The new LCD Soundsystem documentary, Shut Up and Play the Hits, shows frontman James Murphy quitting the past decade’s greatest dance-rock act for a quieter kind of life – but so far, it hasn’t worked out that way. “I’ve probably worked more in the year since the retirement,” says Murphy, who mixed audio from LCD’s April 2011 Madison Square Garden farewell show for the film (which hits select theaters on July 18th). He’s also been putting in late nights mixing the rest of the concert for future release, recording new songs and DJ’ing around the world. Says Murphy, “It certainly doesn’t feel like the band is over.”
You’re doing a shitty job of retiring.
A very shitty job. But I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to, you know, put some closure.
Are you regretting the decision to end the band?
I don’t know. I think I’m designed to regret everything. But I like the challenge of saying, “Well, what do I do now?”
Watching the movie, it felt like the question of why you really ended LCD might be unanswerable. Is that possible?
To a certain degree. It was a pretty flexible band. I broke it up for no good reason! But I did feel like the primary motivating force not to do it would be careerist: Like, “Oh, I’ve done all this work with LCD Soundsystem. It seems stupid to not capitalize on that by keeping the name.”
You’ve been doing lots of DJ gigs — but didn’t you end the band partly because you didn’t want to travel so much?
It’s not the same kind of travel. It’s really, really easy. It’s like being a businessperson: I’ll fly to a place and then I’ll eat dinner, and then I’ll be like, “Oh, I’m gonna go to the club now, because it’s 11.” You’re traveling like a human being with a job. This is what I do to buy food.
So you still need to work to support yourself?
I know it seems like LCD Soundsystem sold millions and millions of records, but we didn’t. I’m not a wealthy person. But I’m OK working. People are so obsessed with, like, “I need to be set forever.” It’s OK to work!
What do you like about DJ’ing?
DJ’ing is really, really pleasant – it’s like having people over and making hors d’oeuvres. I’ve been working on this block-party style of DJ’ing that’s making me really happy. The Staples Singers’ cover of Talking Heads‘ “Slippery People,” that’s a real block-party jam. It’s not me trying to prove anything. It’s not like, “All right, we’re gonna settle in and go on a journey.” It’s more like, “Go get a fucking hot dog.”
What do you make of the way EDM is taking over pop music?
The U.S. is like a Galapagos for dance music. No one has developed any immunity. But I’m kind of stunned by hip-hop and R&B’s embrace of what is essentially early-to-mid-Nineties Euro pop. It sounds exactly like the shit that every American made fun of 15 years ago! Someone writes a song on a piano and then sells it to a pop star, and then they hire some DJ monkey. I’m like, “This is bad and it’s old.”
How many years before it won’t be totally embarrassing to bring back LCD?
Oh, I mean, the idea wasn’t really to end being LCD in any form. Like, my friend’s making a film, and there’s a particular cover song that he wants us to get together and play. We’ll call it LCD Soundsystem. Who cares?
Wait, what? You’re recording a new song right now as LCD Soundsystem?
I can do whatever I want. Tomorrow I could say, “I have a new trance-pop act called LCD Soundsystem,” featuring some pop star. But no. I’m not planning on doing that.
This story is from the July 5th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.