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James Murphy x Levi's

We speak to the LCD Soundsystem frontman about the demise of the group and his current projects

LCD Soundsystem occupy a strange place on the musical landscape. By James Murphy’s own admission, they were never meant to become part of the establishment – they were – in principle at least – an outsider band. Albeit one that sold out Madison Square Garden on its last show. Now, Murphy has been chosen by Levi’s to represent the US in a cross cultural exchange at the grand opening of its flagship French store on the Champs-Elysees.

We became a professional band and that was never the idea. I was supposed to be doing all of these different things and the band was a sometimes thing. But it got bigger and the expectation got greater.

To celebrate the two countries meeting, Murphy, along with Pedro Winter (the French rep and head of Ed Banger Records) has installed two pieces at the store front, designed jackets with their label’s badges emblazed on the back and donated some of the key objects from their life. In presence are Winter’s MTV Music Award and the boombox which Murphy wrote the bass line for ‘Losing My Edge’ on. We went along to find out more.

Dazed Digital: What was it about Levi’s that made you interested in the project?
James Murphy:
The first is that I had a huge amount of freedom within the project. I also find that doing something with Pedro is very natural. We’ve known each other for over ten years. The project itself was also interesting. It wasn’t a bad marketing idea. It was an iconic American brand which is opening up a store on the most iconic street in Paris. So to connect something from both of those cultures worked. We also weren’t asked to be spokespeople – we are doing an installation and DJ’ing.

DD: Where did you get the concept for the installation?
James Murphy: The original brief was to highlight cross-culture between the US and France based on our own experiences. I read Pedro’s brief – he works much harder than me, I’m stunned – and he already had a huge plan that was fully formed around skateboards and his interest in the US, with photos from one of his tours. But I had a very different relationship with France. As a kid I thought it was fancy and very far away – my relationship with it now is very adult. It’s wine, food and friends. But I didn’t know how to show that in a piece. After speaking to him and seeing his idea I decided I wanted to make something out of speakers – so I built a structure and showed films from my family and DFA.

DD: What did you think to the reception that ending LCD Soundsystem got?
James Murphy: It was amazing. I was really stunned. No one thought that we’d sell out the Garden without a huge band supporting us. I thought we should have done two nights. Of course we could have sold it out three times in the end. It was validating but very weird. We never really had any radio play so we were always in a strange place.

DD: Do you feel that it’s finished?
James Murphy: It’s relatively arbitrary because the project is essentially me making music, which I’ll continue to do. I was joking with Nancy (Whang) from the band that I could have everyone from LCD playing on a future record and it wouldn’t be any different apart from the name.

DD: Why did you end?
James Murphy: We became a professional band and that was never the idea. I was supposed to be doing all of these different things and the band was a sometimes thing. But it got bigger and the expectation got greater. Until some of it stopped being fun – the band never did, we all still hang out all the time – but it meant I couldn’t do anything else. We also started to become part of the established woodwork. I like being an underdog and that status was starting to fade away. I met too many bands that weren’t competing with us. I’d ask them why they were working with a computer and they’d say that it was because we did. That was never supposed to be the point. We were never meant to be exceptional – we were meant to be anti-exceptional.  

DD: What other projects are you currently working on?
James Murphy: I’ve mostly been working on the film of the last concert, ‘Shut Up And Play The Hits’. It’s a two-hour film that’s got eleven songs with a documentary. I’m going to London to finish the final edit now – it’s eleven cameras each with four hours worth of footage. And a hundred tracks of audio. So it’s been a bear.

The documentary film from LCD Soundsystem: 'Shut Up and Play the Hits' will be out later this Summer / Autumn 2012