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Turned On, Tuned In
Word Of Mouth Has Made Interpol's Turn On The Bright Lights one of the must-have records of the year.
Kim Porcelli, 25 Aug 2003
In a year where each week brings another 18 dozen ‘hot new bands’ to be infatuated by – most of which are, at this point anyway, a much better idea on paper than on plastic – this music listener’s favourite story of 2003 has been a good old-fashioned love story.
As the debate, em, rages on in the media foreground as to whether The Thrills/The Spree/The Datsuns are actually much use, and whether The Kings are amazing or just an amazing tribute act, and whether concept rockers like The Darkness and (for very different reasons) The Raveonettes are one-off thoroughbreds or one-trick pony – all the while, surely and quietly, the most bought-on-recommendation, passed-from-friend-to-friend, loaned, pirated and just plain beloved (as very precisely distinct from ‘cool’) album of the last eight months that we are personally aware of has been Interpol’s late-2002 debut, the visceral, relentless, darkly overemotional masterpiece Turn On The Bright Lights.
“That’s amazing to hear,” says Daniel Kessler (one of two guitarists responsible for the distinctive, frenetic, ringing noise of Interpol’s New-York-via-early-’80s-Britain love-and-violence-scapes). “I think that’s kind of the way it’s always been with us. We’ve been together now for almost five years, and we didn’t really ‘buzz’ before we dropped the album. But since then we’ve been touring almost nonstop, and throughout the world it seems to have had that same sort of organic, word-of-mouth feel that you’re describing.
“And you know, that’s the way we always wanted it,” he continues. “We always wanted whatever was going to happen to be because of an album. It’s ultimately something that doesn’t happen too often these days,” he considers, “but when it does, you know it’s not because fans are getting caught up by what the press are saying: y’know, ‘I have to see this band! They’re getting so much attention.’ It’s more because… well, because people actually like the record.”
Those who actually like the record will be glad to hear Interpol have spent “every second of downtime” between tours writing their new album, due out next year; as well, new material arrives this month in the form of six-track shortie The Black EP. The title refers to the band’s Black Sessions, recorded in 2002 for legendary DJ Bernard Lenoir (le noir, geddit) who occupies a space somewhere between Donal Dineen and John Peel on the national station in France (readers with cheap internet access and/or who are heading Seine-side in future, trust us: write the name down now).
“It was really a special thing because it was a live studio performance for radio,” Daniel explains, “but there were also, like, 200 kids there, who had to win a contest to get tickets. So it felt much more like a mini-concert, in terms of the way it felt to play. We loved doing it. We got a great response for it.”
Late 2003 will also see a remix of album track ‘Obstacle 1’ by seminal hip hop-electro producer Arthur Baker who, with his 1982 track ‘Planet Rock’, pretty much kick-started that era’s anything-goes, hip-hop-dance-electro-punk fusion revolution.
“I loved ‘Planet Rock’,” Daniel remembers. “It was one of the first tunes to sample something – it was a collaboration with Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force, and Arthur Baker put this Kraftwerk sample in with what was called at the time ‘The Sound Of The Bronx’. It still sounds amazing today.”
But back, for now, to the love story.
“It’s nice that people seem to have a real relationship with the record,” Daniel says. “It seems to hit people really hard, and people really… it’s done something for them, they just really feel connected to it. We don’t seem to get that thing of (casual voice) ‘Oh, yeah, I like your album, man, cool.’ People seem to feel something a little bit deeper than that.”
Interpol play The Village, Dublin on Tuesday 26 August.
Turn On The Bright Lights is out now