Among the many events at this month’s Red Bull Music Academy in New York City was a 90-minute conversation with LCD Soundsystem frontman/gourmet coffee vendor/budding sound technician/Arcade Fire collaborator James Murphy. In front of 60 or so students, Murphy covered a breadth of topics, including his personal influences, the history of DFA Records, the process behind his DJ sets, and much more.
Watch the full discussion:
Among the many choice tidbits:
His two favorite songs: “Alone Again Naturally” by Gilbert O’Sullivan and David Bowie’s “Fame”. He added, “I’ve said before, but my life has been an argument between these two songs ever since.”
His classical beginnings: “I was in a choir as a youth. So, I sang classical musical all through high school. And I was very into that, opera and classical music tuff. It was about as relevant as playing a sport. Like, it felt completely unrelated as a thing.”
Wearing his influences with pride: Specifically citing dichotomous tunes like “Heart of the Sunrise” by Yes and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, Murphy said, “I like to not feel like you’re pulling a fast one on people. If there was a direct influence on a song, I never hid it. It’s a copy, I want you to know that now so we can get on with the rest of what’s happening.”
His love of “Rock Lobster by The B-52s: “That is actually the most influential guitar part to me in my life.”
Like, he really loves The B-52s: “Another project is I want to recreate the Public Enemy catalog with (The B-52s) Fred Schneider. Think about ‘Bass! How low can you go?/Death row’ with Fred, and it’s easy to see.”
His relationship with punk rock: “Punk rock to me was always outsiderness,” he said. “When I first saw large-group, scene punk rock, I was repelled by it, because there were way too many people who agreed with each other.”
How James Brown taught him to love music: “I’m a primitive player of everything, but I’m obsessed with that kind of physicality, with everything snapping a certain way, which is counter to how a lot of rock is. The JBs are the best at that, that sense of top feel instead of behind feel . . . They’re like clockwork.”
The importance of dance: “Making people dance has another function that has nothing to do with art, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. It’s like food if you’re not eating it, you’re doing something wrong. If they’re not dancing, something is wrong.”
His business model with DFA: “When we liked something, we wanted to put it out, rather than find a niche market and exploit it. There’s no plan; it’s barely guerilla warfare. The plan is to keep on putting out records until someone shows up and tells us to stop.”
Murphy’s DFA Records also celebrated its 12th anniversary as part of the Red Bull Music Academy. Listen to Murphy’s DJ set from the concert below.