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LCD Soundsystem's farewell film
7:00am Saturday 22nd September 2012 in Music
LCD Soundsystem played their last ever gig in 2011, and the event was captured as a film, Shut Up And Play The Hits, which is in cinemas now and released on DVD next month. Andy Welch chats to LCD main man James Murphy about the film, demise of the band, and his future.
Bands going their separate ways is nothing unusual, but rarely does a split happen in the manner of LCD Soundsystem.
Unlike, say, Buddy Holly, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Nirvana, whose careers were cut short due to death, or Blur, The Beatles and Pink Floyd, who went their separate ways after realising they could no longer stand each other, LCD and frontman James Murphy in particular, knew when to call it a day.
Subsequently, they were able to stage-manage the band's demise.
While promoting the third album in 2010, This Is Happening, New Jersey-born Murphy stated it would be the band's last, and that he was calling time on the dance-punk group that had released such hits as Losing My Edge, Daft Punk Is Playing At My House, North American Scum and Drunk Girls.
In the past, Murphy has said he disbanded LCD because he didn't think it was appropriate for a musician in his forties to be making music about going out clubbing, but today, he's changed his reasoning somewhat.
"Why did I retire LCD Soundsystem? Well, firstly, what was LCD? It was me saying I was going into the studio to make music. It was also this band, who get together when we go on tour. LCD was also a 'thing' that was contracted to EMI.
"Having that contract with the label and an unofficial, unspoken agreement with the fans makes me feel like I'm in this perpetual state of trying to let them down the least I can.
"I just wanted to get off the train," he explains.
Murphy didn't want to stop making music, or even stop making it with his LCD bandmates necessarily, but just didn't want the commitment that came with being in the band, beyond a certain point.
His reasoning might make Murphy sound a little po-faced, but in reality he's hugely affable, funny and open; he just takes his work very seriously and it's clear that the past 10 years have taken their toll on him.
Shut Up And Play The Hits is an almost four-hour film, and documents the final 48 hours of LCD Soundsystem, a time that includes their final show at New York's Madison Square Garden in April 2011 and, unusually for a celebratory concert film, the crushing banality of everyday life after such a huge show.
"We got the idea for the film long after we knew there was going to be a final show, and that we were going to make a film, bizarrely," says James.
"I met the guys who produced and directed it about eight months before that final show. Initially they were going to make something for the BBC. We weren't sure what, a documentary or straight-up concert film, I don't know.
"I thought we might just make a movie at one point too, about a fictional band leading up to their show at Madison Square Garden, but then we found out if you want to film there, there's a huge fee."
With that in mind, Murphy and the team decided they should just film the final gig, and worry about what to do with the footage later.
Eventually, it was decided the whole show would be filmed, by 11 cameramen to create an inclusive feel for the watching audience, and that both sides of life in a band would be shown - the excitement of being on stage, and the mundanity of life the morning after.
"I think most documentation of concerts lets the actual show down, like if you weren't actually there it looks boring," says Murphy.
"My stipulation was that if we filmed it, it couldn't look like a standard concert film. No cranes, no rock stuff, you know? I didn't want it to feel like a concert movie in the normal sense, or boring festival footage. I wanted it to feel like a street fight."
Showing the 'morning after' was extremely important to Murphy, as this, he says, it what sums up what life in a band is really like.
"One of the things I always thought was important about the band was that it was a combination of a lot of ambition, and crushing normality," he says.
"All of us in the band have very normal lives, we're not like this breed of rock stars that were seemingly born floating down the Hudson River, wearing shades and a leather jacket, and then magically form a band after being raised by wolves.
"I think what people don't realise is that when you buy that mythology from a band, the rough beginning and the tough break-up, you're glossing over the boring meetings at record labels, where you have to talk about how to engage your social media audience and grow your web presence.
"It's the Charlie Watts thing," he says, referencing the Rolling Stones' drummer's oft-repeated line about being in a band consisting of five years playing, and 20 waiting around.
While April 2011 was the band's final concert, the past year hasn't been as quiet as Murphy intended.
For a start, he's spent the best part of 18 months working on Shut Up And Play The Hits, and he's building a new studio. (The studio he set up with DFA Records, the label he ran with Tim Goldsworthy, is now so popular with other musicians that Murphy can no longer get in it!)
He plans to release some music in "the future" and won't be drawn on the specifics of any plans.
"I don't think I can deal with the internet firing up when I say something about new music," he says.
"At the moment, I miss LCD Soundsystem," he says finally.
"I miss the band every day. I didn't hate anything, we certainly didn't hate each other, I loved playing.
"If we were some blues band with one guitar, a bassist and a drummer, and we could just plug our stuff in and do impromptu shows, I'd be there.
"Unfortunately it's an incredibly complicated machine, and even a single show would involve a huge economic and emotional commitment. It's just not something we can half do.
"But for now, I'm happy as things are."
Extra time - LCD Soundsystem
:: James Murphy was born in Princeton Junction, New Jersey on February 4, 1970.
:: He was in various bands during his teens, and worked as a sound engineer and DJ.
:: Aged 22, Murphy was offered a job as a writer on Seinfeld but turned it down.
:: LCD Soundsystem released their debut single Losing My Edge in 2002, followed by a self-titled album in 2005. Sound Of Silver was released in 2007.
:: Their final album, This Is Happening, released in 2010, entered the US album chart at No 1, knocking off Lady Gaga's Fame album after five months in the top spot.
:: Shut Up And Play The Hits is showing in selected cinemas around the UK until the end of September, and is available on DVD and BluRay from October 8