done Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” with White, so why not? Speaking of the Buzzards, Jones has no idea where the name came from, but has grown to like it. He has no doubt that White had something to do with approving it. Jones says White made it clear as both bands were rehearsing his deep catalogue of music that he didn’t want to play the songs like the records. “That’s the dream situation for any musician, to have that freedom,” Jones shared. He tries to give people the best of both worlds – What they’re used to hearing from White’s albums, and also experimenting with changing some things up. Being a producer helps in this regard. “There’s a thousand things you can play to one song, but only a couple of things will make it work.”
And in case you didn’t know, Jones confirmed that there really is no setlist when it comes to performing with White. The former White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather member must really like, and more importantly, trust what they all do. The drummer simply laughs. “Sometimes, we don’t even know where it’s going; we’re experiencing it along with you guys,” a fact which I found very, very cool. Jones stresses that he wants people to feel what he’s feeling when he performs. That frenzied enthusiasm everyone sees is definitely not a gimmick, he’s just passing energies and vibes, trying to keep it positive. If somebody came to the show and was feeling down, hopefully when they leave they leave in good spirits. (“That’s what’s up!”)
Who knows what the future will hold, but it’s bound to be loud. Jones’ label Rusic Records is still his bread and butter. That’s his face with vinyl around it front and centre on the drum kit whenever the Buzzards played. Jones deems it as a blessing that White allowed to give him “a piece of the shine” as he so eloquently put it. Jones is involved with another band from Austria, a jazz/hip-hop duo dubbed The Ruff Pack that has him really excited, and proud of the work they’ve put together. “Shout out to Stephan and Matt, doin’ their thing!” Jones just got back from a European run with them in time to play with White and the rest of the Buzzards at the GRAMMYs. Jones also has another project that he produces with his vocalist sister Rena called Honey. I heartily recommend you check out the video for their song “Masterplan Pt. 2”.
Whether he’s ever rocking out again with White, or pounding out beats for soul-hop projects, one thing’s for sure – Jones will give his all and his best, Every. Show!
*Photos courtesy of Jo McCaughey and JackWhiteIII.com