One-on-one with Daniel Kessler
By Christopher Schutte
Interpol makes their first area appearance in nearly four years at the LC in Columbus’ Arena District on Sunday, Feb. 13. The band is touring in support of their ambitious new self-titled album and has been receiving rave reviews for their current live show.
Recently departed bass player Carlos D has been replaced in the touring band by Dave Pajo (of Slint &Tortoise) and Brandon Curtis (Secret Machines).
As the band preps for the next leg of their U.S. tour, we caught up with Interpol guitarist and primary songwriter, Daniel Kessler, in an exclusive interview with the DCP.
Dayton City Paper: First let me say that I really admire your work on the new record. Over the years you’ve cultivated what I would regard as kind of a signature “Daniel Kessler sound.” Is that something you consciously set out to do, or is it simply a by-product of the songwriting process?
Daniel Kessler: I think it’s more of a by-product of my approach to songwriting. I’m not the kind of player that sits down and says I’m going to consciously try to do this. I’ll sometimes start playing mindlessly, then something grabs my attention. It’s not something I can actually predict. I try to keep it a free process. They way I begin writing songs is on a classical guitar. The electric (Gibson hollow-body) guitars I play are an extension of that sound.
DCP: I’ve always been curious to know what you guys thought about the early comparisons to Joy Division? I never quite bought Joy Division as a major influence for you.
DK: I would agree. I feel like we’ve tried to be Zen about it over many years. It hasn’t come up in a while, which shows we’re now regarded as our own band. It was never an influence we’ve discussed. We’re quite different people when you break it down. We always left discussions of influences at the door. I always felt that references to Joy Division – although they were a great band, an important band – were surface comparisons. So yeah, I was a little bit surprised by that, too.
DCP: I think it’s partly because as critics, we tend to be lazy!
DK: Your words … not mine!
DCP: The new record has a more ambitious sound that really works for me on a number of levels. Is this by design, or just a natural progression for the band?
DK: I think it’s a natural progression. Definitely not trying to break a mold. I never wanted to be a band that’s dismissive of its prior work. I never liked as a kid reading interviews where bands I liked were like, “I’m not sure what we were doing there.” It always bummed me out. I think it’s always been important to me to spend as much time as possible on the details. The little things always kill me in the studio. You spend so much time creating something you can stand by. I never really go back and listen to our records, but I know I stand by them. When I hear them I’m like, “Yeah, that sounds right.” Here, it was more of a natural artistic desire to grow. In the early stages of songwriting for the new record, Carlos and I got together and went from my guitar directly to orchestrations and keyboards. It brought in a new world that was different for us.
DCP: As much as they loved Carlos, it seems like fans have really embraced the addition of Dave and Brandon to the touring band. Can you elaborate a bit on that new dynamic?
DK: Yeah, they’re obviously both formidable musicians and great dudes. Right away from the first rehearsal together we had a great musical chemistry and personal chemistry. The fans have embraced them and we play well together. Everything on stage is tight, it works. It’s that simple at the end of the day.
DCP: I’ve seen a few recent live clips online and it seems like the new material is translating really well in a live setting. What do you see as the standouts?
DK: It’s hard for me to say at this stage. The response has been really enthusiastic all the way around. It’s kind of our tradition to open with the first song on our latest record, which is “Success.” People have a great response to that. “Barricade” goes over well and “Light” is really a song that connects.
DCP: So you’re back on the road next week for a series of U.S. club dates with School of Seven Bells and Matthew Dear. Are you looking forward to getting back in front of U.S. audiences?
DK: Yeah, I think so. We had a busy 2010, but it’s always a pleasure to get back to the U.S. This will be our third tour of the U.S. on this campaign and the audience is always tremendous. We haven’t played your neck of the woods in a long time. We’re looking forward to it.
DCP: You strike me as a guy with pretty diverse interests. Do you draw any inspiration from film, art, or literature?
DK: I’m an avid film watcher – one a day, at least. I’m always looking for a great story. It’s a big influence in my songwriting. I’m always reading, as well.
DCP: Anything interesting on your iPod at the moment?
DK: I’ve always been very eclectic, so I think it’s all pretty interesting! I like the new Salem record – it becomes more and more addictive each time you listen. I really like the James Blake I’ve heard.
DCP: Tell us a little bit about your experience opening up for U2 in Europe.
DK: It’s different, as we seldom have opened up for another band. We have the best fans in the world, so we’re not trying to gain more fans. It’s to do something new and exciting. It’s good to do different things. At the end of the day, a show’s a show. No matter, you play your songs and play them well, play them honestly. We had a really warm reception from their audience. They go out there for two-and-a-half hours and put on a great show – they really deliver. We always strive to do the same.
Interpol will appear Sunday, Feb.13, at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in Columbus. Show starts at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased through www.ticketmaster.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Christopher Schutte at email@example.com.