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TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, James Murphy, is the leader of the band LCD Soundsystem, a band which sometimes is really just Murphy in his studio using instruments, electronics and overdubbing. LCD Soundsystem plays dance music and Murphy used to be a club DJ, but the lyrics of his songs are often ironic and funny, and the music that inspires him goes way beyond dance music. He's been embraced by indie rock fans, who are not known for their dancing.

LCD Soundsystem's 2007 album, "Sound of Silver," was voted number one in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Music Critics' Poll and was on NPR's list of the top albums of the decade.

The band has a new album called "This is Happening," which Murphy says will be his final album under that name. Let's hear the track "Drunk Girls," co-written by Murphy and featuring him on vocals, drums, synthesizers, guitar, bass, Wurlitzer, tambourine and hand-claps.

(Soundbite of song, "Drunk Girls")

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (Music group): (Singing) Drunk girls, drunk girls, drunk girls, drunk girls. Drunk girls cause a couple of heart attacks. Drunk girls are unusually mild. Drunk boys keep in pace with the pedophiles. Drunk girls are boringly wild.

Drunk girls get invitations from nations. They got the patience of a million saints. Drunk boys, they steal, they steal from the cupboards. Drunk girls like to file complaints.

Drunk girls are like a night of simplicity. They need a lover who is smarter than me. Drunk boys, we walk like pedestrians. Drunk girls wait an hour to pee.

Drunk girls know that love is an astronaut. It comes back, but it's never the same. Drunk boys, drunk boys, drunk boys, drunk boys. Drunk girls can be just as insane.

Oh, oh, oh, I believe in waking up together. So, oh, oh, that means making eyes across the room.

GROSS: That's "Drunk Girls" from LCD Soundsystem's new album "This is Happening." My guest is James Murphy, who is not only the founder of the band, he is most of the band. James Murphy, welcome to FRESH AIR.

So in a recent article about you in The New Yorker, you said that LCD Soundsystem is set up to be an argument about what's wrong with bands and why they should be better. I would like you to explain what you mean by that.

Mr. JAMES MURPHY (Musician): Well, I'm by nature, to a certain degree, I feel like I'm a healthy or unhealthy, depending on your perspective combination of optimist and curmudgeon. Like, and I would go to shows, and I've seen a lot of really what I thought to be great bands, of great live bands in my life.

And when I would start going to see shows and see bands kind of prioritize things wrong, to my mind, not prioritize the momentness of a show or not prioritize the physical experience of a show, instead prioritize making sure they don't make mistakes or prioritize trying to faithfully represent a pre-recorded piece of material, I felt like that was just wrong.

And I when I hit my early-30s, I decided to do something, which to my mind was radical, which was to stop complaining about things, which I did wonderfully. I was a very good complainer. I could sit I could go after a show and sit outside on the steps with a beer, with a friend and just complain endlessly. And I decided that was not a healthy way of life.

And instead, I would maybe I should make an argument with actually doing things because it seemed like that would knock some of the silliness out of my argument. So we started to make a band that was just about, like, well, I don't like the way these types of sounds sound at shows. I'm going to try to change that.

Or I don't like it when I see someone with an in-ear monitor that's not experiencing the actual entirety of the band, they have a separate mix for their head, and I feel like it changes the way you play. So we're not going to do that. You know, it's just creating, you know, little arguments about what being a band is.

GROSS: You worked as a DJ for how long?

Mr. MURPHY: I guess I started DJing, worked as, you know, I started DJing for, you know, no money when I was 29 and around the same time as starting my I have a label called DFA Records in New York.

So DFA was a party, and I started DJing just at my own party. And I didn't do it at other places. Nobody hired me. I hired myself and around 29, around the same time as starting the band, loosely.

GROSS: So how did DJing at your own parties contribute to your approach as a composer because certainly when you're DJing, you're looking for a groove also.

Mr. MURPHY: Well, yeah, I mean, I think there's after being in, you know, like self - selfish I don't mean self-important in a really particularly derogatory way, but, like, self-involved punk bands my whole life, you were thinking about what it is you want to make, who it is you want to be.

But DJing and finding dance music was much more about it was much more of a communication device. It was, like, very blatant. It's like, if people aren't dancing, you're not doing a good job. You can't make any other argument about it.

