Monday, January 14, 2008

Interview: Atlas Sound

January 14, 2008

Atlas Sound

As frontman for Atlanta band Deerhunter, Bradford Cox emerged as one of underground rock's most beloved-- and loathed-- performers of 2007. Such intense reactions came on the basis of Deerhunter's perversely stunning Cryptograms and Fluorescent Grey EP, some confrontational live shows, and a notorious band blog. As Cox gets set to unveil his full-length debut as Atlas Sound, Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (due February 19 on Kranky), he's deeply engaged in what he refers to as a year-long process of "demystification": decoding Cryptograms to reveal the shitting, fucking humans behind it, while also talking at length about the ideas and inspirations animating his forthcoming solo release.

When I meet the singer and multi-instrumentalist for this interview, he's sprawled in pajamas on the floor of an apartment in New York's East Village, his limbs spread in painful-looking, yogi-like poses for a magazine photo shoot. Beside him sits a small bottle of anti-anxiety pills. As our conversation begins, wreathed in cigarette smoke on an 11th Street stoop, Cox goes on to describe his friendship with Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt, call himself "stupid" and "autistic," and reject everything you've read about guitarist Colin Mee's brief split with Deerhunter last summer as "complete bullshit". Cox also hints at the future of Deerhunter, explains how meeting electronic music pioneer Pauline Oliveros influenced the Atlas Sound record, reminisces on everything from lovesickness to Loveless to sadomasochism, and shares a few reservations about the Lamborghini-driving ability of Lil Wayne.

Bradford Cox: Dig in, man.

Pitchfork: If you're ready.

Cox: Don't be afraid of, you know, it's gonna take-- I'm gonna talk a lot.

Pitchfork: Don't be afraid to. So the first Atlas Sound record I bought was your split 12" with Mexcellent, Fractal Trax, but you've been doing things under the Atlas Sound name for years.

Cox: Ever since I was a kid. My parents had a karaoke machine that they had bought our family in some sort of failed attempt at family togetherness, and of course it just sat in disuse. Eventually I discovered it in our basement. I realized, because I had read an interview with Beck, that you could take a cassette recorder and record one thing on the first tape, play it on the second tape, plug a mic in, and record along with the first tape onto a second tape, and just keep bouncing the tapes. And that's how I invented the whole Atlas Sound thing, when I discovered the capabilities of multi-tracking and the fact that I didn't need a band. 'Cause I was kind of like a lonely kid when it comes to finding people to play with who would do what I wanted. In that era, when I was like 15, 16, I was really into krautrock. I was really into Stooges. I was really into Stereolab, and Sonic Youth, and Steve Reich and stuff like that that I'd gotten into because I'd read about it in Stereolab interviews.

Pitchfork: I was just going to ask how you got into all that stuff.

Cox: My cousin turned me onto punk rock when I was like nine. And then through punk rock I somehow got from the Stooges to Sonic Youth to Stereolab. I only listen to bands that have names that begin with "S". Swans...

Pitchfork: Last time you talked to Pitchfork, you said Atlas Sound is an outlet for ideas that don't really work with a five-piece band. When you start working on a track for Atlas Sound, are there other fundamental differences from how you go about writing one of your Deerhunter songs?

Cox: I hold a lot of my creativity at bay with Deerhunter because I want it to be a collaborative effort. There's five musicians in that band that are all excellent and have excellent ideas. I've never intended to be, or wanted to be presented as, the principal songwriter in that band. So I might have an idea for a fragment of a song, but I want to leave it skeletal so the guys can fill it out. Whereas with Atlas Sound, everything is done in an hour. The process is just completely stream-of-consciousness, you know? I sort it out later. In terms of aesthetic, with Atlas Sound I choose to use instruments that are computer-based, a lot of times, that I've made in a piece of software that allows me to turn pretty much any sound into a MIDI-controllable keyboard.

Pitchfork: Is this a tracker program?

Cox: It's an Ableton mod. It's an electronic music creation program, but it can also record acoustic drums, electric bass, and guitars, and I've found that to be really cool. I probably never will be able to record a vibraphone or afford the studio time to go in and record a vibraphone, but I can definitely make a vibraphone on my computer.

