Interview TV On The Radio: ‘Everyone Feels Really Good About Making Things Again’

TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe talks ATP and new material.

Curating a music festival on the other side of the Atlantic means that TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe is a busy man. After days attempting to pin him down, there’s only a 15-minute window available for our trans-continental phone chat. Before what feels like half that time has passed, however, the allotted slot has already run over so much it’s more than doubled, his enthusiasm bubbling like that of an emerging artist belying his decade at the top.

Indeed, while himself and his cohorts have cooked up an All Tomorrow’s Parties line-up of incredible depth, straddling the outer reaches of hip hop, indie and electronica, Adebimpe is decidedly self-effacing. “It was kind of easy. There are a lot of bands who we hold in high regard and it was really simple, because all the names were already there.” The line-up is not only remarkably strong, however; it’s also impressively coherent. At first glance, it may seem difficult to trace a line from Thee Oh Sees to Death Grips but the bill weaves a narrative arc through its constituent styles, binding them together through shared sounds and artistic values. “I don’t think any of us really realised but it was sort of stream of consciousness dot-connecting once everyone had put their bands in. I feel like you could draw a lot of connections between all the bands. If there was some sort of Venn diagram they would all overlap in some way.”

Asking if he’s looking forward to anyone in particular sets off a giddy excitement and a stream of names. “I was just telling somebody that I missed Death Grips and Mykki Blanco when they came through New York, so I’m really glad I’m going to get to see both of those acts. Unknown Mortal Orchestra I’m looking forward to seeing very much. Also, Celebration because they’re our really good friends but we’ve just never been in the same place before. They’re a phenomenal band. I’m also looking forward to Saul Williams. Definitely looking forward to De La Soul because I didn’t think that would happen in my lifetime. Basically everyone.” He pauses, seemingly to catch his breath. “Shabazz Palaces – they’re super inspiring.”
‘You get burnt out on the road.’
One of the things that seems to tie TV On The Radio together is a shared love of New York, and, even after two decades in the city, Tunde still derives a sizeable chunk of his creative energy from his adopted hometown. “I definitely do. It’s really changed a lot since I moved here. Even more so for people who were here before me. I’ve been here for almost twenty years now, so most of my close friends are here. I started another band in November by mistake and now we’ve recorded a bunch of stuff and we’re going to put it out by the end of the summer. The fact that I’ve been here so long means that that kind of thing is easier. There are a lot of people round here who came to do creative work.”

A lot has been made of the break the group intended to take in 2009, but that announcement was followed by a brand new album, the superb ‘Nine Types Of Light’, and a full-scale tour within just two years. Only a week after its release, however, multi-instrumentalist Gerard Smith passed away after a battle with lung cancer. In the context, a sabbatical would be understandable, but they’ve persevered. “I think I mentioned that we were taking a hiatus for a year and that hiatus only ended up being seven months or something. Honestly, that seven months is probably the longest we’ve been not recording or being on the road for about six years. And then we went on tour with ‘Nine Types Of Light’ and that was fine, with a couple of major bumps in it.”

When it comes to the workings of the band, the group are currently, thankfully, benefitting from a relatively sanguine disposition. “Right now, it feels like a very easy process and it’s great. We were just at Dave [Sitek’s] place in LA and recorded two new songs. We played two songs at the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival, in the opera house, and they sounded great. I feel like that was one of the fastest times we’ve recorded and then played something and it’s really worked out.” That’s not to say that it hasn’t been without its problems. “I think everyone realised that you get burnt out on the road, and you get tired being around the same people all the time. It’s the whole deal of travelling in conditions that may not be so great so that you can play for an hour. You know, you get an hour to do something fun and the rest is not really that great. The thing you’re there to do is incredible but ramping up to being excited about it starts to become difficult.”

Since the release of the last album, TVOTR have also split from Interscope, their home since the 2006 opus, ‘Return To Cookie Mountain’. The effect of their newfound autonomy is immediately telling and Tunde’s excitement is tangible as he speaks about their latest work, anchoring himself and his band well and truly in the present. “Right now we don’t have the pressure of a label being like, ‘You know, you guys should do something.’ Some people need that pressure – there’s a good type of anxiety that comes with that – but I feel like we would probably put that on ourselves anyway, because it means we’re excited about something. Major labels want to get the product out so that it’s commercially viable,” he laments. “And you might rush and do something and be really happy with it, and that major label might completely bungle how it gets out into the world because they don’t take into account who your audience is, and what standard they’re used to.” As he speaks the group’s collective sigh of relief as they begin to look towards the future is almost audible. “Right now, it’s a far clearer and more enriching path than the other way. Everyone feels really good about making things again.”

All Tomorrow’s Parties curated by TV On The Radio will take place from 10th - 12th May at Pontins Holiday Camp, Camber Sands.

Read the full interview in the 6th May edition of DIY Weekly, available from iTunes now.

Read More

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Stay Updated!

Get the best of DIY to your inbox each week.

Latest Issue

June 2024

With Glass Animals, Los Campesinos!, Alfie Templeman, Lava La Rue and many more.

Read Now Buy Now Subscribe to DIY