There's something simple and workmanly about it that I really liked. And it changed making music for me because suddenly I wanted to make music. I wanted to make songs after having given up. I stopped being in bands when I was 26, so I took three years off and I wanted to do it again because suddenly there was an actual quantifiable way of measuring if you were doing your job. People danced or they didn't. And if they did, you know, you're doing your job. And if you like it and they did, then you're doing your job in an uncompromised way, which was a really nice thing to finally be able to learn.

GROSS: So the band is called LCD Soundsystem, and you used to create sound systems.

Mr. MURPHY: Yes.

GROSS: And your record label was called, or is still called was called, is called, DFA.

Mr. MURPHY: DFA Records.

GROSS: Which stands for Death From Above, which is also what you called your sound system because it was all about loud.

Mr. MURPHY: Yes, (unintelligible)...

GROSS: Really loud. And why does really loud appeal to you, and how loud are we talking?

Mr. MURPHY: Okay, and this is another thing that I'm pretty specific about and have very strong feelings about.

I don't like hurting ears. I don't like hurting people's ears. I don't like hurting my own ears. And there are frequencies that I find that I am hypersensitized to, and I think people normally are.

The human voice, like, likes to hover around 1,000 hertz. That's sort of at the center of our hearing. And, you know, you can go up to 20,000 and go down to 20 hertz and, you know, that's kind of the range of human that's kind of the area where we listen.

So I like to make sure we're not punishing anybody on these frequencies that hurt your ears, but I do like the visceral, physical experience of bass when it's attached to the rest of the sounds. I think it's bodily, I had my the first shows I saw were really bodily loud, and it was a really incredible experience for me.

Like, your adrenaline goes up. You kind of have a fight or flight experience that can be maintained in a nice way by volume. And I think, like, a certain type of airy treble, a certain type of airy space, that doesn't hurt your ears again, is kind of wonderful and magical and for lack of a less hackneyed and overused term, psychedelic. Volume is a big part of that.

I think people have a lot of people have lost the art of using volume in a way that isn't just harsh and painful, but it's something that I'm really into. Like, our band is our band on stage is typically illegally loud in a lot of countries. Like in France, I think you can't be above 97 dB, and where I stand on stage can be about 120 decibels.

GROSS: And you don't think you're hurting your ears?

Mr. MURPHY: I still test better than average. I still test really high frequency. I mean, it can be fatiguing. You know, we shouldn't do more than five shows in a row. And we used to do shows that were about an hour, and now they're about an hour and 40 minutes. So, you know, we've knocked there where I stand down to about 114, 115 decibels.

But if I don't if it doesn't feel right physically, I would just be thinking constantly on stage. I would just be constantly thinking, and then I'd forget the lyrics, and I'd forget the arrangements, and it wouldn't be very good show.

GROSS: You'd be thinking, oh, it's not loud enough, it's not loud enough?

Mr. MURPHY: I would just be thinking. I would just turn my brain back on. I need the for me, I need a certain amount of volume to turn the brain off.

GROSS: Right, right.

Mr. MURPHY: Turn the rattling monkey in my head off.

GROSS: I'm glad you say you're not interested in hurting people's ears. There was this, like, one concert that I went to in a small venue, where it was so loud, so intentionally loud, that I moved way back because I thought, like, this is really egotistical on the performer's part. If he thinks his music is worth damaging my hearing, he's crazy.

Mr. MURPHY: I think it's also, I mean, you know, the band is typically mixed by engineer, too. So it's you know, it's kind of a combo of who's really trying to hurt you.

GROSS: Oh, I think he was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: The system was designed by someone.

GROSS: In this case, I think he was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: And also, the system is designed by somebody typically who doesn't know how to design sound systems. People it's a lost art now because everything is pre-packaged. Like, sound systems come pre-packaged now. People used to design them.

I used to design boxes and design the amplifiers and the crossovers, and you could, you could make them specific to rooms, but now they're mostly cookie cutters, and someone comes in with a mystical computer and sets it up, and then they go away. And then they get messed with a little bit every night until they sound bad again. Then they have the mystery man come in with his computer and fix it.