Pitchfork: What's the process for recording the songs? Do you start with just kind of noodling around with a loop pedal, or...

Cox: I didn't use that many effects on this record that weren't built into the software. Like, I didn't use a lot of looping. I used some looping effects and sampling, kind of like I do in Deerhunter, but a lot of the vocals are recorded straight and without effects. I think the reason for that is I just get tired of my own tricks. The genesis is usually a beat. I'm really a drummer at heart. I can just listen to the drum tracks from one of my favorite albums and pick them apart for hours, you know? Something I've been really interested in lately is layering drum tracks, like the way that Brian Eno did it on his pop albums-- having two or three drum tracks panned in different speakers so it creates kind of a multi-rhythmic effect. Things that you can do without using effects to create the same kind of delay.

Pitchfork: Each of your albums has had a dedication. The Atlas Sound record is dedicated to your best friend, Lockett Pundt. Why did you decide that?

Cox: Oh, well, he's been the center of my life for over 10 years, and we do everything together. We're like 24-hours-a-day together. We live together, play in a band together, tour together, stay in the same hotel rooms together. Whenever we're on tour, it's always me and Lockett in one room and the rest of the guys in the other. He's like my muse-- my second half, my other half.

Pitchfork: And the cover art?

Cox: I made the cover art out of a painting I found in an old medical journal, of a doctor treating a lovesick boy while his mom looks on, concerned. It's a Norman Rockwell-looking oil painting. And it sucks because when I took the picture of it-- I didn't want to scan it, I just wanted to take a photo of it for my wall and treat it and half-tone it-- the flash of the camera whited out the boy's face. Which kind of took away from the photo, because the look on his face is the most melancholy thing. He's the saddest boy, and he's lovesick and emaciated. But somehow I found that romantic, the idea that there was so much emotion in the face that it got whited out.

I found it in a thrift store. For the longest time, when Deerhunter was first starting out, we had this place called No Town, which was like the back of my dad's mortgage office. All I'd do was work little piddly day jobs and smoke pot, and at night I'd just get off work and go rummaging through thrift stores. That was my life. Alone-- it was kind of lonely-- but I would find all these things, these books, and make collages from them and Xerox art, 'cause we had a Xerox machine there. We made a lot of the early Black Lips fliers there. When we were starting out, it was very much just kind of an art factory in a way, and I remember being in a thrift store and finding that book at like 9 on a summer night. This must've been four or five years ago. And I related to that boy so much that I literally, in the thrift store, almost started crying.

Pitchfork: What do you relate to about him so much?

Cox: The look in his eyes, that you can't see on the album cover. Just that lovesickness. It's unmistakable.

Pitchfork: You've talked before about why you didn't include the lyrics in the Cryptograms liner notes. You said that's kind of boring or might demystify it. But for this one you not only put in the lyrics, you also put in super detailed information about all the instruments that you used.

Cox: Kranky has a policy. They have a thing called the 10 Commandments of the K, of Kranky. I broke two of them on this album artwork. The first is that no lyrics will be printed, because Joel [Leoschke], the owner of Kranky, believes that it demystifies the experience of a rock record. I agree with that a lot. For instance, around this time of the year, every year, there's some seasonal albums that I listen to, and of course one of them is Loveless. In the past two days here, riding around the subway and in cabs, I must've listened to that record 20 or 30 times consecutively.

Every time I listen to Loveless I focus on a different song. [This time] I got into the song "Sometimes", which is just a gorgeous, hypnotic song. And I was just like, "What are they saying?" I went on the internet, and I went to the website they have set up, and I looked up the lyrics. The first thing you see on the lyrics page is: "As many people know, due to their unconventional songwriting process, the lyrics are not considered important." And I identify with that a thousand times. All they have up there is what people think they're saying, and it's filled with question marks and blank lines where they don't know what's being said, and I just find that real interesting.

