Gavilán Rayna Russom Quits LCD Soundsystem
Ahead of LCD Soundsystem’s 20-date residency at Brooklyn Steel starting tonight, their longtime synth player Gavilán Rayna Russom has announced that she has quit the band. Russom joined LCD Soundsystem in 2008, contributed to their 2010 album This Is Happening, and has been performing with them ever since. In a new interview with Pitchfork, Russom discusses her reasons for leaving:
My connection to LCD and DFA grew out of a period in the early 2000s where I was looking for work. I had this skill of analog synthesizer design and construction, as well as vintage synthesizer repair, and James was the only person who was interested in hiring me to do that work.
When James invited me to join the band, that was at the very end of 2008 as he was just starting to make This Is Happening. First of all, it was based around this idea that that was going to be the last album and the last tour. So there was a provisional status already built in. It was a difficult decision for me at the time, because I had just made Black Meteoric Star, was touring, living in Berlin. I did decide to go on tour with LCD and to join the band at that time, and I ended up contributing a little bit to the album, but I didn’t realize the way it would take over the way my identity — especially my creative identity — was perceived in the public eye.
DFA and LCD… they’re nice folks and James is a great artist and it’s a great label, but it’s actually quite different than what I’m interested in creatively. I’d always felt like I was kind of negotiating. I hadn’t really understood how much I had been contextualized and pigeonholed within a world that is not super amenable to who I am and what I create.
For example, I had to experience getting booked for multiple DJ gigs where I would show up and do the thing that I’ve been doing since I started DJing when I was 14, that I’ve worked really hard on, and people would be really mad at me. I’d be playing my own music and promoters would come and be like, “You can’t play that here,” because they hadn’t done the research. They were expecting it to sound like LCD Soundsystem. They actually had no idea who I was as an artist. So I began to think really deeply about those connections. And I did leave DFA formally and legally in 2014, basically because of that.
And then LCD reformed, and I was in a similar place where I had a lot going on and I kind of needed the money. I think in 2015, my approach was like, “let me just really own that. I’m part of this. Let me try to really be in this band because I am connected to it.” What I found was that, especially with coming out around that time, that situation actually worsened.
When this offer came up again [to perform at LCD Soundsystem’s Brooklyn Steel residency], I had considered it. And when I looked at the reality of this time, I was just like, “I’m just not able to do this.” My work has grown to a point where I’m not able to put it aside for a couple of years and go on tour with LCD, or double up. A lot of times I’d be on tour with LCD and making my own music in the bus between 7 and noon. It just reached a natural point based on some concerns I’ve had for a really long time.
When did you break the news to James Murphy? It sounds like it was pretty amicable.
Absolutely. The entire experience is pretty amicable, It’s not about people or personalities. At some point James reached out to me about this new set of shows. I asked for a little time to think about it, and we sat down and had a nice coffee and I basically said that I couldn’t do it, but that I was super grateful.
James is a person who’s really supported me and my work, and I think having me be in the band was part of that. You’d have to ask him, but my sense is that James has been a fan of mine since we met. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the fact that he saw me, was a fan, and wanted to support me. Of course I brought a lot to it in ways that are obvious, in terms of writing credits or presence on stage.
Russom launched the Voluminous Arts label last year and will continue to release new solo music under her own name and as Black Meteoric Star. “I have a solo EP that’s done that I’m going to put out on Voluminous Arts next year, which I’m pretty excited about,” she says. “It’s a four-song EP and it’s kind of the achievement of a production goal I’ve had for a long time of creating these really dense slabs of sound that are also a kind of a deconstructed dance music… like this physical embodied sense of big glaciers of sound crushing against each other.”