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Julian Casablancas has spent a career trying to catch up with his band's first album. That band would be the Strokes, and the album would be This Is It. And with the end-of-the-decade lists pouring in from everyone with an opinion, Casablancas just got about a thousand reminders that his debut was a lasting, epic masterpiece — and the rest is something less.
Probably, though, he doesn't care about that. At least that's the image he's cultivated: rakish rock star, the sort of musical genius that doesn't even understand itself, so he backs all over himself in interviews saying ridiculous things like he doesn't feel like 2009's solo album Phrazes for the Young was influenced by the '80s. Of course it was: The thing is forty minutes of blippy, baroque synth tempered with his undeniably cool lyrical styling.
Maybe he does realize that, and when he initially denies the '80s in the phone conversation that we finally stole in the only free fifteen minutes he had last week, it's a matter of controlling his image. It's definitely somewhere in the rock-star rulebook that you must remain unsolvable.
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It won't much matter what motivates him when he comes to Denver next week: The solo stuff is all earworm gold, regardless of the subtext.
Westword: How has it been touring, now that you have a kid at home?
Julian Casablancas: Touring itself is the same. Obviously, pretty hard when you're leaving home. Honestly, it's made me think of the people in the military, who have to leave their families for two years. That's gotta be way harder, to put things in perspective. But it's definitely hard.
It seems like there's a lot of classical music and '80s imagery mashed together associated with the visuals of the album, like in the "11th Dimension" video and the promo posters. Was that your conscious vision?
The classical thing, I think, is slightly blown out of proportion. I say "slightly" just because it's one of the genres of music I like, but I could have just as easily said jazz. I was just referring to complex music that has a lot of stuff going on. The '80s imagery is pretty accurate. Not so much in the music, just the visuals.
But the prominence of the keys is going to make people think of the '80s.
The thing is, it was a mixture of some of the big production style of the late '70s/early '80s. You know, stuff like Queen and Fleetwood Mac, and then it was also weird, fringe bizarro stuff from when the '80s got experimental and extremely futuristic. I guess those are the things I had in my mind in terms of the '80s.
Do you think that your personal image as a solo artist is different from your image as the lead singer for the Strokes?
I think it's pretty linear. I feel like I've kinda been doing the same thing. If anything, with the Strokes I'm trying to spread the image over five dudes. Even if I'm doing the video, I still try to make it look like our thing.
Do you like doing the solo thing?
I was fine with the whole Strokes stuff, but those other people needed to go outside the band, which I understand and respect. It's probably good, long-term. I still had energy to do music, though.