Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Interpol

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: guitar-hero Daniel Kessler takes the ultimate test

1
You’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of your seminal debut 2002 album ‘Turn On the Bright Lights’. What score did it receive in its original NME review?

“Oof that’s a tough one! I’ve always been pretty good at burying my head in the sand when it comes to reviews for self-preservation, but I’ll take a guess at… seven?”

WRONG. We rated it eight out of 10.

“I didn’t want to seem arrogant! [Laughs]”

How do you look back on the enduring influence of the album?

“It’s remarkable. As I said, we’d been band for five years and it wasn’t like we sounded different when we started off. On our first demo, made barely three months after our first show, our identity was very much there: we had ‘PDA’, ‘Roland’ and songs from ‘Turn On the Bright Lights’, albeit played at an inferior scale. We had five years of slumming it around Europe with people not coming to our shows and record labels showing no interest, so it humbles you. We asked ourselves: are we OK with nobody ever hearing anything we do? But we were getting something out of it, even if it was just a glorified hobby. We found peace and became comfortable with the constant rejection.

“So to be asked about the album’s influence 20 years on makes my brain explode. All I wanted to do was make a record – I didn’t have any dreams beyond that. It’s amazing that people feel a connection to the album, and I still enjoy playing songs from it. We had a very short amount of time to make the album itself, so we were mindful about making sure every decision felt right and was precisely what we wanted to say. But its legacy still feels baffling.”

2
Who covered ‘Obstacle 1’ at New York’s Governors Ball in 2016?

“This one I do know: The Killers!”

CORRECT.

“Somebody sent me a clip of that. It’s very flattering and it was so thoughtful that they would do it in our hometown. I thought it was an incredible cover – the execution was great.”

Brandon Flowers has cited Interpol as an inspiration on The Killers’ 2004 debut album ‘Hot Fuss’. Could you hear your influence on it or any of the other bands, like The xx, who’ve name-checked you?

“No, I think both of those bands have their own voice and direction, and personally I could not see it.”

3
Which Salford icon claims he applied to be Interpol’s bassist following the departure of Carlos Dengler in 2010?

“I’ll take a guess at Peter Hook?”

CORRECT. In 2010, the former Joy Division and New Order bass legend said: “When Carlos left Interpol, they did an internet application form to be a bass player. I applied and didn’t get picked. I applied as Peter Hook, and they turned me down.”

“I heard some weird rumblings as far as the story and the rumour behind it, but I don’t think I even knew that he supposedly applied online. I don’t even know to whom or where, but we never received anything and we never had such a discussion.”

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4
In 2011, Interpol collaborated with David Lynch for a project called ‘Interpol Under Surveillance’ at Coachella. What is the name of the animation of his animation that ‘Lights’ accompanied?

“Oh yeah! I Touch a Red Button Man.”

CORRECT.

“That was one of those things you start talking about, ‘One day it would be great to….’, and then cut yourself off with: ‘Yeah right! That’s never going to happen!’. The next thing you know, you’re having a conversation with David Lynch in his office, sitting around a big table drinking his own brand of coffee – he has his own bean company. He was so generous with his time and presence. He was fully invested in making a collaboration happen, and I had to separate the icon I’d been admiring for the majority of my life from him being a potential collaborator.

“It doesn’t feel so much surreal as unreal. I definitely took a moment to turn around onstage and see this big David Lynch image as we were playing ‘Lights’. It felt like one of the most remarkable and profound moments of my life, made even better in that it culminated with the release of our collaboration.”

5
Name any two words included in Morse code in the packaging/booklet of Interpol’s 2004 album ‘Antics’.

“I want to say ‘Antics’? [Laughs] Damn! I’ve got no others at the moment.”

WRONG.Antics’ is indeed one. Among others, you could have had ‘length’, ‘narc’, ‘cruise’ and ‘exit’.

“When I think of ‘Antics’, I think very much of being in the studio recording the album at the same time as working on the artwork. We were so busy, it was coupled together. I remember when the Morse code idea came about and discussing what it should say, and we wanted to have something very minimal.”

6
Two artists with the surname ‘Banks’ have sung ‘Slow Hands’. Name them.

Two artists?! OK: one is Azealia Banks. Hmmm… I don’t know who the second one is.”

WRONG. You missed Interpol frontman Paul Banks!

[Hearty laughter] Oh man! I’d have never got that! I thought that would be too easy! Look, I got the hard one right! Azealia Banks sang backing vocals on our song ‘Memory Serves’ when she was coming up, before she became huge. She’s a really unique entertainer and incredible artist, and it was cool that she was up for doing that.”

7
Which Starship-inspired chant did crowds sing at Interpol on the Liverpool date of the 2014 NME Awards Tour?

[Laughs] No idea! “

WRONG. They chanted ‘We Built This City On Interpol’ at you to the tune of Starship’s ‘We Built This City’.

