James Murphy on Never Being Recognized, Directing the Directors of LCD's New Concert Doc and Why He Can't Live in L.A.
In our music feature this week, we spoke with former frontman James Murphy about Shut Up and Play the Hits, a new film documenting LCD Soundsystem's sold-out April 2011 farewell concert at Madison Square Garden. Below are excerpts from our conversation that didn't make it into the story.
On recreating an interview with Chuck Klosterman for the cameras
When Shut Up and Play the Hits premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, journalist Chuck Klosterman, who appears in the movie interviewing Murphy, said on Grantland that his part in the movie was a "kind of a re-enactment" of an interview he conducted with Murphy for the Guardian a year earlier. Murphy says he and directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern thought of this re-staged interview as "a natural way of providing a lot of information. Chuck didn't get any questions from those guys, I don't think, or from me. Like, just do a normal interview like a normal interview.
He didn't ask a lot of the same stuff. I also think if you want someone to re-create a Chuck Klosterman interview, you hire an actor to play Chuck Klosterman. You know what I mean? Like, I don't think he would be great at pretending, I don't think either one of us would be so great at pretending to have the same interview again."
On telling the directors how he wanted the band to be represented
"The only thing I really stuck my neck about was I wanted the way the concert footage to be a certain way -- like when an instrument starts, I wanted to show that. I had a lot of stake in representing the live thing in a way that I felt was kind of true, and I didn't want a lot of, like, grandiose rock stuff. So, like, if there was too much of me, I kind of vetoed that to show more of the band. If there was a shot from below that was kind of, like, a rock-n-roll glory shot, I would ask to lose all of that. But outside of that, you know, not very. Cutting shots where it looks like someone's trying to look cool, I don't mind. Like, get rid of that. I find that really annoying. But getting rid of -- like, you know, my introduction to Arcade Fire I find so grating and embarrassing. A couple of drunk things are really embarrassing, but I was like, 'Just leave it.' It's better to just let that stuff go and be in the movie.
I think when you see documentaries about bands, a lot of times they're not enfranchised in the film. Like, someone's like, 'We're gonna film your concert tour.' And then there's a lot of, like, 'Get out of my room,' you know? Whereas this was like, an incredibly non-invasive amount of time; they weren't on tour with me for months, I wasn't fed up with them."
"Until something happens you have no preparation for it, unless you grew up in a family where people did things like be in bands and stuff. So I expected it to be a big deal, but I didn't know what that meant. We weren't like, 'Oh, it's a big deal we're gonna quit the band. We'll probably sell out Madison Square Garden eventually.' I never expected that kind of big deal, because we had no frame of reference for it. Like, nothing like this could ever happen in my life. The first time we ever played anything like Madison Square Garden, we played Hollywood Bowl and didn't sell it out. So that's the only other really big place we played. So I expected it to be a bigger deal that it was our last show, but I had no kind of preparations, I had no frame of reference for this to be like, 'Oh, it'll sell out in a couple minutes and there'll be a whole bunch of problems on the internet.' You learn that stuff by doing it, you know?
On the end of LCD Soundsystem as "the end of an era"
"I mean, for me, sure. But I don't know for other people. Maybe we represented a period for thirty-somethings. Like, thirty-something hipsters are like, 'Oh, you guys are my favorite band of that ilk. And now you're gone and most other bands broke up.'"
On being the right amount of famous
"I was never recognized on a plane. Ever. I was known in my field; I was like a scientist. And if you're a very good scientist, no one's on the plane like, 'Holy shit, look at that! This is crazy!' You know what I mean? But if you're another scientist, you're like, 'Oh, it's a pleasure to meet you. I like your work.' And I like that."
On not being able to live in Los Angeles
"I like L.A.; I like it to a certain degree. I couldn't live there, but I like it. My two gripes are that I don't like feeling trapped in my house, like when it's 3:30 you're like, 'Shit, I wanted to go out but it's 3:30 already. I'll never make it back.' Which feels like I live on an island with storms -- the traffic is like this hurricane that you can't be trapped out in. The other thing is, I spent three months there making the last record, and the first time I got on a plane and flew to Europe, I got off the plane and I was like, 'And that will be the end of me ever considering living in Los Angeles.' It's like flying to Japan! It's too long. I have too many relationships in Europe, and just trying to get on the phone with somebody with that time change is a pain in the ass."
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