James Murphy is exhausted. Bouts of flu flood his skull as his body starts to give up to a mammoth comedown after the LCD Soundsystem lynchpin recently made his way back across the Atlantic following another batch of dates anywhere between Ormskirk and Osaka. Sifting though records in a rare spot of downtime before LCD embarked on a jaunt round South America – a tour that had its fair share of complications – it’s not long since we last spoke to the Brooklyn beatnik in May (link). But off the back of the release of ‘45:33’, the joint jaunt with Arcade Fire, usual duties for DFA and the rounded round of applause the cripplingly brilliant Sound Of Silver has now received, there seemed plenty left to discuss.
*Since DiS last spoke to you, _Sound of Silver_ has been almost universally lauded. Have you been taken aback by quite how well it has gone down? *
It was somewhat of a surprise but I don’t really think too much about that. Reviews have typically been good for DFA in general, historically, and I’ve always received positive feedback from releases. So I guess I hadn’t given it that much thought. I think we’ve been spoilt with praise, though.
*The album was recorded well over a year ago. Does it stand up and represent what you aspired to release as a record? *
Definitely, I’m very proud of it and very pleased. It’s the record I wanted to make so I cannot, and don’t have, any regrets about it.
*Do you feel the record, in general, represents a territory that you will continue to come back to, or have you covered a certain base now and look to change tack? *
I don’t know. Right now I want to do other things because we’ve been on tour for so long. I want to make some dance 12”s and stay home. Part of the funny thing with being the artist I am is that I get to do remixes and stuff that helps get a lot out of my system. So I keep thinking every time I finish a record that the next record is going to be all centred around a load of dance music, but then get the opportunity to make a bunch of remixes in the kind of down-time and I get that out of my system. But it’s hard to say. Right now I want to get back to work on making music.
Do you think that the relative freedom you have with your various roles is important to you keeping a fresh head?
Yes and no, I think it’s both. On one hand it allows me to keep changing what I’m doing and I don’t feel boxed in or pinned down too much, but then on the other hand being so busy and touring so much takes away a lot of the opportunities I have to do the things I’d like to and just weird ideas I think I’d like to do on a whim.
Though there was a relatively quick turnaround between the debut and Sound of Silver, do you perceive your remixing and production duties for DFA as ever being a distraction from the focus on LCD?
No, not at all. If anything there is too much time between releases for me. I don’t like the modern way of putting out an album every two years or three years. I would rather make a record a year; I just wouldn’t want to tour. People used to make records every year, or two records in a year. The Beatles did twelve albums in six years and it just seems people made more music with more momentum, whereas now it seems like you make a record and you become a salesman for an extensive period of time.
It seems you don’t have the most positive outlook on touring? Is it something you could foresee turning your nose up at in the future?
I enjoy playing live and I actually enjoy – well, don’t mind – the travelling. I get sick a lot and it’s stressful, but I like the people in my band and I like travelling with them. We’re good at it and have a fun time; it’s just more about what it takes me away from. I miss my wife and I miss my dog and I miss my house and I miss my studio and being able to work on other people’s music. I don’t get as much flexibility with spontaneous ideas. I’m not designed particularly well for that.
Presumably this has a good deal to do with being away from New York. You seem to really identify with the city, particularly with regards to that central notion of ‘home’. Would you say it plays a specific role in your songwriting?
New York’s importance for me is massive, it’s monumentally important and I don’t think I could live anywhere else. I grew up 45 minutes out [of town] and became a person there, but have lived in New York since I was 19 in the later ‘80s. It’s a very special place for me and even though I’m bored of it I’m_ not_ bored of it. It played a big role in the last record. Not so much with ‘New York I Love You’, because that is a love song that isn’t not meant to be so literal, but the city plays a huge role in everything I do and I genuinely love it. It’s a big deal to me.
Your jaunts away from the city have been pretty extensive though. Can we expect a James Murphy travel book in the near future?
It would go head-to-head with…
[guffaw-splutter-cough]. I think I’d make a travel book on hotels. I’ve stayed in enough hotels this year to know.
Are there particular places that you’ve enjoyed taking the record to?