The reason I chose to print the lyrics was I wanted to see what they looked like, because I didn't write them in advance. All the lyrics on the record are made up as they're being recorded, first take. And then I just feel like sometimes I don't enunciate. As I'm getting older, I'll be honest with you, I don't feel like putting effort toward mystifying anything. I've been in the process in the past year with this band, since we started getting attention, of demystifying the process, and us, and myself as a person. Some people respond to that terribly, with hatred and venom, because they don't like who I really am. And fuck those people. You know? They can really suck my dick two times. Those people are just hateful. A lot of them are just jealous. And they're all anonymous. People that know me know what I'm about. I have a lot of friends and that makes me feel good. The thing is, is that the expected process for musicians in the field we are in-- experimental punk music, alternative rock, or whatever you want to call it--

Pitchfork: [Laughs] Pop?

Cox: Yeah, pop music-- is that people try to build up these cryptic, self-mythologizing mysteries and create an image that's kind of hard to penetrate. And it just doesn't interest me. I'd rather expose frailty, have mistakes. I'd rather embarrass myself, get into fights with journalists, you know, get in trouble for stupid things, because you know what? I'm a stupid person. I never said I wasn't. I don't think I'm hot shit. That's the misinterpretation I think that people get, is that I want attention, I think I deserve attention, I consider myself to be this certain type of thing-- and I don't. I have no idea what I'm doing. I have no interest in being fake or shallow. I just wanna be real as much as possible.

I think that printing the lyrics is embarrassing, and it's like having a close-up of your zit on the inside of your album cover. Some of the lyrics are personal on this record. A lot of the lyrics on Cryptograms were personal, and I'm at the point where I'm also interested in lowering the vocals in the mix. That's something where I am very inspired by My Bloody Valentine. The lyrics were treated as secondary.

Pitchfork: The vocals are lower in the mix, but you have the lyrics there, which seems like kind of a contrast. I guess they're secondary, but you mentioned they're also personal, and the themes seem a little bit different this time. The existential dread maybe isn't there quite as much. It's more about that lovesickness, right?

Cox: Yeah, I mean, we can go song by song. I'd love to do that. Do you have the album here?

Pitchfork: I have my iPod with me, which has the album on it.

Cox: Oh, it's right here. "A Ghost Story" is an incidental piece. I built that out of a sample that I found on this free audio archive that just contains tons of just free music sampling stuff. A cassette of a little boy telling a ghost story. I just thought it was moving, and I wanted to create a haunted record, you know? Kind of filled with ghosts. I thought it just set up the album nicely. And I've always been into intros. It's basically just a cassette and effected hammer dulcimers.

On "Recent Bedroom", the lyrics deal directly, really minimally, with a specific experience I had when my aunt died a few years ago. I was with my family, and we were in her bedroom, and it was evening-- dusk. She was in her bedroom, and everybody knew she was about to pass away, and she went out, she faded out, and everybody just started crying. It's one of the few times in my life I've seen my dad actually break down into tears. I walked outside, because I was a little overwhelmed, and I tried to cry to myself. But I couldn't. I could not cry. And-- I'm not trying to present the lyrics, but it's like-- I didn't know why. I didn't know why I couldn't cry. I didn't know why I was lacking the emotion. This is a period when I was very involved in drugs; I felt like I'd killed off my childhood instinct, which would've been to cry. I felt like I'd hollowed myself out, and I felt empty. It's a song about emptiness, and moving from childhood to adolescence, and just that first transition where you start to feel a little bit emotionally vacant and detached.

And "River Card", that was simply based on-- I don't do this that often, but I had read this collection of kind of modernist Puerto Rican short stories, and there was this story called "There's a Little Colored Boy at the Bottom of the River". It was about this boy whose parents lived on some kind of boat, like a sharecropping farm that was on the edge of the water. The mother, I believe she goes off and runs away, leaving the father alone, who I believe kills himself, leaving the boy just living alone in his house. He keeps looking out into the river and he sees a boy at the bottom of the river, which is obviously his reflection. It's, you know, the age-old tale of Narcissus. And he falls in love with this other boy. I liked the way that it was dealt with in the story-- it just said he fell in love with the other boy. It didn't say he wanted to be friends with the other boy or he was lonely and wanted a buddy. It's like, he fell in love with the other boy, you know? It's almost like this childhood homoerotic energy, which I remember experiencing and relating to. Eventually, of course, the boy jumps in to join his reflection and drowns. And so it's a song about a dead child.

