James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem interview: Losing His Edge-
Tuesday, 7 February 2006
James Murphy is one of the most influential figures in today's dance scene. But if you believe that he has a master plan, then you're wrong. He's an instinctive musician.
Murphy initially made some noise as co-founder of New York's DFA (Death From Above) with Tim Goldsworthy. Last year he splintered off, albeit temporarily, with the punk-funk-disco ensemble LCD Soundsystem - and they've been touring solidly live. In fact, LCD Soundsystem have played for three years in all - to Murphy's sheer amazement (and exhaustion). Even as James gives interviews ahead of the Big Day Out he's preparing for Christmas at the last minute. He laughs at how un-rock'n'roll it sounds - Christmas tree shopping with his wife (though his partner is actually Mandy Coon of the glamoclash WIT). Murphy will be DJing only in Australia - for the curious, he favours disco sets - because, after extending their tour once already, he was unable to impose on his band again. The tour commitments have been all-consuming with lives suspended. Murphy's bassist Tyler Pope is moonlighting from !!! (Chk, Chk, Chk), on hiatus long enough.
"They couldn't come, they couldn't come," Murphy says of LCD Soundsystem. "I had promised everyone that we were gonna be done touring last summer and then I asked for an extension from everyone and they granted me an extension 'til December. Then we got the BDO offer and I couldn't get confirmation from a couple.
"You have to understand, we're not a band of 22-year-olds. Two of the guys have children and the amount of time that we'd be away, it's a really long time for a five-year-old.
"It got shot down from every direction... I had stretched everyone to the limit and babies' mothers were getting upset and other bands and so it just collapsed.
"There's things called lives that sometimes have to be lived!"
Still, you can tell Murphy secretly feels bad, hence the exhaustive, somewhat exasperated, explanation. Perhaps he should consider assembling a tribute band- James is familiar with the Australian incarnation of Abba, Bjorn Again ("that's so frightening!"). He cracks up. "I could franchise the LCD, just go find some dumpy 35-year-old guy who yells and we're in business," he says, typically self-effacing.
Before The DFA, Murphy - from smalltown New Jersey - was rocking in neo-punk bands, beginning with Pony. Dismayed with the pretence in the punk fraternity, he became an engineer. Along the way, he met the Brit Tim Goldsworthy, James Lavelle's old cohort at Mo' Wax. They conceived The DFA, circa 1999. The pair have established an industrious production house - they've guided The Rapture of House Of Jealous Lovers fame. Critics have lavished praise on The DFA. They've been hailed as the saviours of dance along with allies like Belgium's Soulwax. In 2002 Murphy introduced LCD Soundsystem with 'Losing My Edge'. More extolling ensued. Yet Murphy chooses to be ignorant of his much revered status. He argues that it's impossible to acquire perspective from within.
At one point The DFA were approached to produce pop princess Britney Spears, but the time frame delineated for their sessions was absurd. "The circumstances weren't particularly good," Murphy rues. "It was a lot of, 'Well, she can be there from 4 to 5.30 to write a song.' It was just a bunch of bullshit, so we pulled the plug on it after a day."
Janet Jackson telephoned them before Damita Jo - she was after their "funky" music. The DFA were too busy to do anything. They were later contacted by Lindsay Lohan. "There was a lotta bullshit about us being the next Neptunes. Of course nobody bothered to check with us to see if we had any interest in being the next Neptunes [laughs], which we didn't. We were content with being The DFA. So we started getting these weird calls like, 'Do you wanna work with Britney Spears-'"