So this is an email interview with James Murphy, half of the production duo called DFA, and the main man behind LCD Soundsystem. His/their/its self-titled album has made a lot of critics (including me) do backflips, while others have thrown softly-couched brickbats. As for the public ... well, a lot of ass-shaking has happened to LCD tracks over the last few years, and that’s not going to change any time soon.
However the only ass-related thing happening in this interview, as you are about to see, was James Murphy handing me mine.
PopMatters: Was the reaction to your album pretty much what you expected it would be?
James Murphy: I guess. I have no frame of reference other than the press we’d had for the 12’s, which was absurdly positive. Maybe we’re spoiled, but the reaction to the record in general? Sure. People complain about the fact that there’s not “Losing My Edge” on it and all. It’s about right.
PM: At this point, do you care what critics say at all?
JM: Sure I care in some way. It’s nice to be liked. And sometimes there’s valid criticism that I take to heart. But overall, it’s really not a big deal.
PM: Your music is very bold about its antecedents. Is this homage to other musicians you love, or is it a philosophical statement, or am I just working too hard on this question?
JM: Maybe all 3. It’s just what I do. Other people do other things, like play guitar solos and labor under the delusion that they’re special and original. I choose, to, well, I choose not to.
PM: A lot of people (a.k.a. my internet music nerd friends) love to trainspot with your songs: “Aha! Those synth stabs on ‘Yeah!’ sound just like the ones from ‘The Paw-Paw Negro Blowtorch and Me,’” or “‘Daft Punk…’ is basically just ‘Roadrunner’ with synths,” or whatever. What is your favorite “hidden reference” (sound, riff, lyrical reference) that you’ve snuck in that no one has gotten yet?
JM: “Tired” just sounds like Dungbeetle to me. I wonder if anyone not previously in the band Dungbeetle would get that.
PM: Is it hard to shuttle back and forth between your role as producer/collaborator and your role as musical artist?
JM: It’s not really, with the exception of my lack of time. I’m on an airplane to Seattle right now for a two week US tour, and it’s killing me. This is the first chance I’ve had to answer these questions. Other than that, it’s a breeze. I like the way all the jobs feed each other with ideas.
PM: What is the first record you remember buying with your own money? Describe that purchase. Do you still listen to it?
JM: I bought a 7” of david bowie’s “Fame” in 1977. I was pretty excited. I bought it at the local fair in my town for 50¢. I loved it. I loved all the vocal tricks where he dove the notes down. It was sweet. I still listen to the song, but I think I’ve lost the 7.
PM: What is the last record you remember buying with your own money? Describe that purchase. Is it good or does it suck?
JM: I just bought a bunch of records yesterday. BT Express, Rufus, 10cc, and Animal Collective. I like them all a lot. I went to a wedding in Cape May, New Jersey, and on the way back to New York I stopped in Princeton and went to the Record Exchange. It’s always nice there.
PM: Give me a top ten list of something music-related. Your choice, any list you want, commentary optional, no further instructions.
JM: That blows. I hate top tens. I hate lists. Top ten something. I don’t know. Make it up and I’ll say it was me. Argh.
PM: Do you see yourself as just beginning your musical career, right in the middle of it, already all washed up (g-d forbid)?
JM: I don’t know. I see myself in the middle and towards the end of my musical career. I’m tired of it. I really wish music and bands and labels would step up so that I can go home and eat with my wife. Get a dog, maybe.
PM: What one non-English-speaking country could you live in quite happily, and why?
JM: I don’t think there is one, really. I love New York so much. I could get into Berlin for a while, or maybe somewhere very beachy. Japan is nice, but it gets hectic there as an outsider after a while, so, you tell me.
PM: The perfect kiss.
JM: One that freaks you out.
PM: Who would you put forward to describe “effortless cool”?
JM: Oh, Jesus. Are you serious? Fuck this.
PM: Politics: how much they matter to you, why do you like/not-like to talk about them, am I a dickhead for even asking this question, etc.
JM: Fuck politics. More rock.
PM: What is the one question you always hoped people would ask you in an interview but no one ever has?
JM: What were you thinking?
PM: Thanks so much!
JM: You’re welcome—sorry about some of the answers!
// Notes from the Road
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