GROSS: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: It's kind of I don't know, I'm an anachronism, I would say, in that I like to control these things as much as possible in a more-old-fashioned way.

GROSS: My guest is James Murphy, founder of the band LCD Soundsystem. Their new album is called "This is Happening." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is James Murphy, founder of the band LCD Soundsystem, which combines dance music with an indie rock sensibility.

Well, I thought we'd hear another LCD Soundsystem recording, and this is from earlier. This is called "Losing my Edge," and it's one of the most famous things that you've done.

Mr. MURPHY: It's the first one.

GROSS: Yeah, yeah, and let's hear it. I think it's like a really funny song, and I'll just say it's about somebody who thinks he's losing his edge to the kids who are coming up behind him. And so let's hear it, and then we'll talk about it. So this is LCD Soundsystem.

(Soundbite of song, "Losing My Edge")

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: (Singing) I'm losing my edge. I heard you have a compilation of every good song ever done by anybody, every great song by the Beach Boys, all the underground hits, all the Modern Lovers tracks. I heard you have a vinyl of every Niagra record on German import. I heard that you have a white label of every seminal Detroit techno hit, 1985, '86, '87. I heard that you have a CD compilation of every good '60s cut and another box set from the '70s.

I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a Yaz record.

I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables. I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars. I hear everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody that I know. But have you seen my records?

GROSS: So that's the first single by LCD Soundsystem, and my guest, James Murphy, is the creator of LCD Soundsystem. And I think that's just so funny. And when I listen to it, I can't help but wonder how much of this is about you and how much of it is older people who you met coming up through the ranks who were afraid that they were losing their edge to people like you.

Mr. MURPHY: It's a little bit both. It's really from a specific position and time in my life more than it is about it, where I had started DJing, and I hadn't released any music yet. We had DFA Records, and I started having there was parties that I was throwing, and I was DJing, and for the first time in my life, I was almost cool.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: But not quite?

Mr. MURPHY: At almost, like, 29 years old, I had my first taste of, like, wait, people want me to come to this party and DJ. This is very exciting for me.

And then I went to I remember I went to a punk show, and between the bands, somebody was DJing. Now, that wasn't done. And I was like, wait, that's my thing. Like, I play records, you know.

And they were playing some of the records I played, and I got really upset. I looked, and they were like 24, 23, and I was really mad. And then I started getting very embarrassed that I was getting mad because I remembered being in a young band when I was 23 or 24 and talking to this guy who was like ancient - I think he may have been 28 or 29, you know, practically in his grave - and he was talking about how kids now, they don't know, you know, the guitar sounds aren't good and things like that. And I remember just being, like, oh, man, you never say that. That's just, that's such a lame thing to say.

And then I caught myself doing it, and I'm, like, oh, I'm saying it, but at the same time, it's true, but it's so pathetic. And it made for the easiest song I've ever written. It was the easiest song to write.

The whole lyric with a couple of I punched it in a couple of times, but I played drums and sang that song in just one take, just without writing anything beforehand. The only thing that I wrote was the list of songs that I yell at the end, I mean the list of artists I yell at the end. The whole thing was just made up because it was such a fertile and embarrassing and circular set of feelings.

Like, it was so easy to know what I was mad about and so easy to be embarrassed by it, and so you know, it was just, like, endlessly, oh-but, oh-but, you know, type of emotion that I had. So it was a really and after that, I was overconfident. I was like, I can write songs all the time. This is easy. Just have an experience that typifies your life at that moment and then go yell about it.

GROSS: It's funny because I kind of half-imagined you taking like, having this secret notebook in which you wrote down all the things that people said to you about why they were worried about younger people coming up and replacing them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And why they were losing their edge because it's all so perfect.

Mr. MURPHY: It was so simple to me. It seemed like such a good and at the end, the reason I yell all the band names was I suddenly realized, like, I'm one of these I suddenly realized, I was, like, this is what you do when you know things. Knowing things, knowledge, or like your attachment to them or your self-association with other bands or with books or whatever is usually like this, often this weird amulet that protects you. Like, you're, like, no, I am serious. Look at my library. Listen to this. Like, I'm going to list all the books I've read, and now you know I'm a serious person.

And so it was just supposed to be like this amulet swinging around me to protect me from being seen as anything that I didn't want to be seen as.

