Prime Time | Paul Banks
And you find yourself wandering a dusty field, dutifully aiming a Dictaphone at a man on a mission to find an iced coffee. Said trekker is called Paul, and he’s bucking popular trend by releasing an album named after that dirtiest of plurals – ‘Banks’ – later this month. He also moonlights as the vocalist in a band called Interpol. Here’s what was said.
So, how do you prepare yourself to follow a set by Lightning Bolt?
Ha… Well, it’s just festival line-ups… you don’t really have much say… but I’m used to it; there have been a few times in my career when we’ve been totally smoked by support bands, you just watch them from the side and you’re like ‘fuck’. Today I just had to get on with it, and I don’t think much of their crowd stuck around for me, as much as those who came to see me weren’t there for them.
Well, I was lucky enough to catch both sets, so I guess I occupy that space in the Venn diagram… But before today, when I first heard the news, it was genuinely exciting to hear you’re back out doing this again…
Ah, well thanks. It’s actually really exciting to be doing it…
…but not as Julian Plenti… Should I call you Paul, or Julian?
Ha… well, I’m sticking with Paul for now…
Was that a conscious decision to change? Were there marketing aspects involved?
Well, obviously when you put time into an album under one title, and you do the press work behind that, that foundation then counts for a lot. But honestly, the decision to change the name was more a reflection of the time… Julian Plenti serves a purpose for me, but with this album, the songs that were written and that period of time didn’t associate with the whole Plenti thing, so it made sense to revert to a different name.
But I like that change; I remember when Daniel Dumile changed his name to MF Doom, but then you’d get circumstances when he was interview as himself, but talking in the third person as MF Doom… taking on that different persona, that can really realign horizons as an artist I think.
It must work both ways; apart from attracting a ‘new’ crowd who may not be familiar with your previous work, there will still be people who follow you no matter what you’re calling yourself?
Yeah, absolutely, and I’m eternally grateful for that. Having that support as an artist really validates everything, and I’m not doing this to throw people off the scent or to be illusive, but if people read up and follow it still, that’s amazing.
So what kind of solace do you find in your solo projects, something that perhaps you don’t get out of being in a band?
Well, for me it’s a great release, a new journey. With Interpol, Daniel writes a lot of the music and I relish that, but it’s a whole different world exploring music on your own. Of course, it’s not entirely on my own, as I have other musicians to work with now, and we are a solid unit; we understand each other very well and I feel – hope – that comes across in the music. But that’s not to discredit anything that’s gone before, or will come about in the future… for the time being, things fit.
At this point we pause on our whistle-stop tour of the festival site, as Paul’s PR points out his new t-shirts at the merch stand. This is a humbling moment, which brings me to ask; do t-shirt/CD sales still have a marked impact on you as an established artist?
Well, I’d contest the term ‘established’! But yeah, every sale goes back into funding my course. I’m not in a position where I can sit back and live off the fat of that land. There’s very much a sense of a new venture; starting afresh and playing those small venues while making an existence from what you sell, and that’s exciting, but also scary in many ways, because you have to have every faith in what you produce. Even though I do, and I’m proud of the album, it remains to be seen what will be made of it.
Tell me more about the LP then – I’m interested to learn about your writing and recording processes this time around.
Well, it was recorded with Peter Katis, who worked on the first Interpol album (also ‘Antics’), so we knew each other well. He has such an amazing innate talent for synergy; getting the levels right and making the most of the record. I recorded the demos alone, and then mixed it how I thought I wanted it to sound, and even though we know each other so well, I was weary at first of the changes he made.
It was like being a new band again, recording for the first time, and you think ‘why can’t you just push the level of that guitar up, make it stand out, as I always thought it would be when I recorded it?’ But because he has such a perfect balance throughout the sound, making such a stark change would throw everything out of wack.
I’ve been toying with the idea of releasing the original demos I recorded, just so people could get an idea of the progression in sound… there’s one track one the album which has my favourite guitar part, and in my original recording, that guitar is much louder than anything else because I wanted it to shine through. On the final record, it’s been pushed back into the mix, but has lost nothing for it. I found that interesting. I now realise I probably should have never doubted him!
All very interesting man… but without trying to sound dismissive of what you’re doing now, none of this is to the detriment of Interpol is it?
We’re all working on different things at the moment, but I can say with confidence there’s more to come from Interpol in the future, and I’m looking forward to picking that up again when the time comes.
‘Banks’ is released on October 23 via Matador Records.