James "LCD Soundsystem" Murphy and John "the Juan" Maclean have been making noise together since the mid-'90s, when Murphy ran live sound for Maclean in Six Finger Satellite on a PA nicknamed "Death From Above." As they prepare to embark on the DFA DJ Tour, I called the duo to talk shop.

What's in your crates for this tour?


JAMES: Records. Mostly old disco records. I don't play a ton of new stuff. I leave that to Juan.

JUAN: Heading out with James I bring a little more disco than usual, but I tend to rely heavily on the early days of techno and house music. I think James and I try to span the entire history of dance music.

Your DFA Radio Mix was all over the place.

JUAN: That's funny. That was something that I never thought anyone was ever going to hear. It was done for an online radio thing, and they asked me to put together a mix of records that you'd play hanging around your apartment with your friends.

So no Hawkwind on the DFA DJ Tour?

JUAN: Actually, I do always bring some really atmospheric Hawkwind to open with or to break up my set. But it's hard to get away with that at most places.

How much, if at all, do you practice your sets before you play out?

JAMES: I don't ever practice, I guess. I used to 'cause it's just fun to play records, but now I always have to work. I've DJed in New York a couple times this month, so that's some practice.

So you don't plan out your sets?

JAMES: Oh god, no. It's just a big bag of records and then see what happens. It's more fun that way. So much of it's playing off of an audience that I can't imagine trying to plan it.

Do you have any tracks that just always get people going?

JAMES: "Got Myself a Good Man" by Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers. I hate it when DJs play early and people aren't dancing and yet they're playing like screaming techno at top volume. It's so uninviting. And Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers are really friendly, but halfway through there's two totally sick breaks where it gets a little heavier. It's a great track to get people dancing from nothing without making them uncomfortable.

Are crowds more responsive because they know the DFA? Can you be more indulgent or play less to the crowd?

JUAN: For sure. I can get away with a lot more than someone who doesn't come from that background or with that context. If I play an early Detroit techno track, people can connect it with my music or the DFA. I think James actually tries to get away with a lot more than I ever do.

JAMES: I always try to be responsive to the audience, but I do think that having some form of notoriety gives you a little trust. I enjoy having to find out what an audience likes and then trying to steer them into things I like and finding common ground.

Analog or digital?

JAMES: Everybody has some CDs for edits or things that we've made that don't exist on vinyl, but none of us use laptops or anything. Unless we're checking e-mail, but we don't usually do that in the booth.

JUAN: I always have CDs in case the airline loses my records, but I only play vinyl.

Do you prefer being up onstage as a DJ or with your bands?

JUAN: I think playing live with a band is a lot more gratifying.

JAMES: They're totally different. It's like asking, "Which do you like better, dessert or movies?"

Does being a musician or a producer influence how you DJ?

JAMES: Totally. I'm an [audio] engineer, so I'm pretty obsessed with sound quality and the signal path [of] how my mix is set up. I think sound guys end up hating me.

JUAN: I think people that come from that background tend to play tracks that are more song oriented and maybe less loop oriented. And I think that stuff is easier for indie-rock people to get into.

Who are your favorite DJs?

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JAMES: The people on this tour, really. Marcus Lambkin [Shit Robot] taught me how to DJ, and before that I just hated dance music. So he's kind of a hero to me. recommended