GROSS: Yeah, I think a lot of people have experienced that, you know, what you read, what you listen to, that's who you are.

Mr. MURPHY: Yes.

GROSS: I think my favorite line in "Losing My Edge" is: I hear you've done a compilation of every good song ever done by anybody.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's really great.

Mr. MURPHY: It just yeah, which is, you know, of course, now that's just the Internet, isn't it?

GROSS: Well, yeah, but that's not any one, single person.

Mr. MURPHY: Exactly.

GROSS: Yeah. And then you say: I've never been wrong. I used to work in a record store.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: You had everything before anyone.

GROSS: Yeah. So did you used to work in a record store?

Mr. MURPHY: I actually didn't. That's the only typical rock-nerd job I did not have. I had every other typical rock-nerd job. At the time when I could have worked in a record store, it was very hard to get those jobs because they were the most desirable. So I worked in a bookstore instead, which is the second-most-desirable job.

GROSS: But you probably frequented record stores a lot.

Mr. MURPHY: Oh boy, yeah. I, like, basically lived in them.

GROSS: So let's play another track from your new CD, "This is Happening," and I thought we'd play something that's kind of different in tone from what we just heard. And this is called "Home," and it's more emotional, and I thought we'd quote a couple of lines from it and see how this connects to your life, if at all, if this song grew out of your life or is just a song.

So the lines are: So grab your things and stumble into the night so we can shut the door on terrible times. And then a little later, you say: This is the trick. Forget a terrible year so we can break the laws until it gets weird. So did you write this after a terrible year?

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah, it was a pretty bad year last year for a lot of my friends. A friend of a very, very close friend of ours passed away. And there it was somebody that a lot of people were very, very close to, like genuinely a big part of the music scene in New York and separate from the music scene, just a very good friend, named Jerry Fuchs(ph), who's a drummer, who had played in LCD, he played in The Juan Maclean and Holy Ghost! He played in, like, a ton of bands that we were all involved with, and I've known him for a really long time.

So it kind of just took a big bite out of everybody in New York, and it was the biggest it was sort of like an unfortunate mark on that year. So that year, 2009, kind of is kind of always to me that year. So yeah.

GROSS: Okay, so why don't we hear "Home," and this is LCD Soundsystem. My guest is James Murphy, who is the founder of the band, and the band is more or less him. So here it is. This is "Home."

(Soundbite of song, "Home")

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: (Singing) Home, home, home, home, home, home, take me home. Just do it right. Make it perfect and real because it's everything, no everything was never the deal.

So grab your things, and stumble into the night so we can shut the door, oh, shut the door on terrible times.

GROSS: That's "Home," from the new LCD Soundsystem CD, "This is Happening." My guest, James Murphy, is the founder of the band, and the band is kind of him with other people helping out.

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah, it depends on how it's divided. It's a very hard one. It's definitely a band. Like, we're on tour, there's six or seven of us, depending on the song. And we are really a band.

But in the studio, I think and I do work with some of the people in the band in the studio. But I've come up with the best description I've come up with is if the band was a movie, I would I'd be the director, like the writer-director. But I work very closely with like, it would be like if Martin Scorsese had, you know, like, Robert De Niro, like, Robert would be involved in the writing. You know, like, he would be involved in a deeper way than just like being cast and given the script.

So we do all work together, but it's like, I think in the end, the responsibility of dealing with it winds up being mine.

GROSS: My guest, James Murphy, the founder of LCD Soundsystem, will be back in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with James Murphy, founder of the band LCD Soundsystem. In the New Yorker, music critic Sasha Frere-Jones wrote that the band helped reintroduce dance music into indie rock, bridging the divide between fans who probably don't otherwise like dance music, and those who put on LCD records only to dance to.

Murphy got his start as a DJ and sound engineer. LCD Soundsystem's new album is called "This is Happening."

You have these really even in a more emotional song like "Home," you have these really catchy grooves. And I'm wondering if that's - if you're composing revolves around finding the groove first.

Mr. MURPHY: A lot of times it does. I always - I'm not a big songwriter guy. People that were really good singer-songwriters I never - they usually left me kind of cold. I've always been more of a physical music person even when I didn't listen to dance music, I didn't quite realize it, but like the punk bands I liked to have like a physicality that I really liked.

