NME: LCD Soundsystem
September 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This was the result of two hours with James Murphy in his chilly DFA studios, eating grapes and bananas and marvelling at how frank he is for a man who has had his life picked over plenty of times in the last decade. The resulting transcript came to 13,500 words (five hours of typing without stopping to breathe) and a lot of the best bits might never see the light. I’m posting one passage below, because it stayed with me afterwards, and it might stay with you too.
You never got addicted to heroin…
No, yeah, I never got addicted to anything. That was from Sam Lipsyte. That was from Dung Beetle back in the day, I was working with Dung Beetle, and they were all on heroin, they were on everything.
Was that fear?
No! I’ve never been addicted to anything, I get bored. I’m lucky in that way. My father was an alcoholic, which you would think I would be more predisposed, more prone to it. But I was very conscious of not being addicted to things when I was a kid, I was very aware of not wanting to be…
Not like him. He wasn’t disastrous. He was a totally high functioning guy who drank too much late at night, and quit, eventually, never really… he was an Irish. Old Irish guys don’t become recovering alcoholics in that way. There’s two types, ones that become… three types. There’s the ones that just keep drinking till they’re dead. Then there are the ones that kind of agree that they shouldn’t drink so much, and there are the ones who don’t want to be told what to do, so… my dad was the third kind. I smoked pot every day for a couple of years and then just stopped. Never really made a decision just got kind of bored of it. I drank a lot when I was 12/13/14 and then didn’t drink really when I was 15/16. I think partly because everyone was by that point and it seemed boring. I never was conscious, I was never like, accidentally drunk. I never was like, “Oh, I really want to stop drinking… oh no I’m drunk.”
So back in those old days, with Juan and stuff, those were when Juan was high all the time. And we hated each other. Juan and I hated each other. We fucking hated each other – oh, no, he was a junkie, he was an asshole. I was an uptight prick. He was really paranoid. I was really bullish. We basically didn’t like each other at all. At one point he came back to the studio, and he was like, “I won’t work if that guy is there.”
We became friends we he cleaned up and I was like their sound man, and I was the only person he could talk to, to a certain degree, on tour, about being clean, about how hard it was. I’ve always had a thing for people with addiction, or recovering from it. It sounds weird, but because I did a lot of therapy, a lot of therapy to get my life in order. And I’ve always found that my addictive personality came out in different ways. It was never with substances, it was always with behaviour patterns. The way in which people deal with addiction, and the ridiculous nature of it, the ridiculous nature of how you deal with it effectively, is sort of how I dealt with my problems. Which is that you recognize that you’re stupid. You recognise that you have bad patterns and that your instincts are partners with those patterns. And if you go with your gut, your gut is going to fuck you. Otherwise you wouldn’t be in the situation that you’re in. In that you have to just believe in something temporarily, you have to have faith that it will get better by doing something differently. And that… I went to therapy for a long time, and that was what worked for me. It was trying something else, being like… I had this amazing therapist who was like, “Your life is not going to change for a year. It’s bullshit therapy if you feel like, your life is changing…”
But what were you trying to get away from, depression?
No, just, my life was a shithole! I was in a relationship with someone who hated me, who I didn’t like. I didn’t have a job. I’d dropped out of college to make music and I wasn’t making music. Um. I was miserable, pretty friendless, unsuccessful. I was bad at doing the only thing I wanted to do. I couldn’t make relationships work. I couldn’t make relationships with my family work. I didn’t like myself very much. I couldn’t get anything done. My life just sucked in this really mediocre way. There was no great tragedy. I was not addicted to drugs, nothing… my leg didn’t fall off, I didn’t go to jail. I just sucked. And all my life I had been very promising. I was a promising kid. I was an early, precocious reader of difficult books, a good writer, I could do everything young, I was good at sports young. I just didn’t pan out.
Until you hit 30.
Until I hit my own version of rock bottom – which wasn’t that bad. I was living in a nice apartment with someone I didn’t get along with. It’s not a really tragic story, I just, kind of sucked. All of it was so mediocre. I think that was the big realisation it was like, “I am just some mid-20s douchbag who dropped out of an expensive school, I’m just the worst!”
Which school did you drop out of?
NYU. And I went to a therapist and I was like, “I’m bad at my life. I’m bad at this job. I should be fired but I can’t be fired so, what do I do?” I literally remember being like, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I don’t know how this works, this thing, but if I’m repressing something, I don’t give a fuck what it is. I don’t give a fuck if I want to have sex with cats, I don’t give a fuck whatever is in here, I just need to deal with what it is, because whatever I’m doing isn’t working.” And it was just, like, behaviour stuff. Just like, I had no experience of things going well. And you just had to try a different behaviour pattern so that you could force things to go well for a little while so that you could experience things going well, and that would change your instincts. So, people with addictions have to do the same thing. They have to just know that every day is a fucking skin crawling nightmare, that is gets better in tiny increments, and only in a way that you can look back on. And then you, hopefully, change your instincts – but no, you always have those other instincts. With me, I don’t have to worry that I have those. I still have some of them, like I will waste time doing nothing…
Everyone does, though.
I, I don’t like… I like to be 5% better than everyone. What I mean is, I realised that being really good at something, or a genius, or great, or successful, is just a tiny little bit more work. When your friends are like, “Oh I totally want to make a song like that,” but didn’t. It’s not that much more work to do that. But there’s FIFTY THINGS become messy, that’s what happened. You’re like, “Oh, I don’t have the time,” THING ONE that’s difficult to deal with. “Oh, this doesn’t sound like I wanted it to sound like,” that’s thing two. “I don’t know what to do with it,” the self-defeating, pre-try, nothing’s going to happen anyway is thing three. You have to just put in five more percent, you have to just step over them, and it’s just not that hard.
Once you’ve done it once.
Once you’ve done it and it worked! Once you just accept that that’s what you’re going to do it’s just not that fucking hard. Which was kind of embarrassing. I was like, “Really? I just do that thing? I just do it? It works?” Which is also humbling, which I think is really good, I think if you’re successful when you’re 20 you don’t know any of that stuff and there’s nothing humbling. Humbling comes later. Which I think is…
I’m really glad I got my humbling out of the way early.