Getting To Know You: Dan Kessler of Interpol

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Now, this interview happened right before El Pintor was released. Back then we wondered if it was going to be any good. Listen for yourself. But in my opinion, even though it’s better than the last ones (presumably thanks to the hiatus), I still feel like Interpol isn’t quite delivering what we started to expect after Turn On The Bright Lights. Anyway, read on, boys and girls, here’s a friendly chat with Daniel Kessler:

Doing phone interviews sucks, even when you get to talk to someone like Daniel Kessler, founder of Interpol. First of all, you need to figure out a way to reliably record your phone call and even if you do, parts of the audio are bound to be muffled beyond repair. Then there’s the latency that you get when you talk to someone in the US, which results in semantically indecipherable pauses between asking a question and receiving an answer. Also, you can’t read the other person’s face and there’s no way of knowing who else is in the room. This time around, I was a little startled to find that Kessler was not alone.

Preparing for an interview with Interpol, I knew there was a couple of questions I should probably not ask quite as blatantly as they appeared in my mind. For example: Why didn’t Sam Fogarino pick up his phone? What really happened with Carlos Dengler? Does it bother you that your last two albums were not very good? Is El Pintor going to be any better? I decided that getting to these questions would require a lot of circumnavigation, sailing through the pleasant, easy ones first. As I approached the first hurdle, however, a question hinting at the possible return to an earlier aesthetic, and received a rather unconvincing answer, the discussion was abruptly cut short by one of the managers – about eight minutes before the promised time limit ran out.

On the other hand, the answers we did get, explain the nature of what a normal life is not; what constitutes travelling; which Brooklyn studio is the fanciest and why a three-year break was in order, as well as why it wasn’t really a break at all.

 

What is it like to have a new bass player, if you can call it that?

Well, on the record Paul played all the bass parts and did a great job, so it went quite well. We toured the entire last record, two hundred shows, with a different bass player, so it doesn’t feel that new at this point, since that was four years ago.

You’ll be touring non-stop until almost mid-February, how do you feel about being on the road for such a long time?

We’ve been doing this for a long time, we’ve always toured pretty heavily with each record, so we’re pretty used to it. That’s what we do when we put out a new record. We come play for people who want to see us play and we try to put on some good shows.

Does it ever get tiresome on the road for you?

Sure. Travelling is tiring for everyone who travels worldwide – airports, security, jetlag, worrying if everything is OK at the hotel, not much sleep and everything is pushed, but it’s a privilege to get to do what you want to do with your life and playing music is something quite unique.

So I take it you don’t travel much in your spare time?

Actually, I travel in my spare time too. I do, I like travelling, I think it’s important to see new things and have new experiences.

Did you do a lot of it during the three year hiatus? Why was it necessary?

We don’t really think of it as of a three year hiatus, because we put out a record in 2010 and then we toured ‘till the very end of 2011. We played plenty of shows at the time. Then we basically took 2012 off, still doing stuff for the most part. In that time, Paul put out his record, Sam put out a record, I started working on new material and then, by January 2013, I started writing and we went back to recording by the end of that year. After you tour for that long you want to get back to living a normal life for a little bit, plus, artistically, you get to explore new avenues.

And did you manage to live a normal life in that time?

Yeah, I took a little rest. You do things that aren’t really normal things, but things that you want to do outside of just travelling all the time, so you have a little bit of a regularity to your life and then you also need to allow time for new ideas to come, from a creative standpoint.

Do you still live in New York?

I live in New York, yeah.

How influential is New York in your songwriting at this point?

I don’t know if it’s so influential or if it’s just where we do everything, for the most part. I don’t think we rely on the city. Part of the answer is, that I have written songs in other cities, but I have never made a record really too far away from New York City. I really don’t think we rely on NYC, we’re pretty independent. But it’s a part of us.

Do you go to shows in New York City at all?

I go to shows sometimes, probably not as much as I used to. Now I’ve been travelling a lot for the last six months, so I haven’t had much time. When I’m making a record, I don’t usually go to see much music, I just focus on what we’re doing.

Coming back to the record then, did the songwriting process change in any way, now that you’re essentially a three-piece band?

Sure, although usually the songs begin with me, and then I show them to the guys and if they’re into them then we make them into full pieces of music. We’ve always had a lot of ideas between the band members. Carlos wasn’t a part of this process for the first time and that was the biggest change, for sure.

When it came to El Pintor, did you already have everything written or did you come up with ideas in the studio?

No, we always go into the studio with the ideas pretty much set. We know exactly what we want to capture. We produce everything ourselves, so we write everything in rehearsal and then we go to the studio to capture that.

What was it like, getting everybody together for the recording of El Pintor?

It wasn’t that difficult. We were ready and when we had our first rehearsal, the songs were moving pretty quickly, we were quite excited about the writing process. It felt great, we had a lot of fun doing it.

I imagined everybody had their own stuff going on at that time.

No, at that point no one had that much stuff going on. In 2012 people did do their own things, but by the time it was time to start working on new Interpol songs, we were all pretty ready to go.

Was most of the recording done in Electric Lady Studios?

Only about nine days there and then the rest was done in a studio called Atomic Sound in Brooklyn.

Why these two studios?

Electric Lady because we recorded a lot of our previous two records there and we have a great relationship with people around the studio. It’s a great place for us to get on with work – leave New York City outside, not think about it. It’s a great location and the sound is great, it’s also very comfortable and we can concentrate in there. Atomic Sound was about getting to do something different, it’s a fantastic studio, beautiful… it has windows and it felt really warm. I think we accomplished a lot in both places.

Is there any significance in bringing back the red and black colour scheme for the album cover?

I don’t think we brought it back from earlier records. Red and black are pretty common colours, I wear black almost every day.

(at this point, I was told by one of the managers to ask my last question)

What are your plans after El Pintor and the tour?

We will probably be doing this for a long time. This time next year I will be still on tour. I don’t really make plans that far ahead, because I know that most of next year will be pretty much touring. Then we’ll see where we want to go from there.

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