One album sure to be on “best album’s of 2010” lists everywhere come December is LCD Soundsystem’s electronic-rock masterpiece This Is Happening. Webcuts awarded the record eight and half stars out of ten astutely observing that that the album was “Stunningly mature but also a really good time, it is front man James Murphy’s best and most complex explanation of himself, told in terms of fascinating and longing.” (full review).
Listening to the album, LCD’s third and most accomplished, is a bittersweet experience as its been widely reported that the opus will be the band’s last. But as the following interview during a visit to Australia as part of Splendour in the Grass indicates it may just be the end of LCD Soundsystem part uno. Chris Berkley from Static asks the big questions while LCD’s big man with the plan James Murphy answers.
Now that you’ve gone on record and warned people that This Is Happening is the last LCD album is every show a farewell? Are there people with tears in their eyes in the front row and that kind of thing?
I’m trying to minimise the histrionics, because we won’t stop touring until September 2011 so there are very few places that we’re playing right now that we won’t come back to. I think towards the end, next summer, it may feel like that. But for me right know it’s like phase one of the tour and I’m just looking forward to phase two and trying new things.
So you’re going to have to spend next year saying to people “this is definitely the last time you’ll see us”?
It’s not necessarily the last record. I would make another record. It’s more the end of this part – three records that go together, an arc. We became a bigger band than I ever expected. Something needs to stop, for me, for us all to be happy. Everyone has lives and kids and things like that, I just want it to go back to being a smaller part of our lives as a business of being a professional rock band, with tours, albums, videos and singles and tours and all that stuff. I think we’ve done the best of that that we can. We’ve gotten much farther, than expected or hoped. And if we were making another record in the same trajectory I’d be having a very hard time right now. I’d be having a bit of a crisis. I don’t know what my reasoning to plug on would be.
The main thing for me is that I don’t really want to be a famous person and I feel that we’re in a great place right now as a band where we’ve had a lot of access – people have been very nice to us and we’ve been allowed to play where we want — but I can get on a plane and nobody knows who the hell we are, you know? Which is really the measure: Can you get on a plane and do people know who you are? And nobody knows who we are.
Well from the very start there’s been a refreshing lack of artifice from both LCD Soundsystem and DFA about what you do. From your debut single “Losing My Edge” which was a very self-deprecating song, even to the art show that’s being installed this week which is called “That’s cool but can you make it more shit?”
That’s actually what we would say to Michael the art director who is putting the show up. It’s all very weird. I’m just excited that we have another New York friend here. Not that we have anything against traveling or the people we know around the world but our New York friens are a really incredible group of people that we’re very, very close to and love very, very much. And when we get to see some of them in different parts of the world it’s incredibly wonderful.
It is a novelty because you want to share those touring experiences with them as well and have fun in other places.
Yeah it’s also to share that “Oh my god you have to eat here, you have to meet these people, this is amazing…”. You just want to keep sharing that stuff with your friends.
Having that attitude also been your motto, like the name of the show, in terms of the way you’ve run the band and run the label?
Sort of. DFA isn’t DFA records. DFS isn’t DFA productions. It’s always been a group of friends and Michael’s always been one of them. There’s just this group of people who have always stuck by each other and gone out and partied and always been more fun than kids that were older than us, or kids who were younger than us. A group you could count on to be simultaneously incredibly solid and amazing people but as also as fun as a bunch of really shallow party monsters. That’s always been a big part of me — that’s what DFA is to me, a group of people. The fact that there’s a label, band, production, remix or something that’s just an emblem of that. It’s all DFA.
Since you’ve got this group of friends and support network around the world were you worried, when you decamped to LA to make This Is Happening, that what was special about the band may not have been able to be captured somewhere other than New York?
No because I’ve never done an album starting in New York. All the singles were made in New York but for the first album I went to a farm in Western Massachusetts in the country, which is pretty far away from New York. The second record I went to the same farm but I made it all silver with tinfoil. For the third record the farm was closed, and I was like “crap!” I had to figure something else out.
I thought getting a mansion in LA would be hilarious, it would be so anathematic to what we are. But also I like that stuff, I’m not just a working man. I like big dumb rock gestures and I think they’re missing, even big rock bands are little pedestrian and a little too business minded. So we had this big ramshackle mansion and we brought everybody out. At some points we had twenty people living in the mansion rambling around. Everyone had to wear white, so it looked like a cult and we’d go swimming in the pool and work on a song. So we imported the people, they’d come out for a week and then go back to New York.
So there wasn’t much outside influence? I thought if any place to lose yourself in superficiality it might’ve been somewhere like Los Angeles.
No, the way we describe it’s like a very New York way of doing things. In a good sense it’s a good New York way, in a bad sense it’s a terrible American way in that we went and recorded in the LA of our imagination, of our mind. It was this perfect 1974 LA, we ignored what LA is actually like and just went and created and imposed our idea of LA on LA. And the funny thing is it really worked.
We’d go to parties in groups of twenty people in white and we made a dent, it was a really fun time. Our friends who live in LA were saying “you guys can’t leave!”. Even though we were only there for three months we started a regular party at this place called Temporary Spaces with our chef who is a DJ and was living with us. It was an amazing time. (pauses) EMI will never pay for me to make another record. (laughs)
That’s why you have to stop. They saw the receipts from This Is Happening.
No, but if I ever did it again I would go back to that house again and make another record. But I don’t think they’d ever do it.
Obviously you’re going to tour this record into the ground, have you thought about your next move or do you not need to worry about that for the next eighteen months?
Half the reason I want to stop is so I don’t have to make a plan. Right now I know what I’m doing for the next year and a half. I’m 40, I’m not a kid, and I don’t have children and I’d like children, so to know that until I’m almost 42 I’m tied up…
Well I vote you wear boxer shorts for the next two years. Let’s keep everything in check.
(laughs) Exactly no briefs, no hot tubs!
…but I just want to be able to be more fluid with my decision making, and that’s what I’m looking forward to after this. To be like – oh, I want to try and work with this person on an opera, and I’m going to work on that, and I have an art project want to do with the New York City subway system that I’m really dedicated to and there’s some writing — writing, writing — I want to do, and there’s a film I want to make. There are a lot of things I want to do.
And soundtrack composing? After dipping your toe in the water with Greenburg, was that exciting?
It was and it wasn’t. It was great but I’m not really interested in doing soundtracks. This was a special case, I’d admired the director’s work then I met him and got on with him amazingly well, it was like hanging out with an old friend. It was like making something for a friend and I didn’t have to deal with the industry at all, because the only industry worse than music is film, you know?
First broadcast on Static on 29/07/10. Static can be heard on Sydney’s 2SER (107.3 FM) and via the Internet (www.2ser.com) every Thursday evening (AEST).