"Quarantined" is a song about children living with AIDS. A lot of children with AIDS live with this idea that there's a chance that the virus could change and go dormant. I read this article about Russian children who are born with AIDS because of their parents' various lifestyles and mistakes and they're in a hospital, quarantined and waiting to be changed. To me, it represents-- I was a very sickly child. You know that. I still am a sickly person, and the reason I'm so emaciated and everything is cause I have a genetic condition. I had to have a lot of surgeries when I was 16 and I spent months and months in the hospital, and so I got real used to children's hospitals. They're kind of haunted, weird places. That's what I wanted that song to encompass. The big explosion at the end? I wanted that, if there's a video for that song, I want to have like this dance sequence with sick children. Like a Charlie Brown Christmas special when they're all dancing, but I want to have it be like they're ghost children, kind of transparent.

Pitchfork: Yeah, I just watched that, "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

Cox: "On Guard" is a simple song. It's kind of a lullaby. And it's about getting to the age where you used to be a social person. I did. I used to feel really at home with people, feel comfortable with people. I still do, and it's like, I'm talking to people like you, that-- like, we might barely know each other, but you know more about me than-- I mean, we have a relationship here.

Pitchfork: That's always weird, for sure.

Cox: And you've also influenced the changes in my life, too, and you probably don't even realize it. But "On Guard" is specifically about the part in your life where you just let go of that and you start, you have this newfound anxiety where it's like, you want to make friends, but there's something missing, you know? Whether it's because you're trying to recover from an unrequited love situation or you're just going through the type of things that people our age go through. As much as you wanna go out and meet somebody new-- you think that that would be the answer that would distract enough, you're searching for distraction-- but the distraction can't come, because you don't have the energy to represent yourself to people. You're always on guard. It's kind of a sad song.

"Winter Vacation" is a song about a trip that my family took to Savannah [Geo.] the week I met Lockett. The day I met Lockett I saw him in a busport, and he looked so lonely. I was like, who is this lonely boy? I was attracted to him, but not in some kind of like, just physical way. I was attracted to his melancholy, his sitting alone, staring at the ground. Like: What was the kid thinking? I immediately fell in love right then at first sight. I remember driving to Savannah with my family, my parents arguing the entire way, because my parents fought all the time before they divorced. I had a real kind of intense upbringing with my family. And we didn't have any money, we were very like lower-class, and there was just a lot of tension. There was alcoholism and stuff. It was a time in my life where there was a lot of pain and suffering that a lot of people go through-- I don't feel alone or pity myself.

But I just remember sitting in the backseat in heaven, feeling like I was on ecstasy, listening to headphones. I believe I was listening to The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, "Back Side of the Moon". My parents are fighting in the front seat and we arrive at the beach, in Savannah, and it's the dead of winter. And just, the beach is just the most desolate place, and I remember it was raining. A lot of the lyrics are like, "I saw the rain crash into the windshield." It's just the details. And the details somehow were infected with that new love I had and seemed blown out of their normal kind of tame or subtle context. Everything seemed like an explosion. It all seemed new, it all seemed real bright, and I was so excited. I was so excited. Lockett had just given me his phone number for the very first time. And I was driving with all these expectations of, like, "I want to make this boy my friend. I want to possibly make this boy my boyfriend." I was in love for the first time in my life, ever, and it made this desolate beach scene seem so... cozy, you know? It was just a warmth coming from within for me.

"Cold as Ice" is a very simple song based on a guitar loop Lockett made.

Pitchfork: Right.

Cox: It's just a snapshot. The meaning is not really significant. I had really been in love with this girl in fifth grade, and I proposed marriage to her on the school playground. She was the sweetest girl, she was kind of homely. Her name was Alice. And I gave her this ring, and she laughed at me in front of everybody. Everybody gathered around and she said, "This ring is a cheap piece of crap." She threw the ring down in the sand and just walked away, and, years later, I worked with her at Subway. She would walk in and walk right past me, go back into the back room, which is like the refrigerator, and she'd change into her outfit. Sometimes, for no reason-- she was really involved with drugs later on when we grew up-- she would invite me back there to watch her change in this room, and it was cold as ice. She'd be like, "Go back there and wait for me." It's like this weird mental game she played with me. I don't know. She was trying to torture me or something. She ended up marrying a cop.