Lyrically and vocally, I was never all that interested in melody or great voices, and musically, I was never that interested in chord changes. I always just liked to find something that kind of did one thing for a really long time and did it very well - or just had a physicalness(ph) to it that I really liked.

GROSS: So rhythm kind of becomes melody for you.

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah, to a certain degree. Just repetition and rhythm. Yeah.

GROSS: So the tracks on the new CD are approximately under eight minutes each.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah.

GROSS: And, you know, on the dance floor people tend to play long tracks.

Mr. MURPHY: Yes.

GROSS: But what, does about eight minutes seem like the right amount for like a listening experience?

Mr. MURPHY: I don't know. I have a - I'm always wrong about these things. Like, you know, whenever I listened to a record growing up and somebody would, I'd be like oh, this is the hit. And then, of course, I'd be completely wrong.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. MURPHY: So I have this - I don't have the ear for that. I know for me, I like, you know, for me a pop song is about five minutes 40.

GROSS: Oh, you got it down exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah. Like no, I kept noticing, I'm like oh the pop song on this record, it's like oh, it's like five and a half minutes. You still have to cut two minutes off of it to make a radio single out of it. And it's like, oh. And this record doesn't - although, "Drunk Girls" is almost three and a half minutes. It's under four minutes, which is a real shocker for me. The only songs that I ever write that are under four minutes are just like kind of barnstorming punk songs.

But for me, I think a good pop song is like five minutes long because I like intros and outtros. I like to let things develop before you stop to start putting melodies on them.

GROSS: Yeah. You sometimes have long instrumental sections before the vocal starts.

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah. I like that. I mean I like, when we play live it's nice for me because I can like let things settle. I can make sure I can hear everything the way I want to and then we can then start singing. I find it more fun. I always have though. I've always like these kind of things that just go on for a while. I loved the Talking Heads because they would have these sort of mesmerizing kind of like hypnotic things. I always loved "Tomorrow Never Knows" by the Beatles because of how you could listen to the intro before the vocals come in for an hour.

It's just kind of - it's hypnotizing. I like that. It gives me - I'm a self-conscious person, I think. I'm a shy person and a self-conscious person, and things being hypnotizing a little bit I think is healthy for me - let's me like let my guard down and try and just sing the song or whatever. Rather than be like what, are they looking at me? Are they looking at me? I don't know. That what I would otherwise do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: You go through that on stage? Because you know people are looking at you when you're on stage. That's one thing you can be sure of.

Mr. MURPHY: Of course. It's the worst. Yeah. I think it's very funny when people discover that when you watch a show from the audience you never think of that. And so someone will jump on the stage and, you know, want to dance around. And they suddenly jump there and you see that look pass over their face that they've stepped through the television and it's not what they thought.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: And they turn around and everyone's starring at them. And they get very self-conscious and then they kind of do a little dance that makes them really shy and then they jump back down. It's a pretty funny experience. And I'm always when that happens, in the back of my mind, I'm like, you didn't think it was going to be like this. I know you didn't. But it's really strange up here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So you've mentioned several times that you like really physical music. You like to feel it in your body. So I guess it's no surprise that your first instrument was drums.

Mr. MURPHY: My first instrument was guitar.

GROSS: Oh. So it is a surprise.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah. No. But I learn - yeah, I was a singer-guitar player as a kid. AKA, I was a self-important pretentious jerk as a kid and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: ...a controlling, you know, teenager. I started playing guitar when I was - I started my first band when I was 12. I was in a new wave band. I like to date myself by saying I was in a new wave band when it wasn't ironic. It was actually called new wave because it was new. And, but yeah, so 12, 13, all through high school I played guitar. And I moved to New York when I was 19 and started feeling like maybe the guitar wasn't for me. I met a guy who was a really great guitar player. He was a natural guitar player. This guy name Yotaka Yokoyama(ph) who was a violinist, who picked up guitar and we liked a lot of the same music. And we played together.

