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Credit: Matt Biddulph

Music

James Murphy on DFA drama: "It felt like I was stabbing my friend in the back"

@TylerGolsen

In 2001, LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy co-founded DFA Records with British record producer Tim Goldsworthy, American record producer Tyler Brodie, and American event promotor Jonathan Galkin. Featuring influential dance-punk and experimental noise acts like The Rapture and Black Dice, DFA quickly garnered a versatile and volatile reputation within the New York indie-rock boom of the early 2000s.

The label is currently operational, but Galkin was ousted in the summer of 2020. The subsequent legal drama has spilt over to a war of words in the press, with Galkin telling writer Shawn Reynaldo that he was given no warning or notice about his termination, and that one day he was simply locked out of the DFA headquarters. “One day I came to work and the [DFA building’s] locks were changed,” Galkin said. “It was a really sad day, and the only information I got was that the partnership – of which I was part as a minority owner – had made the decision to cut off the label. And then it got ugly, with lawyers involved.”

Galkin sued Murphy, Brodie, and DFA LLC for breach of contract, fiduciary duty, and unjust enrichment in August 2020. In a new interview with Pitchfork, Murphy responded to Galkin’s dismissal for the first time.

“I remember the feeling that I was doing it, and it’s awful,” Murphy explained. “But after some time to reflect, he could listen back to what I had said to him. ‘Well, how are you going to retire? How is this going to work out? What’s the future gonna look like?’.”

Murphy explained that he felt the label was in danger of collapse and that Galkin was “not fulfilling what [he] believe[s] are its ethical duties to its artists.” According to Murphy, DFA “had an insane burn rate and regularly needed injections of cash that were supposed to be temporary loans that never were loans. Which was all fine—I knew what we signed up for to a certain degree.” But after a certain point, Murphy was no longer comfortable with Galkin’s effectiveness in his role and physically locked him out of the space.

“I had to do that and he knows why, and if he doesn’t know why, it’s because he just didn’t listen,” Murphy says. “But I explained really clearly why he had to go… After the initial shock – which you’d have to be bloodless not to be shocked, because it was pretty much out of nowhere – I just called him up and I was like, ‘This can’t go on’. And I told him, ‘Don’t go to the office, we’re going to figure out your exit’. And he said, ‘OK’. And I had changed the locks because I felt that he would go to the office. So an hour later he called me and said, ‘You changed the locks?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m glad I changed the locks.'”

“It sucked, it felt like I was stabbing my friend in the back, but I knew he’d go in and I didn’t want him to go in. And I’m not going to say why. Why he had to go is between me and him, and why I changed the locks is between me and him, unless he wants to share it. But I have no interest in shitting on Jon.”

Galkin subsequently took a number of unfinished albums by bands who were on the DFA label and founded a new label, FourFour Records. The first release by that label will be the latest album from Black Dice, Mod Prog Sicwhich is set to drop on October 1. Galkin also shared: “There is also a strong case to be made that with actual teamwork from the partners, all in the same room, going over the artists and accounting and release schedules and catalogue, etc., the label would have been fine.”

Galkin and Murphy both agreed that their working relationship was hampered by Murphy’s reduced involvement in the label’s operation in more recent years, especially during LCD Soundsystem’s reunion in the latter half of the 2010s. Murphy has stated that LCD has been on hiatus since the Covid-19 pandemic started, and it’s likely that he recommits his attention to DFA during that time, instigating the events that led to Galkin’s departure.