Going to Poland this year was pretty great. We really wanted to do that and knew we had to do a few back flips to get there, but that was pretty amazing because I had never been there. Japan, again because I just like going there. My wife and I go there regularly no matter what, tour or no tour, and have spent a couple of Christmases there. We have a lot of friends out there and it’s a very different place for us, if just because it’s pretty homely compared with most of the other parts of the globe we end up in. It’s familiar and not so alien.
Video: 'North American Scum'
The recent joint tour with Arcade Fire in the US presumably placed you in front of an audience that perhaps would have not have necessarily gone out their way to see you otherwise?
Yeah, it was amazing. We didn’t get any bigger crowds than we’d get at a festival and it wasn’t a radical departure if that makes any sense, but playing to different people was fun. It was good to be the opening band. We haven’t done that in a while so that was enjoyable. It didn’t change the pressure at all but just changed the tone, if that makes in sense. But it was super enjoyable.
Presumably, in the time since you wrote Sound of Silver, new ideas have started to sprout up? Has your approach to writing changed over the last year?
No… I don’t know. Not so much. I don’t really know until I get down to it and I don’t get down to it until I get down to it, if that makes any sense. I write songs every day, so it’s a matter of when I start recording really. I’m in the middle of doing a remix and I’m producing some other stuff and I’m working on the Shit Robots record and working on things now that I haven’t had the chance to engage with recently.
So is it difficult to gage a point where the stages of thought start because of these transitions between projects?
Yeah, it’s difficult to know where my mind is going in terms of the next record. I might use a lot of energy on one of Markus’s (Lambkin, Shit Robots) records and feel like I wanted to do something very, very different, or I might get a head of stream in a direction and keep going. At the moment I feel like I’m just picking up from where I left the album. The album was a strange experience anyway because right in the middle of it I did ‘45:33’, left that, and felt really upset just finishing the album and now having to the b-sides and get ready to tour and do videos which really frustrated me because I felt really engaged in the studio. I felt that I had a lot of energy and that I could make three more albums in that scenario.
Do you feel most content in the studio, behind the engineering decks, then?
No, I’m definitely at my most miserable. It’s really disheartening at times. It’s the highest risk thing. Live was the highest risk thing after I had made just a couple of 12”s, because it was just terrifying. But now it has shifted back and being in the, which I think also has a lot to do with the huge reward that comes off the back of the terror of it. Because it’s pretty quiet, it’s a different type of terror than a flasher movie fright.
Do you feel the current mainstream music scene suits you more than ever?
It does and it doesn’t; it depends on where you are. I think to a certain degree it’s more accepting.
But presumably it’s very different territory than when the debut record came out?
I’m not sure. I don’t really notice. I pay attention to what’s going on in the DFA office and then outside; it’s not much more than what’s going on with big, huge things like Kanye versus 50 Cent, I guess. It still feels like I’m a non-person in that world. I feel that when it comes to new music I’m so distanced that I feel staggeringly objective. It’s one of the reasons that when we started DFA we focused on New York because it was all I could really wrap my head around.
Though you seem to admit that touring has cut you off somewhat, having been nominated as one of DrownedinSound’s Albums of the Year (and the editorial winner!), we wondered what were your favourite records of the year.
Oh wow, awesome. That’s wonderful. That’s fantastic. I never know how to react to such things other than,_ “it’s great”_. I feel so funny about it. I don’t know about my favourite records. I haven’t spent long enough listening to albums this year’s released because I’ve been on tour and just haven’t been able to.
But you’re eternally laid off as this huge muso...
But I spend all my time listening to disco records for DJing. I just sit at home and listen to those records for what is, effectively, my job, whereas I haven’t particularly had the chance to listen to people’s albums. I recently got La Folie by The Stranglers which I’ve been listening to. I tend to read the same books three times, four times, and listen to a lot of the same records. I really don’t have my finger on my pulse for everything. I like to listen to things a long time to understand it which, sadly, cuts out a lot of music. It used to that you listened to a record to understand it, because you loved it, and then listened to radio too because it wasn’t insufferable crap and find things a different way. But now the radio is full of insufferable crap and unless I get a chance to sit with a record I’ll usually be completely oblivious to what most bands sound like.
Crap, as it happens James. Sound Of Silver is the DiS album of 2007 based on editorial arguments and slagging matches; where it rates in this year’s readers vote can be seen when that top ten of 2007 runs on Friday, December 14. Check it’s review here and our full list of 2007’s greatest albums here.