Subversify Magazine » The Black Keys and the Death of Humility

The Black Keys and the Death of Humility

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By Colin LaVaute

www.decadentnation.com

www.facebook.com/decadentnation

Many of our readers may remember Subversify’s interview with Decadent Nation, a lively progressive rock group currently touring nationally and putting together a new mind bender album.  What one discovers when corresponding with the group is, they aren’t just a closely knit quartet of musicians, they are extremely aware of the social/political climate and have a lot of strong opinions.  They have given volunteer performances for the Occupy Movement, a number of charities, and even took their music to the upper middle class residential area of St. Louis, playing from a flatbed truck.  Recently, the group has been expressing a bit of unhappiness, not about politics, but about a fellow rock group; the Black Keys.  This social transgressor has apparently dissed Led Zeppelin.  When Subversify asked lead singer and song writer, Colin LaVaute, if it was possible to develop your own blusey hard rock style music, astonishingly similar to Led Zeppelin’s without having studied the artist, he responded with a statement so vivid, Subversify would like to publish it in its entirety.  

Rock is dead.

That’s been the moniker for the troubled genre for decades now. Turn on the radio, and it’s hard to argue against such a sentiment. The airwaves, now mostly owned and run by corporate conglomerates, inundate the masses with a form of the genre that lacks the luster of the early 70’s or 90’s. One station proclaims to play the “rock of today,” and still we hear music that’s twenty years old piped out in between the post-grunge butt rock of Nickleback and the fifty something bands that sound like…Nickleback. Why? Because the station knows, as well as the listener does, that grunge was one of rock’s last gasping breaths.

Not all is lost, right? One of the biggest rock acts out there right now, The Black Keys, have made rock relevant again with their refurbished version of bluesy rock n’ roll.

Too bad they’re assholes.

In a recent interview with Maxim Magazine, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, when asked if the band was influenced by Led Zeppelin, responded by saying:

“Man, you know what? I never listen to Led Zeppelin. But, I mean, I don’t think Robert Plant or Jimmy Page listen to Led Zeppelin, either. We all prob­ably obsessed over the same old blues records growing up.”

Really?

One of the most played and celebrated rock bands of all time, and The Black Keys act like they owe nothing to them; that their success is predicated by themselves, and that Zeppelin didn’t lay down the golden brick road for their music 30 years before anyone knew who The Key were. Auerbach making this statement is akin to The Avett Brothers saying, “You know I never listened to Bob Dylan, I just think that we listened to the same Woody Guthrie albums, and BAM! Awesome-sauce!”

Never mind that not giving the greatest hard rock band of all time their props borders on sacrilege when you’re in The Black Keys position, but seriously, how can anyone growing up in the 70’s and thereafter not have listened to Led Zeppelin? Just like Nickleback and The Black Keys, Led Zeppelin has been steadily piped out since the band’s first album hit. Furthermore, if you are a guitar player in a rock band, whether you would like to admit it or not, you have been influenced by Jimmy Page.

Oh, but the pomposity doesn’t stop there. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, laid into, of course, Nickleback.

“”So they became OK with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be shit – therefore you should never try to be the biggest rock band in the world. Fuck that! Rock & roll is the music I feel the most passionately about, and I don’t like to see it fucking ruined and spoon-fed down our throats in this watered-down, post-grunge crap, horrendous shit. When people start lumping us into that kind of shit, it’s like, ‘Fuck you,’ honestly.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Nickleback fan by any means of the word, and I have some  respect for The Black Keys. That being said, at least Nickleback doesn’t take themselves so seriously as to proclaim that they are the originators of their genre. In fact, Nickleback has a pretty good sense of humor about the fact that they have more detractors than fans.

When I was growing up, it was a time for rock music to be proud of itself. Bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Tool, and Rage Against the Machine embraced their many varying influences and the end result was something much more original than anything The Black Keys have to offer. All of those bands obtained something else Auerbach and Co. lack: character.

