Northern Transmissions Interviews Paul Banks

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Charles Brownstein chats with Paul Banks about his new album ‘Banks’ out now on Matador, and the differences between writing and recording under his own name rather than as Interpol.

CB: First off, Are you happy with how the new album turned out?

PB: I’m really happy. I demo all the songs many times before I hit the studio, so the songs really have their own identity. They do change a bit, that’s why I work with Peter (Peter Katis, engineer and producer). It’s like a film script that has all the actors and has been shot on super 8, then I take it in and reshoot it on Imax. I go to Peter with every high hat, string, etc.. mapped out, I mean there’s not enough time to go into the studio when your working alone. Then he puts it all together, he really blows my mind with his mixing and production.

CB: Does it feel good to finally release something under your own name?

PB: I didn’t really think a whole lot about it before. My first record was Julian Plenti, because I was doing material for that project, it was a period in the late 90s-2000. Fast forward years later, the main motivation I had was that I had this work, definitive self work which I really wanted to release on my own and not as julian Plenti. I always intended to put this out, my plan was always to become a solo artist. So I’m really following through on my original goal. That’s where the writing comes from. Then I got asked to join interpol, then that was a number of years. So it’s taken a bit more time to get the Banks material out. The only song that really comes from the Pre Interpol era which is on the new album is ‘Summertime Is Coming’

CB: Are you influenced alot by your old band when your writing new material, do you worry what Interpol fans might think?

PB: Not really, Daniel (Daniel Kessler) started Interpol with his own songs. I’m a collaborator, basically we are all collaborators on Daniel’s material.  Sam, Carlos, Daniel, all the guys effect what I do in Interpol, but when I work alone, it’s entirely my own musical vision. I really don’t think of anybody when I’m working on my own solo material, it’s music that I’m creating for my own vision, rather than a group vision. As Interpol, we’ve always done things on our own terms and made the music we wanted to make. I approach it the same way with my own material. A surefire way to fuck things up, is to care what people think when your writing. You definitely need to do your own thing.

CB: How personal is the album, their are a couple of songs which sound really intimate?

PB: I don’t think it’s much more personal then other stuff I’ve done. I use the pronoun I, she, and he pretty much interchangeably in all my work. I think there are a couple of songs that are particularly personal, like ‘Over My Shoulder’ and really mostly ‘Young Again’, where that’s definitely me reflecting on me. A song like ‘I’ll Sue You’ is me projecting my own thoughts on to a character, ‘The Base’ is from another person’s perspective. I enjoy projecting my own thoughts to characther when I write, it’s fun.

CB: What was the inspiration behind ‘Arise Awake’?

PB: That was the happiest cabbie in the world that I had sampled. I was in a Taxi one day, so I recorded him. He knew I was recording him. I can imagine if there was a God and he came down and interacted with people once in a while, this guy might be him. He exuded joy like no one’s business. I realized, fuck man, this guy walks around like Kramer from ‘Seinfeld’, he has this energy that he never shuts off.I think it was really precious to document someone that had that life energy.

CB: Is it a little strange hitting the stage with different bandmates after all these years and so many gigs?

PB: It’s definitely different, but not weird. The band is really tight, Were all well rehearsed. It kind of boils down to the song. It doesn’t matter which band I’m with, I generally experience music with my eyes closed. As long as nobody around me is fucking up their part, it’s really about the music and the execution of it, not who this guy is next to me and what he’s doing.

CB: Is it difficult breaking out new songs on stage?

PB: I mean that’s part of being a musician you have to deal with, I’ve always had the opinion that if I felt that something sounded good. I’m truly happy with it. The songs are meticlously put together if we play them properly and people aren’t into them, there’s really not much I can do. So no, honestly I really don’t think about it.

CB: What’s the plans for the future?

PB: I think we’re going to another Interpol album soon, there’s some collaborations I’d like to finish up, and I will probably put out another solo album as well.

CB: Five albums from your collection which have had a big influence on your career?

PB: Kool Keith – Matthew

Anti Pop Cosortium – Tragic Epilogue

John Frusciante – Niandra Lades and usually Just A T-Shirt

Frank Black – Cult Of Ray

Nas – Illmatic