James Murphy – On Losing One’s Edge

 
One of my favorite songs ever is the very first LCD Soundsystem wrote. Today I see that this PDF magazine called Five Dials, which I had until now never heard of, has a one page explanation of the song written by James Murphy himself. I’ve copied it in it’s entirety below. You can download the full magazine here. This is from number 13.

It  was the first time I was living a life in New York that resembled anything cool. I was DJing and I wasn’t only DJing, I was playing rock records, and I was known for playing certain records. It was remarkable. It was cool – I was cool – for about one whole minute. One night I went out and there was a kid DJing at a punk show. He was playing the same records, the same rock records as me, and I got upset. Then I got embarrassed about the fact that I was upset. And then I felt even worse because of that embarrassment. It didn’t stop. The cycle went on. It was like self-annihilation.

 
Yeah, I’m losing my edge, I’m losing my edge, The kids are coming up from behind. I’m losing my edge, I’m losing my edge to the kids from France and from London. But I was there.

 

‘Losing My Edge’ was not written. It just came out. I was playing drums and singing, which is why the rhythm gets funny. I turned on the beatbox, sang, and made the song. The only part of the song that had been written before was the list of bands I call out at the end, and that was recorded separately. I had a lot in my head. The subject matter was all there. It was fertile. It was really fertile. I got almost all the lyrics down in one take because I was so invested in it. It was everything my life was about.

I’m losing my edge, I’m losing my edge to the kids whose footsteps I hear when they get on the decks. I’m losing my edge to the internet seekers who can tell me every member of every good group from 1962 to 1978. I’m losing my edge.

I wasn’t trying to make a song. I wasn’t worrying about what the next song would be about, what it would sound like, if there would be an album. It was just what needed to be said. Do I talk about the same subject again and again? Probably. 

I do try to find a way to find new ways of saying things.
When has it ever been interesting to hear a song where everything’s going great, everything’s going great, and then there’s a list of everything that’s going great? I’m interested in the way the cynical can be turned optimistic and the optimistic cynical, and what’s most interesting to me is a song that contains some sort of argument with loss.

‘Losing My Edge’ is about age. Perhaps a twenty-two-year-old could have written it but it would have been an even bigger lie. If you put a million twenty-two-year-olds behind typewriters they’d come up with it eventually, or perhaps they’d just come up with Twilight.

Everything I write is the end result of a boiling down of influences, and the same goes for lyrics. My literary influences are equal to my musical influences – postwar American fiction, like Sam Lipsyte. Sam was my favourite singer when he was in a band called Dung Beetle. Like there is in his books, there was a mixture of menace and humour in his stage presence. He was self-effacing but with a healthy amount of ego, aggressive and uncompromising, not a cartoon drawing of cartoon punk. He was a very serious model for me.

His writing reminded me that sentiments should co-exist. If there’s humour it should be present without sacrificing anything else, without pulling back. Funny-sad is way more sad. There’s more resonance, and any good writing needs resonance whether it’s a song or a book.

I’m interested in how cool works. It’s a funny thing but I think about it a lot – the weird social currency of cool. I’ve thought about it ever since I was a tiny thing, and those thoughts ended up in ‘Losing My Edge’. When I first gave the song to people I knew, most of them said it was horrible. They thought I was kidding. Phil Mossman, the original LCDSoundsystem guitarist, liked it. Others thought it was a horror. Then the song went out and got a positive reaction, mostly amongst people who thought, Oh God, thats me. Ive started to feel irrelevant. Should I change to become relevant? Is that gross?

If youre not in your full flush of youth, how do you operate? When youre young you think in mono-blocks if I had a new computer, if I had this girlfriend, it would be OK. Your life moves in these mono movements, one at a time. When youre older its different: I really like that, but what does that say about me, will it work, how much will it work, will it make me feel better, will it really make me feel better? What will I lose in the process? Happiness is complicated and you become more complicated as you age. Your reactions become more complicated. If you dont become more complicated youre just an asshole. George W. Bush is not complicated.

I think its in the human condition. Theres always an element that youre missing out. People who work in jobs that suck might say, I wish I was like a real writer. They dont realize that real writers are just as hapless. They just know that feeling: theyre doing it and Im not.

I was thirty-two when the first record came out. I guess Im comfortable with aging. It would be sweet if my back didnt hurt. Id like to take some time back. I dont have kids and Id like to, and then theres all the rest of the mortality shit. My dad died at sixty-nine years old when I was thirty-one. Im not banking on much past seventy.

We didn’t play the song on our Sound of Silver tour. Were playing it now. The song came back to us. It feels good. Why did it return? Who knows? Why does anything return? Maybe for that strange, unstable, psychotic reason people are happy and satisfied and feel cool, even for a moment.

I used to work in the record store.I had everything before anyone. I was there in the Paradise Garage DJ booth with Larry Levan. I was there in Jamaica during the great sound clashes. I woke up naked on the beach in Ibiza in 1988 But I’m losing my edge to better-looking people with better ideas and more talentAnd they’re actually really, really nice.

 

Comments

  1. EL NOU MON says:

    Great post, great song. There’s probably not one single better song about getting old, post-internet.