The point is, just because you may have obtained what Ricky Gervais calls “Fuck You Money”, doesn’t necessarily mean you should walking around literally saying”Fuck you, honestly.” Carney’s attitude speaks to a greater sense of inherent entitlement in our society. What happened to humility, and a humble attitude? When do we see music artists actually grateful for what they obtained? I keep hoping for things to come around, for a real breath of fresh air; a new era of truly original rock music, made with sense of purpose, by musicians that don’t shoot off at the mouth like they’re Kanye. I hope to be apart of this era when it comes, until then, I will not mourn the death of Rock n’ Roll, but wait for it to rise from the ashes of modern music.

 

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Posted on January 20, 2012

25 Comments

  1. Bill the Butcher says:

    But I grew up in the 70s and I never listened to Led Zeppelin either!

    P.S. Motörhead for ever. Lemmy rules.

  2. karlsie says:

    Bill, if you’ve listened to “Stairway to Heaven”, you’ve listened to Zeppelin. Every category of music has its classic musicians, the ones who broke the barriers and redefined its module of delivery. Zeppelin was definitely one of them. There have been hundreds of renditions of that classical number, by hundreds of recording artists and stage musicians, but none ever quite hit the shivering notes of the original. The Beatles were humble enough to say they were influenced by Elvis. I grew up with seventies music as well and i will say that all my hard rock preferences sounded very much like they had been influenced by Zeppelin.

  3. Abe says:

    I disagree. Listen to the early Black Keys albums and you don’t hear Led Zeppelin, you hear the old-fashioned blues riffs being played on a filthy electric guitar. The sound is far more blues than Led Zeppelin ever sounded. Auerbach’s voice is more like the blues than Robert Plante’s. It’s a completely different aesthetic.

  4. Shameless says:

    They may not sound exactly like Zeppelin, but like the Beatles, Zeppelin has invariably influenced every form of rock that has come after it, whether musicians choose to acknowledge it or not.

  5. Grainne says:

    Let me start off by saying when I was a teenager I lived and breathed Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin was the soundtrack of my life a good part of the time, I have mad respect for them and their crazy rock and roll antics are legend.

    That being said, I don’t think they are wrong to say Led Zeppelin did not make them who they are musically. Why should they? Their own talent- which in my opinion is middling anyways- is their own. They aren’t exactly doing Zeppelin covers like other bands (Train) at least not yet, I’m sure they’ll get around to it.

    Isn’t it a standard of rock stars everywhere to think that they are the shit? Nickleback’s supposed humility just goes to further show how much they suck and know it and are truly grateful for their 15 min and a coupla songs on Singstar.

    P.S. Nicklback truly is the world’s suckiest of sucky rock bands for the moment. I don’t know why they are even in a discussion about rockn’ roll.

    But if you’re going to tear apart the Black Keys you may as well start tearing up Jack White who borrows from all sorts of old school guitarists and songwriters…and happens to be a genius in his own right.

    This to me seems like sour grapes.

  6. Shameless says:

    Actually they have covered multiple blues songs, very much in the same way Led Zeppelin did. (Have Love Will Travel for instance) They are definitely pulling pages from the same playbook.

  7. Grainne says:

    Again, I see no problem covering Blues and not paying homage to Zeppelin. Are you going to say the same of The Carlolina Chocolate drops? A hell of a lot of musicians cover blues without worrying about the fact that Zeppelin did as well.

  8. jme says:

    Grannie? Did you even read the article or are do you just like to read your own writing? Auerbach is a butt hole for ripping a staple of their genre after flat out lying because NO ONE has “never listened to Zeppelin”. Give me a f-ing break….sour grapes? Note the title of the article – death of humility. He’s saying where the hell is the modesty; the Keys are NOT innovative and Dan needs to stop sitting on his pedestal stroking his ever growing ego. I’m pretty sure you’ve missed the point, twice.

  9. Grainne says:

    Yes I did read the article and yes I do like to read my own writing.

    My point was it is a rare that person who aspires to mainstream Rock n’ Roll stardom is humble until much later when they either learn about the history of the buisiness they are in or mellow out. Jimmy Page famously talked smack about other guitar players.

    People who want to be rock stars are typically self centered so I really don’t see the problem with the statements made by Dan Auerbach.

  10. Grainne says:

    P.S. I will concede Sour Grapes does not exactly fit.

    How about I simply disagree on that.

    I absolutely agree that The Black Key are not innovative in the least bit, thus far.

