Pat Mahoney Talks: Museum Of Love And Life After Lcd
After 10 years surviving behind the drums in LCD Soundsystem, last year saw Pat Mahoney link up with Dennis McNany to form the Museum of Love. A couple of strong DFA singles later, and the duo have prepared their eponymous debut album, ready to drop on October 13th. It's an album of wonky melodies, driving percussion clatter, and bursts of unfettered optimism. It sounds like you want New York post punk to sound – modern and vintage and rough round the edges and ready to sound amazing on the dancefloor. Pat spoke to us over a crackly phone line about moving on from LCD, New York scenes, and R Kelly covers…
How are you doing sir?
I’m good, I’m very tired but good. I was up late rehearsing.
What were you rehearsing for? Anything in particular?
We’re going the Museum of Love show, it’s a little private thing in San Francisco, for a friend’s wedding.
Are you playing a wedding set?
We’re a wedding band for a day, yeah. We’re going to wear tuxedos and it’s going to be amazing.We’re doing R Kelly songs.
The spirit of romance isn’t dead. That’s beautiful. So how are feeling about the Museum Of Love project at the moment? Are you excited?
Yeah, it’s all systems go. We’ve been working on this whole project for a couple of years now and it’s time for that to come to fruition. It’s absolutely the main focus of most of our lives at the moment.
So how did you get to the point where you decided it was ready and you wanted to bring it out to the world? Was it hard for you to acknowledge there was a time to be ready for it to go public?
No, it sort of grew into itself really. It surprised me how easy that was. It wasn’t easy to make the record necessarily but it grew organically into what it is. We were just going to make a couple of tracks but then it just kept going. It turned into an album without trying, I think it was just meant to be.
How does the songwriting process work between you and Dennis? Who comes up with what?
We both bring stuff to a session. We’ll have a lot of the initial writing, a plan or something, and we’ll just sit there and drum out ideas with drum programming, fool around with vocal melodies and then we’ll go away and just work on it and come back and throw more ideas at it. Try and write all the lyrics and come up with most of the melodies. We both bring stuff to each other.
Have you been trying to move your own lyrics away from the cynicism LCD were known for?
I wouldn’t say that LCD’s lyrics were cynical, more jaded…
There’s a very slim line!
Sure, I think I paid very close attention to those lyrics in a way that was there were a lot of lessons learned. James Murphy is a very good lyricist, I think. I just felt like it had to sound like me and that was all I was really worrying about.
What has that turned out to mean? Have you discovered what sounding like you means?
Sometimes it’s a little sloppy, hopefully in a good way! I didn’t want to be too guarded and I wanted it to be funny but I wanted to take some chances with it. I didn’t want to be safe, do you know what I mean?
Can you pinpoint any particular chance you took that you think have paid off?
I think the song ‘Fathers’ in particular – it’s kind of like a no-finesse vocal performance, it’s pretty naked, but the song has kind of a dark humour to it so I was glad to get that. It’s not sappy, even if it is slightly sentimental. It’s a chance that I wanted to be able to take.
You come from a scene of people who are really aware of musical heritage. Does it ever feel hard trying to add to the canon of great music out there? Are you ever like ‘shit, this has all been done before’?
Yes. That also can be liberating because the more you know should give you a little bit of humility, you’re not going to reinvent the wheel but that doesn’t mean you can’t make something really good. You’re not going to be David Bowie, you’re not going to be T-Rex, you’re not going to be Joy Division, you’re just not. That’s ok.
You’ve come to terms with that?
Yeah, I certainly watched James do that. He approach is wearing it on his sleeve but you have that lens through which everything is focused and it has never been any different. You listen to the American involuntary folk music, stuff like Aerosmith, those are Bob Dylan songs.
Do you think maybe in this internet age that it’s almost impossible for people not to acknowledge influence because everyone is at a point where it’s almost impossible to not be aware of what has come before?
Yeah, there’s an algorithm. You could probably have… What’s the thing where you listen to a song and it tells you what it is?
They should have like an influence Shazam that when you’re listening to your song it says ‘you’re ripping off…’
You think maybe that would just grind music to a halt?
Maybe it would be really funny, you could program the algorithm maybe to pull something out of its ass to say ‘actually, you’ve got a strong Burt Bacharach leaning here’ and maybe people wouldn’t take themselves so seriously.
I think there’s probably an app development fortune to be made right there. I see you’ve also been doing stuff with Sinkane, another guy who has passed through loads of bands and gone on to do his own thing. How much distance do you want to put between yourself and LCD Soundsystem with this project?
There’s not a formula, seven and a half miles or fifty paces, that thing is over so this is just necessarily the new thing. I also didn’t want to compete with LCD, that was my band for ten years and I know what we did well so it seemed silly to just tread the same ground. I just wanted to do something that wasn’t about the same set of priorities.
