A while back it was announced that Conan O’Brien would release albums on his buddy Jack White’s record label Third Man records. The internet went aflutter with anticipation once this announcement came down that both a 7-inch spoken word single and 12-inch music record would hit the shelves.
We caught up with Third Man records’ General Manager, and all around snappy dresser Ben Swank to ask him about how this unique partnership came to be and what we can expect from the label with future comedy releases.
So, how did these two releases come to be? Was it as easy as Conan asking Jack to put them out for him?
Conan was coming through town to do Bonnaroo, so we took a chance and got in touch with him to see if he’d want to do a show at Third Man. He was into it, so we pushed it… Will you do a live album? YES. Will you do a 45? YES… So it all worked out pretty good cause he’s just a cool guy and was happy to be doing something kind of special.
Can you give us the goal/idea behind Third Man’s “Green Series” which the 7-inch was recorded for?
We want to record different people’s stories from different walks of life, and/or have them tell us how to do what they do that’s special, or just have them show us how or what they do. There’s lots of interesting things out there that aren’t music related and we don’t want to be restricted to only releasing music. It’s engaging and funny to hear Conan and Jack just talking on the B-side and kind of a cool glimpse at Conan on the other end of the interview hot seat.
Is Conan signed to the label for more releases or is this a one-time thing?
Well we also released the live show that he and his band performed here as a live LP available through our website as well. But for the time being, that’s it.
Who took the picture of Conan on the 7-inch’s album art? His hair is looking particularly higher than usual.
Conan did his own hair, but the great portraits on the front and back were done by our in-house photographer Jo McCaughey. She does most of the covers for our 45s here at the label and a lot of documentary pics for us too. She’s amazing.
Conan’s had a pretty long friendship with Jack, what do you think it is about those two that draw them to each other?
Probably their height.
You mentioned one of the releases is the 5 song Conan O’Brien: Live at Third Man 12-inch. For those of us didn’t see the live performance happen at your offices, what was it like being in the room watching Conan and Jack perform together?
It’s actually a full length album with 10 songs.. But yeah it was really great. Conan’s a really good guitar player and he’s obviously a natural born front man. It was a great song selection, he does a hilarious version of “Polk Salad Annie”, and the between song banter was priceless. It was kind of surreal standing there watch this go down in our little venue in our offices, but was a really really good time.
Are there plans for Third Man Records to release more albums by comedians?
Maybe yeah, we’re open for just about anything if the right project comes along. NO DEMOS!
We’d like to thank Ben for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. Both the Conan O’Brien 7-inch And The Call Me Mad and the 12-inch Conan O’Brien: Live at Third Man are available on the Third Man records webstore.