Q&A – James Murphy on LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream: “I just stopped giving a shit”

Murphy discusses his new album, the band's return and David Bowie, at length

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LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream is Uncut’s album of the month in our October issue, which features a full-page Q&A with James Murphy. As promised in the mag, here’s the whole of the epic 40-minute interview, featuring more on the new album, being friends with David Bowie and priceless bass guitars… Interview: Tom Pinnock


So this is the last record made at DFA Studios?
It is. It’s been recorded in a lot of different places, though. I never did albums fully at DFA, I always would go someplace else so I wasn’t making a record in my office, basically. But this time I wanted to do it at DFA, but my wife was going to school in London off and on, so I wound up working a lot in London, which I really loved. So it was just my studio, and then a couple of studios in London, and mostly Al Doyle’s studio in Shoreditch. I have a flat, so I can just walk to his studio. There’s a coffee shop we went to all the time right around the corner from my studio, and we really like it and they’re really nice to us, and there’s a young barista who’s a drummer, and if we have time we’re gonna record his band there – partially because it would be funny to have our record not be the last thing, instead it’s the barista! I’ve already built a new studio in Brooklyn, but it’s not 100% done.


It’s mainly just you on this record – what parts did other people play?
It is mainly me as usual, but I think each time there are varying degrees of people… Al Doyle is on the record a lot, and he was around a lot, because I was working in London a lot, at his studio with him. Everybody [in LCD] is on it to some extent. It’s only when I look back and figure out credits, and I have to look at the old records to figure out the formats I used for that. It’s really mundane shit – you’re done with the record, and then you’re like, ‘Oh, so I’ll go get the other three albums and lay them out on a big table’, and then I’ll have my computer, and I’ll have to write down studio names, assistant engineer… And I realised on the first record, almost nobody did anything, and then the second record there’s a little bit more, and the third record there’s a little bit more, and now there’s even more. So it still feels generally the same, but we’re a very good unit. And making a record is how I write, it’s just the way it goes. We did this thing, London Sessions, years ago, which I really like – we get into shape as a band, then all of a sudden the way we’re playing things live changes how they are. Hopefully we’ll do one of those this time around. What we are as a live band is different to what we are on recordings, but they’re both equal versions, they’re both LCD Soundsystem, but in very different ways.

I heard that you had a huge number of songs going into this record.
I had a huge number of pretty developed ideas. This record has 10 songs, which I never do, it’s always nine. There’s more that didn’t get finished that I feel really good about. This is the most music I ever had, for sure! I’m looking forward to making more records.

How many songs do you have left over, then?
18? But it depends on the state, because there are some things that feel quite fleshed out in a studio, there’s drums recorded, bass recorded, there’s little other bits; but then there’s other bits that are something I sang into a phone. And in a weird way, sometimes the thing I’ve sang into a phone is further along. Songs can click together really quickly, and other times they’re really laborious and heavy lifting.


Was there an overarching plan for the album, or did you just pick the best songs?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the larger question that this brings up, which is, I’m a very cerebral person in certain ways, I do a lot of thinking and reasoning about things. But the decision-making matrix I have for the band is almost entirely gut. It’s weird for me to say, because I don’t think like that, I don’t value people’s gut too much. But listening to the records and figuring out what goes on is always a gut thing – like, ‘Oh, we need this one, that one needs to be on there.’ The order is always just gut, what naturally seems to come next. My gut instincts are strong, but they’re not always accessible to me, which is why I like DJing, because you don’t have time and you have to go on instinct. There’s one song that should have been on there in a way [“Pulse”], but it would have caused more trouble possibly, because it’s 14 minutes, and the record’s already nearly 70 minutes. So it would have been another piece of vinyl, it would have been a second CD. But in my mind, it’s the only thing that can come after the last song… it’s a bit of sunrise after the last song. So I hope I can make a 12” or something soon, so hopefully that will be added at the end of your streaming list.

There are a lot of long songs on here already!
I just stopped giving a shit, weirdly enough. I always had long songs and I always was trying to make them shorter. This time around I did cut some things down, but I’m less concerned. Sometimes it makes them better, sometimes it doesn’t. We shot a video last night in Melbourne for a six-minute song!


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