"Scraping Past" simply created itself and I don't even know what I would say about the words. It's about moving on, you know? And wondering if somebody is going to come with you or if they're going to stay behind. It's just a consideration of, what are you leaving behind? And it also does the typical pop song cliché thing of making a reference to, like, rain that comes and goes, sunshine comes and goes, cycles, friendships come and go. The end of it is me saying, basically to Lockett, I guess: "Are you going to come with me, or are you staying here?"

And "Small Horror" is the most depressing song on the album to me. I mean, it's just the sound of like banging depression, you know, it's just concrete. And it basically was like a plea for like, hey, it's like, I understand you can't return my love exactly how I extend it, but hey, you know, just pretend. Because I'd rather you pretend, you know? Hold me even if you don't care. Even if it doesn't mean shit to you. Just do it, and pretend.

"Ready Set Glow" is just an ambient piece that I really wanted to create the impression of passing out and falling back into a bed of strobe lights.

"Bite Marks" is a pop song about sadomasochism and boy prostitution. I kind of just took an experience I had, which was I was making out with this guy and he bit me really, really hard on my shoulder, and I had bite marks that were there for like two weeks. Every time I got out of the shower, I saw them. I wrote it from the perspective of somebody who-- I also remember when I was abused as a child, kids would put cigarettes out on me. This happened once on Christmas morning, and those kind of things kinda got put in there.

"After Class" was just a sonic experiment, a rearrangement of a previously existing song. I was just experimenting with the computer. I don't feel bad including it, because I don't think it's a waste of time. Critics are going to say it drags, and wastes time, and slows down the album, but I wanted it there.

Pitchfork: You've kind of said you like having everything you want on an album even if...

Cox: Yeah, I don't care what bores people, you know? "Ativan", the 13th song, is really about the most straightforward song on the album. It's just a garage-rock pop song about being addicted to Ativan, which is something I deal with. It's kind of cliché probably, but I don't care. It's an honest song, and it talks a lot about how things have changed between me and Lockett's relationship and how he's met a girl and, I mean, our friendship is never gonna change, but it's difficult sometimes. It's written from the perspective of somebody that just wants to not deal with the reality that's going on. I know that things aren't going to be the same, and so I'd rather just take whatever drugs it takes to go to sleep and sleep through it, you know? I'm not prepared to face it yet.

And the last song is just an instrumental title track. What I wanted to accomplish with that was I just wanted to create a little bit of a circle because the album begins on an ambient note, and I wanted the album to end on an ambient note, and in that way, the entire album was a dream. And it kind of was. The entire album is the dream of one summer, this last summer I had. It's almost as if I had one continuous dream and the product of archiving it is the album you have here.

Pitchfork: You talked in the press release about how you wanted this to be kind of therapeutic. Did you get that from Brian Eno?

Cox: I had a conversation with Pauline Oliveros. I was driving around with a friend who was stoned off his gourd and just mentioned to me that Pauline Oliveros was playing at a house show in Decatur, which is a suburb of Atlanta. I said, "Holy living fuck, you have got to be kidding." And he said, "No, it's going on," and so I said, "Get me there now, goddammit," you know? We showed up and she had just finished playing, but she was sitting alone, in front of a bonfire, and there was an empty chair next to her. I sat down with her, and we talked for about two and a half hours about how music can help people mourn. Music can help people make changes in their lives. Music can give people strength. Music is the only art form I know of that has such an immediate effect on the human psyche. She talked to me a lot about some academic stuff about brainwaves and how they respond to certain types of music: drone music, microtonal music. She was a big influence on me. It was like meeting a hero of mine. She runs an organization that studies music as therapy.

Pitchfork: What was the role that Nudge's Brian Foote played on this album? You mentioned him on your blog.

Cox: He picked out the equipment that I used. I would have had no idea what to choose. He showed me the basics of the software, which I would have been hopeless without.

Pitchfork: 'Cause you were like four-track for your previous Atlas Sound stuff, right?

Cox: Total lo-fi, yeah. And he really helped me sort stuff out so that I could have ideas that I didn't even know I could have, just exploding everywhere out of me. Just a real immediate, fast process. I treat it almost like a graphic design situation.

