April 23, 2014

DJing Is Easy: Pt. 2 of Our Post-Moogfest Talk with James Murphy

At Moogfest: Murphy (right) & Mahoney.

At Moogfest: Murphy (right) & Mahoney.

Asheville, N.C.—After the completion of Moogfest Oct. 30, we ran into James Murphy, one of its higher-profile performers, at the Asheville Regional Airport.

I’d just seen Murphy and former LCD Soundsystem bandmate Pat Mahoney—billed as Special Disco Version—spin a vinyl-only DJ set the night before at the Asheville Convention Center, and he was gracious enough to allow us some time in the tiny Chautauqua Airlines terminal.

We published the first half of the interview this past Friday—and here’s the second half of our talk with the former LCD Soundsystem frontman/DFA-collective principal.

DJ Times: So, as a vinyl jock, why haven’t you gone digital?

Murphy: I use records because, partially, I’m just a Luddite and I don’t feel like digitizing my thousands and thousands of records and that’s just where my life is, and I happen to think they have the capacity to sound a lot better if they’re not feeding back and skipping. For me, I wouldn’t make that choice, but for people like [Scottish DJ duo] Optimo, they saw this technology and saw that he could do something else. It’s not just that you don’t have to know how to mix [due to a sync button]—it’s something else.

DJ Times: It’s about more choices.

Murphy: Yeah, and if what you’re achieving is that you get to throw your arms in the air, it’s a little boring, but each DJ has to live with what they do.

DJ Times: I was recently at an Amsterdam Dance Event panel, where the discussion was: “What is DJing anymore? Does a digital platform’s sync button erode the craft in some way?” Some of the conversation began to go into notion of “if you’re not mixing, you’re not really DJing,” and then it sputtered into some degree-of-difficulty talk.

Murphy: I haven’t really run into anybody who cares about the degree of difficulty. That’s a disease based on how easy it is to DJ—and it’s easy. It’s not rocket science—you play a record and then you play another record. I guess I live in a world where technical DJing isn’t a big deal. I mean, 90-percent of what we play isn’t quantized and mixing them is a different story.

DJ Times: And at the same time, there’s something to be said for a great technical DJ like Danny Tenaglia who can take you places with perfect skills to go along with his expertise in selection.

Murphy: Totally, and like the 2ManyDJs guys—they can mix anything. But no matter how all-over-the-place the drummer is on the original recording, it’s kind of shocking how good they are. But if you’re a purist, you might say, “Oh, that’s not mixing perfectly.” Oh, yeah, well, you try to mix David Bowie to… whatever.

DJ Times: What’s up with the DFA label these days?

Murphy: I don’t know. It’s not a great time to be a label. I think that’s a soul-search that everybody at DFA is doing because I’ve never seen DFA as a label. I saw it as a concept and a collective that had a label component. It was just our group of friends and everything we put out was just our friends from New York. It’s just more like, what do we do now? What do we do as a group? And I’ve been away from it for so long, but, away from it or not, the DFA store comes with me. We’re just trying to figure out what to do now. It’s not that easy.

DJ Times: What are you listening to now?

Murphy: I’m going through a phase where I’m listening to stuff from my childhood. It’s a comfort zone. I’m listening to a lot of OMD, Neil Young, the second Suicide record.

DJ Times: Re-discovery can be as fun as discovery.

Murphy: Yeah, and records sound different when you come back to them. Also, I tend to get interested in tracks, of the new music that I’m interested in. This band Poolside from California did this cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” which I really liked. I like “A Certain Person” by Elite Asylum.

DJ Times: Since you’ve retired your band, LCD Soundsystem, what’s your DJ schedule like?

Murphy: Every time we’d come off tour, we’d DJ more because we had time. But we DJed during the tour, too—we’d always have our records on the bus. We’d always DJ between gigs. I mean, that’s my main job. It always has been. I live off of DJing primarily. So I travel a lot and DJ. I do a little bit of production and write some music. I’ve spent the last six months just unpacking my life. It’s like, you get off tour and say, “Where’s the studio at?”

DJ Times: Hitting re-set on your career…

Murphy: Hitting re-set on everything [laughs]. It’s just me getting my ducks in a row, making a little bit of music and DJing.

– Jim Tremayne

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