Over the past month, I’ve been able to talk to Ben Blackwell, the so-called ‘Pinball Wizard’ at Third Man Records, the record label started in 2009 by Jack White III. Mr. White is a former member of The White Stripes, and member of The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs. Third Man holds true to the vinyl format, releasing 45’s and 33 1/3’s regularly. The label also has a subscription only Vault membership, where you can get exclusive content and records that are not available anywhere else. During the past 12 years, Blackwell has been a drummer for The Dirtbombs, and has established his own record label Cass Records. Blackwell released his first solo album, “I Remember When All This Was Trees” in 2010.
Jarrett Koral: Has there been any rivalry between Cass and Third Man? Even an occasional friendly one?
Ben Blackwell: No, there’s not a rivalry between Cass and Third Man. It’s kind of hard to have a rivalry between two things you are a part of.
JK: I know you’ve been asked in every single interview, but how did Cass Records start out?
BB:I noticed a lot of music that I liked wasn’t being released right around the same time my mom refinanced her house. It all worked out pretty well from there.
JK: Have you gotten used to the Dirtbombs shows after all these years? Does the energy ever fade out?
BB: After 12 years, yes, I feel like I’ve finally gotten used to it. But those first ten years…those were arduous.
JK: At the moment, do you have a favorite new band?
BB: I really like D. Watusi from Nashville.
JK: Thinking about any new solo work after your last album?
BB: I tested myself with a cover of Beck’s “Pay No Mind” that is currently just languishing on my laptop.
JK: Why has Cass never released Record Store Day exclusive items? Is it a big enough label to have a major release?
BB: At Cass Records, every day is Record Store Day.
JK: Will there ever be a TMR staff jam session with Jack White, Ben Swank (of the Soledad Brothers) and yourself?
BB: Still waiting for this one. Someday.
JK: How do you feel about Detroit’s music scene?
BB: I love it. I miss it.
JK: What is the favorite record in your collection?
BB: It’s always changing, but I’m always pretty fond of my hand-painted “Lafayette Blues” single
JK: What can we expect next from Cass Records?
BB: In the making for over 8 years, I will finally be able to release the Vegetarian Cannibals recordings.
JK: One of the Cass releases is by a band called Tin Knocker, which was never available for sale. Can you tell us anything about this mysterious record?
BB: An awesome band. My uncle and a family friend who did some solid jams in the garage. One of my favorite things I’ve ever released.
JK: Aside from your favorite new group, what band has/had the best ever stage presence?
BB: That’s a really good question, and a difficult one to answer. Instinct dictates the MC5 and/or the Stooges, but a to dig beneath the surface bands like the Cramps, Viva L’American Death Ray Music and the Clone Defects were all pretty amazing in their own way.
JK: Could you name your top 5 favorite albums of all time right here right now?
CW Stoneking “Jungle Blues”
Richard Ristagno and Soular self-titled
April in the Orange “The Glittering Fish Were Stars”
Dan Sartain “Too Tough To Live”
The Hentchmen “Ultra Hentch”
JK: On every Third Man release, there is a message in the dead wax of the vinyl. Sometimes they make no sense, but sometimes they’re complete genius…
BB: It’s the best way to communicate a secret, there’s a meaning behind all of them.