Pitchfork: I haven't seen you do the Atlas Sound thing live. Well, I've seen a little bit on YouTube...

Cox: Did you see the Fader thing? That was a joke. That was a very dark joke.

Pitchfork: So what are you going to be doing for this, live?

Cox: I'm doing a tour with White Rainbow-- Adam Forkner. [And] Valet-- Honey Owens. Brian Foote is going to be playing with us, and Stephanie Macksey. It's going to be a full band. It's gonna be fun, a very psychedelic experience, I think.

Pitchfork: So Atlas Sound, with the backing band?

Cox: I'm not Atlas Sound. Atlas Sound is just the name of the project. Atlas Sound is going to be this band for this time. Next time I want to have three drummers.

Pitchfork: That kind of brings me back to all this Deerhunter stuff. You just got back from Europe-- you've toured there before. How was it this time?

Cox: The European experience? It had its ups and downs. It was good. It was successful. We were treated very, very well, very respectfully. The problem is we've been playing Cryptograms for two years now. I never commented to you guys, or to any other media place at all during the whole Colin [Mee] situation. Although, the way that was represented was complete bullshit. Everything about that was complete bullshit. He knows it, I know it, we all know it. Basically, he left the band for his own reasons, which had nothing to do with us, had nothing to do with our blog, had nothing to do with anything. We have all been trying to write songs. He was not trying to write songs. That was the issue.

That's been misrepresented because a lot of people think that he has somehow changed my performance style, because I have stopped wearing dresses. I have kind of tamed down my performance. But that has nothing do with-- I don't answer to anybody. I do not answer to anybody except myself, my conscience, and my instincts, and I didn't feel like wearing dresses anymore. I thought it was boring. I thought the point was made, and I just wanted to work on a huge sound. And Colin-- I mean, the band. I don't know, man. That's why we're taking a hiatus, because I don't know. It's all up in the air. I'm not saying the band's breaking up, I'm not saying the band's not breaking up. I'm not saying that the hiatus will be more than six months, I'm not saying the hiatus could be over in two weeks. I'm saying, whatever happens, happens. It's not that I'm focusing on Atlas Sound now and that's taking over Deerhunter. It's just that I'm doing whatever. I'm playing music every day, and whoever wants to play music with me, let's play music, you know? A lot of times, being kind of a loner, I play music by myself.

Pitchfork: You were mentioning earlier the responses people have to you, and I think that ties into the way people may have misinterpreted the Colin situation and all that. Why do you think you get such extreme reactions?

Cox: Because I'm an odd-looking guy who is not afraid to bend the rules of what is acceptable for someone of my stature. People expect me-- I don't want anybody's pity, because it's worthless. Worthless, worthless, worthless. It's never helped me before. I just do my shit: I don't give a fuck if people like it, I don't give a fuck if they don't. We're not going to be rockstars. I don't give a shit whose top 10 lists we aren't on. It feels good to have some nice people, because you meet cool friends. That's what I'm interested in. I'm interested in connecting with people, one to one. Like, you wanna talk, talk. Don't fucking anonymously bait me. Don't fucking threaten me, because I'll take on anybody's fucking threats. Because I believe in this shit more than I believe in anything else. To me-- I mean, I'm retarded. I'm, like, autistic. I'm totally an autistic person. Punk rock, my image of it, is what drives my instincts and what makes me create stuff. I don't understand half the stuff I create. I don't have to explain it. I don't have to explain myself or my motivations.

I'll tell you one thing. Here's what my motivations aren't. My motivations are not to be some successful indie rock band. My motivations are not to be a flash-in-the-pan, fucking mediocre-- I'm not gonna name names, but there's so much mediocre garbage being produced by fucking attractive, educated people, and it's like, what the world needs now is noise. And I don't mean... What the world needs now is noise in a pop song. The world needs to give in a bit to psychosis, to the mentally ill. I think that music is really safe right now, and I think it's really tedious.

