James Murphy: "Not many bands start as old as LCD Soundsystem"
It’s probably a bad sign if someone shouts ‘Shut up and play the hits’ at one of your gigs, right?
Sometimes, ‘Shut up and play the hits’ is a good motto. It’s actually yelled at me in the film [of the same title]. I have this terrible, rambling introduction to one of the songs and Win Butler, the singer from Arcade Fire, yells it at me. I think it’s the right title, especially for a band with very few hits.
The film documents your final show as LCD Soundsystem. Why did you decide to pack it in?
I’m proud of the place we got to as a band but I’m not sure I’d like to stay in that place. The next thing would be to make a record that failed, make a record that made us much bigger, or to keep hovering at this respectable level. None of these three things was that interesting, frankly. I was more interested in knocking it on the head and seeing what happened next.
There will be some people who see the film who have never heard your music. How will these new fans feel knowing you’ve already killed the band?
That happened to me all the time. Some of my favourite bands had broken up by the time I got around to them. Not as many bands start as old as we started. Things went very well for us and allowed us to be uncompromising at every stage, partially because we behaved always one size smaller than we were as a band. We didn’t have a lighting crew until the last tour.
Did you miss out on the sex and drugs? Was it just the rock ‘n’ roll?
Oh, no, no, we had everything, but I think the big difference was we knew we were not that special. Life had taught us that before the band started.
Part of the attraction of being a musician is that it is self-destructive. No kid wants to become a Billy Ray Cyrus; he wants to be Johnny Cash!
Right, but the risks are different things. In a way, burning out is not that risky; it’s predictable. I don’t think Johnny Cash is great because he messed himself up; he’s great because he’s uncompromising.
How does it feel to be retired?
I’m 42 – I’m not retiring age. I certainly didn’t make enough money not to work any more! I don’t know what I’ll do next.
Do you think other bands could benefit from quitting while they’re ahead?
I think a lot of bands should just quit whether they’re ahead. Or behind. Or not start in the first place. But that’s just me.
Shut Up and Play the Hits is out now on DVD and Blu-ray