Interpol has carved out a unique niche for themselves.
From 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights to last year’s Marauder, the New York outfit has broken the shackles of the early aughts indie rock, becoming a unique voice in an Atlantic sea of monotonous rock. For over 22 years, they’ve spoken with militant certainty on a number of timeless themes, be it the immaturity and excitement of late-night hollow sex, the cathartic release of self-violence, and, naturally, the inevitability of adulthood.
It’s their authority on those subjects, however, that has made them one of the strongest survivors among their peers and amidst a genre whose mortality rate is seemingly debated on a weekly basis by critics and fans alike. To their point, though, rock needs to remain exciting, inspiring, and with a momentum that actually feels authentic if it has any interest in surviving. Interpol has never wavered from those responsibilities.
Much of that weight, however, falls on the band’s drummer Sam Fogarino. Having joined in 2000, Fogarino was front and center for the band’s meteoric rise out of Manhattan, and he’s since carried their tempo in the years following. On their latest effort, this month’s fiery A Fine Mess EP, he remains unstoppable, delivering a ricochet of beats that glue the past and the future together in the present.
Recently, Fogarino sat down with Consequence of Sound senior writer Phillip Roffman before hitting the stage at their sold-out show at The Fillmore Miami Beach. Together, they revisited Fogarino’s unlikely roots in South Florida, his experiences denying the likes of Marilyn Manson, and the self-destructive antics from previous bassist Carlos Dengler.
You lived in South Florida in the early 90’s and your band The Holy Terrors played alongside acts like Marilyn Manson and Jack Off Jill. Will anyone from those days be here tonight?
Actually, two guys will be here tonight. Singer Rob Elba [of Holy Terrors] and bassist Will Trev [also of Holy Terrors]. Frank Falestra of Rat Bastard will be here. I never lost touch with any of those guys.
Did you lose touch with South Florida?
Not really, because as soon as I joined Interpol, I was coming around here a lot again with touring and reconnecting when I’m off the road. Especially the past seven years, I’ve been down here semi-regularly.
What were some of your spots?
I usually don’t go anywhere when I’m here! When I was coming down a lot, I was just going to Churchill’s or mostly hanging out at people’s houses — you know, laying low.
You used to work at Peaches Records in Fort Lauderdale, one of the many South Florida institutions that have disappeared. Coming back down, what changes do you see and what do you miss most about the area?
Oh man, that was a long time ago. Well, like Washington Square, that was a great rock club.
When I was hanging out around here, Miami Beach was half of what it is now and people were disappointed. It was still on the cusp. It gave you fuel for your fire, though; it filled the “young sensibility” as Club MTV moved in and created a contrast. That I miss. That’s something, regardless of gentrification or region, that can never be replaced. It just has something to do with time passed. That moment.
After joining Interpol and doing what I always wanted to do…. You know, you look back with such fondness on when you couldn’t do that, back when you were longing. “I want to be on Matador Records!” or “ I want to put out cool 7 inches.” You know, when you were trying to get attention, but then all of a sudden, it just happens. You remember what it was like to struggle.
You turned down Marilyn Manson to be in his band. Seeing how you have a flair for the theatrical, what with your Danish suits that scream of Patrick Bateman, what would have been your stage name had you joined?
I would do Son of Sam, but that’s just a serial killer.
Greg Drudy exits Interpol. You come in. What was that first session like?
It was awesome. I recorded it. Then … promptly erased it the same day by accident. I have the second rehearsal ever, which is worth revisiting one day. I met up with Daniel [Kessler] and he gave me some current recordings, which was to be the great EP. I listened to it and I was just resolved: “This is going to be the band I’m in. I wanna play this music.” I just went into it and they were kind of blown away. It was showing them what could happen and I didn’t hold back, showing them the potential and what I think should happen.
“Mentally, I was quitting the band every week.” You said this about your experience touring behind Antics. What happened here?
