Published Jan 01, 2006For three years now, the revival of punk and dance music has been one of music's most successful and exciting fusions, largely in part to the New York City-based record label and production team known as DFA (owned and operated by James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy). Producing albums by the Rapture and Radio 4, as well as remixing the likes of Le Tigre and N*E*R*D*, DFA quickly became the hottest name in underground music, revitalising early '80s post-punk with a fresh style hipsters and the press have gone cuckoo for. But for Murphy, it wasn't just about producing other people's music he had songs of his own.
As LCD Soundsystem, Murphy has proven he is the label's flagship act without even trying. In 2002, he released his first single, the widely acclaimed sardonic anthem "Losing My Edge," in which he plays the role of an aging hipster who spews pompous memories about the good old days when he was the king of cool. Three more singles maintained the interest, but it's been a three-year wait for a full-length debut. "I'm not that careerist," Murphy confesses. "It wasn't really the goal to have this professional rock band career arc, where you build up some buzz and you do some street cred marketing, and strike while the iron's hot. We started DFA to make things and have limitless freedom within whatever financial restrictions we had to make things when they felt necessary. When we think something is necessary might be very different than someone else's calendar."
LCD Soundsystem's self-titled album might just be the most anticipated full-length of 2005, but Murphy isn't about to drop everything and focus on his band. The truth is he just doesn't have the time or the interest to become a full-fledged rock star. "I'm making remixes or working with artists on the label or producing outside stuff; it's constant. Plus I'm not like a guy in a band who's on a trajectory up toward skyrocketing success or losing it. It was never really part of my world."
Having spent the '90s trudging around the U.S. playing in bands like Pony and Speedking, everything changed when he met Goldsworthy while working with David Holmes in 1999. The pair teamed up and called themselves Death From Above (shortened to DFA after 9/11), and formed a label that would work under the same principles as their favourite labels. "Before we started releasing things, we had a couple of ideas that were important to us. Some of them were holdovers from other places of inspiration, whether it was Factory Records or Touch & Go, trying to make really good vinyl and trying to make a wider range of dance music that wasn't just micro-house or something."
The duo's breakthrough came in 2001 when they began working with a Brooklyn-based band struggling to find their sound. The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers" became a huge hit not only in clubs, but also with a hungry crowd of indie rock loving kids looking to put aside their garage rock albums and dance.
LCD Soundsystem will keep kids dancing but also show he isn't just about getting you to move your feet. Beginning with the effervescent "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House," Murphy set out to make the album he wanted to hear, which meant not just throwing together nine danceable rock songs. "I'm interested in form and last songs on albums. I'm interested in what starts sides and what ends sides."
While he keeps pushing the dance/punk/funk envelope with "Disco Infiltrator" and "On Repeat," he also probes his love for the Beatles ("Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up") and Brian Eno ("Great Release"). "It was more just about trying to make what I thought was a good album and that required different types of songs and not just a collection of dance hits for 2005," he says. "I mean, there's nothing wrong with that I always come across sounding like a smart-ass but it seemed necessary to make an interesting album that wasn't 17 tracks too long or some guy with a couple of twelve-inches that have blown up who just packed an album with filler."
To ensure listeners will get the full LCD Soundsystem experience, a second disc compiling the band's singles accompanies the album, something Murphy deemed essential. "When this album was coming out there seemed to be kind of a particular effort going behind it, I knew I didn't want to put the singles on the album and be part of it because that just seemed disingenuous," he says.
While people continue to call Murphy the "Pharrell Williams of punk funk" and praise his taste-making abilities, he knows to enjoy the attention with a grain of salt. "I don't think it's weird to have a positive perspective of your importance. I don't pretend to be like, This record can heal you.' I like the record. I'm very proud of the band and of DFA. That doesn't mean I have to walk around like I'm some modified hipster, like Mick Jagger or something."