Interpol returns with a new face on bass.
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
When Interpol makes its triumphant return to Omaha after an eight-year absence, they’ll be one man down and two men up.
Iconic bass player and fashion plate Carlos Dengler, a.k.a. Carlos D, no longer is a member of Interpol, having left just after the recording sessions wrapped up for the band’s new, self-titled album. The announcement came as a surprise to long-time Interpol fans who credit Carlos D for, among other things, the band’s impeccable sense of style. But the fans weren’t the only ones surprised by Dengler’s defection.
“It’s kind of weird,” said Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino from his home in Athens, Georgia, just prior to leaving on the tour that brings Interpol to Omaha Feb. 9. “It’s a weird sensation when you realize you’re in a band with such a whimsical person who you’d never thought would pull a 180.”
Fogarino said Carlos D’s announcement came out of the blue. “He decided essentially that he’s done with making music in a rock band,” Fogarino said. “He got tired of the paradigm and lost his affinity for playing four strings and wanted to concentrate on classical composition and/or scoring for motion pictures. We all really wish him well.”
But as the interview went on, it was obvious that the loss of Carlos still stings like a betrayal. “We all have outside interests with music or art forms,” Fogarino said. “We’re in this for life. It’s something we all wanted to do since childhood. How many bands are out there whose body of work will never see the light of day? Talent has nothing to do with it. This person was in a great band and had creative freedom, and he up and walked away. It’s truly bizarre to me. After the confusion and anger of the whole situation, you say ‘I hope you don’t keep doing that in life, because life doesn’t tolerate it.’ I would love to be many different things, and if I answered to those whims it would be ridiculous, I wouldn’t get anywhere.”
But Fogarino quickly added, “That’s not to say (Dengler) hasn’t found his true calling. This could be his stepping-stone, whereas this band is my end point.
“It’s one thing to be the flavor-of-the-minute, the whole Andy Warhol thing,” Fogarino continued, “it’s another thing to be accepted and to hit a level of establishment and not be taken lightly, and to be able to tour every record and have your fan base keep growing and returning. For someone like me, (guitarist vocalist) Daniel (Kessler) and (guitarist vocalist) Paul (Banks), it’s the be all and end all. You work toward it and keep a close eye on the integrity of the band and try to expand without making a fool of yourself and watering down what got you to this position to begin with.”
That’s exactly what Interpol has managed to do throughout its 13-year career. After recording several EPs, Interpol released its debut full-length, 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights, on Matador Records — an album that immedately established them on a national level as the arbiters of a stylish, distinctive post-punk sound that paid homage to predecessors like Joy Division and Gang of Four. Those early comparisons slowly faded into the background as 2004’s Antics and 2007’s Our Love to Admire galvanized their intense, foreboding style in the minds of their ever-growing fan base.
The band’s recently released self-titled album carries on the tradition — it sounds like an Interpol album, but with a nod toward its early days, thanks to producer Alan Moulder, whose body of work includes albums with My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Swervedriver, Jesus and Mary Chain and Nine Inch Nails.
“Alan signed on and for the first time, there was a great level of comfort to let the mixer mix the record,” Fogarino said. “We had nothing to fret over.”
But they still had to worry about who would handle the bass chores when the band hit the stage. “In contrast to how Carlos felt about playing bass in Interpol, it’s probably the most complicated, intricate and most chops-driven part of our sound,” Fogarino said. “He danced in between the rhythm. He was really good at writing creative bass lines. Who was going to be the man?”
It was the band’s long-time sound man, Harley Zinker, who had the answer. “Harley had been out with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and said get David Pajo,” Fogarino said. Best known as the guitarist in legendary math rock band Slint, Pajo had played in a handful of bands since Slint’s break-up, including Tortoise, Stereolab, Zwan and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
“We had two rehearsals with David to get his feet wet, and he knew the songs better than I did, especially material we hadn’t played in ages,” Fogarino said. “He’s kind of a mockingbird, except that he doesn’t just replicate, he really can feel the song and the part and how it should be played, he doesn’t just hit the notes. As soon as he played some shows, I knew everything was going to be fine.”
In fact, not only was there no backlash from Carlos D fans, Fogarino said people were screaming Pajo’s name. But he wasn’t the only addition. Interpol also added School of Seven Bells’ keyboardist/vocalist Brandon Curtis to the line-up, supporting Banks on backing vocals and playing keyboard for what would usually be handled with a sequencer. “That was a real thrill to have live keyboards,” Fogarino said. “The dynamic has changed for the better.”
But he added, the real question is how the new players will fit in when it comes time to write new material. “If we can take anything away from the live experience, we’ll be fine.”
Fogarino fondly remembered the last time Interpol played Omaha, during a blizzard at Sokol Underground in January 2003. “Back then, we were still loading our own gear, and we were loading out in a foot of snow,” he said. “I remember I snagged a really cool, screen-printed Low poster.”
Fogarino said there’s a chance you might hear some songs from that ’03 show at Slowdown Feb. 9. “The set list is constantly growing and we’re digging deeper to material we haven’t played in years,” he said. “We’ll be going from a 7,000-capacity venue one night to 650-capacity venue the next. For us to hit such a small stage, we’ll be on fire.”
Interpol plays with School of Seven Bells, Wednesday, Feb. 9, at Slowdown, 729 No. 14th St. Showtime is 9 p.m. This show is sold out. For more information, visit theslowdown.com.
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There was so much more with Sam Fogarino that I’ll be posting a “Pt. 2” of this story next week that covers his work with Athens, Georgia band Twin Tigers.
And since we’ve been talking so much about Carlos D., you might as well read this 2003 Lazy-i interview with Carlos, online here.
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Tomorrow, a look inside 89.7 The River’s New Day Rising.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.