Originally published in Uncut’s June 2010 issue (Take 157). Interview: John Lewis
LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy is one of that small list of pop stars who was well into his thirties by the time he’d achieved any success. “For most of my life, making music has cost me money,” says Murphy, whose 2007 LCD release, Sound Of Silver, was Uncut’s Album Of The Year. “So I learned to live very, very cheaply. I worked in bookshops, I worked for accountants, and I did pretty much every job you could do in a nightclub. I DJ’d, I did lighting and sound mixing, I worked behind the bar and as a bouncer. I put up posters for clubs, which involved having to bribe the mob to avoid getting hit by garbage men with pipes. For years I was homeless, crashing on friends’ couches and in studios. By failing, deeply, at the one thing I wanted to do all my life, a lot of good, balancing stuff happened to me. It’s good for the brain to learn that you’re not guaranteed anything.”
It’s also made him a rather more balanced individual than some of the people in his orbit, even turning down approaches to collaborate from numerous big stars. “I got a phone message from Janet Jackson saying ‘Hi, I love “Losing My Edge”, can you do me something funky and dirty like that?’ I can’t really do off-the-peg stuff, so I never called back. It’s not a problem. I’ll always find a way to make a living. That’s why I’m not at all worried about making my last ever album as LCD Soundsystem.”
You namecheck A-ha and 10cc on the lyrics to “Losing My Edge”, but I’ve always thought both were a bit shit. Which album or songs would you recommend to non-believers?
Phil Raines, Buckhurst Hill
I didn’t actually reference A-ha. It’s just me saying “haha”. But I love 10cc. I’ve always seen them as a songs band, rather than an album band. Of course, “I’m Not In Love”, which has very little to do with the rest of their catalogue, is amazing. But I also love “Good Morning Judge”, which is pretty funky, so is “The Dean And I” and “Art For Art’s Sake”. “The Things We Do For Love” was totally a radio classic when I was a kid. “The Worst Band In The World” is sampled by Dilla on Donuts. I like 10cc. So there, world! If you’re interested in real guilty pleasures, I also have a huge Yes record section. And once in a while, with some regularity, I have a day of just listening to Yes. Fragile and Time And A Word, primarily. When I’m really going for it, I’ll put on Close To The Edge and Relayer, the ones where you get just one track to the side of an album. Yeah, me and Vincent Gallo…
Tell us a secret about Britney!
Marina Diamandis, Marina And The Diamonds
Well, she swears like a trooper! The girl’s got a mouth on her. And she’s a doodler. She puts hearts and flowers over her “i”s and stuff. She’s got the handwriting of an optimistic nine-year-old! Yeah, we hung out in the studio for a day, with the idea to record something. But it didn’t really work out. I don’t write off silly pop people at all, because you never know where they’re coming from. My idea is to get someone like Britney in and play them Suicide. And you go, “What d’you think?” And they could be a bit [adopts little girl voice] “This is weird,” or they could be, “Holy shit! This is amazing?” You could play them Can and they could lose their marbles. These kind of realisations only come out after building up a relationship over a long time. It’d take more than a couple of records to get them to find themselves and their tastes.