The Catfish star talks to Maxim about his new short film on DFA Records.
You may know Max Joseph from MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show, but it turns out that he also enjoys filming subjects other than imaginary online girlfriends. Today marks the online release of his new documentary, 12 Years of DFA: Too Old To Be New, Too New To Be Classic, a mashed-up, frenzied portrait of the iconic label started by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy. Check out what Max had to say about the project.
How did this documentary come about?
So many people think I’m just the guy who holds the camera on Catfish, so I’m glad that this is coming out and people will be able to see that I’m first and foremost a filmmaker. Ari Kuschnir, the executive producer at M ss ng P eces, a production company in Brooklyn saw a Nike short I did last year and thought I'd be a good match for this project they were working on with Red Bull Music Academy to make a series of documentaries about musical acts, one of which was the record label DFA.
Were you already familiar with DFA Records?
Definitely. It’s actually been my favorite label for a while, so I got right on board with the project. It was such a fun shoot because I got to meet a lot of musical heroes like Shit Robot and, obviously, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.
From the film, it seems like James Murphy is kind of a hard guy to track down.
I did all my interviews with DFA artists and employees in New York in November, but of course the main interview was the one with James Murphy, and he just wasn’t around, and no one actually knew where he was. One day he was in Paris, the next in Montreal, and finally I got a call from my executive producer telling me that James was going to be on the Coachella cruise ship from December 18-21 and that they could get me on the ship, but once I got there it was up to me to get the interview taped. I actually made a little movie about that itself, hunting down James Murphy on a cruise ship. Obviously I found him and we had an amazing conversation, but it was definitely the most epic journey to an interview I’ve ever had.
So what’s your opinion after talking to him? Is LCD Soundsystem really done for good?
James told me that the most common question he gets asked is, "Is LCD Soundsystem getting back together?" So he’s very aware of what people want. I don’t think he’s done. He’s brilliant. He started out as a drummer, became a sound engineer, then became a music producer, and then became a songwriter and proper musician. I think he’s like David Byrne or David Bowie in that he’s just interested in new phases of his career and exploring new things, but he’s always going to be doing something interesting and cool.
Does he still run the label?
James is more of a figurehead in that he provides overall direction for the DFA artists, but Jonathan Galkin runs the label day to day in a very major way. I mean, LCD Soundsystem was essentially a mascot band for the environment of DFA and James played such an instrumental role in shaping the sound of everyone else. I definitely feel where there’s kind of a hole where James used to be.
So who is DFA’s next big act?
I kept on asking everyone, "Who’s the next LCD?" and they kept telling me, "Well, it doesn’t really work like that." I think Holy Ghost is probably the closest thing to their next big act. They’re about to come out with a new album and they just keep getting better and better. But, you know, LCD Soundystem was a one of a kind band and everyone misses them, not just DFA.
What was the most interesting thing you learned making this documentary?
The Juan MacLean interview was amazing, too. He told me how he’d always been kind of an indie rock guy, but that James Murphy encouraged him to make electronic music, which worked well for him 'cause he’s a remote person, so being alone with machines to make music actually fit his personality well. Anyway, he told me that right when he’d finished his first couple of songs he played them for a well-respected music producer and the guy said to him, “Don’t ever release that stuff. It’s too simple and childish.” But what’s funny is that that is DFA’s original sound. It’s not that what LCD Soundsystem and Juan MacLean do is necessarily simple, but they are basic loops and beats and songs that are just pleasurable in a really basic way.
What’s one thing that you’re bummed didn’t make it into the film?
I went way overboard with this thing. I did 30 interviews that were almost two hours each for what was going to be a 10-minute film. One of my favorite interviews was actually with that super fan in the scrubs. He gave us so many great lines that ended up getting cut. The funniest thing was, and this didn’t make it in, is that he’s actually a technician at the hospital. He puts patients under and then works on them with a robotic arm during surgery and he said that right after the patient goes under, they put on DFA music in the operating room so he’s working this robotic arm and cutting away on someone to a song like “Happy House” by The Juan MacLean. It’s just so fitting.
Check out 12 Years of DFA: Too Old To Be New, Too New To Be Classic.
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