Interpol's Daniel Kessler talks about 'Our Love To Admire': the SF Weekly Q and A

Categories: Music

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"...I doubt we sold out Madison Square Garden that quickly. Well [if so] we took Eric Clapton down! ..."
By Ben Westhoff

Interpol, the biggest indie-rock band of all time of the moment, just returned from a European tour and begins an American leg, which will take them to places like Grand Rapids, Michigan and Covington, Kentucky. Then they’re off to Japan, Europe again, Canada, back to the U.S. -- including a stop October 20 at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – and then back to Europe in November.

It’s all an effort to get filthy rich. Or perhaps, if you believe guitarist Daniel Kessler, it’s more about supporting the band’s third album and major label debut, Our Love to Admire, which was released earlier this month and entered The Billboard 200 at #4.

How’d the European tour go?
Long drives, really screws up your schedule. So, it was a little rugged, but all in all it was good, man. Good responses.

If you don’t want your schedule screwed up, why do you guys tour so much?
People say that, but I look at other bands’ schedules, and I see a lot of bands, and they’re touring all the time. We started touring a few months ago for this record, but essentially we hadn’t toured since October 2005. I think it’s something bands do. The music industry will always keep changing, but hopefully playing live shows isn’t going to go away.

A way to maintain a steady income while the record companies implode?
Well, no! I mean, I guess you could say that; it’s kind of foolish to sit here and try to work out a gigantic advance from a record label and try to make more money that way. But that’s not why we do it. We do it because we have a new record out there, and there’s no better way of letting people know you have a new record than by taking it to them. For a half-century or more, that’s how people have been doing it.

When you’re playing the heartland, somewhere where you might not know people -- say St. Louis -- do you still put in a balls-to-the-wall effort?
Yes. I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe some of our best shows have been in places in the middle of the country. Everything I have to give that day, I want to give. The only way I can really play shows is to kind of strive to basically lose myself in my moment. I have to stop thinking of things and fall into the patterns and the intensity of the music. I try to do that every single time. It has nothing to do with the city. Sometimes, you do places where bands don’t come through all the time, so when you play there, they give you a really warm reception, and that appeals to you as well.

I tried to buy tickets for your Madison Square Garden show in September. They went on-sale at 10 am the other day, and by 10:03 they were already sold out on the Ticketmaster web site. That’s pretty cool, considering you always used to hear those stories about Eric Clapton selling out big venues in, like, 25 minutes.
I doubt we sold out Madison Square Garden that quickly. Well, [if so] we took Eric Clapton down!

Do you think your new record is your best one yet?
I do think it is our best record. I think we went kind of deep. I think, from an artistic standpoint, I should always feel like the last album is representative of where I’m at now, and also the best thing that I’ve done. Ultimately, I’ve got to think the next thing I do is going to be better, but it’s not like I would ever disown anything we’ve done. I never wanted to be in one of those bands who say, “We tried to do this, we tried to do that, and it didn’t work out.”

How, specifically, is it a step forward?
I think from an arrangement and compositional [standpoint], and an instrumentation one, it’s just a broader, more expansive record. It’s a little more complicated in parts. And, ultimately, it’s a little more challenging. As a band, we don’t say, “It would be great to have this for a concept.” You can’t really predict the results because we’re four individuals who work together, so you never know how it’s going to work out before you have your dialogue. I think our songwriting has a way of always moving forward and finding new twists and new turns. I felt that way between [Turn on the] Bright Lights and Antics, and I feel that way now.

Do you ever stop to appreciate your charmed life?
I definitely do. We spent four or five years kicking around New York City, with no one really caring about what we were doing, no record labels showing any potential interest. That really put things in perspective. Now people do care about what we’re doing, and I get the opportunity to write and play music every single day. I guess my point is that I haven’t forgotten those days. It’s funny. I don’t know that I think that I live a charmed life. I feel very fortunate.

Do you read your major press?
No. I really don’t read any press. For no reason – well actually for a very good reason, but not for a specific reason. I stopped reading it very early on, and not because of anything negative. We always got pretty good press, but it just felt like there was no real need for me to do that. It wasn’t really for me to read. There’s nothing I’m going to gain from it. I think I learned that the first time we did Letterman. We watched ourselves after that, in a room with the record label and our friends, and [for some reason] it just felt kind of terrible for me.

I’m totally happy to do press, and will express myself the best I can, but ultimately, after it’s done there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve got to move forward. It has became part of my system, like survival mode. Not thinking in those terms just lets me keep writing songs at my own pace, and not thinking about anything else or anyone else when I’m writing them.

Some of your band mates moved to Jersey City. Do you expect to live in Manhattan for the foreseeable future?
I don’t know. For me, there’s always the perspective of being a traveler, so whenever I go to a new city, or a city I like, I always imagine what it would be like to live there. I’m pretty open, but I’ve been in New York as long as anywhere else in my life, 14 years. It’s a hard place to leave. Coming back here when we got back from Europe, I just felt like kissing the ground. Everyone complains about the New York summers, but I found nothing but cold, rainy weather in Europe. It was a homecoming.

Ever think what life’s going to be like for an aging musician at 45, 55, etc.?
It’s kind of hard to imagine. You have to go through a few other stages before you get to that one. I’m pretty sure I’ll still want to make music every single day. That’s a constant in my life, and it has been for a very long time now. It’s hard for me to think I still won’t do that every single day. Right now I’m really into what we’re doing, and I’m really into the chemistry that we have together.

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