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Poor Little Rich Stroke: Julian Casablancas "Broke" After Ruinous LA Gigs, Glad to Be Out of Here

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Fri, Jan 15, 2010 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge Soon busking for grocery money at a subway near you: "Broke" JC
  • Soon busking for grocery money at a subway near you: "Broke" JC
Julian Casablancas recently gave an interview to New York magazine, where he bawwwwwed extensively about the lack of massive success of his recent album Phrazes for the Young. The interview is part of an absurd hand-job to profile of Casablancas as "the definitive New York rock star" (New York magazine and its Vulture blog often seem to function as the former Stroke's PR unit).

Buried among all the self-serving "the world doesn't understand me"/"people are not being properly told to buy my album"/"I fought the music industry and the music industry won" cry-babying there's a very interesting comment about his recent residency at the Downtown Palace here in LA:

He did the album on the cheap, but then poured his own money into a four-show L.A. trial run of a staggeringly ambitious stage show complete with costume changes and elaborate sets. The video backdrop for one song, "Ludlow St.," began in the desert and ended in skyscrapers, tracing the evolution of New York City along the way. The shows were a fiasco, and he promises the tour's final dates, January 14 and 15 at Terminal 5, will have "none of that. In the end, it wasn't a positive experience for me at all," he says. "It was a constant struggle with the venue, managers, lighting guys, video people. I went broke doing it." And yet he's already taking meetings to fix what went wrong. "I want to do that in New York eventually. Badly."

We sincerely doubt Julian "went broke" with his Cirque du Soleil meets Dreamgirls extravaganza at the Palace, but his palpable frustration is yet another reminder of why there is such a thing as a "music industry." Many musicians have the notion that they would be good at running labels, booking venues, promoting, etc. but the reality is that very few are. And children of privilege who are accustomed to getting their way (and throwing cash at problems to make them go away) are particularly ill-suited for the job.

Here are more nuggets from the New York piece:

We'd first met up at Waverly Restaurant, a spot Casablancas had supposedly chosen. After about a minute of looking warily at the menu ("This is diner food, I'm assuming?"), he admitted that he'd actually been craving ramen, but had been too polite to resist his publicist's orders to go to Waverly. We dashed out--although not before Casablancas had left a wad of crumpled bills on the table to assuage his guilt.

"I'm just busy with bullshit," he says. "Working on music is the funnest thing for me, and I love it, and I could do it all day, all night. But there's all this other crap that I just constantly have to do. I don't have time. I don't like the business side so much, but it's a necessity because I also don't like the way other people do the business side for me."

RCA is co-releasing his solo album, yet, he says, "they're not the label I signed with. The people change all the time. They're nice, they're cool, but honestly they don't do shit." So he did most of the work through Cult Records, the label he started for Phrazes and financed himself, and it didn't turn out much better. "You have all these dreams. I still like the plan, but it was executed terribly."

While recording out West, he briefly flirted with the idea of moving to L.A., wooed by blue skies and his love of driving the '92 Cutlass he bought for $1,000. "L.A. is a vortex. The weather there tricks you into thinking you're on vacation, even when you're working fourteen hours a day," he says. "But when I came back, I was like, 'Whoa! What the hell was I ... I'm glad I got out of there.' "

So are we, Julian.

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