Interpol's Paul Banks talks to us about his solo career
Interpol frontman Paul Banks has ditched his Julian Plenti alter-ego and now, for the first time, is releasing solo material under his given name. entertainment.ie music editor John Balfe caught up with Banks ahead of his Dublin show this weekend for a chat about his solo work and the future of Interpol.
This is the first album that you have released under your own name. Does that signify any particular change of tack from your previous work, be it solo or otherwise?
I would say my solo work is very distinct from my work with Interpol. As far as my first record, the Julian Plenti record, it came as wanting to document the work I was doing in college under that name, my first performance name when I was like 19. I had songs written back then that I never did anything with, after they’d been sort of nagging at me for a decade after Interpol had kind of taken off, it became very important to me to make that record I had never made in college. I don’t expect to be anything that really makes sense to other people but I think artists often have a little OCD tick and I have some of them and that was one of those. Now I’ve pretty much released all the work I wrote in College either in that first record or in the EP before this record. So it felt like a very honest and natural thing to do the first time but had I continued with it it would have felt like a contrivance to me. The new record is not material written in college. It just felt like I’m a go back to doing something much more simple and much more easy to digest under my real name because I’ve documented the work now so Julian Plenti can kind of recede into the background.
So do you feel you can put the Julian Plenti phase of your career to bed, now that it has a beginning, middle and an end?
I mean maybe but it’s also that I don’t put too much distance between this record and that. This record is just a continuation of the last record but I’ve eliminated the alter-ego.
I understand that songwriting with Interpol was a joint venture, is it creatively liberating to be solely responsible for the sound of the album and the songwriting on this one?
Interpol is a collaborative effort but we’ve always had a very fixed process, that always begins with Daniel [Kessler] starting with a song that he’s written and then we all kind of fill that up in our own way to make an Interpol song. There’s a part of me that also enjoys creating that original idea and generating a song around that chord progression. It’s never really been a thing where I could, I’ve never wanted to change one of Daniel’s songs or wanted to change Sam’s [Fogarino] beats, I find all of their work very inspiring but I also write songs and I also write beats. So it’s that there’s a part of me that wants to satisfy that impulse to write more for the song than just the vocals for my collaborators, so to speak.
I read somewhere that a lot of your latest album was written on the road with Interpol. Does that sort of setting influence the songs themselves? If you hadn’t been on the road and you were at home, would the songs have turned out the way they eventually did?
I don’t particularly hear any particular variations between the ones I wrote on tour and the ones I wrote in other situations. Making music for me is basically like an outlet of tension. I mean, it’s like these energies build up in you and the job of musicians is to sort of get them out. So when you’re on the road certainly there’s a lot of free time where you can’t do anything else, just stuck in hotel rooms or you’re stuck in a bus and I think that’s why a lot of musician’s sort of are high functioning alcoholics and drug addicts as bands on the road because what the fuck else are you gonna do? So for me it’s sort of became a healthier outlet than 'okay, we’ve done our gig now let’s get fucked'. It’s like we’ve done our gig, now what? So god bless my laptop and logic pro which means that I could write a record on a bus stop, that’s a pretty wonderful thing.
I’m always quite interested in that aspect of technology, where you can write and record an entire album on your laptop and the same laptop can be used to illegally distribute it and put it out on the internet...
Yeah the whole internet piracy wouldn’t bother me if I made my music for free just on my laptop but the thing is I demo my music on my laptop and then I pay somebody a fuckload to record it! For real! Money is spent. And I feel like people would notice if I just, rather than paying a professional to mix this , if I just released what I did on my laptop.
Without the middle-man, so to speak.
I mean what you can’t do with a laptop is create the sound of a mixing desk that cost half a million dollars or a guy who, may not be a musician but is literally a genius at sound frequencies. I mean the top sound designers on the world are like fucking NASA scientists if you them at work. They’re the shit.
I’m curious to learn a little more about your song-writing process and specifically what comes first to you when looking for the sparks of a new song, would it be the lyrics or the melody?
With the exception of only a few songs on my first record it’s always guitar parts. Always. Guitar is my primary instrument so I pick up guitar and write a riff. If it’s not that good a riff, or I can’t figure out what change to go to if it sort of stays as a little riff maybe I’ll forget about it but if it’s something that keeps kicking around in my head then... and as I say my first record is songs that did kick around in my head for a decade and so that was sort of saying “we’re not going away dude” y’know, “we’re showing you an idea that you’re just given up on.” So it comes from a guitar part and it either seduces you in to finish it or you just say fine and move on to the next thing. It’s always a guitar part.
I came across an interview with you recently in which you were quoted as saying that you feel you've grown with each Interpol record. Have you continued that trend with your solo work, and did you learn things that you can bring, hypothetically speaking, to the next Interpol record?
Well I think that my solo record made my work for Interpol easier, I just transitioned straight from one to the other so I’m just at a place creatively where lyrics could come at me more easily, I just felt in groove. I think in a way it’s kinda like when you see a runner stopping a t a street crossing you see them jogging in place it’s a bit like that creatively just not taking these long pauses. If I started making records that were worse than my previous efforts for me then I think I would definitely stop and re-evaluate what I’m doing so I always feel like I’m getting better. And that’s really the only basis for continuing on with anything I think, if you don’t feel like you’re getting better and learning things then do something else.
You're playing Dublin very shortly. Do you have any fond memories of time spent in this city before?
I love Dublin and the fans have always been really supportive of everything. When I did my first solo show it was probably the best show of the tour of the world. There was some real magic in the audience and the room so I’m certainly very excited and if anything it’s the first show of the tour. Sometimes the first show is amazing and sometimes the first show is terrible. But I have a feeling it’ll be more the special kind of “wow we’re back”.
Let’s hope so. As regards your plan for the rest of the year, is your immediate schedule solely related to kind of solo stuff?
No, Interpol is working on a new record, that is in the plans. Meeting up at the end of February and kicking some ideas around. Daniel’s been a busy bee he’s got tracks at the ready. So now it’s a matter of me bagging in and sandbagging it and see where we take them.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Friday 18th January 2013 | Music
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