Interview: Museum of Love

Longtime friends Pat Mahoney (of LCD Soundsystem) and Dennis McNany on their new band and very "un-DFA" record

While the much-loved LCD Soundsystem disbanded in 2011, drummer Pat Mahoney has hardly remained idle. In fact, the DFA veteran has literally become even more more vocal in his new collaboration with longtime friend Dennis “Jee Day” McNany (founder of Run Roc Records), going under the moniker Museum of Love. They’ve teased us with the release of their first single—the gritty yet effervescent “Down South“—nearly a year ago last June, and just uploaded the music video for “Monotronic” this month. What we can infer from the two is that we’re in for something unexpected—a style that will require an entirely new set of dance moves that can keep down with the slower pace and building tension. CH met with the NYC-based duo to discuss their first live performance as a band (this Saturday at this year’s Moogfest), their upcoming album (expected to release this August through DFA Records) and the fine game of squash.

Can you recall the (love) story of how you two met?

Pat Mahoney: When did we meet? We met so long ago we don’t even remember.

Dennis McNany: We met 14 or 15 years ago? So I moved to New York in 1999, and my first gig was assistant engineer at DFA. Before there was a DFA, I was working in that studio with James and Tim, and I met Pat there because he would come in frequently.

PM: I would come in to make snarky comments and just be a nuisance; this was before LCD Soundsystem.

Fast forward to now; how was Museum of Love born?

PM: A couple of years ago, Dennis asked me to play some drums in the studio he was working in. We did a little session and then a few months later, he was like, “Hey, do you want to try to make some songs?” We were already buds, so we just started working. We made a remix together [Battles: “My Machines” feat. Gary Numan], made the first couple songs and it just gelled really beautifully. So we decided to form a band—as you do at that point.

As a duo, what was the composition process like in the studio?

PM: I sing everything. Dennis does the bulk of the writing, music-wise, but then we edit and arrange everything together and throw ideas around and strip stuff out and add stuff back in—it’s a collaboration. We were in the studio with a ton of old synthesizers, I played drums on it, we shook things that make “shaky” sounds; we had horn players come in and string players come in. We compose on the computer [in Logic] but then we record instruments.

And the album is now finished, so why are you taking your time?

DM: Call it a certain person called Jonathan Galkin. [laughs] He’s holding us down until 19 August—street date.

Moogfest will be your first live performance together, so we’ll be able to hear more of the album this weekend. Who are you bringing with you to play on stage?

PM: The guy who helped us make the record—Matt Shaw, the engineer at the DFA studio, Plantain—is playing various instruments and helping us out because he knows the record really well and really enjoyed making it with us. He’s playing some keyboards, some bass guitar and some percussion. And Ahmed Gallab from Sinkane is drumming. And I’m playing in a project with him, a tribute to William Onyeabor, the Atomic Bomb band. He is returning the favor and playing drums for us for just this show, or maybe for a couple shows in New York.

And what instruments are you guys going to be behind on stage?

PM: A bunch of synthesizers, a microphone, a drum set, and the bass guitar—

DM: There’ll be various instruments played.

PM: A whole pile of stuff… that can go wrong.

So you’re all multi-instrumentalists.

DM: We had a great revelation the other night. We realized, in the rehearsal space, that everyone was playing an instrument that was somewhat foreign to them.

PM: It’s like a punk rock band, we’re all playing our instruments for the first time.

In the music video for “Monotronic,” you guys play one intense game of squash. Is that a regular hobby?

PM: No, we’d never played squash before.

DM: I have a good friend, Andrew, who wanted to shoot the video and had this concept. So we went up to his place, and he actually has a squash court in his backyard and taught us to “fake” it. And then it got pretty competitive. [laughs] Pat won.

PM: No, come on! [laughs] I got hit in the face with the racquet. That’s why you have to wear goggles; it’s a dangerous game.

You guys are probably more comfortable in the DJ booth together than on the court. What’s that one go-to song you have to play at every set?

PM: I’ve basically played out—I don’t even think I can play it anymore—”Cheaters” by Teengirl Fantasy. We try not to play the same stuff all the time.

DM: Every set has been different and the cool thing is getting to surprise each other, which makes it a lot of fun. A lot of the fun of this project has been sharing a similar vocabulary and just getting to play for people, but playing for each other as well, is satisfying. So it’s always trying to surprise each other or come up with new jams.

In a lot of ways, it’s a very un-DFA record. It’s not a straightforward dance record; references are wide though hopefully sounding very fresh.

How would you describe the new sound you’re trying to achieve with Museum of Love?

DM: The beauty of this is that we kind of made a really weird record that goes a lot of different places. In a lot of ways, it’s a very un-DFA record. It’s not a straightforward dance record; references are wide though hopefully sounding very fresh.

PM: It’s filtered through our personalities. Like classic ’90s hip-hop and we were thinking about Roxy Music and we were thinking about Terry Riley, all kinds of stuff. It was our way of saying, “Can we get into some of these spaces?” And this is the answer to that question.

Check out Museum of Love’s first live performance at this year’s Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina which opens tomorrow; the band will be performing this Saturday night, 26 April 2014, followed by Factory Floor at the DFA showcase. Mahoney will also be performing at “Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor” concerts in NYC, SF and LA starting 2 May 2014.

Portrait images courtesy of Timothy Saccenti, other images courtesy of Museum of Love