Disco Balladeer (For Now): An Interview with Destroyer’s Dan Bejar

06/20/2012 4:00 AM |

I think it’s totally different. How I sang that record is essentially how I uttered it into my fucking recorder to myself. It’s a voice memo record. That was pretty much the whole idea. I write things in my mind as if I were a writer. I like the lyrics on Trouble in Dreams. It’s maybe my high-water mark. It’s not going to get better than that as far as poetic content and value. Which is interesting, because that’s a really flawed record. But I’m not sure Kaputt has any literary value, whatsoever, aside from maybe the song where half the lyrics were co-written by Kara Walker.

Did you ever use to find yourself with an idea and no notepad? Did you ever lose ideas you couldn’t get back?

I think I just had more ideas. There are lots and lots of words, a tumble of images, constantly. I was trying to get it all in there, because I thought that was kind of cool sounding—me, frothing at the mouth.
At some point, I just stopped wanting to do that. I started listening to ambient music, and I wanted Destroyer to sound like music you could hear in a public space, in a waiting room. I know that sounds bad. My voice kind of punctures that façade a bit. I wanted it to puncture it as little as possible.

I wanted to talk to you about Roxy Music, not specifically in regard to Kaputt, though I know that they came up a lot as a comparison. But I’m a big fan also, and I wanted to know which era of that band meant more to you: the Avalon stuff, or the early, Eno-era glam stuff.

Hard to say. That era of the early-70s English scene was my introduction into classic rock. It was the first idea I had for what Destroyer could do. So, I was really, really into those records. The early Eno records, the Roxy records, the T-Rex stuff from that era, Bowie, Mott the Hoople. Even just John Cale, Lou Reed. That was just my thing. All the people I played music with were all really into that shit in the mid-to-late 90s. To be honest I don’t listen to it that much these days.

Maybe Kaputt was me just starting to think about those guys again, but more what they were doing when they were my age. I never really followed them past the disco era. I knew the songs on Avalon a little bit. I knew a little bit of their late-70s stuff. I still really like that.

Aside from the songs and the singing, which are kind of a big deal because Bryan Ferry is a big deal in that band, there’s just something about Avalon. There’s like a lacework to the rhythm section that I found really compelling, and softness to the production that I found dreamlike, and not soft-rock, you know? It’s kind of a classic adult contemporary record, but it’s not really. There’s a level of detail to it, and a level of abstraction. I don’t know how the sounds move. I got kind of lost in it. At the early stages of Kaputt I was a little bit obsessed.

As intricate and alert in the second as it sounds, there’s still a weird distance to it.

Yeah, there really is, it’s hard to figure out what haze that record exists in. I kind of have a couple different theories about what the motivation was. You know like when you are a director, you give an actor’s motivation? I was like, “what is going on with this album?” Thinking it had a kind of post-colonial feeling to it. There is a certain kind of exotic vibe to it. It feels like Bryan Ferry is like a British officer who’s just like, gone dark. (Laughs) He stepped into an opium den and never walked out.