Interview: Interpol

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With goth kids these days trashing their mascara in favour of dayglo hype, Interpol’s self-titled 4th album comes not a day too soon. JUICE gets on the line with frontman Paul Banks for his thoughts on the band (sans Carlos), Barcelona vs NYC, Kanye West, complacent jobs and those darn music critics.

Image Jelle Wagenaar

Hi Paul! How’s Spain?
Oh good, I love it here.

You spent part of your life there in Spain, what’s your fondest memory of the country?
One of them was learning to skateboard with the locals, yeah.

Do you have a favorite Spanish phrase?
Mucho arroz para la carne” which literally means there’s a lot of rice for the meat, which kind of means it’s less good than what you were expecting, there’s too much rice for the meat.

Do you still in New York City?

Well, people say that NYC is the hardest place to live in, do you agree with that?
Well, I agree with it in the sense that it depends on the person. I’ve literally witnessed with my own eyes people coming to New York with bright eyes and within about 6-8 months later, they’ve very pale, very unhappy and then they leave. That’s a lot of people that I know who’ve tried to live in New York, and they just end up saying “Whoa, this is really lonely, really depressing, I don’t like it here,” and then they leave. There’s another kind of person who thrives, they get to New York and they’re like, home. “This is what I want in life.” So I don’t know if that’s because it’s hard, it’s not for everybody. I do agree that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

Do you have certain tips for someone who comes to New York and tries to make it there?
First you’ve got to find out if you’re made for it and only you can find that out and secondly, the key to everything is persistence. So, just keep at it if that’s what you want to do.

Who would you like to share a cab with in New York?
I dunno man, some hot chick.

It’s been 10 years now since Interpol hit the scene, with Carlos’ recent departure from the band, does it seem a reflective time for you guys?
Yeah, I would say it is. But at the same time, Carlos left after we had recorded this record so we kind of had to follow the immediate problem which was how are we going to go tour and show the record to our fans without him. But we solved that problem by getting David Pajo and we also worked with Brandon Curtis, but that’s as far we’ve got. We solved the problem with how to come out with the record and in the future we haven’t really had a chance to think about that, I don’t know, you know. We’re just focused now on playing shows and enjoying that, which we are.

What do you remember most about your early days with the band? Do you remember your first jam session, were there any conflicts of egos?
You know, I’ve always been able to handle my ego fairly well, in the sense that I’ve been able to simultaneously admire someone for their talents and not hate them. And not have to be a dick to that person. I’ve been pretty good about the fact that I’m not threatened by other people’s talents. So, for me I never really had any ego battles but we did have ego battles, yes. I think so. There was constant disagreements but to me, they were based in what I thought was the best thing to do musically, and not based in ego. But I don’t know if I can speak for everybody, I don’t know if everyone shares my attitude with that.

Can we ask how far did it go? The conflicts?
There was never any physical fights, we just sort of didn’t get along. We’d argue about things and I wonder maybe if it was about ego. I always thought it was just about creative, but now I’m wondering if maybe that’s not the case.

You guys share lyric writing duties, unlike many other bands who just rely on a chief songwriter, how do you bounce words off each other or jive the songs together to make an album?
You know I’ve always wondered who started saying that but no, we’ve never shared lyric duties, that’s always been just me. I do the lyrics. You haven’t read that in a press release, have you?

We were under the impression that you guys have shared your lyric-writing.
No, man. That’s the one thing that I get to do by myself. The lyrics are all me, specifically because I think it’d be a rare occasion when people can collaborate on something like lyrics and have it work out, in my opinion. I think it’s better to leave lyrics to one person. You can have different guys writing lyrics for different songs but you shouldn’t have different guys writing lyrics for the same song in my opinion.

You once worked as a data entry clerk, did this job inspire any songs?
No (laughs). But I became a lot better at chess with that job because I just played chess online all day. That was a great f*cking job man.

If you weren’t in Interpol would you still be doing a data entry job as such?
No, before that I had real jobs. Before that, I worked at magazines and then I quit because it was too much work, and I felt like I needed to be committing myself more to the band and the music. So, I quit working in magazines and intentionally picked jobs that would not tax my brain at all, so I worked data entry and I worked at a cafe. That’s when Interpol’s record came out.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I kind of liked all my jobs but I had a couple of bad ones in high school. Once I was making frozen pizzas in a supermarket aisle. It was in a supermarket and they have this little stand, and I would make these frozen pizzas and sell them to people. I worked at a plate store selling plates for a year. The plate store thing bought me my first guitar and I drove across the country with that money so it was probably worth it.

