Interpol's Paul Banks

The Exclaim! Questionnaire

BY Matt BobkinPublished Aug 24, 2018

Over 20 years into their career, Interpol haven't strayed too far from the moody post-punk sound that made their debut, 2002's Turn on the Bright Lights, an instant classic. But lead singer Paul Banks has always kept his other affairs nice and eclectic: art rock both under his own name and as Julian Plenti; Banks & Steelz, his collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan's RZA; and his 2013 mixtape Everybody on My Dick Like They Supposed to Be, featuring El-P, Talib Kweli and Mike G.
Though he won't rule out another Banks & Steelz record at some point, these days, Banks's sights are set on Interpol, as the acclaimed outfit prepare to tour their newly released sixth album Marauder.

What are your current fixations?
Drake, his latest. I've been way into 21 Savage and ScHoolboy Q lately. They're not super recent releases — I'm talking about Issa Album and Blank Face, respectively. So good. I'm obsessed with Frank Ocean. Another fixation lately [is] film, I just rewatched You Were Never Really There. It's a great movie! It's got a really nice feel and the fuckin' scoring is insane. So good. It's [Jonny] Greenwood. Another thing I just binge-watched is Barry, which is dope as fuck.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Frank Ocean's Blonde record seems to me like the kind of cosmic coalescence of things that you can't really control, you can just be a solid, inspired artist. The result seems to be more than any one individual's potential. The universe pitches in to make everything that little extra bit of inspired and special, and I think that that record has that quality, where you can't imagine how it was made. It just feels so organic and unexpected and perfect.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
It was Death From Above 1979 promoting their first record at the Monarch/Barfly in London. It's a 250 to 300 capacity place up some stairs at a bar in London. And it was just absolutely earth-shattering. That was probably 2002, 2003. What a band.
What have been your career highs and lows?
I sincerely feel that making Marauder was a career high. Just the chemistry and the cosmic juju felt pretty locked in. I think it was our relationship as a band, the fact that we decided to work with [producer Dave] Fridmann in a remote location [Tarbox Road Studios in upstate New York] where we were all gonna be in a house together, no escape, no distractions.
Low point? In the middle portion of my career, I had a moment where I was overthinking it and stressing and it was a low point — I did myself a mischief in the sense of prolonged stress. But the bright side is that I learned what my limitations are and now, when I'm doing something creative, if I ever even get to the first red flag down that road… I just say "Oh, fuck this, I'm turning back!" And I'm gonna relax.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
Really early on, I had a roommate say "I think you should just be a guitarist." That was a good one. We were in a dorm, that was my fuckin' freshman year of college.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like my drive. I'm never bored. And then, oddly, on the flipside, I dislike what I consider to be a lack of discipline.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
A toss-up between "don't smoke" and I had someone early on tell me "don't make an enemy of the press," because I felt very antagonized by press and this old family friend was like, "Dude, that's not someone you should put in the category of 'adversary.' You're never gonna win that one." And it's not that I ever really had bad vibes, I think I just took it all a little too seriously. So to summarize what their advice was, was "get over yourself." I wish I had done that.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
It's funny, I wanna think about a good answer, but the thing that jumped out straight into my mind was comedy. I think Canada's a great exporter of world-class comedy. From Jim Carrey to Seth Rogen and so much in-between — Martin Short, the whole SCTV thing that birthed a lot of talent.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
I think it was Living Colour's Vivid.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
I used to worry that it would be petty crime, but I'd think I probably would've straightened out and I'd be a painter.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I was at a very fancy dinner after-party and I was introduced to Robert De Niro sitting next to Sean Penn sitting next to Mayor Bloomberg. And I said, "It's very nice to meet you, Mr. Mayor." He literally turned and said to De Niro and Sean Penn, "Don't you hate it when someone says hello and doesn't introduce themselves?" And I don't know if he knew if I could hear him, but I immediately said, "Hi, I'm Paul. Very nice to meet you." I've since heard that he didn't mean anything by it, but I felt very awkward at that moment. I was embarrassed in front of De Niro and Sean Penn. I really like Mayor Bloomberg, I don't want it to seem like he was a dick. He genuinely wasn't. I think it was just a moment of consummate awkwardness. He was probably trying to lighten the situation.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Daaaamn. Oh, that's too hard. Something by Leonard Cohen, but I don't want it to be "Hallelujah" because that's too obvious. Also a Canadian! I swear to god I'm not pandering. I love "Hallelujah" but it's just too obvious of a choice.

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