James Murphy Opens Up About “Crazy” May LCD Soundsystem LP
What’s the new LCD Soundsystem record like? “Boring!” raves James Murphy. Having just shipped off a last-minute addition for Shellac’s Bob Weston to master, Murphy is completely exhausted by the as-of-yet-untitled May album — which he also describes as “weird” and “crazy” — and he feels like he’s heard it one time too many.
“You ever listen to a song 40 times?” he asks. “That’s why I don’t write the lyrics until as close to the day I sing it as I can, so I don’t get sick of them.” He doesn’t over-think what he’s going to call the album or the songs either, because he figures the title should just be “the most repeated, obvious phrase… because that’s what people are going to say anyway!”
“What’s ‘Baba O’Riley’? ‘Teenage Wasteland,’ ” he says. “But it’s called ‘Baba O’Riley.’ I’m not into that. I’d rather be, ‘Dude, call it ‘Teenage Wasteland’! It’s like, you called it ‘My Generation,’ you called it ‘Satisfaction’ — those are good names!”
Song titles on the upcoming LCD Soundsystem album, consequently, are pretty simple, and will make sense once you hear them, for instance, “All I Want,” “Get Along,” “I Can Change,” “One Touch,” and “Pow Wow.” Weston wanted to call that last one “Advantages, Advantages,” or “The Advantages of Both,” Murphy says, “because that’s the other thing that’s yelled” in the song.
There isn’t, however, any song called “Why Do You Hate Music” despite earlier reports, for one reason: Murphy didn’t finish it. And if he had, the name would have likely changed. “My phone is filled with joke song titles,” he says, “and I try to make the songs fit the titles. I’ll have fake names based on the instrument I used, or some reference point I had. But I don’t usually beat myself up about names.
“The last record was called Sound of Silver because I thought the first album sounded too woody,” Murphy adds. “So I went back to the same studio and made it silver, just to be in a different head space.”
The new head space this time around came courtesy of a three-month stint at a Laurel Canyon mansion that has doubled as a studio for a number of artists (most notably the Red Hot Chili Peppers for Blood Sugar Sex Magik). “I had a ridiculous vision in my head of renting a mansion that was beat up and falling in a pool,” Murphy says. While he was recording the first half of the album there, he felt like he was surrounded by white: “Everyone wore white, weird white cult outfits.”
He likens the effect to a mood board for a fashion designer. “A mood board might have a WWII biplane, a picture of a Vespa, and a photo of the garden,” Murphy says. “It wouldn’t be just pants. It would be just stuff, and to be surrounded by that stuff, it affects your instincts.”
Then came a break to write the score for the upcoming movie Greenberg, and when he returned to working on the album, this time in New York, he felt deflated. “It was brutal after the soundtrack,” he admits. “The last half of the album was brutal. It was working on a meal when you’ve already burned something. I spent a lot of time on self-doubt. I had to go back and find my head again.”
That might be why Murphy likes to proclaim that this will be the last LCD Soundsystem album ever, even if he retracts it as much as he says it. “I feel like this should be the last record because a lot of people make three good records and then they don’t make good records anymore,” he says. “And if we get any bigger than we are, I would lose some interest. I feel like I made a band that was about how I felt about music, as an argument, and I feel like I’ve kind of explained myself and it’s time to do something else.”
But before that happens, the band has approximately 18 months of touring ahead of it — so LCD Soundsystem aren’t going anywhere. Well, except around the world. Teases Murphy, “This should be the last one.”