Listen: James Murphy’s DFA anniversary DJ set
Right now, the ever-cool Red Bull Music Academy is in the middle of a month-long series in New York. As part of the city takeover, RBMA is bringing no fewer than 236 artists down for 37 shows (including Skream’s maybe-last-ever dubstep set) and hosting a series of lectures at their head office. One of the names to sign up for a talk was DFA kingpin James Murphy, who – as well as delivering a DJ set for DFA’s 12th anniversary party, which you can stream below – stopped by for a 75-minute chat about his musical tastes, career and the evolution of his cult label.
As ever, the former-LCD Soundsystem frontman was in fine acerbic form. There’s plenty in the talk for the DFA diehard to get stuck into, but one of the not-to-miss moments is when Murphy describes how he first started to get into the music that would come to define his career. “I saw a whole different world which I had never had any peek into, which was dance music. And that changed my life,” he told. “Because I realised that making people dance had a point that had nothing to do with art. And I mean that in the most positive way. Meaning that it’s like food- if they’re not eating it, you’ve screwed it up. If they’re not dancing, you’re just not doing a god job.
“So it made a very simple set of goals for me, which allowed me to calm down and stop wondering if what I was doing was good or worthwhile,” he continued. “I was like, I can figure this out and make people dance and make people have fun. And that was a great weight off your back, after years of self-mythologising like ‘Am I good? I can never be like David Bowie, I can never be like these people, I can never be in Velvet Underground’. It silenced me enough to make some songs…it was just going out and having fun, which was really athematic to my indie rock ‘90s which were judgemental like, I paid six bucks so I can stand here and go, ‘nyehh, I prefer The Melvins’.” If you’ve got an hour up your sleeve, dive into the full talk below.