May 28, 2023 8:05 am

James Murphy Ousted DFA Records Co-Founder Jonathan Galkin Last Year. What Happened?

In one of his written statements, Galkin retorted, “Still thinking DFA is about ‘parties’ is like thinking your high school band is getting back together, given the right gig. Otherwise, where were the parties these past 20 years? I can count them out pretty easily. Most or all of them I helped organize and was involved in directly. They were lots of fun. But in no way shape or form was DFA about ‘parties.’” (This morning, DFA Records shared the event listing for a fundraiser party at Brooklyn’s Good Room, featuring DJ sets from Murphy and his LCD Soundsystem bandmate Pat Mahoney.)

One significant sore point raised by Murphy: the departure of Holy Ghost! from DFA Records prior to 2019’s Work. “[Holy Ghost! member] Nick Millhiser is one of the biggest DFA fans of all time—just straight up, he loves DFA. And then Holy Ghost! left and demanded their masters back,” Murphy said. “If you lose somebody that’s as much in love with the label as Nick is, then that kind of put me in a corner. That’s the sea change.”

“I agree it was a wake up call for me, too. It was a sad moment. He is friends with Nick, as am I” Galkin wrote of Holy Ghost!’s departure. “They were also offered an arrangement to help revive West End Records and make it their own home. Why would a disco-history-loving artist like Holy Ghost! pass that up?” Holy Ghost! did not respond to multiple requests for comment through their former representative.

Galkin told Reynaldo that his dismissal was followed by his “immediate concern [for] all of the artists who were stuck in the middle.” He said he wanted to “get them out of the burning building, so I took a bunch of the unfinished albums and began setting up my own label.”

Murphy told Pitchfork that he gave his blessing for Galkin to take and release any records on FourFour (including “records that DFA paid all the recording costs on”). Murphy also claimed that he offered to give Galkin money to start the label.

Galkin dismissed Murphy’s claims, telling Pitchfork, “There was no blessing…. I took no money from them, only the albums. And they were in various stages of completion. No, they did not ask me to reimburse the label for any expenses related to those albums. But in no way were they completed and paid for before I acquired them. Some were almost done and some were not done whatsoever.”

According to Galkin’s interview with Reynaldo, his minority ownership of DFA was also eliminated at the time of his dismissal. When asked about lawyers getting involved, Galkin replied: “Basically boiled down to, ‘You’re gone, we’re not, thank you for your time.’”

Court documents, viewed by Pitchfork, confirm that Galkin sued Murphy, label partner Tyler Brodie, and DFA LLC for breach of contract, fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, and more in August 2020. That legal filing was voluntarily discontinued by Galkin’s attorneys one month later.

Asked about the legal summons, Murphy said he was unable to comment on that action or any hypothetical settlement. “All I know is that it was very important to his side, whether it be him or his representatives, that there was a non-disparagement, nondisclosure agreement,” he said. He also claimed that DFA hadn’t “barred” Galkin from speaking to anybody at the label.

Galkin wrote to Pitchfork, “The only settlement achieved is what I state above,” referring to his obtainment of the unfinished DFA albums. He also said he and his attorneys have “no recollection of insisting” on “a non-disparagement, nondisclosure agreement.”

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