James Murphy is every self-respecting twentysomething’s dream uncle. Too old to be a hipster but too cool to spend weekends shopping for curtains, Murphy is a blueprint for culturally fluent 21st-century dignity. The LCD Soundsystem frontman has produced three game-changing albums of crystalline dance-punk, with lyrics reading like mini dissertations on the concept of cool (“Losing My Edge”), glorious nostalgia (“All My Friends”), and the unshakable commercial pressures of music (“You Wanted a Hit”). This week the artwork of his DFA label is exhibited in Sydney in a show entitled, rather brilliantly, That’s Cool But Can You Make It More Shit? We spoke to Murphy about DFA style, jpegs and badass tattoos.
You’ve said that This Is Happening will be LCD’s last album. How are you going to feel when you see this exhibition? Proud? Nostalgic? Sad?
I’ve got no idea how I'll feel, really, though I imagine I'll just be happy. I think for me it's all much simpler: I like seeing friends when I travel, so with friends already in Sydney, and Michael [Vadino, DFA art director] traveling there, I'm just excited to hang out and look at all this shit. I like the way we've worked together and I think it's awesome and funny that there's an exhibition.
How would you define DFA's visual style?
Was there ever an attempt to develop an instantly recognizable aesthetic for the label, like others such as Factory?
Not really. I think we just liked what we liked, and had some rules, and an overall aesthetic emerged from that natural formula.
Was album artwork important to you as a young music fan?
Of course it was. Though "CD artwork" wasn't. Don't get me started on jpegs to accompany MP3s.
What's your favorite piece of LCD Soundsystem artwork?
I don't differentiate between DFA and LCD art, so I'd have to include everything. I think the cover for the new album [This Is Happening] is the best cover so far, but favorite thing overall? Off the top of my head it'd be a poster for a party we did that has got an upside down cross on it. That was really a great one, in my opinion.
And your least favorite?
Shit, I don't have one. I even love the crap ones we made for online stuff. Typically they’d be a Polaroid of some writing, or of something like my dog.
Have you got a favorite font?
Have you ever seen a DFA lightning bolt tattoo on a fan?
Many times. Which is incredible!