Interpol will play at Josabi’s (Helotes) on Friday, April 22 (tickets at josabis.frontgatetickets.com). Days prior to the show, drummer Sam Fogarino spoke to Enrique Lopetegui on the phone from London. Read related story, "A 'better than ever' Interpol comes to the neighborhood" here.
What happened to `former bassist` Carlos Dengler? He left right after the recording of Interpol.
He wasn’t into the concept of a rock band anymore. His life changed and he wanted to do other things. He didn’t really appreciate touring and playing live after a while, and that’s a big, big part of what we do. He needed a change, and that was it.
In what way did his life change?
I have no idea, really. The time we spent together lately has been on the road or writing music. It’s been many years since we kind of hung out as friends. After the band started releasing records, things changed, you know? The inter-dynamics changed. I don’t know what drove him to steer away in another direction.
How hard was it for you, as a drummer, to lose your bassist of many years?
I was surprised at first, kind of didn’t know what to expect after Carlos left. I kind of felt hurt, too, because of that integral relationship between bassist and drummer. But we were fortunate to obtain the services of, first, David Pajo `Slint`, and then, again, Brad `Truax, Animal Collective` came to save the day. He’s a great person, great to be around, and a great, great bass player. And he has a big respect for what we do and that’s what counts — his heart’s in it, so it’s easy to kind of drive him along.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but except for the lyrics `written by singer-guitarist Paul Banks`, pretty much you all take part in the songwriting process, right?
Pretty much, yes.
How does that work? How are the songs assembled in Interpol?
Historically, `lead guitarist-second lead vocalist` Daniel `Kessler` brings in the main idea that gets developed, and depending on what kind of song it is it can go in many different directions. It’s not always that Daniel brings in an idea and we all jump to it as a band; sometimes it’ll subdivide a little bit. Sometimes Daniel and I get together to work on a basic rhythm, or maybe it’ll be me, Daniel, and Paul, or in the past, me, Daniel, and Carlos. And when the song reaches a certain point, then the whole band convenes together when there’s enough there for all of us to grab a hold onto and guide it in the direction it needs to go.
Despite the darkness, Interpol’s image and sound have always been very elegant, and the bass-drum interplay is a key component. Is it a drummer’s dream to play in a band like this?
It’s the right band for me. I don’t know how any other drummer would feel. I think there is a great contrast going on. Many times the melodic components of our music could be very delicate and ethereal, and to contrast that with a big drive is kind of fun. It’s very rewarding for a drummer. I like the melodic and harmonic components of our music, it really feeds what I do. And I feel lucky that `our music` got that way. You know, drums sometimes can feel ornamental, kept in the back just to keep the tempo, but everybody in the band is a big fan of drums, so it works out for me `laughs`.
I like Interpol. I think it’s your best album since the debut.
I appreciate that. We all feel the same way you do. I think it is great that when you listen to each record there are signs of true growth and forward motion. When we did the first album we were very naïve, we didn’t know how to make a record together, and we were lucky to have a good snapshot taken of who we were at the time. And we got a little more confident with every record. And I’m at the happiest with where we are now. I think it’s the way we should be; it’s very natural. We don’t idealize the future, and we don’t look back. We’re very happy in the moment.
Did it ever bother you that some critics and fans kept saying such-and-such album wasn’t “as good as the first album”?
It really didn’t. I heard it all my life about bands that I liked, so I wasn’t surprised when it happened to us. It’s part of the whole game. Perhaps I was bothered for a minute, but none of us do this for the critics. We’re regular people; we do this for ourselves first and foremost, and then for the people who support us. You just have to ignore those things. It’s just another person’s opinion, as simple as that. If you let it get beyond that, then you will suffer. But it’s kind of pointless to feed into that kind of opinion.
You used to work at a vintage store, right?
Yeah, I had a partner, many years ago.
Is it true you were about to quit the music business when you landed the Interpol gig?
Yeah … I don’t know if I was going to quit per se, but I stopped trying. I was trying too hard for a long time to find something that was for me, and I just kind of let go and relaxed a little bit and then, lo and behold, Interpol came into my lap. It was really good timing `laughs`.
Arrangements are everything with Interpol. Was it like that from the very beginning?
For the first album `2002’s Turn On The Bright Lights`, half of the songs were already written by the time I joined the band; those songs go back to the very beginning of the band. For the second record `2004’s Antics` we started working with a few of the songs right after we finished the first one, because we knew we weren’t going to have much time later. We knew after Bright Lights we were going to hit the road and be gone for a long time and wouldn’t have the opportunity to sit down and work on new music. So we got kind of a head start on Antics. With Our Love to Admire (2007) it was a different story. For the first time we felt the pressure of writing an album.
That was the Capitol album, right?
What happened? Why did you leave Matador, record Our Love with Capitol, and `go` right back to Matador for Interpol?
It started out fine. There was a great staff that signed us at Capitol, they had a lot of experience working with great bands like Radiohead, Sparklehorse … We felt good but, in typical fashion, as soon as we started rolling tape they all got fired. All the staff that signed us and had stuck with us through the Matador years, they all got fired and we had no more support. And the staff changed like, twice. It became the typical thing, “Who’s controlling this shit?” As opposed to Matador, where you always knew who was in charge.
What kind of deal did you have with Capitol? How were you able to go back to Matador so quickly?
With Capitol we had a deal for two records, but we amicably severed the deal.
You’re probably not aware of this, but having Interpol in nearby San Antonio is a big deal for us. Most great shows go to Austin and skip us. So thanks for coming!
We’ve never been `there`, and I think it’s fantastic because, for the most part, Texas has been good to us. We never expected that, being the typical Northeastern guys, we never knew what to expect from Texas. But after playing in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and even El Paso… No, we didn’t play El Paso, we had a day off there `laughs`. But we were totally embraced by Texas and you guys made us feel really good. It’s a very interesting place, very diverse, but sometimes it gets a bad rap out of the region because of … well, because of the other reasons. So for us to go there and see another city aside from Austin, Dallas, or Houston, I think it’s going to be great and we’re totally looking forward to it.
How does the band sound now with Brad `Truax`?
I think the band sounds better than ever. There’s a great sense of comfort onstage, and Brad is a great character. He’s merely himself, he’s not trying to fill Carlos’ shoes or trying to compensate for anything: What you see is what you get. It’s a great balance, it’s really nice.
Better than ever? That’s a bold statement.
It is, but I should feel that way. If I didn’t feel that way I shouldn’t be doing this. If it was less than that, there would be something wrong because we put so much of our time into it. It’s been 10 years, and if we didn’t sound like we do now we shouldn’t be doing it, it would be a waste of time. It would be pathetic to have a crowd spending money to see us if we weren’t at our best. I never felt so confident and comfortable than I do now.