I’ve heard some wild stories about your living situation in London…
Oh yeah, it’s true. I almost had to bail from that place.
Apparently because you were too loud.
That’s right. It’s a sorry tale. My windows have been smashed and my neighbors have hung denunciatory notes on the trees warning me that if I am too loud one more time, they all know the number of the court. That’s not good. It’s not a good development.
Are your neighbors fascists?
Yes, because they have never spoken to me face to face. They prefer to complain by telephone and anonymously, rather than to ring my doorbell.
So as an act of revenge, you’re planning to begin your England tour in your apartment.
Yes, that’s the plan. The only thing I’m still waiting for is to get a qualified person to certify that the floor will be able to bear the weight of so many people.
Will it be a public concert?
Yes, it will be a big party. But I want to make sure that the floor won’t break in if a hundred people come.
So you at least don’t want anybody to hurt themselves?
No, at least not my friends.
We have met once before, two years ago.
It’s strange to see journalists a second time. It degrades the work that you’re doing to a job.
Because you’re confronted with a déjà vu situation?
Yes, because you see the same person a second time—in a similar situation and in order to do the same thing, namely to do an interview. It’s bizarre.
On the other hand, you say that making music is a “work in progress.”
Yes, that’s quite right. Why?
Doing interviews is also a “work in progress.” Every conversation influences the next. Themes or topics are brought up because in the previous days you had been speaking with somebody completely different about something, and when you are in a conversational situation again you are reminded of the previous conversation.
I understand. There are some journalists, though, that ask you the same questions two years later but just change the title of the album that you’re talking about.
If everything is a “work in progress,” are there also advantages to seeing each other again after two years?
Maybe it’s just that it irritates me to talk to different people the whole day long about the same topics. You then have to come to terms with suddenly being asked something completely different.
Your new album Richard D. James is only a half an hour long.
I took longer working on this album that on any of my other albums. For me the new album is worth as much as my others. It’s about quality, not quantity.
I only ask because in interviews you happily talk about how you have dozens of hours of unreleased material. When only a half an hour’s worth subsequently comes out, one can’t help but wonder about it.
For me, it’s not about releasing four or five triple albums. That’s too much. No one would be interested in it, quite apart from the fact that it would be technically impossible. But that’s all irrelevant anyway, because I’m only marginally interested in what has been released by me.
Parallel to the CD release of your new album, you’re releasing the same songs as maxi singles at 45 rpm. If you play them at 33 rpm, then this hectic, tense material becomes very relaxing and atmospheric. Is this a coincidence?
Many of my tracks are better if you play them at 33 rpm. I have never denied that. That’s also why my pieces are so short: you can only press them onto maxi singles if they are short at 45 rpm. If they go for too long, then they don’t fit onto the vinyl—and then you can’t play them slower. That’s also the real reason why my album ended up so short. Buy it on vinyl. Instead of 33 minutes, you actually get 45, you understand? And there you have it, an album of standard length.
So those who now only have a CD player cannot enjoy these subtleties?
Is that not a bit arrogant?
There are also CD players that allow you to change the speed.
Hardly anyone has CD players like that these days.
DJs have these types of CD player.
Brian Liesegang from the American rock band Filter is a fan of yours. He told me that he is fascinated by how you would tell lies the whole day to make yourself more interesting.
There you go, that’s exactly what I mean! I find it weird to spend my time sitting down with journalists who end up writing things about me that I never said. I mean, who’s telling lies here? I read interviews that I have apparently given in various newspapers and think, “Wow! I said that? That’s a lie!”. Oh well. I can tell you that I never say things that aren’t true.
Brian Liesegang is amazed by how you apparently play games with the press. Anyway, who says that that wasn’t a bending of the truth itself?
I cannot think of any lies that I have ever told.
Should one always tell the truth?
I don’t like statements. If one were to follow them, it would only lead to everyone doing the same thing. That would in turn mean that the world would become boring. If everybody always only told the truth, we would all get bored pretty quickly. I like not knowing if someone is telling me the truth or is lying to me.
So should we all sometimes not tell the truth?
Why not? There’s nothing bad about being reflective. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with not thinking things through. But then it becomes easier to make people angry if you don’t think about what you say.
I can easily imagine how you could infuriate people.
Why do you say that?
The last time we met, you gave monosyllabic answers.
Oh yeah, that’s right. I was like that back then.
Your own gravestone will adorn the cover of your album. Is that not a bit sarcastic?
It’s not the album, it’s the cover of a maxi single. It’s titled “Richard James”. As opposed to the album, which is titled Richard D. James. The difference is that the “D” is missing. To correct you, it’s not my gravestone; it’s that of my brother. My brother died at birth. He was also called Richard James. By the way, that’s not a lie. My mother really struggled to deal with it, and therefore named me after him when I was born. My brother was supposed to continue to live through me. As a result, I have felt guilty my whole life. I don’t know if you can comprehend that, but it’s like that for me. My name is Richard D. James.
Why do you feel guilty?
Because I could never get rid of the feeling that I should assume the identity of my brother. It’s as if my mother didn’t want to accept his death and therefore gave me his name. But it’s not something that really bothers me these days.
Was it your idea to assign the label “Heavy Listening Music” to your music?
Who says that?
Your record company.
That’s strange; I find my new album to be quite accessible…
And as always it is almost completely instrumental. Only on one piece can you hear a child singing.
That’s me actually. I changed my voice on the computer to make it sound like a child’s voice. I’m giving a lecture about my arms and legs.
Do you write songs or tracks? What is actually the difference?
A song is more structured than a track. A track doesn’t necessarily have a defined end and no defined beginning. It has more something to do with a texture. On the other hand, a song has refrains, verses and a beginning and an end. So I probably write tracks rather than songs.
But is there a reason why you don’t write texts?
Actually the same reason why I don’t like giving interviews: I don’t like disclosing too much. ~
This interview was originally published in German in Sonic Press in 1996.