NEW YORK -- Asked to characterize "Shut Up and Play the Hits," a concert film that documents LCD Soundsystem's final, oft-mythologized show at Madison Square Garden, James Murphy deadpans a television promo.
"Middle-age guy stops band. Pictures at 11."
The film, which plays in theaters for one night Wednesday, is a kind of "The Last Waltz" for a new generation: an adored band going out with a self-induced, possibly premature bang. But it's also, as the filmmakers Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace say, "a character study" of Murphy, whose decision to end LCD Soundsystem is as curious to the man who made it as it is to anybody.
"I still don't know if it's the right decision," says Murphy. "I felt like it was the right decision for the moment and you only have that. And I'm OK with that. I regret it sometimes. I don't know if I regret it, but I'm sad sometimes. I'm like, `Oh, it would be fun to play with those guys.' Or I see a band that stinks and I'm like, `Let's go wipe them off, stop them from playing.'"
The movie is an occasion not only to lead new ears to LCD Soundsystem and let their fans relive a concert that seemed to define an era of New York music, but a chance to unpack LCD Soundsystem – an alternatively ironic and sincere groove-based outfit that made cerebral electronic dance music with pristine production and propulsive rhythms.
"We did a bunch of things that I'm only figuring out now," Murphy says. "We were cooler than I thought we were. But we didn't rest on it because I didn't think we were cool. So I don't feel like we sold out too bad."
In a recent interview at his newly purchased Williamsburg loft, Murphy, a kickboxing enthusiast, had the restlessness of a fighter without a bout on the horizon. "I'm not retired," he says, feigning a golf swing. But a kind of post-LCD limbo has taken hold. Recalling the day's decisions, he says, "I forgot to eat. Should I make a juice or should I fry an egg? I don't have eggs. Should I rent a Zip car?"
"That's kind of what's going on now," says Murphy, laughing.
The thinly-bearded, outwardly-placid 42-year-old's colorful conversation often resembles his lyrics: layers of self-deprecation, self-aware analysis and musical references that dot from Harry Nilsson to the Smiths to OutKast.
But, like a bank robber turned clean, he's missing the juice – the thrill of pushing further, sounding better and rocking harder than the band next door. LCD Soundsystem, he says, was motivated to improve by great live bands like Arcade Fire and the Flaming Lips, and, alternatively, would relish blowing away weaker, less-driven competition. "Have some pride, man," he says, disgusted. "Go fight."
Yet stopping LCD Soundsystem was partly a gesture of surrender. After three acclaimed albums that concluded with 2010's "This Is Happening," the band was only gaining in popularity and had built a crystal-clear, pulsating live act on par with "Stop Making Sense"-era Talking Heads.
When Murphy – a punk band veteran and co-founder of DFA Records who was already 35 when the group debuted – gazed at his future, he saw never-ending three-year cycles of writing, recording and touring. He feared continual life on the road would carry him through middle age and propel him into a more public lifestyle.
"I don't want to be a famous person," he says. "That's what's next. That's the next step, especially with an American band. Just make the same record seven times and then you're huge."
But the recalibration hasn't worked the way Murphy hoped. He still doesn't want to reconstitute LCD Soundsystem, but his plan for leisure and professional freedom has been bedeviled by other encroachments.
Murphy, a detail-oriented obsessive (he's shown in the film managing the backstage wristbands at MSG), became heavily involved in the post-production of the documentary, particularly the audio mix for concert footage. He also helped cut a 3 1/2 hr., music-only version.
Murphy has also spent a lot of time DJing around the world and seen his calendar constantly fill up. Though he wanted to return to producing, his work with other acts (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Klaxons, Julie Ruin) has been limited to short sessions of a track or two.
"I'm not doing different things yet," says Murphy. "Making a movie takes forever. Making two movies takes double forever."
"Shut Up and Play the Hits" is punctuated by an interview of Murphy by author and music journalist Chuck Klosterman. The filmmakers turned to Klosterman, who had previously profiled Murphy for the British newspaper The Guardian, to essentially replicate the experience – which Klosterman says was "sort of like acting but the character was myself."
And, certainly, hyper self-consciousness is pervasive in "Shut Up and Play the Hits."
"If (Murphy) has a problem that's also a strength, it is the intensity of his self-awareness to the point where it's almost paralyzing for him," says Klosterman. "It's very difficult for him to make any decision without sort of pre-imagining how that decision will be perceived or how it will make him feel later."
Murphy has continued to write music on a daily basis, but he hasn't been putting tracks to tape. Though doctor visits are another thing he hasn't had time for yet, he says he permanently stripped his voice during one of the shows leading up the MSG concert (which sold out in under an hour).
"I'm excited to do some stuff," he says, mentioning a desire to do another uninterrupted album like LCD Soundsystem's "45:33" and an impulse to make "more synthy stuff" like the band's "I Can Change." "I'm terrified in a lot of ways. I don't know if anyone's going to care. I don't know what's going to happen, which is kind of exciting."