  11. ben says:

    TBK are a pimple on an elephants ass, that elephant being the pool of top level talebted musicans form the hey day rock decades of the 60′s-early 80′s. Zep 1st record, they were advanced more money in history, because of the fact of page and what he was doing by formin ga supergroup around top level musicians like himself. Bonham wrote many of the songs, andf there has not even been 1 drummer in last 35 years that can match his talent, and physicality of playing. That being said as a rock conisseur and a pro player, TBK are not talented musicans juts one dimensional posers who capture the heaviosity and love of lofi vintage equipment and fuzz but just dont really “have it”. Reason why they are popular is the name and the youtube viral buzz of their mktg efforts, coupled with the demise of integrity and creativity, and top talent in rock. Labels wait for ready made bands to walkk thru their door without scouting on basis of TOP talent exclusively. They are too lazy. The result is TBK. Get any top players to play this music (which has been done way better already) and jaws will drop

  12. Brendan Casper says:

    Colin LaVaute you are absolutley wrong. The essance of rock and roll is fuck you. Theres more scrutiny now days. If they try to make dorky little writers like you happy they would lose their edge for music running around trying to be politicly correct.. They never said Led Zepplin sucks. He just said he doesnt listen to them. Im a huge blues/rock fan and I honestly think Sabbath has had more influence on BLUES than Zepp. All that hippy love shit goes against the blues anyways. Point is rock music is FUCK YOU.

  13. Darryl says:

    In the parley of musicians, “listened to” means studied and learned from. It is very easy to believe they never listened to Zep. What is difficult to believe is someone “stealing” a style just by hearing some songs on the radio a few times. These guys did not listen to Rock Radio growing up.

  14. Caleb says:

    What’s this guy talking about? They make fun of themselves all the time. Besides, if I was in a band and I was thanking people like that I wouldn’t say “I owe everything I’ve done to Led Zeppelin! They are the only reason I am playing the music I am playing!” Don’t get me wrong, I like Led Zeppelin, but he claims the Black Keys are so full of themselves. But does he not realize, nobody was more cocky and full of themselves than Led Zeppelin. Don’t be such a pretentious douche and just enjoy the music!

  15. Me says:

    I think we maybe getting confused by listening to and “getting into” Led Zeppelin growing up. He for sure has heard a Led Zeppelin song but did he go buy the albums and go home and immerse himself in it as a fan and learn from the music.

  16. James says:

    I am so fucking glad you wrote this. I have been preaching this since Dan arguably the biggest asshole on the scene laid in to nickleback. Yea the back are cheesy but who doesn’t already know nickeback kind of sucks.? Nicklebacks response “thank You for calling us the biggest band on the planet” clever and classy two things those ass holes are not. I seen the black keys I used to like thier early albums. The show was the final nail in the coffin for me. “Hey stop throwing glow sticks on the stage this isn’t a rave” Way to call out a fan of yours and make her feel stupid in front of her friends and the rest of the arena. Your so cool Dan~!
    They also have said “we were not influenced by the Delta blues” no this is true… influenced is not strong enough a word. Where as a band like ZZ top has paid tribute; acknowledged and raised money for the delta and creating their own sound the keys have ripped it off and then took a shit on it. Fuck you black keys!

  17. Jake says:

    OP you don’t understand what Dan was getting at. He was saying that Zeppelin and the Keys BOTH got their music from the blues (fact) and also that Zeppelin valued their roots more than they themselves. That’s what I hear.

    Also, spell Nickelback right.

  18. Matt says:

    TBK’s Lonely Boy is a blatant rip off of Under Pressure from ZZ Top. Little Black Submarines is a rip off of Stairway To Heaven and Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home. These guys are takers.. not makers.. and the very metaphor of nearly half of society today.

  19. Feitosa says:

    And stairway to heaven is a rip off of taurus. Grow up a pair of balls or some brain and get over it. They always give credit to someone, Dan one time said that they wish they sound like Isaac Hayes. TBK just want to jam their music and listen to some old blues. Just because you love Led zeppelin and know all their riffs that don’t make you a musician, you’re probably just a pretend that thinks that you’re the shit and knows everthing about music, but you don’t.

