Interview: LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy
Tue, 08 May 2007 09:32:07
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For a guy who declared five years ago that he was "losing his edge," James Murphy is doing pretty well. His remix team, the DFA, has reshaped everyone from Gorillaz to Nine Inch Nails into buzzy, electro-punk epics; his DFA label has released great records by groups as diverse as U.K. synth-rockers Hot Chip and Brooklyn noise merchants Black Dice; and his own band, LCD Soundsystem, has an early contender for album of the year with Sound of Silver, a near-universally acclaimed follow-up to their 2005 debut. He even nabbed John Cale and Franz Ferdinand to record cover versions of the song "All My Friends" for LCD's latest single. At this point, Daft Punk probably would play at his house.
Murphy chatted with us from the DFA offices, where he was in the midst of fixing himself a tuna salad sandwich and preparing to head out on LCD Soundsystem's North American tour, which started with an appearance at the Coachella Festival.
You campaigned to get everyone to buy Sound of Silver in its first week so that it would debut at #1—
#2 really was the idea.
Oh, right. Like the Shins. But it only debuted at #46.
#46 it is.
Any spin you'd like to put on how that played out?
I only regret that 45 people were the better man than me.... No, I don't think I ever really expected anything. I just liked the idea. It really just came from a conversation I had about how badly the charts were doing.... I just thought it was funny. So I was like, why don't I just ask people to buy [Sound of Silver] the week it comes out. And [the label] was like, well, you can't really ask people to do that. And I was like, yeah, you can, actually. That's a totally respectable thing to ask. And it just seemed like a fun thing to do as a social experiment. I don't think I really had very high hopes of top ten. I was hoping to get into the top 40—I did want to be able to say I was a top 40 artist. But I just missed it. If I'd known I was gonna be that close, I probably would've gone out and bought a hundred copies myself.
So you're not too worried about the slacker fans who bought it after the first week?
Those fuckers are off my list. They're dead to me.
In all seriousness, though, have you been paying attention to all of this "sky is falling" talk about record sales being down 20 percent?
I've sold more records than ever, so I don't really care. I mean, I do care—it's a catch-22, because I have friends who have jobs in the industry and I feel sad for them personally—they're in danger of losing their jobs, or some already have. On the other hand, the industry went a little bonkers when everyone started rebuying all the records they'd already owned on CD. Real money people got involved, and that was sort of the death knell. So it doesn't surprise me, and I don't think it's a big deal if artists don't make insane amounts of money. I think it's really the middle artists that get hit the hardest—I mean, we would be considered that, but I've always been such a failure that it's all up for me. My success level is better than it ever was, so I'm not super-worried about it.
I don't think anyone hearing you describe yourself as having been a failure—
Yeah, I don't think they believe me.
But I have heard you talk in interviews about the days when you slept on the floor of the DFA offices.
Yeah, and that was when things were starting to go my way. I mean, I was broke, but I didn't feel like I was a failure. I was doing stuff, and I was really proud of what I was doing. I felt like that was just a necessary step for a little while. It really wasn't tragic. If you've seen the DFA offices, they're not bad. It was a nice place to be, and I could get up and get right to work. I didn't really mind it that much.
You've been making music for a really long time, right? Before LCD Soundsystem, you were in various—I don't know if you'd call them punk bands or—?
Indie rock bands.
So when and how did you discover dance music? Because you were a doubter at first, right?
Oh, I hated it. I didn't like dance music at all.
Was there a moment that was sort of an epiphany, where you were like, okay, I get it now?
Oh, yeah. I took ecstasy.
And that was what did it?
Yep. And then I was dancing, and having fun, and I realized, "Oh, this is fun."
Since LCD Soundsystem has gained more success, do you feel like your relationship to dance music and dance culture is different now?
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