You may not instantly recognise James Murphy’s face – in fact you’d be forgiven for assuming we’re running an interview with David Lynch’s younger brother – but you’ve almost certainly thrown a shape or two to his music.
As frontman of hugely influential dance-punk outfit LCD Soundsystem, the 42-year-old was responsible for such brilliantly contagious tunes as All My Friends and Losing My Edge, and he single-handedly made it possible to dance at 40 without being cringed at.
Last year, to the dismay of everyone with a functioning pair of ears, he dismantled his band and a new documentary released next week charts their final gig. Our interview with Murphy, to discuss the film, his band’s legacy and coffee, begins at 7.30am New York time. Why? Why so early?
You destroyed your band so you could enjoy a new life. Does that really involve interviews before 8am?
This wasn’t the plan. The thing is, I’ve got so much going on in my days right now, my world has become a desperate search to find little moments before those days start. This is one of those moments I guess. People never believe me, but since the band ended I have been working non-stop.
Would you describe yourself as a workaholic?
No. I don’t think so, I’ve been incredibly busy doing this movie about our final show, and that’s eaten a year. I think I’m a commitaholic. People ask me to do stuff, and for some stupid reason I never say no. Somehow, I have 25 flights booked between now and 27 October. I need to say no. Maybe next year.
What is your favourite memory of that final LCD Soundsystem show?
I remember the adrenaline, feeling sad, frightened, happy, but for the most part it was all about a job getting done. It’s like a soldier in a war: you’ve got your part to play, you have no time to stop and think about what that job actually entails until it’s all over. Our songs were constructed in such a way so that I never had much time to get existential, and they were built that way for a reason. I don’t like getting existential. That said, I can remember grabbing my lyrics sheets I had stuck all over the stage, screwing them up, then walking off. Over. It was over.
You don’t know your lyrics?
No, I never did. I just made all that stuff up every time, and had those notes to help me go down the right path. Each performance was different, the words caught on record just happened to be the words I sang that day. I always used to like it when we were at a festival in Europe or something, and these kids up front would be singing our songs back at us, and you could see them getting all self-conscious because they were getting sh*t wrong. I always wanted to say, “Don’t beat yourself up. You’re right. You know the words, but I don’t.”
Was there ever a point where you got carried away and had to rein your ego in?
I don’t think so, but that’s not really a massive achievement on my part, that’s just about being slightly older than most people are in bands like ours. My personality was perfectly designed to be an incredibly self-important douche had we done this when I was 10 years younger. If I had started LCD Soundsystem when I was 21 rather than 31, I would have become unbearable.
How do you think the band would have ended if you had started younger?
Seriously, I don’t actually think the band would have ended at all. I think it probably would have gone on and on and on too long. I would have been out there right now, performing duets with inappropriate people.
You said your post-band world was going to involve drinking a lot of coffee. How’s that going?
Very well. I love how good coffee got in London, just out of nowhere. You’ve got Giddy Up by Old Street, Flat White in Soho, all kinds of amazing sh*t. Bad coffee had to be beaten out of England, but it’s f*cking gone, or going at least. I remember when I first started coming over, someone would ask if you wanted a coffee, I’d say yeah, then... instant. F*ck! No! That sh*t is not supposed to happen. If you’ve only got instant coffee, you should just offer tea.
Is it fair to say London played a big part in the LCD Soundsystem story?
Oh, the biggest. Our first show was in London. I used to be over so often, people didn’t believe me when I said I lived in New York. I love what England did for us – being asked to come over felt like I was being given a new life.
In the US, you’re often mistaken for being English. Is there one thing you dislike about the English?
Well there is, yeah. England is the only place where someone will walk up to you and moan in an attempt to become buddies. I remember DJing once and this kid came up to me and said, “This set is so sh*t,” to try to show me how cool he was. I just grabbed him by the throat and was like, “You’re talking to a f*cking stranger. We don’t know each other, dude. I am from a f*cking farm town, I will beat the sh*t out of you.” I take criticism every day. You can’t just go up to a stranger and moan. That sh*t has only happened to me in England.
When was the last time you thought, “Sod it, let’s get the band back together”?
To us, it’s the same as it ever was. We’re still friends, we still play music together. It’s just everyone else doesn’t have to know about it now.
Finally, your dog is amazing in Shut Up And Play The Hits. How is she?
Awesome. Her name is Petunia. She’s doing well, I think, but you know, she’s a dog so I can’t ask. Well, I do ask, I ask all the f*cking time, but she never answers. Since the band ended, I guess I’m at home a little more, so she’s getting fed a little more, getting a little fat I’d say. But you’re right, she is the star of our movie, she needs an agent now, really.
Shut Up And Play The Hits is at cinemas on 4 September only: shutupandplaythehits.com
(Image: Rex Features)