James Murphy interview

LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy tells Eddy Lawrence why some music sounds suddenly rubbish when your brother comes into your room

Interview, Music feature

Led by indie music’s wise-old man of the hills, James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem defined the hipster agenda of the noughties. Now the punk-funk pioneers are bowing out after touring their forthcoming third (and arguably best) album, This Is Happening. We caught up with LCD’s gregarious mastermind possibly – sniff! – for the last time, to talk about his new baby.

The new album is a real progression – it sounds much more lush and epic, certainly a lot more funk than punk…
I always set out to make music as an example of something I think is missing in music. There’s almost an argument with how contemporary music is made. But I felt like a lot of the things I wanted to do, I already did them. So what’s left? Well, I’ve always tried to risk embarrassment or humiliation, and the thing that’s always been beyond the pale to a certain degree has been letting myself be a little more generous with melody and a little more inviting with production. These are things that I don’t do, because I’ve always tried to be very spartan.

It’s quite rare to hear a musician admitting he thinks about the writing process so consciously.
I think one of the reasons we’ve possibly done well with critics is I approach music largely from a critical point of view. Instead of writing an op-ed piece, I have a band that’s an op-ed piece. There’s always an element of: This is what I think a band should be. Rather than: This is my vision. I don’t have a vision. I’m a trench fighter, you know what I mean?

So what are you aiming your mortar at this time?
I thought: I’ve been so obsessed with erasing the fake, emotive nature of the rock I see around me – what we used to joke was called the ‘I feel, you feel’ music, which is where you just say something really vague, but with a ton of intensity so that a big room full of people can just feel like you and they are in sync, and it’s utter garbage. But I like stuff from my childhood, early OMD or Bronski Beat or The Smiths, which was the kind of music you loved in your room, but the minute someone else walked in who didn’t like that kind of music, you suddenly realised how fey and absurd it was. When you suddenly hear it through someone else’s ears and think: this is so great! Oh, my brother’s here – this is the [most limp-wristed] music I’ve ever heard.

So what will you do next, now that LCD is ending?
That’s easy, man! I didn’t start doing LCD until I was 32 years old. I was a grown man. Wynn Butler from Arcade Fire isn’t even that old now. I don’t understand people who say, ‘I don’t know what else I would do’; these guys who continue to tour and make these s***ty records, and you know that they’re just terrified. I don’t give a s**t, man. This wasn’t my plan. I gave up on music and I’ve done better than I have any right to have done. I don’t expect to get rich, I don’t expect to never have to work again – I expect to work until I can’t work anymore. That’s what you do.

You don’t seem to view yourself as part of any particular scene or generation.
That’s been a bit of an overarching tone to doing this record. From the very beginning I’ve felt like an anachronism and that I had a weird moment, where hilariously we were young and new – which was deeply disconcerting, since record one was about being old and out of the loop – ha ha! I was 32 years old and making a song that was specifically about being way too old and now, eight years after that, I have a ‘hotly anticipated’ new LP. It’s hilarious.
This is Happening is in stores and online now.

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