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Before Interpol, Sam Fogarino Had Stopped "Trying So Hard"

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Sam Fogarino will be the guest DJ at Lipgloss at Bar Standard this Friday, January 29. Fogarino is perhaps best known for being the drummer of Interpol, arguably the most popular of the bands out of the “post-punk revival” of the late '90s and early 2000s. The band's debut full-length, Turn On the Bright Lights, was released in 2002, and Fogarino had joined the band in 2000. Before joining Interpol, however, Fogarino nearly quit thinking he would ever do more than play music around New York City.

“[It's] not like I was going to put down the drumsticks or never touch a synthesizer or any other instrument,” Fogarino explains. “I just felt like, you now, I'm not going to try too hard anymore. I felt like I was holding on too tight for something I couldn't identify. For someone who hadn't put out anything of note, what is success? Am I happy just playing music around New York City and with my life? Yes. That's when Interpol entered my life. I think there's something to be said for finally kind of relaxing and not trying so hard," he continues. "Not confusing the intention of what I'm doing, being at ease in life. Kind of a faux-Zen approach to it. It's good to have ambition but keep the integrity intact. Let things happen as they will. I'd been acquainted with Daniel [Kessler] for a couple of years, and one day he called me and said, 'Meet me. Let's stop talking about this and get together.' That was sixteen years ago, winter, right after New Year's 2000.”

Fogarino came into the band as a kind of elder statesman since he is a few years older than the rest of Interpol and had played in the late '80s-early '90s south-Florida scene that produced Marilyn Manson and Jack Off Jill. Completely coincidentally, Fogarino moved to New York City in 1997, the same year the band that would make him famous formed.

Fogarino had played guitar before taking up the drums, an instrument that better suited his temperament. “I think there was something to the immediacy of drums, whereas guitar really challenged my ADD,” reveals Fogarino. “When it got too difficult or too mathematic, I shut down. With guitars and melodic instruments, it's so nebulous in the learning curve where melody and harmony can go. With drums, it's kick drum, snare and high hat. Create a beat and accent it. I also found it easy to break rules with the rudiments. With melodic instruments you can go so far with breaking the rules, but if you know the rules you can break them in a much more challenging way. Okay, I hold my drumsticks wrong, fuck you. The song is still happening.”

Though he resisted at first, Fogarino's older sister got him into the Cars, which proved to be a gateway to punk, post-punk and his subsequent interest in Devo, Killing Joke and PiL. Also while growing up, Fogarino was introduced to two other bands that have shaped his musical thinking and that later synched up with his Interpol bandmates: His uncle introduced him to Q The Game, and his uncle's lover, Tim, recommended a Kraftwerk album. Listening to these records, something clicked for Fogarino that linked the rock music of Queen to the songwriting structure and sounds of Kraftwerk. Later, that combination of rock and and electronic-music aesthetics turned out to be one of the core ideas of the music of Interpol.

“I think this happens unspokenly within Interpol: kind of borrowing an electronic approach to something that's very guitar-driven," says Fogarino. "There's something in the construction of what electronic music implies sonically. The subtleties in it, I think, Interpol likes to employ. We very rarely talk about what we love while we're working — we like to keep the outside world out — but in the downtime, on the tour bus, there's a lot of appreciation for certain techniques in songwriting and how some artists just have a thing. From Aphex Twin to Spoon.”

Interpol spent much of 2015 touring in support of its latest album, but since then Fogarino has enjoyed a bit of a hiatus, living in Athens, Georgia, where he moved in 2008. “I don't go out as much as I used to, and spend time with my girlfriend at home and act like the 47-year-old man that I am,” Fogarino says. “Being in that town and feeling that energy is enough for me, so that if I do want to go out and be social and wax on about music or whatever, I can.”

Fogarino hasn't made as much of a career deejaying as former Interpol bassist Carlos Dengler, but he often gets requests to deejay in Dublin, where his band has deep ties with promoters. This gig at Lipgloss is a rarity in his schedule. An avid music fan, Fogarino cites Beach House and Chromatics as newer bands that have caught his attention. Since Vinyl isn't a practical choice for transporting music in large quantities, Fogarino uses Traktor and other interfaces. “You trade off the tactile aspect of cueing up records manually, but other interfaces make you feel like you're not just making a playlist and hitting a space bar,” he says.

The Bat Standard show will include rock and dance music, and Fogarino has been known to do some live remixing during a set. Part of the fun for him is gauging the crowd and tailoring the set to suit the moment. 

“Sometimes I try to plan it out, but I think it's best to have a general idea and allow the room to dictate how far you go with liberties,” Fogarino says. “Why chop up this Bowie song if they're enjoying it? You don't have to be strict to the dance-floor code if people want to chill and just listen. I like to be prepared for all of the above. It is kind of fun when there's a dance floor going for it.”

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