Like nearly every „alt” kid my age, I grew up with Interpol. That legendary bass line from „Evil” was one of the main reasons I took my first instrument and some other songs accompanied me in most important moments of my teenage and adolescent years. Well, it’s one of the few bands from that time that still means a lot to me. So, of course I couldn’t say „no” to a semi-spontaneous 15-minute chat with one of the brains behind that band – it’s guitarist and main composer – Daniel Kessler. A day before their awaited comeback to Poland, we’ve talked about being in a band for more than quarter of a century, evolution and teenage fans.
26 years as a band. How do you feel about it?
I guess, my dream was just to have the chance to make one record. It took a long time to get to do that. So to be seven records into it and over 25 years later, it’s incredible. I don’t know, it’s really incredible. You can never plan on these things. So it’s always amazing when it happens.
Yeah. So is it still as exciting for you as at the beginning?
Yeah, I think so. It’s really humbling that you still get to do this and you get to travel all over the world and play music. You can see a lot of teenagers on our concerts now, like young teenagers, and they know all the lyrics and not just the singles, but the deep album tracks. So you feel like, wow, they’re having their own relationship with our music. And I remember being their age and having that sort of relationship with artists and records, too. So it’s amazing to see that in this day and age, which is very different than the day and age that I grew up as a teenager, in the sense that music is competing with social media and so many of these other things. So it’s beautiful when you can see this sort of connection on an emotional level with people. So yeah, I do. I feel very fortunate that I still love writing music. I still love writing music with my bandmates and I love playing the songs that we’ve written over all seven records.
You’ve got a lot of new fans now. Do you think that the new technologies like TikTok and stuff are helping you as a band?
I don’t know, because I’m not on TikTok and I haven’t heard that we’ve had success through TikTok. I’ve heard of obviously there’s some viral situations have happened to bands where they’ve had success with TikTok. So it’s hard to say. Obviously, social media at large in general and just the Internet, I should say, just as a broader thing, allow the world to really connect. So if you live in a remote place without a really cool indie store, but you have very expansive taste of music, you’re not punished by your geographic location. You have access to everything up there. And I think that’s pretty exciting.
You’ve been a huge part of that scene portrayed in „Meet Me in the Bathroom”. Right then, did you feel like a part of something bigger or not?
I think for us, while it was happening, as far as even before we put out the record, for instance, we just didn’t know about any of this stuff. I think we felt like maybe that we were being a part of something bigger, more when we put out our first record and The Strokes put out their record and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and many other great bands like The Walkmen, TV On The Radio and so forth. At that moment, you could see there are so many great artists emerging and very different from one another releasing amazing records that are still amazing 20 plus years later. Now it’s clear that there was something special happening, but in real time we didn’t know about that until journalists were asking about this around 2002, 2003. That’s when we’re like, okay, so we’re being coupled together with all these other bands, but we didn’t really know those bands in real time.
Do you think that such movement like this could happen right now with some new bands? Do you observe something like this in current industry?
If it did, I think it would be happening very differently. I didn’t read the book and I didn’t see the film, so I can’t say for sure. But the scene that I know it’s referring to, which is really from something like 2001 to 2004 – that’s like pre social media, you know what I mean? So it’s like I was saying before – all these bands can be emerging from New York, but we didn’t know them. We didn’t know that this was happening. That would never be possible in this day and age that all these bands can be in the same city and you would have no idea because in real time, you know these things, you can know these things about something so far away and immediately you have all this attention and that’s good and that’s bad. I think the good of it is, like, when you don’t get that much attention, it gives you time to develop, to really think about what you want to do to get better and then also, sometimes when you don’t get any attention, it’s a bit of a test. Are you doing this for attention? Are you doing it because you love writing music and you believe in what you’re doing? And so if you keep doing it, it’s clear that you’re doing it because you’re doing it just for you versus you needed some sort of attention to keep going, and that’s kind of what happened for us. We just loved what we were doing and so therefore we’ve created something pretty solid. Now as far as a scene, I do think obviously a scene can happen in any city or any place and so forth, but I think it’d be just very different just because right away there’d probably be a lot of media attention in real time. It just would be like a microscope over it while we didn’t have that microscope. All those bands were bands for a while before they got attention.
2002 was important for you as well, because your debut album came out. You’ve celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. How do you like that album now?
I feel great about it. I love playing songs off that record. I remember very clearly that I wanted to be very much in the moment while making that record so that I could basically in the future look at what we did and – not knowing that anyone’s ever going to care about what we did – but I want to be okay with whatever we create, forever. And I am. I think it’s a very special moment in time when we got to make that record, being our first record, and we still play pretty much everything from that record from time to time. And I love playing it live. So to me, I love the songs and I’m proud of the record, but I really like all of our records in a sense. I’m okay with everything we’ve created.
And seven albums later and with so many hit songs later, is your creative process any different than it was then?
Yeah, for sure. There’s an evolution. We’ve evolved as songwriters, as musicians, as a band, as communicators with each other, and experience hopefully makes you kind of get better and have a little bit more understanding about what you want to do and understand how you can achieve what you want to do, too. And a sense of progress as well. So I can see, for instance, with both Sam and Paul, they’ve very much evolved as musicians and so forth. And you evolve too, as you go through different periods of your life. You’re not the same people. So I think it’s just about moving forward each time. And the nice thing is, when we write music, it’s never really so much an effort. It’s never something that we have to do. It’s never a business decision. It’s more like still a deep desire to write music and a strong ability to write music together.
Your last album – named your most positive to date – is a nice example of such evolution. How do you feel about it?
I don’t know. That’s hard for me to comment on because that’s someone else’s perspective on the record. I think there are moments of probably positivity. Plus, I think they’re referring more to Paul’s lyrics, and Paul writes the lyrics. I don’t, so I can’t read it, but I think that’s a good thing. And I think we wrote that record during the lockdown and a very difficult moment for the world. So if that’s what someone wants to look, if that’s what someone takes out of listening to that record, then I think that’s a good thing. Why not?
Sure. Now, you are releasing some songs from this album remixed by other artists. And what was the key to choose those artists?
I feel like we wanted to have a bit of an eclectic mix of artists, which we have, and we wanted them to have the choice on which songs they wanted to remix, which they did. And I feel like Jeff Parker… I’ve been listening to projects that he’s been a part of for almost longer than Interpol. As for Daniel Avery, I’ve been wanting him to do a remix of one of our tracks for almost, like, ten years now, so it’s great that he did. And I really loved the mix they made. And Water From Your Eyes – we’ve done a few tours with them, including last week in the UK, and they just released a great album, too. I think for us, it was just trying to have a bit of a different mixture of people and then hearing their interpretation of something that you create is always very interesting and it’s always different. The results is also going to be something wild that’s unimaginable, that you just didn’t know. But all is great. I really thought they did a great job with all the remixes.
And what’s next for Interpol?
Well, we’re very excited to go to Poland as of tomorrow, and it’s been a while. It feels like too long. We always have great memories of playing there, so we’re really happy to do that. And then we’re touring for most of this year and probably take a little bit of a break next year. Who knows? We’ll see. And then we’ll start thinking about the next record.
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Photo: Atiba Jefferson