Deerhunter's Bradford Cox: "If You're Not Afraid of Failure ... You'll Never Die"
"This isn't our usual room," says Bradford Cox as I plop down on the couch in the penthouse of the Ace Hotel for the band's day-long press junket. He's wearing a worn t-shirt, the eyeliner from the previous night's performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon still on his face. He knowingly smiles, and explains how they always stay next door, and that they often hear questionable noises from beyond the walls. Then he just comes out with it.
"This is the sex room," he laughs. "There's probably semen everywhere in here."
But is he telling the truth? Do they really hear sex noises all-the-time? Or is he just feeding another interviewer another line of bullshit because he's entertaining himself? Well, who knows, really. And such is the main question that surrounds Cox.
Since his band Deerhunter's inception, Cox's popularity as an eccentric oddball has become known and well-documented. A recent Pitchfork feature examines how he "never stops performing." He publicly hates on Morrissey. In early 2012, he responded to a heckler's request at a show to play "My Sharona" by playing it for an hour (and then he called Pitchfork and ranted for 27 minutes about what happened). Hell, just look to the Fallon performance for another example: Wearing a wig with blood smeared across his body, his hand wrapped in a bandage made to look like he'd lost his finger, the lanky musician pounded his guitar for about half the song, and then walked off stage as his band finished.
Sitting in this hotel room, Cox's demeanor is friendly, but uneasy. Joined by other members of the band ("If I have to work, they have to work"), he talks about his frustrations with the economy and culture at-large. Everyone in the room seems to walk on eggshells around him, carefully trying to not set him off. At one moment, a band member adjusts my recorder so it can pick up sound better, and Cox snaps, before flipping it into a sarcastic joke about his helpfulness. Later, he'll shout at others in the room for typing on their computer.
But this all must be working, at least creatively. Next week, Deerhunter release their sixth LP Monomania. It's a swirling, fuzzed out rock album, and in earnest, one that might be the band's finest. Cox chatted with us about the development of the record, the politics of the band, and how the word "punk" has been hijacked.
What questions have you been asked today?
Bradford Cox: Oh, I don't answer that question. This is the first interview I've ever done.
Ha, fair enough. Have you seen the Tilda Swinton exhibit at MOMA?
BC: Tilda Swinton?
Yeah. Tilda Swinton, sleeping in a glass box.
BC:It's an actual, her actual real person?
Moses Archuleta: Yeah, but there's no schedule. And there's no artist's statement about it or anything. There's just a glass box and occasionally she shows up and takes a nap. And then when she wakes up she just leaves.
What do you think about that?
BC: See, that's the kind of thing I think is just... I love it, it's great, it's just, amazing.
Why do you think you're so attracted to in that idea?
BC: Well, describing that is very... you know, it's really, really cool.
M: It's nice that there's no artist's statement.
BC: When you can do something that excites the mind, and exhilarates the senses...
M: Especially something that simple.
BC: Moses is correct, one hundred percent. The simplicity is key there. It's reminds me of old school. The old guard of surrealism.
Just sleeping in a glass box.
BC: I mean it's almost saying that her presence has enough weight, that to just put herself on display, sleeping, you know, it's well maybe she just--I like Tilda Swinton in general, who doesn't?
How do you feel about Monomania?
BC: The thing that I'm most proud of is the relationship with the band and how it's improved. It's almost like a family. It's the band I've always wanted to be in, which it wasn't for along time.
When did it become the band you wanted to be in?
BC: Well, that's an expected question, and I can answer it, but it's going to be misinterpreted. I would say with the joining of Josh and Frankie, and maybe even before with... Moses can answer this question.
M: We figured some things out, and it personally helped all of our relationships get better. You see guys, and they're great to have around. The band's morale: It's the highest its ever been.
How do you feel like that's played into the music?
BC: Well, on this album I'm more like a director than anything else. I dabble in the graphic arts end of this album, of the packaging. I dabble in the mic-ing of the drums. It's less of me being a counter guitarist to Lockett [Pundt]'s guitar, and it's more a director's perspective. One thing you need for a film or record or whatever to work is for everybody to have a shared vision. Everybody has to be able to make sacrifices--especially sacrifices of ego. I make them all the time too. You just have to say, "What's best for the project?" There's just no ego in this group. It's something that a lot of people probably, just, can't fathom. There's no drug problem in this group. There's no alcohol problem in this group. There's no sex problem in this group. There's no jealousy or rage. These are hidden pathologies. I mean, I can't speak for everyone, but I love what I'm doing. I love being up there. I love sharing the stage. It's an equal manner with these guys, and everybody on stage feels equal.
M: It's been about working on the music as much as possible. Making the record and the whole process around it. Rehearsing and everything, it's just like Bradford--
BC: Their support of my ideas gives me an infinite license. If I'm fighting for a vision that not everybody loves--I just want everyone to really love what we're making. I'm not saying that wasn't the case in the past. But, frankly speaking, there was negative energy constantly haunting the group. It was cynicism, it was forced nonchalance. And it's gone. The season changed, and it was a long winter. Deerhunter had a very long winter. And now we are lucky enough to have a new spring. Honestly, it's like being young again. Last night on [Jimmy Fallon] felt like back when we first started. It was really interesting and fun, and there was a lot of humor. I loved watching the playback because I felt like everybody did seriously receive equal attention. Obviously the singer's going to receive a little more camera time, I mean that's just, everyone on that stage made that performance amazing.