If playing a show doesn't involve swearing (sometimes at the audience) or onstage mishaps, James Murphy doesn't want anything to do with it. And although you might expect a fairly electronic performance from Murphy — who has produced remixes as The DFA with Tim Goldsworthy and released many trashy punk-dance tracks as LCD Soundsystem — his performance style is decidedly rock 'n' roll.
When touring in support of LCD Soundsystem's self-titled debut (on Murphy's own DFA Records, released earlier this year), the band wasn't too interested in doing it dance-music style. “This isn't some ridiculous ‘live band’ assembled by a DJ where the drummer's got fucking headphones on or anything,” Murphy says. “It's a band band.” Aside from a couple Casio loop sequences used for “Losing My Edge” and “Too Much Love,” there are as many parts played live as there are hands to play them. “And just because it's hilarious,” Murphy adds, “halfway through ‘Yeah,’ we start a sequenced drum beat over the drummer to kind of make it feel like a badly mixed DJ set.”
Aside from the few loops played by robots, there are exactly 10 hands in the band. Drummer Pat Mahoney plays a regular drum kit along with some Simmons drum pads and “a little plastic box that makes an electronic clapping sound when you hit it,” Murphy says. Meanwhile, Tyler Pope plays bass; Nancy Whang plays keyboards, sings and handles Akai MPC and tape-delay duties; Phil Mossman plays guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion; and Murphy sings and “occasionally hits stuff,” including timbales.
Getting the other four members of the band together was pretty easy — at least, Murphy didn't have to endure any uncomfortable auditions. “I asked my friends to come over and play instruments,” he says. “I figured out song by song what I wanted it to sound like, and we, well, rehearsed. It's a lot like being in a cover band. We're the very best LCD cover band in the world.”
In addition, the band takes a sound engineer, Steve Revitte, on tour. “Steve knows how to make it disco,” Murphy says. Although Revitte can get the sound right and the band does bring backup equipment to make the show go smoothly, Murphy doesn't want everything to go too well. “Onstage disasters are part of the fun, really,” he says. “I hate shows where nothing goes wrong. Who wants to see that?
“If it feels like every other night, it's really boring,” Murphy continues. “I like remembering specific shows where specific things happen, like at the SXSW show this year: I got way too drunk and started yelling at the audience. It's all good fun, and everything went haywire, but I'll be able to say, ‘Remember that night in Austin when I told that guy in the front he was a spoiled cunt?’”
For Murphy, seeing a show means not hearing exactly the same thing you can hear on the album, “when it's just, band-playing-songs-as-much-like-record-as-possible,” he says. “Just go out any night and watch any band.” For a change, apparently, go see LCD Soundsystem.
Akai MPC1000 sampler
Boss HC-2 Hand Clapper
Casio MT-400 synth
Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail effects unit
Epiphone '70s P-Bass copy bass guitar
Fender Squire Telecaster guitar
Gretsch '57 jazz drum kit
JoMoX MBase 01 analog bass-drum module
Korg microKorg synth, Stage Echo tape delay
Moog Rogue, Taurus II synths
Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus guitar amp
Simmons SDS-8 drum pads
Traynor TS-50b bass amp