Paul Banks uses new strategy on solo album

Courtesy PhotoFramework and formula: Paul Banks wrote songs on his recent recording in a different way than he has with his band Interpol.

Courtesy PhotoFramework and formula: Paul Banks wrote songs on his recent recording in a different way than he has with his band Interpol.

When Wu-Tang Clan leader and rabid chess enthusiast RZA was asked who was his favorite showbiz opponent, he responded in a heartbeat: Paul Banks. It’s true, says Interpol’s cryptic crooner. He and the rapper have played several serious games. “But RZA is an infinitely better player. He’s beyond hobbyist. He’s studied — and I’ve just played tons of chess. And chess goes by ranking systems, so if you’re in some chess community online, it’s very humbling. I’m never beyond intermediate!” He’s even applied game strategy to his (relatively) sunny new solo recording, “Banks,” using more straightforward songwriting configurations than he has in the artier Interpol.

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 14px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

RZA really respects you. But you say you aren’t that skilled?

If we’re talking a one-minute or two-minute game, I can play. I had a data-entry job at one point where I didn’t have to do any work, and my boss would only come around once in a while. So on the computer, I played one-minute games. Thousands of one-minute games. And that’s where I have an advantage — with a clock running.

How did chess knowledge add to “Banks”?

As a younger artist, I felt like everything should be formless and shapeless and intuitive. But then I realized that applying a framework to what I’m doing can actually enhance the art. There’s a reason that a lot of great songs have verse-chorus, verse-chorus, bridge. So the key is to understand the formula and then make it your own. Like in chess — just embrace the standard opening and go from there.

What was it about songs such as “Young Again” and “Arise Awake” that screamed “solo album” and not “Interpol”?

Well, Interpol has a standard writing process. And it begins with the material of Daniel (Kessler, guitarist). We work out songs from progressions that he introduces, so by definition the solo work is songs that I’m writing.

You used to pen lyrics on cocktail napkins in dive bars. Has your method changed? Yes. Firstly, I don’t spend that kind of time in bars anymore. Secondly, I realized that I’m never going to try to shoehorn a lyric into a song again. Now it’s really just finding what the song wants me to say, so I take the music first and go from there.

But you make even dirges such as “I’ll Sue You” sound — dare we say — cheerful?

That was a fun juxtaposition — making that song quite romantic, but ultimately the message is very different. Creatively, I’ve cultivated an approach which is, er, not overly thought out — just tapping into my inspiration and not second-guessing ideas. So I feel like I’m in a really good, healthy place.

artsentertainmentInterpolmusicPop Music & Jazz

Just Posted

San Francisco health experts recommend that pregnant women should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as a booster shot. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Questions regarding COVID-19 booster shots for pregnant people have been pouring in… Continue reading

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

Badly needed rain cooled off pedestrians on Market Street in The City on Wednesday. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Storm door opens in San Francisco — what will the rains bring?

‘Come Monday, fire season in Northern California should be done’

The so-called “twindemic” that public health officials in California and elsewhere warned about last year — the combined threat of influenza and COVID-19 — was largely eased by the wide use of face masks, physical distancing and reduced travel, experts say. But their concerns are back this year. (Shutterstock)
COVID and the flu: Is a ‘twindemic’ threat lurking again?

‘Because of so little disease last year, population immunity is likely lower’

49ers' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hopes to return to the field this weekend to lead San Francisco against the Colts. (Photo courtesy of 49ers)
NFL Week 7 picks: Niners face crucial matchup against the Colts

San Francisco could join Seattle on the brink of irrelevancy in the NFC West with another loss

Most Read