Interview - James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy throws a miniature invisible basketball, and feigns a bratty fit of frustration when it bundles off the board and out of touch. “See? I’ll never be a basketball player. I just don’t have the presence of mind for it,” he says, shaking his head, a mischievous grin lurking out from beyond his beard. Murphy is many things to many people: frontman to now defunct electro icons LCD Soundsystem, label boss to the influential DFA Records, producer, DJ, coffee entrepreneur, watch manufacturer, comedian, budding novelist and now with the release of Shut Up and Play The Hits, a two hour document of his band’s final show at Madison Square Garden, a film star. I’ve asked him, with so many strings already to his bow, is there anything he can’t do?
“The thing about basketball is that I can’t shoot or dribble. Two pretty critical skills in that sport. Oh and I’m not a great dancer, either,” he continues. “I’m not purposefully or consciously prolific or anything. I just like creating things.” His latest creation, the brilliant, twisting Shut Up is a mere hour away from its British premiere at the Hackney Picturehouse. It’s here we meet, while the crowds begin to drift in. There’s every bit the colour and vibrancy you’d expect of a film premiere, the air heavy with chatter and the crunch of flashbulbs as celebrities ghost by on the red carpet, but it feels a little like a wake, like the fans filing into the cinema auditorium are here to pay their last respects to an act whose kind don’t come around too often.
Interview - J Mascis, Dinosaur Jr.
J Mascis darts me a stare as I flutter through the doors of the West London hotel we’re to meet in. He’s playing with a bottle of Perrier water and as I grin back, I notice a rumbling of nerves in the pit of my stomach – not because he’s the man responsible for fuzz rock pioneers Dinosaur Jr. (though I do fanboyishly confide I know the guitar solo in Start Choppin’ better than I know some of my closest friends and family as our conversation begins) but because his interviews are notoriously… well, difficult.
Case in point? What initially drew him to the loud abrasive guitars sounds that have become his trademark, wondered Spin reporter Erik Davis in 1989. “It’s basically because I don’t like to play,” he replied. “The guitar’s such a wimpy instrument and it’s the only way to make it halfway bearable.” “So you don’t like to play guitar?” countered Davis. “No.” “Why do it then?” “I dunno,” Mascis deadpanned. The prickly silences that dominated this encounter with the guitarist and indeed Davis’s follow-up interview a few years later (“Interviews are stupid. Most of the time they want to talk about the album. I have nothing to say about it. It’s an album, just listen to it”) have been a fixture of his every interview since – as much a Mascis trademark as the screaming guitars and shredded solos that have propped up each of Dinosaur Jr.’s ten studio albums to date.
Radio Dredd - behind DROKK, Geoff Barrow’s pulsating Mega-City wonder
The world of Judge Dredd, the fictional cop whose palpably violent 2000 AD series has been entertaining comic fans one blood-drenched panel at a time since 1977, is famously bleak - a murky metropolis scorched by nuclear war, its streets patrolled by lawmen more unforgiving than the morning after a six day tequila bender. But for a man whose lifelong obsession with this world has brought him to the point of writing an album from the perspective of inside the character’s iconic helmet, Geoff Barrow, best known as the beatmaker behind Portishead, is surprisingly cheery.
“I’ve always been a Dredd head, me,” he rumbles, a large grin detectable down the telephone line from his Bristol home. “My Gran used to work in a newsagent. She’d buy me Topper, which was like a budget Beano, until one day I asked for something a bit more adult. I don’t think she realised how violent 2000 AD was.” Diagnosed at an early age with Dyslexia, the series’ strong visuals, minimal text and bold ideas struck a dark, penetrating chord that has resonated in him since. ”The characters, the concepts, the images, Dredd is ingrained in me.”
Baltimore’s dream pop re-up: how Beach House, Lower Dens and Animal Collective are rewiring David Simon’s Wire legacy
Ashen streets, grim estates, slums choked with drug dealers and destitutes… thanks to HBO’s The Wire, this is the Baltimore, USA that exists in the imaginations of many. However, since Jimmy McNulty’s screen exit in 2008, Maryland’s biggest city has heralded a different kind of cultural export, one that’s somewhat incongruous to the legacy left by David Simon’s show: atmospheric indie, tagged “dream pop” by some, made famous by the likes of Animal Collective, Lower Dens and Beach House.
Interview - Volker Bertellman, Hauschka
On last year’s Salons Des Amateurs, German prepared piano experimentalist Volker Bertelmann – better known as Hauschka – took modern classical music by the scruff of the neck, dragging it out of fusty macchiato-sipping territory and onto the dancefloor. A searing snapshot of his current fascination with club culture, Salons’ scattershot energy, agitated rhythms, Day-Glo melodies and gutter-punching melancholy – imagine John Cage, Thomas Brinkmann and Battles’ Ian Williams jostling over the DJ booth in a murky Berlin sweatbox at 3am and you’re pretty much there – cemented his position as one of the most confounding and compelling classical talents operating today.
Inside the mind of Jai Paul, the British electronic scene’s most elusive producer
There’s elusive, and then there’s London producer Jai Paul. The throbbing bass notes of his 2007 demo BTSU have been shaking the foundations of clubs for almost five years now, earning the attention of Drake and Beyonce, who have both mined the track for sample on recent tracks. However, the Londoner has so far declined to capitalise on the slow-burning success of that track, failing to release another note of music since - that is, until now.
Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Since the release of their debut two years ago, Japandroids have begun creeping into mainstream view, even though on the spectrum of noisy garage-rock duos they lay closer to lo-fi experimenters No Age and fellow Canadians Death From Above 1979 than the chart-dwelling White Stripes. Their second album, Celebration Rock, delivers more of the same: good time guitar-pop anthems about girls and nights on the tiles, delivered at breakneck velocity and near-deafening volume.
North Atlantic Oscillation - Fog Electric
North Atlantic Oscillation’s 2010 debut Grappling Hooks elicited comparison to everyone from Pink Floyd to Granddaddy to Squarepusher – a list of acts dissimilar enough to suggest the Edinburgh duo are actually true originals. New album Fog Electric picks up where their first outing left off, carving glacier-sized soundscapes out of gentle keyboard sounds, emotive falsetto vocals and crackling electronics.
Lower Dens - Nootropics
You wouldn’t have guessed Lower Dens’ second album was written from the claustrophobic confines of a tour van. This expansive follow-up to 2010 debut Twin Hand Movement manages a tsunami-sized wash of sounds, recalling the tenebrous dream pop of Galaxie 500 and fellow Baltimore exports Beach House, despite being composed on keyboards in the back of their bus while on the road.
Interview - James Mercer, The Shins
With The Shins’ recent fourth studio album Port Of Morrow currently positioned in the upper echelons of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, frontman James Mercer has plenty of reasons to be cheerful. It’s not a bad turnaround for the group that saw their keyboard player and drummer depart in 2009, after Mercer sidelined the group to explore his electronic interests with producer Danger Mouse in side-project Broken Bells. Now the Shins is a full-time concern again, I caught up with the singer to find out why he wrote this record solo, what prompted the change in personnel and how he ended up writing parts of the album in Elliott Smith’s old house.