Well you know, being together on the road all the time … the inner dynamic and egos were getting… yeah. But I think it was all out of disillusionment, the idea that “it’s supposed to be dreamy” being in a band. It’s not. The repetition … playing the same songs over and over again … I didn’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t that.
The late Dan Hosker from The Holy Terrors, he reminded me that I always say that. Talking to someone who was still struggling … you know, really hard. He just told me that he bailed on a tour and that he didn’t know how he got home from a thousand miles away. At that point, I realized, I should just shut up. It’s a phase.
I stopped quitting every two weeks.
Capital Records steps in for Our Love To Admire. What was it like leaving Matador?
At first, I thought it was a good move. The ceiling is higher, right? When we signed to Capital at the time, it was all those Radiohead people. That was the staff that worked on all those records like Kid A and Amnesiac and sold a million copies each even though they weren’t pop albums. We thought, This could work. These people know what’s going on.
Then, in the true fashion that business works, as soon as we started recording Our Love to Admire, all those people got fired and they cleaned house. It felt like we were without a label. They weren’t trying to tell us what to do or anything … but they weren’t doing anything for us. That ceiling lowered in a sense, and made us rethink what we were doing.
So, when it came to record the second record with them … we just agreed to part ways amicably.
What was it like to go back to Matador?
A tail between your legs! It was kind of, well, like breaking up, and then asking, “Can we get back together?” It was! They were hurt. They said, straight up, “Aside from business, it hurt our feelings that you left us … for Capital?” And they used to have a relationship with them years ago. So, it took a minute to get everything back in line, but after that … there was never a need to leave this label again.
Carlos Dengler leaves. How did you get that compatibility back?
Paul filled some big shoes. Towards the end there, the last record we made with Carlos [2010’s Interpol], he was really not interested in playing bass. He was interested in arranging and orchestrating keyboard parts. It was pulling teeth with the bass. It turned me off so deeply. So, I didn’t miss playing with him for a long time. I actually felt like … you’re pissing on what I love … just because you want to go in different directions.
You broke up sonically.
Yeah. It took a long time to just go back and say, “Well I do miss this….” It was good. He was a great bass player.
Do you two have a current relationship?
No. I haven’t spoken to him since he quit.
Nobody has ill will at this point. What’s done is done. It was a slow process, though. A painful one. It just seemed like he wouldn’t mind seeing the band implode. He had no more interest. He would say, “Why don’t you guys break up? Without me— you’re nothing.”
But it was always in his DNA to switch gears. He’s a very, very strong-willed person. He has a way of justifying anything that he thinks of or he thinks is justifiable. I have been looking back— it was just a part of his path. He will do this “rock band thing” and now he’s acting.
Jumping ahead to last year, specifically with Marauder, a lot has changed sonically. It almost sounds like you’re back in the garage even. What was the intention there?
[Producer] Dave Fridmann has a lot to do with that. It got to the point where, personally, I didn’t want to have any preconceived notions as to how things were going to sound. We work on arrangements a lot and really hard before going into the studio. By the time we go record, we’re just playing down set. It’s a pain in the ass in one respect, and gets really monotonous, but then when you’re ready to make a record, it’s easy. You just get muscle memory of these songs.
It’s what Dave heard in that process that he thought it shouldn’t go far beyond what you’re doing in the room together. His whole concept was very old school: Interpol doing Interpol music, but right to tape with very little over dubs. That’s Fridmann. He just has the sensibilities. He knows how to place things properly. It’s those little things, where you lay down all the basic tracks and you have this really great bed of solid recorded music.
The tweaks and effects he did with Paul’s voice, the washes of reverb, and things going in reverse. That’s it.
Is that where Interpol is moving towards? That stripped down experience?
I like that, or the opposite— produce the fuck out of it! I felt like we were sitting in between, on the fence, scared to go either way with this record. Dave kind of tipped us into the classic approach. We’ll see what the future brings.