'Shut Up and Play the Hits' to be screened at DIFF
It wasn’t until he’d reached his 30s that music fan James Murphy started punky electro band LCD Soundsystem and became a hero for a generation. A decade later, he decided to end the project before it went stale, calling time on the group last year. As a new documentary about his band’s teary finale at New York’s Madison Square Garden – entitled Shut Up And Play The Hits – is screened as part of the Dubai International Film Festival, we heard from the 42-year-old star.
Is it strange to have reached that status of having a film made about your musical career? I mean, to be fair, I’m part of making it, so it’s cheap to say, ‘Look, I’m one of those people that gets a movie made about them.’ I’m also one of the producers. There’s a section in the film when you’re in the storage room with all your equipment and you’re sitting in a director’s chair… Yeah, we made those for the tour. You cry just after that, when you see all of LCD’s touring gear boxed up in storage. Just how awkward was that? The whole thing is weird. But I got over that part being in the editing room. I don’t think I could have seen the movie if I’d had to watch it for the first time in an audience.
You remastered the performance in the film. Is there something strange about remixing something that purports to be ‘live’? Well, ‘remixing’ is a funny term for me. We’ve done it before – when we played radio shows, for example, I’d get the tapes and mix them. We’d play TV shows and very often we’d have it in the deal that we’d do the soundcheck and I’d get to go downstairs and mix the soundcheck, and that’ll be the setting for the show.
On Todd Terje’s ‘Let’s Nerd’ blog, he asked how you got that distinctive LCD Soundsystem drum sound. You gave him every single clue and secret. Is that something you’re cool with now? I’ve always been cool with it. I’ve never guarded a technique in my life. I want music to sound better. I think I’m good at making it, so I would like other people to know how it’s done. If there’s some kid that can use that information and a light bulb goes off in their head, that’s great.
But isn’t there a danger that everything could end up sounding the same? I don’t think we’re having that problem – the problem we’re having is that all drums sound like Daft Punk. I love them, but if another producer tries to make their drums sound like Daft Punk drums then puts a pop/R&B thing on, I’m gonna fly to whatever city they’re in and shoot them in the face.
Going back to the movie, it was amazing to see your manager Keith on screen, yet we don’t really know who he is. What’s his relationship with you? He was my manager. He’s retired now to paint in the country. In the DVD, we have a bonus feature called ‘Catching Up With Keith’, where I go upstate and interview him. Keith’s incredible. It was just him and I, there was no one else in the team for years. No assistants, secretaries or anything. In the film, you also talk about wanting to end LCD mainly because of the grey hairs you were accumulating. But it wasn’t just the grey hairs, it was the getting sick as well…
Getting sick how? Well, I had pneumonia, like, ten times and my voice went out. And eventually you realise it’s not a very healthy life.
In that case, you must be appreciating this self-imposed retirement… I’ve been Djing so much I haven’t really been able to take a break. This movie also took up a lot of my free time, so what normally would have been three weeks off has been taken up with work. Like here I am doing interviews again… Shut Up And Play The Hits screens at Vox Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates at 10pm on Thursday December 13 and Friday December 14. www.dubaifilmfest.com.