What were those priorities, and what they are now?
First and foremost it was Murphy’s project, there was a collaboration in a loose sense but we knew from the beginning who was the boss, but Museum Of Love is a collaboration proper – there’s a sharing of control and the need to argue for my own creative input, whilst listening to someone else’s, so that’s a bit different. I think that LCD, now that I’m thinking of it, was very much a product of its time. It sounded like a post-indie rock band in a general way that was influenced by the things we grew up on. The intervening time, in some ways it’s 20 years removed now, so it’s just a whole different set of things happening for Museum Of Love. Do you see what I’m saying?
Definitely. It seems to me also that LCD, as you say, was your band for ten years and it came out of a period that, from the outside anyway, appeared to be a very fertile time in New York’s musical landscape.
That’s certainly true.
Do you think there’s any reason why? Was it just a fluke or was it more than that?
I mean, you could blame it on a number of things. I think it’s partly the age, a lot of those bands are now people like us. I wouldn’t say that 9/11 had anything to do with it, but I think there was a sense of possibility and also a sense of ‘let’s do this’. I think you could do an interesting study of when New York is in a recession and the bands that come out of that. Sometimes it is hard to get a job and it’s enough to just play music.
It’s interesting that you mentioned 9/11, maybe there was a sense of urgency that that gave New Yorkers
Things were happening, but that kind of reshuffled everybody’s cards.
Do you think there is an equivalent thing going on now? Is there a young scene that you want to be appealing to with Museum of Love?
That was something that I learned with LCD, we never fit into a scene. People always tried to slot us into a category, at the time it was that we playing with all these electroclash bands – I don’t even know what that means – and then it was this, and then it was that, then it was new wave. We saw all these things come and go in a way so that helped me relax, not having a scene. Maybe we will have a scene, maybe we’ll be a band that doesn’t fit into a scene but is in a scene, I’m not worried about that. I think you’re part of the zeitgeist so you, whether you like it or not, are going to get associated with something.
I’m 35 and I still DJ in clubs to kids – sometimes I start wondering about someone like me, who has a 2 year old baby, providing the soundtrack for 18/19 year olds. I see it around me in my friends, do you ever think that we’re the generation that aren’t going to let go?
This is a constant source of anxiety for me. I have two teenagers and a six month old, I often feel that someone a lot younger than me should be up there doing that but I’ve been at peace with that for a long time. You could fall off any time, there’s no good reason for it. As long as people are still paying to get in the door you’re doing something right.
You haven’t had any offers to take Museum Of Love to UltraFestival or anything like that?
No, not yet. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing, the record release got pushed back a couple of times so we are in the midst of tour booking right now. With this timing we’ll be ok for festival season next year, if we get offers, we won’t be too late for next summer. We’re hoping to do a pretty extensive European tour and we’re booking a US tour right now, just getting out on the road and making it work.
A lot of American artists I’ve spoken to have said that this EDM boom in the States is going to be followed by a more subtle appreciation of dance music. Is this something that you think has happened or is happening?
Maybe, I think that’s possibly true. There’s probably a whole segment of beautiful music consumers who won’t have listened to any music before so they won’t look down their noses at it. The whole EDM thing has been really, really corporate over here. It seems to be, not to be a prick about it, like another manifestation of this winner take all – the same ten people get all the attention whilst everybody else is clawing at the margins. It has been an interesting phenomenon to watch but it has also been interesting to see it bypass a lot of acts, just step around sections of people who are taking a long time making great, interesting music. Legendary people are not struggling but hustling whilst people who came out of nowhere…That’s just how it is. That’s capitalism!
How’s your relationship with DFA Records?
It’s like a dysfunctional family. I think I would be wise to leave it at that for now.
That wasn’t what I expected so maybe we should leave it at that… I don’t want to get you in trouble!
I think they couldn’t do anything for me beside fuck up my record release which they’ve already done so the less I say about it the better.
Is the album coming out on the 13th October?
13th October, yes.
Then is it just going to be touring? Are you writing more songs at the moment?
We’re both setting aside some time before we go back into the studios but we have kernel seeds for another record already so we’re just trying to give this enough of a life on the road that we can then just turn our attention entirely to that.
And just to finish up, for people who are reading this that don’t know anything about how Museum Of Love sound or what to expect – what should they expect from a Museum of Love song or from the album?
Well… It doesn’t sound like LCD Soundsystem so they can take it or leave it and it sounds like… Arthur Russell and The Modern Lovers with a 50s crooner singing over the top of it. So if that’s exactly what you want to hear, you’re going to love it.
It’s got to be EXACTLY!
Museum of Love is out October 13th via DFA Records