So all for good reason?
Oh yeah, I’m a pretty good worker. I wasn’t very good at working at magazines, but I take jobs very seriously. I don’t believe that you should ever show up to your job and be grumpy about it. You gotta quit, or do a good job.

You came out with a solo album last year under the name Julian Plenti, why did you choose that name?
That’s the name I’ve used for years. I used to play under that name, that was my alias. A lot of reasons, it’s been more fun than just using my regular name, for one thing is why I’ve always liked aliases and I have a lot of reasons. I was playing out as Julian Plenti in like 2000, so it goes way back for me.

If, touch wood, Interpol were to disband, would you continue on as a solo act or would you try to form another band?
If it were to happen, I would continue as a solo artist and I will have a band when I do continue, I’ll write the records myself but I’ll perform with a band.

You’re on album #4 right now, your self titled album and the critics more or less had their say. Do you bother much with what they have to say?
No, I haven’t read any criticism since Antics so I have no idea. I know what’s sort of the general reaction, but I never read the reviews, no. I don’t think reviews are for artists to read because most artists like myself are very, very sensitive. It doesn’t do your spirit any good to read what some jackass said about your work.

Could you describe what an average Interpol fan would look like?
I think we’re really lucky because that’s not so easy. We’ve always from the beginning had a really big cross section of fans and it’s holding true. So basically the audience nowadays is aged 15 to 16 and once in a while we get an 8 year old in there so what I’ve been really excited about on this new record is that we’ve got 15, 18 and 20 year olds in the crowd who you know, are too young to be listening to our music when our first record came out and there they are. Even when we began, we had some segment of older people and they’re still with us too. It’s the best broadness of a fanbase that we could possibly have and I think we’re really lucky in that way.

Interpol’s music has always been very dark and mysterious, but you’ve been a hip hop fan since you were young. Would you be open to collaborations with some artists such as Kanye West?
Yeah, I think depending on what it was. For me, to be involved in collaboration with a hip hop artist, I don’t have any interest in rapping and I’m not that interested in singing over that beat. So, I’m really interested in making beats, so if Kanye wanted to let me make his song and have him sing over it, I’d be more interested in that than singing to a Kanye song, but who’s to say, you know. I do like Kanye’s work, I wouldn’t rule it out. I’m interested in a lot of the production of hip hop as well.

Do you have an all time favorite hip hop band?
All time favorite hip hop band has gotta be Wu Tang but I also really like a group that I’m not even sure if they’re playing anymore, they’re the Anti Pop Consortium from New York City, they’re a 3 piece rap group and made a record called Tragic Epilogue and that’s one of my favorite records of all time. But there’s only 3 of them and even though they’re some of the best rappers I’ve ever heard, Wu Tang has like 5 at least of my favorite rappers in it, so I think Wu Tang takes it.

So what’s next for Interpol? Are we going to see the 5th album revealing a pimped up, ghetto star Interpol? Will you guys be coming to Asia and Malaysia in particular?
I think so, we do want. Someone was talking about Singapore the other day. I think we’d love to, it’s just depends on whether or not it becomes feasible. As far as the 5th album, I don’t know yet. We gotta see how it comes out.

There are so many comparisons that people make with Interpol to bands like Joy Division, Television and Chameleon. You know, post punk revival and all that. We know you’ve been asked this question many times, but do you feel that you’ve taken your music from their cue or do you feel it’s an unjust comparison?
I think comparison – anybody’s got a right to their opinion. I think a comparison is fine. It’s when you start to insinuate that the song is derivative that it becomes a little disrespectful and insulting. All in all I don’t think I always agree in terms of… uh… I kind of feel like anybody who says anything bad about my band can kiss my ass.

That’s very punk rock. We’re going to tell everyone that you ripped off the Pistols now.
Alright. That’ll work probably better for me anyway.

Interpol is available through Love Da Records. For more on Interpol, check out their official website.