But as what? Murphy was always the sole creative force and songwriter of LCD Soundsystem, which toured as a seven-piece. He's unsure if his next album will simply be as himself: "It just seems kind of arbitrary to be like: This is a James Murphy record, not an LCD Soundsystem record."
He's planning to open a store below his apartment, make his own espresso blend (coffee is one of his greatest passions), and set up a studio at his home since the DFA studio is now often rented to other bands.
Meanwhile, the post-LCD Soundsystem life Murphy envisioned awaits.
"I don't see that happening for a little while, at least through the summer," he says. "Then I'm going to Asia in September. So ... next year."
LCD Soundsystem - "All My Friends"
www.lcdsoundsystem.net http LCD Soundsystem return with a new single 'All My Friends' on May 28th, taken from the massively acclaimed album 'Sound Of Silver' released earlier this year. With it's frenetic refrain and rhythmic precision 'All My Friends' has quickly become both an album standout and live favourite, as the recent sell-out European tour showed to great effect. 'All My Friends' is backed by a spectacular array of new material and exclusive mixes in the form of covers of 'AMF's' by both Franz Ferdinand (produced by Erol Alkan) and the legendary John Cale who recorded his amazing version in LA in early April, a radical dancefloor re-working courtesy of seminal NY based ex-pat Harvey, a new LCD cover of Joy Division's 'No Love Lost' and 'Freak Out', a brand new clubtrack. The band are currently preparing for their forthcoming US tour which begins at Coachella later this month, before returning to the UK and Europe this Summer for a series of high profile festival performances including 02 Wireless (as main support to Daft Punk), T-In The Park, Creamfields, Reading/Leeds & Connect to name but a few before returning for a full set of dates this Autumn.
LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yrself Clean
from »This Is Happening« (2010) Thanks to James Murphy and his friends for making music. We appreciate it.
LCD Soundsystem - Tribulations
Music video by LCD Soundsystem performing Tribulations.
LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great
Music video by LCD Soundsystem performing Someone Great.
LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change
Track 5 From LCD Soundsystem's 2010 "This is Happening"
LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge
Music video by LCD Soundsystem performing Losing My Edge.
LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum
Music video by LCD Soundsystem performing North American Scum.
LCD Soundsystem - Home (Official video - HD)
@itgrelo Directed by Rick Darge Produced by Mark Armes Concept by Rick Darge & Mark Armes Art Direction- Shelby Hohl & Mark Armes Assistant Director - Mark Armes Shooter/Editor - Rick Darge Colorist - Jake Blackstone, MOD Color Gaffer - Jeff Fountain Starring Rick Armes, Fabian Vargas, Elena Vann, Arthur & Felicia Bates, Tom & Josh, Osker Koranado With Special thanks to; Cley Miller, The Armes Family, Shelby Hohl, Omar Afra, Elliot Santillian, Free Press Houston, Paul Wolfman, Brandon Holly, Dirt Bar, Vintage Bar, Chris Patterson, Osker Koronado, Rock Coronado, Jeff Fountain, Jagi Katial, Erin Patterson, Hasan, the City of Houston & everyone else that made it possible Shot on location in Houston, Texas 2010
LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls
Music video by LCD Soundsystem performing Drunk Girls.
LCD Soundsystem - Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
Music video by LCD Soundsystem performing Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.
LCD Soundsystem - Pow Pow
featuring Anna Kendrick
LCD Soundsystem - Late Show with David Letterman
LCD Soundsystem peforming Daft Punk is Playing at My House during the Late Show with David Letterman - Thanks to LCD Soundsystem for linking to this vid!
LCD Soundsystem - Live Alone (Franz Ferdinand Cover)
Live Alone is taken from the Franz Ferdinand Covers EP. www.dominorecordco.com Video directed by Gabriel Pulecio Aka Lustix www.lustix.com Work done in Collaboration with Lorena Kraus.
LCD Soundsystem - Disco Infiltrator
Music video by LCD Soundsystem performing Disco Infiltrator.
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM THE HITS (Aziz, Nick Kroll, Reggie Watts & More)
LCD THE HITS, directed by Lance Bangs, is the second in a four-part series surrounding the LCD SOUNDSYSTEM doc SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS. Aziz Ansari, Reggie Watts, Nick Kroll, Jason Woliner, and more pay tribute to LCD SOUNDSYTEM and the band's biggest songs. For more: thecreatorsproject.com ** SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS - The final days of LCD Soundsystem Directed by Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace In theaters one night only, July 18th www.shutupandplaythehits.com oscilloscope.net ** The Creators Project is a partnership between Intel and VICE: thecreatorsproject.com ** Like The Creators Project on Facebook: fb.com Follow The Creators Project on Twitter: twitter.com Read our Tumblr: thecreatorsproject.tumblr.com