DFA - An Interview with James Murphy
With the recent release of the much anticipated Beachs
& Canyons by Black Dice and 4 well-received singles,
the buzz surrounding Brooklyn's DFA label is huge. Pitchfork
recently claimed that DFA is "more important than almost
anything else going on in music right now." Founded
by the production duo of James Murphy (Plaintain Records)
and Tim Goldsworthy (U.N.K.L.E.) DFA is undeniably THE indie
label to watch now. This exclusive interview with James
was conducted via email in late September.
to the music
James (left), Tim (right)
1. I keep seeing DFA mentioned in the same sentence
with Electroclash. When I think of Electroclash I think
of bands like Fischerspooner, Ladytron, and even Peaches.
Do you consider DFA to be part of the Electroclash movement?
No, but I wager that some of those other bands, like Fischerspooner,
wouldn't consider themselves really electroclash either.
2. What the fuck is Electroclash anyway? Everybody seems
to have a different definition.
I think it's a title made up and copyrighted by Larry Tee.
It's a brand of some sort that leans towards the asymmetrical.
3. How did DFA become such a phenomenon so quickly?
Your popularity is amazing considering you only have 4 singles
I don't know that we're a phenomenon, actually. I think
we may seem more popular than we really arethat people
who talk a lot and/or write for magazines tend to like some
of the music we do. That stuff seems all very temporary,
really, and could blow up in our faces at any moment (see:electroclash).
I DO think the music that the artists we work with is of
an exceptional quality.
4. I'm confused....is Plantain (founded by James) now
a subsidiary of DFA?
Of course not. Plantain is the home-base. It's the building,
the conduit. It was founded by myself and T.B. (our benefactor).
It included Jonah Smith (of 1000 words pictures) and Marcus
(of Plant) very early on. DFA is just one thing in the house.
It's an associationsometimes tightly wound, sometimes
loosely put togetherdepending on the project.
5. How do you guys find acts?
In all cases so far, it's friends, or friends of friends.
Usually through Justin Chearno of Turing Machine (and Panthers).
He is one of the most knowledgeable people I know in rock.
Someone should just give him a big check for making music
in New York better.
6. Do you guys ever hang out, or do you see too much
of each other at work.
When Tim and I hang out, we tend to get extremely fucked
up, so it's best for us to go our separate ways at the end
of the work day, and save the going-to-the-same-place shit
for events without a workday after them. I meanwe
work 12-18 hours a day in a basement together, and that
can lead to heavy usage.
7. Is the hype surrounding the label bringing in the
Of course not. How much fucking money can you make selling
small runs of really high-quality 12"'s to other DJ's?
8. Speaking of the hype, the media won't shut up about
"The Rising New York Music Scene." Do you think
any of these up-and-coming acts will have any longevity
or be remembered 5 years from now?
I'm pretty sure the good ones who make good songs and continue
to be innovative as things progress will last, and the other
ones will be fetishized on bootleg compilations years from
now when everybody's talking about how cool New York was
at the turn of the century blah blah blah.
9. Seems like some of the DFA buzz began through Internet
file sharing. Does it piss you off that people are getting
the music for free on the Internet?
Not at all. Jesus. Isn't having to listen to an MP3 made
from vinyl punishment enough? What could sound worse? Not
to mention, the people who really like the music that they
download usually go buy the record they have and evangelize
to their friends about the music they love, so why not let
them? It hasn't hurt Radiohead much now, has it? The downloadable
shit just forces the record industry to be more creative
about how to make a living, and part of that creativity
could be channeled towards not asking kids to shell out
$20 for some heap-of-shit CD filled with forgettable music,
bunk low-quality artwork and crappy jewel-casesa product
that wound up costing 2 dollars to manufacture and somehow
retails for a small fortune.
10. Where'd the name DFA come from?
I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. Legally
I have to say I'm kidding. But I think we both know that
we wouldn't want anything bad to happen.
11. Any pop vices like Elimidate or American Idol?
Halo on Xbox.
12. Some of the shit on DFA is perfect stoner music.
Do you guys smoke up in the studio?
13. Black Dice have a new full length on DFA. It's strange,
beautiful, noisy and a lot different than the more poppy
and danceable acts on your label. Was it your intention
to mix it up a little bit?
No. We really liked the Black Dice and figured it would
be good for us to put it out, and maybe, in turn, be good
for them to be on the labelso that they're not overly
categorized in a way that would neglect other aspects of
their music which happens to be really populist.
14. Anyone in the public eye you want to say "you
Of course not.
15. Anyone in the public eye doing everything right?
16. Who are your influences musically? Are you into
Manchester's late-'70s punk scene and Factory Records?
Tim and I like a lot of different music, really. (We) Tend
to get our psychedelic on pretty hard. Grew up on Factory.
Doesn't everybody like Factory?
17. Read anything cool lately?
Read a really sweet article on Plant Bar in The Face.
18. What do you think of all these hipsters wearing
What do I think about it now, or what did I think about
it in 1999?
19. Do you ever hang out in Williamsburg? If so, where?
Tim and I basically hang out at all the hot spots. You
really can't swing a dead cat in Williamsburg without knocking
an ironic cocktail out of Tim's hand, or wrecking one of
my alternative art events.
20. What should we expect in the upcoming months from
A Rapture album. A Juan Maclean 12 inch. An LCD Soundsystem
7 inch. A Black Dice 12 inch. A compilation of all the 12