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Black Keys’ Patrick Carney Discusses Road Life, Spotify Vs iTunes, Mixtapes + More

Patrick Carney
Dave Kim/WGRD

The Black Keys played a raw and energized set at Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids a week ago. I was lucky enough to sit down with drummer Patrick Carney for a one-on-one interview before the show. Topics we touched on included their massive tour with Arctic Monkeys, Spotify Vs iTunes, making mixtapes for girls and more.

The overdue rise of The Black Keys in the last couple of years has elevated them to arena rock status. It was strange to see multiple semi trucks transporting the Akron, OH duo’s stage production when I pulled up to the venue. They’ve come a long way since the days of packing up their gear in a minivan and hoping they had enough gas.

“It’s actually easier to tour now than it was then,” Carney says. “Six years ago I had to get to the venue and set up my own drums. Then after the show take them apart and pack them in the van. Now I just have to play a concert. It’s not very difficult.”

Life on the road has caused some difficulties in the past for the stickman. It was a major factor in the dissolution of his first marriage with Denise Grollmus. No matter how long you’ve been in a band, the problems of constant traveling will always be there.

“Touring is always hard,” Carney admits. “Whether it’s hard because you’re away from your family and your friends or because of the actual work you have to do. Honestly, it’s kind of a really bizarre job and I don’t think many people would really like it. One tour is cool but once you get going, we probably spend about 160 days a year on the road.”

Both Carney and singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach have shared their doubts about streaming services such as Spotify being profitable for artists. Napster founder and Spotify board member Sean Parker said at SXSW that his company would generate more revenue for the music industry than iTunes in the next two years. Carney not-so-politely disagreed and told me why.

Because he’s [Parker] an asshole. That guy has $2 billion that he made from figuring out ways to steal royalties from artists, and that’s the bottom line. You can’t really trust anybody like that. The idea of a streaming service, like Netflix for music, I’m totally not against it. It’s just we won’t put all of our music on it until there are enough subscribers for it to make sense.

Carney continues: “Trust me, Dan and I like to make money. If it was fair to the artist we would be involved in it. I honestly don’t want to see Sean Parker succeed in anything. I imagine if Spotify becomes something that people are willing to pay for, then I’m sure iTunes will just create their own service, and they’re actually fair to artists.”

Listen to the whole interview with Patrick Carney below, including the top 5 songs the drummer would put on a mixtape for a girl. The Black Keys are currently on a short break but will resume touring as they headline the first of two weekends at the Coachella Festival in Indio, CA on April 13.

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