Do Not Start Fights With James Murphy

James Murphy of the group LCD Soundsystem. (Nasty Little Man Publicity)

You may notice that the attached photo features LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy in bare feet. Is this because he is trying to make a statement about the real vulnerability of guys who wear suits? Or because, perhaps, he had been wearing bright sneakers pre-photo shoot and wanted to avoid looking like Garrison Keillor?

No. I’m pretty sure James Murphy has his little piggies out because he is most comfortable this way, and because being barefoot makes things easier if he has to kick you in the face.

I know this because I interviewed Murphy a while back, as he prepared to tour in the U.S. on the excellent “Sound of Silver.” We talked about his bulldog, Petunia, about the ideas behind amusing, contagious and pugnacious songs like “North American Scum.” We also talked about one of Murphy’s obsessions outside of dance records: ultimate fighting.

“I study a little bit of stand-up fighting and a little bit of Brazilian jujitsu,” he told me. He said that he’d planned to start a martial arts school–and even bought the gear–but was effectively priced out by a legion of better, younger trainers drawn by the explosion of interest in the sport. But that wouldn’t stop him from training. “I like fighting,” he enthused. “It’s the only sport I’m really good at.”

Case in point: when scalpers sucked up a bunch of tickets for LCD Soundsystem’s self-pronounced “last show ever” on April 2nd at Madison Square Garden and started charging exorbitant prices, Murphy took off his kid gloves. The punches came first from Twitter. The K.O. kick met the chin of said scalpers via the announcement of Several additional dates and an angry but triumphant blog on LCD’s website.

As part of his many statements on the subject, Murphy addressed both scalpers and fans:

“To scalpers: ‘It’s legal’ is what people say when they don’t have ethics…but we are supposed to have ethics, and that should be the primary guiding force in our actions. To everyone else: Thank you. You rule. Don’t let the shitbags win.”

Lesson learned, scalpers? Murphy and his organization worked with Ticketmaster and even went as far as to not put out any paper tickets for the added shows at Terminal 5, which should discourage them even further.

But I would argue that Murphy’s rage at scalpers wasn’t just a reflection of trying to get tickets into the real fans of his band for their last hurrah together. It was also likely inspired by the complexity of being a New York City resident–informed by typical New Yorker defiance, and also by Murphy’s own feelings about how his city is changing. Listen to this excerpt from our interview:

James Murphy on living in New York City

Murphy’s speaking about something that is familiar to most all New Yorkers, no matter which side of of gentrification you’re on. But the familiarity of this issue–the homogenization of New York City via real estate and other factors from the inside out–doesn’t make it any less serious. More insight comes in “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down.”

Yeah, James Murphy is a rock star, and as a rock star resident of Brooklyn, part of the problem of things in the city costing way more than they should. Yes, the added shows will also net Murphy and his band mates extra pay (though there’s really nothing wrong with that). But I think the guy deserves some props for seeing something messed up happen and trying to set it right. Like all longstanding traditions of fighting, martial arts is based in part on using your training and power to right wrongs. Murphy may be part of the problem, but in his supposed final concerts, he’s been ultimate-ly fighting for a solution. This round, James Murphy won.

About Ben

Ben Brock Johnson is a print, radio, and new media journalist working in New York City.
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One Response to Do Not Start Fights With James Murphy

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