  20. Danny says:

    If you listen to the Black Keys early albums you’ll understand what he meant. They are far more influenced (in those albums at least) by those early bluesmen and many more modern bluesmen than they are by Zeppelin. As they started to evolve into a more rock based band, I think they went down a similar path as Zeppelin. Now, he didn’t disrespect Zeppelin at all in that statement, he simply said that both of them had similar influences. I think you are reading into this statement a meaning that it was never intended to have.

  21. I bet the Black Keys would be willing to open for Percy and crew if they tour in 2014.
    Danny boy could have made it better with one word. ‘Anymore’
    As in, ‘I never listen to Zeppelin anymore’ and I suspect he’s honest in saying he does not listen. He’d probably like to. But how could he? An artist is his influences. One little lick here or phrase there that makes it to an album, and the Keys get put in the ‘applying the Led Zeppelin formula’ bin. The fact that this discourse exists at all is evidence that they are probably teetering on the brink of that bin as it is.
    Auerbach is probably a little defensive. It’s just an interview and I’m going to give him a break. He’s chosen to put himself in a frustrating position. As great as they are, the Black Keys will never be Led Zeppelin, that ship has sailed. There is new, and innovative art out there to be discovered, but I’m certain it’s not blues rock. The excitement of watching the first fusion of electric blues and world music has occurred already, that explosive energy has been released and the fame and fortunate that goes with it has been spent. I like the Black Keys, however they are more like afterglow than foreplay.
    On a different note, YouTube has a video of Kanye West doing A cappella rap at the Facebook headquarters – before you dis’ him, check it out.

  22. M W says:

    I got news for you, all this new rock is ‘al a garbage’. Zeppelin had style and talent. Danny Boy and Carey are a fuc**n carnival act gone bad. They have no skills, no talent, and the music has no substance . Their music is predicated on the mixed up political climate we live in and a world going down hill. The Black Keys and all the crap like them will disappear like a bowel movement when the next corporate machine decides their gig is over!! Right now they think their ‘King Sh*T’ when their only a filler like the shit inside an ‘Oreo Cookie’, eat too much and you’ll puke your guts out!

  23. Ledder says:

    First off, ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY STOP LISTENING TO LED ZEPPELIN.,second: Rock started going downhill when the blues influence went away, one of the best things about zeppelin is its blues influence, but if you listen and not immediatly judge Black Keys, you’ll get a taste, bieng a classic rock fan i don’t like every sound that comes fom the Keys but I love any song that sounds like Zeppelin Could have helped write it (black mud). Its the closest you can get to a new zep song (not close enough) it sucks being a rocker today, if the corporate dickbutts at the big record labels would stop putting any fool with a decent voice in a pretty little pop package andkeeping rockers with soul from the labels beacase there not ” a safe bet” then we’d have more great bands like Zeppelin so give bands like The Keys a chance. P.S. nickleback sucks!!!

  24. King of Rock, Man says:

    I love Zeppelin and dig the Black Keys. To be honest, Zeppelin weren’t exactly a humble band — they pretty much ripped Willie Dixon and other artists off and had to have an out of court settlement with Dixon who was justly pissed they didn’t credit him for “Whole Lotta Love.” What was original about Zeppelin came out more in their later Fairport Convention influenced work, but their work on I and II was wholly derivative — just listen to Steve Marriott’s version of “Love” you’ll get my gather. They lifted “Stairway” in part from Spirit, not to mention “Dazed and Confused” from Jake Holmes. So in some ways, Zep is just getting its karmic due when the Keys diss them. On the other hand, Zep’s truly orignal stuff, as found on “Graffitti” and “Presence” is simply unmatched in rock’s canon. But I love both groups and wish they’d just smoke some weed together and then jam instead of acting like schoolgirls attacking each other. Can’t we leave that shit to Metallica and Megadeth?

  25. J says:

    Please. Not acknowledging that LZ, even by osmosis, is a cultural and musical influence is like a current fantasy author saying s/he wasn’t influenced by Tolkein. It’s just stupid. In fact, the only reason you got signed is probably because of the groundwork that LZ laid down all those decades ago. Or you got handed an old blues record by somebody who dug Zeppelin and did a little homework and found some originators. I agree with the author here. I mean there are apparently a bunch of other jock/careerist backstory reasons to dislike the Black Keys but comments like these don’t help.

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