Whether in the studio or in barroom brawl, the White Stripes' Jack White has proven that he's not a man to be messed with. Especially when it comes to his baby: His band's music.
Which is why Chicago alt rock station Q101 probably shouldn't have been surprised that White took time out from his duo's European tour on Wednesday to call in from Spain and give DJ Electra a verbal beatdown for playing the band's new album, Icky Thump, in its entirety during her show (see "White Stripes Reveal Icky New Album Details" and "Brawny White Stripes Bust Out Burly New Material At Nashville Warm-Up Gig").
Did we mention that Thump isn't out until June 19? Well, Electra did — several times — according to station music director/assistant program director Spike (who declined to give his real name), who noted that the DJ enthusiastically hyped the album repeatedly during the sneak peek. Kind words notwithstanding, White was pissed.
"I was extraordinarily surprised when Jack called," said Spike, of the call, which came two hours after the album was played at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. "I had no idea what his reaction would be because I don't know the dude. In my head he's this indie-rock dude, so the fact that he'd be calling at all was cool to me. But when he was mad, it was a curve ball." Spike said White was, in fact, "really mad" and though he didn't yell, he used words like "naive" and "coward" and insinuated that DJs like Electra were helping speed the demise of the music industry.
But if Q101 got Thump from an authorized representative of the White Stripes, what's the problem? Well, they didn't.
Denying that the station "leaked" the album, Spike explained that he has a number of fans from his days as a DJ in Philadelphia who frequently send him links to leaked album files, often weeks ahead of their release date. "We never said on-air how we got it, but I was sent a link to a file and, when we found it online — like we always do — we played it," Spike said, citing similar advance spins on the station of tracks from the new Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson albums, all of which he says happened without incident.
"It's a new time, in that you don't know what the rules are anymore. We're fighting to stay relevant with people who listen to the radio, and if they get something three weeks ahead of us, that makes us irrelevant." Spike said that although the White Stripes' label, Warner Bros. Records, knew the station was going to play the album, Q101 was served with a cease-and-desist order five hours after the airing and has not played it again; the station has also honored White's request that the tape of his heated exchange with Electra not be aired.
A spokesperson for Warner Bros. had no comment but said the label is investigating the source of the leaked files. A spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America declined to comment, deferring to the label.
Electra blogged about the incident on her site on Wednesday, under the heading, "So Does This Make Me A Pimp and a Prostitute Too?" She described how, after White berated her, "I felt like I was going to throw up. Weirdest, most surreal conversation of my life ... We tried to explain where we were coming from — someone gave us a copy of a record that we were really excited to play, and the whole experience was an hour-long lovefest for him and his band — but he wasn't having it. He hung up, very, very angry, and I thought I was going to cry."
In other Stripes news, the band announced Thursday that they have had to push back the September 4-13 dates of their U.S. tour due to "unforeseen scheduling issues."