And watching him play guitar made me realize that maybe I'm not playing the right instrument for me because he was just so natural and physical. And I was always trying to struggle to get the guitar to give me more of something. And then I started playing drums. I was like oh, these are great. You hit them harder and they get louder.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: This is all - this all really makes sense. And so I started being drummer in bands. I think now I've settled on that the instrument that's most appropriate for me is the bass guitar, because it's somewhere between the two. It's like the workhorse and you can play it very physically and it delivers a lot more like punch in the stomach. But it also can drive the song around. It's a rhythmic instrument, but it's also a melodic instrument or at least a tonal instrument.

GROSS: And speaking of like physicality, you studied kickboxing after high school, which is certainly...

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah.

GROSS: Was that just because you like physical things or did you need to defend yourself?

Mr. MURPHY: Oh, I didn't need to defend myself. I was a big - I was a very big young kid.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: When I was like 15 I was about six feet 210 pounds, so I was fine. I just think I did it because my friend did it and it was at the local mall and I didn't go to college after high school, so my parents were like what are you doing with yourself? So I worked at a bookstore and I kickboxed, basically having this very late '80s kind of rebellion. And I finally did go to college after a year and a half of kickboxing and working in bookstores, which was probably the best thing for me because it wasn't that great, living at my parents' house, kickboxing and working in a bookstore. You would think it would be great but it wasn't. And I decided I did want to move. I moved to New York and started playing more music and quit kickboxing. But I did love it. I really do. I do. I still love it. I train Brazilian Jujitsu now, which is a different kind of fighting art. But I really do, it never left me. I really do enjoy it.

GROSS: Have you ever needed to use martial arts?

Mr. MURPHY: No. No. I mean I think usually with a couple of exceptions, usually you don't have to do any - you don't have to defend yourself. You can just walk away or say something. I'm not a - I've learned to not be as antagonistic as I was as a kid. I got in fights a ton when I was a kid. But that's because I was the weird kid and a loud mouth.

GROSS: My guest is James Murphy, founder of the band LCD Soundsystem. Their new album is called "This is Happening." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is James Murphy, founder of the band LCD Soundsystem, which combines dance music with an indie rock sensibility.

I want to play another song. And this is also an earlier LCD Soundsystem track, and it's the title track of your album "Sound Of Silver." And I just think the lyric's really interesting about being nostalgic for being a teenager until you remember what it was really like to be a teenager. So why don't we hear it and then we'll talk about it.

(Soundbite of song, "Sound Of Silver")

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: (Singing) Sound of silver talk to me. Makes you want to feel like a teenager. Until you remember the feelings of a real live emotional teenager. Then you think again.

Sound of silver talk to me. Makes you want to feel like a teenager. Until you remember the feelings of a real live emotional teenager. Then you think again.

Sound of silver talk to me. Makes you want to feel like a teenager. Until you remember the feelings of a real live emotional teenager. Then you think again.

Sound of silver talk to me. Makes you want to feel like a teenager. Until you remember the feelings of a real live emotional teenager. Then you think again.

Sound of silver talk to me. Makes you want to feel like a teenager. Until you remember the feelings of a real live emotional teenager. Then you think again.

GROSS: That's LCD Soundsystem. My guest is James Murphy, who's the creator of the band and plays most of the instruments on the records and does the vocals and writes the songs.

So is this a kind of personal song for you?

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah. But in more ways than one, possibly. The type of singing is the most personal embarrassing part of that song. I was really into Heaven 17 as a kid too, like new wave stuff and the singing is kind of like arch. People don't sing like that anymore, kind of this kind of like '80s new romantic baritone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: And I really love it. And I'd been on a quest for almost the length of this band to just trust my taste even when it's pretty embarrassing, because embarrassment's kind of are an untapped rock emotion, usually. People don't get too into embarrassment. They get into heartbreak and cool but they don't get in too much into just being embarrassing. So yeah, I just wanted to belt it out in this kind of weird. And it was pretty funny to make the lyrics because I was like oh, I don't really need any more lyrics. It's just a one line song, really.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And what was your real live emotional life as a teenager?

Mr. MURPHY: I led a pretty okay school time. I was just a - I kind of made things difficult for myself. Like when I was younger I fit in a lot better. I was an athletic kid and I was a pretty big kid. But then when we got about 13, you know, certain types of - I had much older brothers and sisters and certain types of like hyper self-aware stuff happened to me pretty young. My voice changed when I was in fourth grade. I was 10. I looked bigger. You know, and something happened where I was not kind of on the same page as a lot of my peers. And watching the cruelty develop around 12, 13 was super psychically like traumatic for me.

