In­ter­pol’s Paul Banks


OVER 20 YEARS INTO THEIR CA­REER, IN­TER­POL HAVEN’T STRAYED TOO FAR FROM THE MOODY POST-PUNK SOUND THAT MADE THEIR DE­BUT, 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights, an in­stant clas­sic. But lead singer Paul Banks has al­ways kept his other af­fairs nice and eclec­tic: art rock both un­der his own name and as Ju­lian Plenti; Banks & Steelz, his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA; and his 2013 mix­tape Every­body on My Dick Like They Sup­posed to Be, fea­tur­ing El-P, Talib Kweli and Mike G.

Though he won’t rule out an­other Banks & Steelz record at some point, these days, Banks’s sights are set on In­ter­pol, as the ac­claimed out­fit pre­pare to tour their newly re­leased sixth al­bum Ma­rauder.

What are your cur­rent fix­a­tions?

Drake, his lat­est. I’ve been way into 21 Sav­age and ScHool­boy Q lately. They’re not su­per re­cent re­leases — I’m talk­ing about Issa Al­bum and Blank Face, re­spec­tively. So good. I’m ob­sessed with Frank Ocean. An­other fix­a­tion lately [is] film, I just re­watched You Were Never Re­ally There. It’s a great movie! It’s got a re­ally nice feel and the fuckin’ scor­ing is in­sane. So good. It’s [Jonny] Green­wood. An­other thing I just binge-watched is Barry, which is dope as fuck.

Name some­thing you con­sider a mind-al­ter­ing work of art:

Frank Ocean’s Blonde record seems to me like the kind of cosmic co­a­les­cence of things that you can’t re­ally con­trol, you can just be a solid, in­spired artist. The re­sult seems to be more than any one in­di­vid­ual’s po­ten­tial. The uni­verse pitches in to make ev­ery­thing that lit­tle ex­tra bit of in­spired and spe­cial, and I think that that record has that qual­ity, where you can’t imag­ine how it was made. It just feels so or­ganic and un­ex­pected and per­fect.

What has been your most mem­o­rable or in­spi­ra­tional gig and why?

It was Death From Above 1979 pro­mot­ing their first record at the Monarch/Barfly in Lon­don. It’s a 250 to 300 ca­pac­ity place up some stairs at a bar in Lon­don. And it was just ab­so­lutely earth-shat­ter­ing. That was prob­a­bly 2002, 2003. What a band.

What have been your ca­reer highs and lows?

I sin­cerely feel that mak­ing Ma­rauder was a ca­reer high. Just the chem­istry and the cosmic juju felt pretty locked in. I think it was our re­la­tion­ship as a band, the fact that we de­cided to work with [pro­ducer Dave] Frid­mann in a re­mote lo­ca­tion [Tar­box Road Stu­dios in up­state New York] where we were all gonna be in a house to­gether, no es­cape, no dis­trac­tions. Low point? In the mid­dle por­tion of my ca­reer, I had a mo­ment where I was over­think­ing it and stress­ing and it was a low point — I did my­self a mis­chief in the sense of pro­longed stress. But the bright side is that I learned what my lim­i­ta­tions are and now, when I’m do­ing some­thing cre­ative, if I ever even get to the first red flag down that road… I just say “Oh, fuck this, I’m turn­ing back!” And I’m gonna re­lax.

What’s the mean­est thing ever said to you be­fore, dur­ing or af­ter a gig?

Re­ally early on, I had a room­mate say “I think you should just be a gui­tarist.” That was a good one. We were in a dorm, that was my fuckin’ fresh­man year of col­lege.

What ad­vice should you have taken, but did not?

A toss-up be­tween “don’t smoke” and I had some­one early on tell me “don’t make an en­emy of the press,” be­cause I felt very an­tag­o­nized by press and this old fam­ily friend was like, “Dude, that’s not some­one you should put in the cat­e­gory of ‘ad­ver­sary.’ You’re never gonna win that one.” And it’s not that I ever re­ally had bad vibes, I think I just took it all a lit­tle too se­ri­ously. So to sum­ma­rize what their ad­vice was, was “get over your­self.” I wish I had done that.

What traits do you most like and most dis­like about your­self?

I like my drive. I’m never bored. Oddly, on the flip­side, I dis­like what I con­sider to be a lack of dis­ci­pline.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?

It’s funny, I wanna think about a good an­swer, but the thing that jumped out straight into my mind was com­edy. I think Canada’s a great ex­porter of world-class com­edy. From Jim Car­rey to Seth Ro­gen and Martin Short — the whole SCTV thing that birthed a lot of tal­ent.

What was the first LP/cas­sette/ CD/ eight track you ever bought with your own money?

I think it was Liv­ing Colour’s Vivid.

If I wasn’t play­ing mu­sic I would be…

I used to worry that it would be petty crime, but I’d think I prob­a­bly would’ve straight­ened out and I’d be a painter.

What has been your strangest celebrity en­counter?

I was at a very fancy din­ner and I was in­tro­duced to Robert De Niro sit­ting next to Sean Penn sit­ting next to Mayor Bloomberg. And I said, “It’s very nice to meet you, Mr. Mayor.” He lit­er­ally turned and said to De Niro and Sean Penn, “Don’t you hate it when some­one says hello and doesn’t in­tro­duce them­selves?” And I don’t know if he knew if I could hear him, but I im­me­di­ately said, “Hi, I’m Paul. Very nice to meet you.” I’ve since heard that he didn’t mean any­thing by it, but I felt very awk­ward. I was em­bar­rassed in front of De Niro and Sean Penn. I re­ally like Mayor Bloomberg, I don’t want it to seem like he was a dick. I think it was just a mo­ment of con­sum­mate awk­ward­ness. He was prob­a­bly try­ing to lighten the sit­u­a­tion.

What song would you like to have played at your fu­neral?

Daaaamn. Oh, that’s too hard. Some­thing by Leonard Co­hen, but I don’t want “Hal­lelu­jah” be­cause that’s too ob­vi­ous. Also Canadian! I swear I’m not pan­der­ing. I love “Hal­lelu­jah” but it’s just too ob­vi­ous of a choice.

“I was em­bar­rassed in front of Robert De Niro and Sean Penn.

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