“Really? That’s incredible! [Laughs] I remember vividly doing the NME Awards Tour in 2003, with The Datsuns, The Polyphonic Spree and The Thrills. There was a pretty wonderful camaraderie between the bands: we didn’t know any of those guys beforehand, but by the end of the tour we were thick as thieves. We hung out every single night together, partying in hotel rooms, and watching The Datsuns’ smash their guitars up onstage. It was a pretty rock‘n’roll tour.”

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8
According to Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001–2011, your former bassist Carlos D once upset a moustachioed Kings of Leon by asking them if they were out of which movie?

“I have no idea and it’s probably unwise to take a guess on this! [Laughs] What is it?”

WRONG. According to the Kings of Leon, during a cocaine-fuelled night at the Columbia hotel, they thought they “didn’t like” Interpol because Carlos walked up and said: ‘Hey, are you the guys from Almost Famous?’ – to which Caleb Followill retorted: ‘Hey, are you a fucking mortician?’. But you all later ended up mates.

“We found ourselves on similar tours and festivals to Kings of Leon our early days, and we befriended them properly on a travelling tour of Sweden with Mogwai. But that’s pretty funny – and I like their comeback!”

Was there ever any talk about Carlos joining you for the ‘Turn On the Bright Lights’ anniversary celebrations or have you drawn a line under that chapter?

“It’s not drawing a line by any means; it’s just that we’re committed to what we’re doing and we were in the middle of recording a new album [‘The Other Side of Make-Believe’] so when it came to the anniversary and acknowledging and celebrating the album, it was more just a continuation of what we’ve been doing. But I have all the love and admiration in the world for Carlos.”

Talking of the Meet Me in the Bathroom years: Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino once recalled how the first time you went to Europe, every journalist would ask you if you knew The Strokes so “me and Daniel, we’d do interviews together, and we joke about, ‘Yeah we have lofts together and, you know, Julian [Casablancas, Strokes frontman] doesn’t like his eggs too runny and Nick [Valensi, guitarist]  doesn’t get up until late afternoon. You can’t make noise until then because he’s such a little prissy” Is the irony that you know them better now 20 years after the NYC explosion?

“In the early days, it was a different time in the sense that there was so much great music coming out of New York City, but it was unbeknownst to us. I heard vague rumblings about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs but I didn’t know them. I certainly didn’t know The Strokes but then you’re being positioned in the same sentence together constantly, but we didn’t have too many opportunities then to cross paths. And it wasn’t until later that I got to know and become friends with them.

“At the same time, you have something exceptional in common – that you were coupled together in this unique moment, and forever joined together in a really nice way. I haven’t read Meet Me in the Bathroom, but people probably imagined we were all hanging out together in the early 2000s in that CBGBs way, but it’s not until relatively recently that we started hanging out.”

9
Interpol’s ‘Untitled’ soundtracks a famous kiss scene between which two Friends characters?

“Is it Joey and um… Wait, sorry, I’ve got a little jet-lagged brain going on… Rachel? Phew! [Laughs]”

CORRECT. It features in the season nine episode, ‘The One in Barbados’.

“Whoo-hoo! That’s entered some sort of folklore in that it was one of the first things we licensed and you still see kids all over the world wearing Friends T-shirts who probably were not born when it first came out. It feels special to be part of a closing scene of a series that’s lived on.”

10
In 2014, Interpol were interviewed by iHeartRadio surrounded by puppies and sad clowns making what delicacy?

“Argh! Man! I do remember this. I don’t think it’s ice cream, but I’m going to guess sundaes?”

WRONG. It was peanut butter sandwiches.

“That was such a crazy scene!”

As crazy as playing cards against Robert Smith when Interpol supported The Cure?

“That was Paul [Banks] who played cards against Robert Smith, but just the fact we toured with The Cure feels exceptional. If you’d my younger self that one day, I’d be touring with Robert Smith, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s been surreal doing several tours and becoming good friends with [NYC alt-rockers] Blonde Redhead. They were a band that I really loved and looked up to in the pre- and early days of Interpol. Nutty to think I’ve now spent Christmases with those guys!”

Bonus question! For an extra half-point: In the UK, we’re in a cost-of-living crisis. By what per cent extra does it cost to ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ in homes now compared to 2002?

“Aww… this is the saddest one. Is it a five per cent increase over the years?”

WRONG. In 2002, the average UK monthly spend on energy was around £69; it currently stands at £164, which translates as a 137.681 per cent increase.

“Oof! Jesus – that is an energy crisis. I was way off! Oh man! I feel for that!”

The verdict: 4/10

“You had some tricky questions there. I feel I could have taken some more wild guesses, but maybe that wouldn’t have served me well either!” [Laughs]

 – Interpol’s latest album ‘The Other Side of Make-Believe’ is out now on Matador

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