Of course, now it's like oh yeah, people are kind of crappy to each other sometimes. You can live with that. It's okay. You know, I also learned that people are capable of great insensitivity and horror and also capable of, you know, great optimism and kindness and it's - a lot of times it's how you treat them that they can, you know, become the best parts of themselves or the worst parts of themselves.

But at that time I had no experience of this. So watching suddenly two friends that were best friends the year before turn into cliques and, you know, the more popular of those two would be taunting the less popular of his ex-best friend and just - all that stuff was just like, you know, I felt like I was in some sort of horrifying, you know, psychedelic nightmare that I couldn't wake up from.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: And it really, really traumatized me in a way that I find kind of embarrassing. But, of course, it's all this predictable stuff that everybody goes through. But I think you're supposed to be - I think the blessing is at that age you're pretty oblivious to a lot of it and so wrapped up in it that you don't, you know, like you're kind of missing the horror. And I didn't have that luxury and it was not nice to watch.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So you've said that the current CD, "This is Happening," might be the final LCD Soundsystem CD? Why is that? By CD I mean album.

Mr. MURPHY: I know. I always have a hard time. I'm an album person. It's not that it'll be the last album. What it is to me is like, it's become my whole life, which I'm very happy about. It's a wonderful life. I love being in this band. But to do a band properly does kind of mean you don't really get to do anything else.

Now I also have a record label - DFA. I'm a producer. I design equipment. I like to write. There's a lot of things I'd like to do that I can't really do because I'm doing this job. So I thought like three albums, a nice trilogy, a decade. I started when I was about 30. I'm 40 now. It feels like a good time to stop being a professional band. That doesn't mean LCD will stop. It just means I'll go back to more the beginning, like doing what in my head, just doing a song here and there or being more fluid about my decision-making, rather than album, videos, singles, tour.

You know, like rather than this kind of professional arc of being in a band, I'd get to go - I would like to go back to being just a person who gets to decide what he likes to do and pursues something new once in a while, rather than just being like I wish I could pursue something new, but it's going to take me nine months to make the record and then there's going to be four months of promotion, then I'm going to tour for a year - which is kind of, when you put it together, that's two years of your life every time.

GROSS: Now, your music is so much about being loud, so that you can physically feel the music. Yet, the first track on your new album, the vocal on it is really quiet. And then the instrumental comes on much louder, deeper into the track. But why start the album off at such a relatively low level?

Mr. MURPHY: Well, because I thought it would be funny. Again, I like to play games and I like - I started - well, I wanted the beginning to be very quiet. And I thought I'd mix the vocals even quiet for the beginning, so that you'd naturally turn up the stereo...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. MURPHY: ...so that the impact of when the drums and the synthesizer kick in is much stronger. Because when I would listen to it and I'd turn everything up and I'd sit there with my eyes closed and it would start, and I'd play it for people who hadn't heard it before, they'd just like - we'd look at each and be like wow, that's - it really hit. It felt really good. But then when I was, you know, mixing it later on, it was like losing some of that impact, and it was like you really just have to turn it up. You really have to turn it up to get the effect. So the only way I could guarantee that people would turn it up is by recording the vocals very quietly under a quiet percussion line in the beginning so that, you know, so that you'd settle into that as the medium volume of the music.

I mean, if you listen to classical music, people do it all the time. You know, you start very quietly, very quietly, and something dramatic happens - not that we're making classical music. I mean, it's dumb music with drums and synthesizers, but it's just a physical thing that I like. In fact, that's why it started so quiet, so that that sense of physicality could happen.

GROSS: Very clever. Very devious.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: James Murphy, really a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you so much.

Mr. MURPHY: My pleasure. It's really nice to talk to you. It's the first time I've heard your voice and you're actually talking back to me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Well, it's a pleasure to do it. Thank you so much.

James Murphy is the founder of LCD Soundsystem. The band's new album is called "This is Happening." You can hear LCD Soundsystem's full set from this month's Bonnaroo Festival on our website, freshair.npr.org.

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