For Jack White, there are two approaches to stardom.
One is to play it safe and do whatever it takes to maintain your celebrity. The other is to follow your heart and pursue new ideas that come to you.
Obviously, White subscribes to the latter.
Already a member of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, White unveiled his newest rock band, The Dead Weather, on Wednesday.
“The bands are all still happening. Everything is still occurring. This is a new one to add to the mix,” said White, who wore his curly black hair askew and puffed on a cigar during a party at his Third Man Records label to announce the project.
During the party, White and the three other members of the group — Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and Jack Lawrence of The Greenhornes — previewed their new album “Horehound” due out in June.
The four of them sat on a couch as the music played, White closing his eyes and swaying his head, Mosshart chain smoking and mouthing the lyrics. Black and white footage taken inside a vinyl record pressing plant flickered on a white tile wall beside them.
Afterward, the musicians performed a handful of new songs for the 150 or so guests that included Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride and White’s partner in The White Stripes, Meg White.
The music was bluesy, raw and aggressive, with Mosshart handling lead vocals and White playing drums. They played in a performance space in the same building as White’s label offices, set in a gritty neighborhood of warehouses and adult businesses.
Mosshart and White wrote most of the album’s 11 tracks, sometimes together, sometimes alone, sometimes with Fertita and Lawrence — both of whom also perform with White in The Raconteurs. The lone cover is a revved-up rendition of Bob Dylan’s “New Pony.”
“We didn’t write that one,” White cracked during the preview.
White, 33, is known for his electric guitar work, but he started out a drummer. He said the new project allows him to reconnect with the instrument.
“I produced from the drummer seat, and I really loved it so much because I haven’t done it since I was a teenager, 15 years ago,” he said. “I wanted to go back to my first love which was the drums. I did it on James Bond with Alicia (Alicia Keys, who collaborated with White for the theme to the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace”), and I wanted to do it with a band. I wanted to produce from the drummer’s seat and see what happens.”
The project emerged after a Raconteurs show, from a backstage conversation between White, Mosshart and Lawrence
“The idea was to do a 7-inch single and be done,” White said. “But we started writing songs and something happened.”
The band, whose name White describes as a patchwork of references to other musical groups, plans to tour this year. Mosshart and White insist it won’t affect their other endeavors.
“Everything is going on at the exact same time,” Mosshart said. “We all collectively decided that 2009 is the year of the daredevil. No days off. We’re just going to work every single day no matter what we’re doing.”