I don't think I'm doing something grandiose. I'm not the answer. I'm just this frail kid trying to do his own thing, you know what I'm saying? I'm not gonna be the-- I'm just wishing for somebody else, maybe, that would. I would love to be that person, but I'm weak. I'm weak as fuck. The transgressions I get myself into oftentimes just embarrass me. I don't make real smart decisions because I don't think about stuff a lot. I just do, I just act. It just seems like, you know, eventually people are gonna realize that the world's not as safe as you wanna make it-- with your music, with your Ikea furniture, and your (clears throat) iPods. I have all these things. I'm not being elitist here. I'm just saying, I'm guilty of the same thing. I want to distract myself as much as possible from reality, from my anxieties.

Pitchfork: One thing that I think is really interesting is how you're one of the few notable musicians who keeps such a thorough mp3 blog. You post mixes, you post covers, you post other people's songs, and you write about them. But you're also part of a band in this mp3 blog era. How do you see your role as an mp3 blogger and how do you see all that affecting your music?

Cox: I just want to DJ with invisible songs. I want to DJ with a guitar, a bass, a drum kit, and some simple effects. I want to DJ songs that haven't been written yet. I want to make mixtapes that are instantaneously produced. That's the way I've approached the Atlas Sound material, and that's the way Lockett I think approaches the Lotus Plaza material. We don't expect an audience reaction. We don't expect anything. We're just doing it to do it. We have computers. We have the means to produce something. Why waste our time? And why keep it from the audience, hold it over their heads until it gets to the release date, and have to have them wait until it leaks onto a blog and download a shitty encoded mp3 of it? It's like, "Hey, I'll save you the time-- here's three songs I wrote today." It just made sense to me. Really what I'd love is if we could anonymously post stuff, and I'm trying to figure out a way to do that. I want to remove ego from things, I want to remove possession. I'm already removing possession by saying, "Hey kids, these songs are yours." There's no buying. I'm making songs for the kids who want to hear them, if they do.

It's also real educational for me because I'm constantly wanting to learn about new things I can do with my equipment. I know that sounds a little bit sterile, boring, or methodical, but if somebody writes me and says, "Man, I really want you to cover the Velvet Underground's 'I'm Beginning to See the Light,'" I can do it in the same day, and it's like a game to me. It's just like somebody who plays Scrabble or goes bowling. It's like, all right, here's the match. This guy is serving me a ball, Velvet Underground, and I'm gonna return that ball in eight hours to him in a perfect stroke. That song is for him.

And I'd do that for anybody when I have the time. [When I'm not on tour] I hope to God people want to send in some requests, because I want something to take up my time. I don't want to think about how depressed I am, how tired I am, how I want to change things, and how I wanna quit my band sometimes. Which I'm not going to, necessarily. These are just natural human feelings: self-doubt, insecurity. I just want to be distracted from all that. It really makes people happy when you record a song for them. I'd rather just really make people happy. If I could bake them cookies, I'd do that, too. And it's not like I'm trying to suck up to my fanbase or something like that, it's just mutual respect.

Pitchfork: Do you have any other songs for the next Deerhunter album, Microcastle, besides the ones you've posted?

Cox: They're coming slowly. I think what we're going to do is not be so quick to debut them, though. Because I don't want to make more demos and then find out that we go into a fucking studio and pay a shit ton of money to record them and feel like the demo's better and know we have to release the studio version. The more demos you make, the more disappointed you get when the final version doesn't quite have the intensity, or the noise, or the low fidelity. I've always been a fan of demos.

Aw, man, I wish I could tell you more about the next Atlas Sound album. It's not coming out until 2009 or something. All I can say is it's very drum-heavy.

Pitchfork: You mentioned Lil Wayne at one point on your blog. What's your take on what he does?

Cox: Lil Wayne? I think he's a genius. I think he's quick. I think he's got a good head on his shoulders-- maybe not the best judgment, though. I was driving down the boulevard and he almost hit me in a green Lamborghini. They were shooting a video without a permit or something, and I don't even know what happened, but all I know is this car cuts out in front of me, I have to go up on the sidewalk and...

[Cox's publicist announces it's time for the next interview.]

Son of a bitch! OK, well, I'm going to treat this guy like shit.

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Press Mentions

"Goes over the top and stays there to very nice effect."
-- David Carr, The New York Times

"I wasn't fully convinced. But I was interested."
-- Rob Walker, The New York Times

" Marc Hogan wrote in Spin..."
-- Maureen Dowd, The New York Times