Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Ruvan Wijesooriya is an LCD Soundsystem fan with a crucial difference. Between the years of 2004 and 2011, photographer Ruvan got the opportunity to live with the disco-rock band, to party with them, to see them live and to call them friends – and the whole time, he and his camera had unprecedented access to the group’s lives.
A collection of Ruvan’s finest photographs of Murphy and the rest of the band has just been released in the form of the hardback book LCD, available via Brooklyn publisher powerHouse. See a selection of the candid shots below, ranging from the very beginning to the emotional final gig at Madison Square Garden in April 2011, and read on to find out more about Ruvan’s privileged relationship with James Murphy and the brilliant, irreplaceable LCD Soundsystem.
Hi, Ruvan! Could you please introduce yourself and this project to Dummy readers?
I’m a NYC-based photographer who got into taking pictures in the early 00’s through music journalism and working for fashion people.
LCD became a favorite after I heard ‘Losing My Edge’. I played it on repeat for weeks. The whole album had a totally different and unique approach to its production and use of influences. I met the band out at great, epic parties and we all had a good time together. James Murphy wrote the intro to my first book, All Night New York, after he had me come over to his studio and do some press shots in 2005. I’ve been photographing for him and LCD ever since, and over the years we’ve all become close. I’ve been at my best and worst in front of them – they’re like an extended family of sorts. I lived with LCD in L.A. when they were recording ‘This Is Happening’. Oddly enough, I have never been on tour with them, but by chance I would end up in a lot of the same locations where they were.
How did you come to have unlimited access to the world of James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem for seven years?
Kind of luck, but I also feel like I set out to do it. I have shot hundreds of music acts, but for whatever reason I was the closest with LCD, perhaps because James made a point of inviting me to take pictures, and perhaps because I never gave up a chance to see them play. They trust me, they like me and they like my pictures – they’ve been to my exhibitions and know what I’m about. We have a lot of the same references in life and music, we like a lot of the same things, we like to stay out late…
Is there a photo in the book that’s particularly personal or meaningful to you?
Many of them are meaningful and capture moments I genuinely want to remember. I think the photo I shot for the cover of Bye Bye Bayou is pretty stunning and somehow it helped me prove to myself that I could make magical pictures when I felt like it. I tried to push myself forward and actually did it.
What is your fondest memory of the seven years over which these photos were taken?
Probably the time I spent with them in L.A. We were all living together, going out all the time, the whole thing felt really communal. It was incredible and inspiring to see songs come to life in James’ particular process. At 3:30am, what began as James fiddling about on his piano would be a song by 4pm the next day. It was truly amazing, and I felt like I belonged there. The mansion where they recorded is the same place the Beatles and The Stones hung out in the 60s/70s, the same place where the Red Hot Chilli Peppers recorded ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, where Slayer, The Beastie Boys and Johnny Cash have also sought refuge to record. It was a very special place and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
What do you think these photographs can add to a fan’s understanding of the music and phenomenon of LCD Soundsystem?
Good question – I’ve actually asked myself this question a lot. I’m not sure what I think, as I simply see it as a documentation of something that happened, something that began and ended. I think the fans will enjoy the very honest and true look at the band. The photographs should place you right in the moments that were captured.