index magazine
grayindexed gray

Read Bjork's2001 interview with Juergen Teller from the index archives.

Kathleen Hanna discusses writing and making music in this interview from 2000 with Laurie Weeks.

Isabella Rossellini spoke with Peter Halley in this 1999 interview.

Check out our interview with Crispin Glover by Richard Kern from 2000.
Alexander McQueen's 2003 interview with Bjork.

Phoenix, 2004


Music video and film director Roman Coppola talked to Phoenix at their Paris home base. Coppola might be Phoenix's number one fan, having directed their videos for "Funky Squaredance" and "Everything is Everything.

BRANCO: I'd like to know how you would describe our music, Roman.

ROMAN: It's really hard to categorize. I hear the influences — the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan — but your sound is very distinctive. To me, it's very soulful. It has a lot of heart. And it's very easy to listen to. I don't want to sound like I'm fluffing you up, but I play your first album constantly. It suits many moods. It's beautiful and fun, too.
BRANCO: It's music that gets your booty shakin'. Not your real booty, but the booty in your soul. It's soul booty-shaking music.

ROMAN: I like that.
CHRIS: It's hard for us to describe our music because we're so close to it. We aim to write great melodies and disrupt them with strange elements from different styles. We meld together sounds from hip-hop, country, rock, you name it.

ROMAN: Your ten-minute-long "Funky Squaredance" is probably the perfect example of that. It segues from vocoder-country-vocal to metal-anthem-guitar- riff to '80s-saxophone-solo. Do you work collectively on everything?
THOMAS: When any one of us learns a new instrument, he teaches the rest of us how to play it. This way, we're not stuck doing the same thing all the time.
CHRIS: When we write a song, we'll try to make sure it has four keyboard parts so we can each play one.

ROMAN: If you share all of the instruments, how do you decide who is going to play what live?
THOMAS: Everyone still has something they do best. I sing lead vocals, Chris and
BRANCO: play guitar, and Deck plays bass. When we tour, we bring along two additional musicians — a drummer and a keyboardist. We don't swap instruments onstage because we think it's a bit cheesy. I've been to gigs where musicians move from the bass to the keyboard to the drums. I always thought it was distracting. We'd rather focus our energy on the songs.

ROMAN: You just got back from your European tour to the U.K., Germany, Scandinavia — all over the place. You must be exhausted.
DECK: Being on tour is like going on vacation. Since we're all friends, it's fun to travel together from city to city. We play for an hour-and-a-half a day, and maybe do some press, but most of the time we just hang out. It's a chance for us to relax.

ROMAN: I heard you played at Trash in London.
DECK: That gig was wild. Trash is a club rather than a live-music venue, so it's not really designed for bands. The stage wasn't raised, so we were standing at the same level as the audience. There was so much energy in the room — people were packed in really close to us. I love playing small clubs. All the best shows I've seen were at cramped, sweaty venues.

ROMAN: The music on your albums is so well produced. I still haven't seen you play live, but I imagine it is very different than listening to your records.
THOMAS: When we play live, we try to capture the essence of each song. It's not a big spectacle, but we want the music to hit the audience physically.

ROMAN: The four of you have been friends for many years. How did the band come together?
CHRIS: We've been together more than ten years. Even though
BRANCO: and I are brothers, he actually joined last, in '94.
THOMAS: Deck and I started making music together when we were eleven. We even recorded our own songs, but they were really bad.

ROMAN: Chris, how did you hook up with Deck and Thomas?
CHRIS: I met them when I was sixteen. We went to the same school in Versailles. We were the only people at school who'd heard of My Bloody Valentine, so we became friends immediately.
DECK: But we weren't only into British indie rock. We were really into De La Soul, the Beatles, Marvin Gaye, AC/DC...
CHRIS: I showed Thomas and Deck that I could play the Pixies' song "Where Is My Mind?" on guitar. But when I was sixteen, the chord sequence was too hard for me to play standing up, so I had to do it sitting down. Honestly, I think I joined the band just to hang out with them.

ROMAN: How would you describe the music you were making then?
THOMAS: I guess you could call it noisy electronic. On our very first track, we played power chords on a keyboard. We thought it would sound really cool, but it didn't. We sounded like shit in the beginning. [laughs]

ROMAN: We all have to start somewhere. What was it like growing up in Versailles?
DECK: Boring. At least we had lots of time to work on the band because there was nothing else for us to do.

ROMAN: Do you still record in Versailles?
DECK: Yeah, we built a custom studio there. I really enjoy working in the studio, but often it's more stressful than playing live.

ROMAN: Really? I would have thought the opposite would be true.
DECK: Onstage, you're in front of an audience that is, in theory, dedicated to you. But when you're recording, you only have yourself. Sometimes that's much more frightening, you know?
CHRIS: We try to avoid working with producers as much as possible. We do almost everything ourselves, using a professional studio only for the final touches on a song.
THOMAS: We're personally invested in every step of the recording process, from the initial melodies to the final production details, so the finished songs really represent our personalities.
DECK: When we started working on this new album, we would meet every day, but the ideas wouldn't always come. We wanted to lay down good tracks, so much so that it almost paralyzed us. The harder we tried, the more paralyzed we became. We never took a vacation, but it took us over a year to finish the record.

ROMAN: Had you always seen yourselves as producers?
THOMAS: The four of us really identify with the Beatles and their producer George Martin. We're looking for that same symbiotic relationship they shared. And like the Beatles, we really thrive in the studio. We produce everything ourselves because we never want to lose control of what we've created. We want to be more of a studio band than a live band.
DECK: We like discovering new effects and tricks when we're working on a track. At the same time, we'll waste hours just trying to find the sound we want.

ROMAN: Have you fallen in love with any new equipment recently?
DECK: Yeah, the Yamaha CS80 keyboard. It's the best for playing fat bass lines. We used it to record the bass line for "Run Run Run" on the new album. It's such fun to play.

ROMAN: Is there an instrument any of you wish you could play?
DECK: The saxophone, but I'm no good at it. Nowadays, the saxophone is so unfashionable. I want to make it cool again. [laughs] And I can't sing lead vocals, because my French accent is too strong.

ROMAN: I've always wondered why you guys sing in English.
DECK: Honestly, we're lazy. It's very hard to make our music sound good in French. Every language has its own rhythm, its own sound chemistry. And French just doesn't work for our songs.

ROMAN: Would you consider moving to the U.S.?
DECK: We're happy living in Paris, being in a bubble, slightly removed from the international music scene. It's not that people here don't care about music. It's just that France is not really famous for its music. It's not a huge business here. But that can work to our advantage, because it gives us freshness, freedom.

© index magazinegelatin1
Branco by Valérie Belin, 2004
© index magazinegelatin1
Thomas by Valérie Belin, 2004
© index magazinegelatin1
Chris by Valérie Belin, 2004
© index magazinegelatin1
Deck by Valérie Belin, 2004
Copyright © 2008 index Magazine and index Worldwide. All rights reserved.
Site Design: Teddy Blanks. All photos by index photographers: Leeta Harding, Richard Kern, David Ortega, Ryan McGinley, Terry Richardson, and Juergen Teller