Send in the Frown
Striking out alone for the second time, Paul Banks talks about dealing with fame, Interpol’s recent rough patch and being blindsided by The Strokes...
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 01 Nov 2012
Interpol’s Paul Banks stands on the street corner outside his Manhattan apartment, blinking in the October sunlight. A former boyfriend of Helena Christensen and sometime pal of Bono, he’s been explaining why, contrary to his reputation as the grumpiest man in rock, he doesn’t object to being famous. Actually there are moments he rather enjoys it.
“I was never reluctant about the fame thing,” he says. “I’d be happy to be a lot more famous, if it made me secure in the job I’m doing. Yes, starting out, I didn’t want to be a celebrity. Now, as long as I don’t have a career I hate, I’m fine with it.”
Maybe it’s the relationship with Christensen – his ex took the cover snaps for his new solo record – or the mellowness that comes with turning a little older but Banks seems to have softened his worldview. When Interpol first struck it big, he was forthright about his dislike of life in the spotlight, and straight-up disgusted by all the ladies who would throw themselves at the group (and by most accounts there were quite a few).
“A lot of it takes you by surprise,” he reflects today. “For many debut artists there should be a preparatory course I think. You have to have a sense of humour and not be terribly self=important. Girls glomming onto the band – no, that never bothered me.”
It’s been a rough few years for Interpol. First their play-dandy bassist Carlos Dengler quit. Then his replacement David Pajo left, unable to reconcile the life of a touring artist with his responsibilities as the father of a young family. And then critics started beating up on the now three-piece, complaining that their two most recent records, Our Love To Admire and Interpol, were pallid imitations of their first and second albums.
“There was a patch where things got a little tricky," Banks admits. “It's disappointing when you lose members. A lot of shit went down. Ultimately we are a very resilient group – the only thing that was taxing was the touring. We hit the road for a long time. Eventually, everything starts to feel like a pain in the ass. Towards the end I got a bit of that – you know, ‘fuck I want to be off the road now’. Other than that, everything we went through, we were capable of weathering.”
As for the critical backlash... to be honest, he’s hardly aware of it. Early in Interpol’s history, Banks was super sensitive to criticism and particularly stung by the accusation that the band were nothing better than Joy Division clones (the damning evidence being the way Banks sounded very vaguely like Ian Curtis). He’d get mad – furious actually. So in the end he decided the best step was not to read about Interpol. Ever.