James Murphy has not lost his edge. In fact he’s been relentlessly negotiating the space all around his edges.
LCD Soundsystem as an experiment often was obsessed with deconstructed distance. Murphy’s narratives have explored the proximities of sounds, scenes and the coarse edges of cool. His post-modern industry observations came wrapped up with thrilling punk funk influences reassembled on his own terms that quickly defined an era of New York’s rich melted history.
As the singular songwriter, singer, drummer, bassist, guitarist, mixer, tactician and over-arching musical theorist, James Murphy had the geographical position at the eye of his own cultish storm to triangulate and calculate all sorts of physical and metaphysical distances.
But now it seems Murphy’s Petri dish road show – in his words: a “band about bands” – is onto its final journey as new horizons seduce the vision of a restless man with dexterous talents.
But first there’s the small case of his taut new album, his ever-expansive opinions, honouring deals of a decade ago and why he’d hate to go out with a chart bothering bang.
Here we are, your third – and possibly final – album.
I think it’s more and more likely that this will be the last one. When I was 30 I promised myself that I’d be out by 40 and I’m 40 now so. Any more than this and I’d start feeling like a professional. Like, what are the goals? A lot of the songs that I’ve written, that I like are as good as I’m going to do at capturing that specific thing. I’m not saying that other people can’t do better but of capturing the things most important to me I feel I’m at a point where I’m doing that, I’ve done that and I don’t want to repeat myself. So, what becomes the next goal? Being bigger? It’s just not all that interesting. The next goal becomes about making more money or it’s just not all that interesting.
And it becomes more inconvenient?
Well, I don’t mind the inconvenience and it gets hard because I want to have a life and eat food and see people that I like but, it’s more that the goals start to become career goals rather than creative goals and I don’t want to have those self conscious made up creative goals like reinvent ourselves like, fuck that. I have a band and I like it and I don’t want to be a parody and I don’t want to do that embarrassing shit where you suddenly have a bunch of different clothes. You know how some bands are after a certain age where the guy wears a suit? Everyone comes back and reinvents themselves and it’s just like Bono is now called the Fly, I don’t know. It’s just not that interesting to me. There’s so many other things I like doing.
Clash Magazine Issue 50
Well, it’s very easy for you to reinvent LCD you just go and do something else.
Well yeah. And it’s like, I still want to make music. I want to make 12 inches and dance music but I’ll just see what I feel like. I mean, being in a band that plays big-ish slots at a festival, on a major record label, that brings out albums and does interviews and tours I feel this should be the last one. I think we should do a nice big tour and then go away. Not self consciously but just like, I think more people should be non-professional musicians.
You know like, I don’t want to make that record that I don’t want to make. Like, I like this record but I’m not sure if I want to make another one. And last time I didn’t know if I wanted to make another one but for different reasons. This one just feels more logical. I feel like, okay, deep breath. Turn 40, something changed and letting go a little bit and feeling really good about that. I’m feeling really excited to let go.
So, knowing that it’s going to be your last album and knowing how well received ‘Sound of Silver’ was is there an insane amount of pressure on this album or hardly any?
There’s always an insane amount of pressure for me internally. Making this record, at times was very, very emotional at times. Making ‘Sound of Silver’ was very emotional at times where I just hated making that record. I wanted to kill myself. In the first half I wanted to kill myself. Then I made (Nike soundtrack) ‘45.33’ and then that just calmed me down and the second half of the record was just a breeze. And this record was a different kind of emotional journey. There were times when I started to feel like I had on ‘Sound of Silver’ and I was really hating it. Then I remembered the lessons I had learned on ‘45.33’ and I learned to calm down and that helped me make this record a little bit more. ‘45.33’ allowed ‘Sound of Silver’ to become wide.
Everything that’s wide about ‘Sound of Silver’ happened after ‘45.33’. Before ‘45.33’, it was like a parody of the first record and then some embarrassing attempts at reinvention. So, remembering to clam down and let myself get wide felt really good. But there were times when working on the last song on the record was really emotionally brutal. Like after my 40th birthday I was working crazy hours and it was making me kind of insane. It wound up being emotionally like, being at a funeral in some sense. Like I was like “This is the end, this is the last time I do this” making the last song of the record. But it didn’t feel like pressure like, “I’ve gotta have a big one”. I felt like, I’ve gotta go out the way I came in which is making something that I’m interested in and making it the best I can. Keeping it weird and keeping it weird and wonky just seemed to be the best way to do it.
So, if this is the last one for the world tour would you like to do one last gesture?
I’d love to do a good live document of some kind and that’s going to be hard to do because what I want from a live show is an experience. And I don’t mean an experience like, a cheesy experience like, “I’ll take you on a journey” but I’d like it to be a moment, that you’re there. Because all the shows that I remember the most I’ve never walked away being like: “They sounded incredibly professional and everyone sang in key”. What you walk away from is like a physical experience and that’s very hard to document and I don’t want to do recordings where I’m like: “Make sure I sing better tonight because this is the one we’re recording”. That doesn’t lead for a good show.
So I’d love to have some kind of live document that I like and figuring out a way to do that, that doesn’t feel like a big rock and roll gesture because I would like at some point to do that but I don’t quite know how to do that. And I saw a transition in between producing and doing remixes and running DFA and doing LCD. To me they were all parts of something and one of the reasons to possibly back LCD down is because it’s become too loud. It’s become too much of a part of everything that I’m doing. It takes up a lot of time, I have less time to focus on DFA, I have less time to do remixes and produce other artists on the label. Which is great in that people are figuring out ways to do it without me which makes me feel really good.
But I miss that. I miss throwing parties you know, the other things I like doing. LCD used to be able to slot in with those things and they kept each other fresh but now, whether I act like I’m in a professional band or not, for all intents and purposes I’m in a professional rock band. Like, there are demands, I’m here right now doing an interview you know, I’m gearing up for a tour. We’re playing right before Jay Z at Coachella. Things that are just like… there’s a responsibility to an audience that’s different now.
Words by Matthew Bennett