We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jonathan Taylor of An Armchair Critic Blog who gave us a brilliant review of our new album and wanted to follow things up with an interview and a few interesting questions, including some we have never been asked before. We'd like to thank Mr Taylor for taking the time to speak with us and recommend you check out his rad new blog. Thank you also to the wonderful Andy Watson [www.drw-images.co.uk] for the photographs which accompany the Q&A. Both gentlemen of the highest order!
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
with Tairrie B & Mick Murphy of My Ruin
An Armchair Critic has been given the opportunity to lose his interview cherry to one of the most influential metal bands of the last decade. My Ruin's refusal to conform to the corporate junket has allowed them the opportunity to continue producing quality records, without the black corporate raven sat on the top of their speaker stack. With a combined and enigmatic combination of Tairrie B and Mick Murphy guiding the sound and evolution, their recent release ‘Ghosts & Good Stories,’ is an album that is as heavy as it metal.
By Jonathan Taylor
When you were starting out in the music industry did you ever anticipate being the lead singer of a metal band?
TBM - No. Being in a metal band was the furthest thing from my mind at that time. As most people know, I started my music career in the hip hop world as a solo rap artist and this was what I lived and breathed for many years before starting my first metal band [Manhole] which later became Tura Satana.
Tura Satana was one hell of a band, how was it to be in a band the helped redefine hard rock?
TBM - Thank you, that’s very nice of you to say. Back then, there weren’t really a lot of women screamers fronting bands that were playing the type of music we were playing at that time so I didn’t really have a great deal to relate to on the female front. I had to basically find my own way and navigate through the male dominated world of hard rock & metal which I was not very familiar with and was not always that inviting. I think I learned a great deal in those days about who I was as a woman which helped to define who I am as an artist. Tura Satana and more importantly, Manhole were both seminal bands that opened the doors for girls in many of the popular metal bands you see nowadays and I will always be very proud that I can say that.
You were known to be good friends with Lynn Strait; I have often wondered why you never appeared on the tribute album 'Strait Up!'?
TBM - Yes, I used to wonder this same question myself for many years and having you ask me this out of the blue is a bit eerie because strangely enough it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I found out part of the reason I was suspiciously left off. It’s sad that I wasn’t included on the tribute album for Lynn while a few people who had no place on it were instead because it was more about big names than true friends and people who actually knew and loved Lynn. I wrote a wonderful tribute to him on My Ruin’s album “A Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish” called “Rockstar” which we released in 2000.
I was wondering what bands it was that you grew up listening to, and do these still to this day play much of a role in your sound?
MM - I am going to list the biggies chronologically as they came into my life starting back as a kid in ’74. Kiss, UFO, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Rick Derringer, Jeff Beck, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Rush, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Ozzy (w/ Randy Rhoads), Motley Crue, Ratt, Dio, Loudness, Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Voivod, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Black Flag, Descendents, All, Fear, Bad Brains, Rollins Band, Badlands, Pantera, RHCP, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, Alice In Chains, Nirvana, COC, RATM and Helmet. Yes, they’ve all influenced me in one way or another over the years and still do.
You are clearly an extremely talented musician, but how did you become such an accomplished producer? Had you done any before you joined My Ruin?
MM - I have been recording myself since the ‘80’s. That’s how I write songs. I just know what I think sounds good, tight, in tune, in time, vibey and powerful. It was a natural progression.
I have read in many interviews that you are an incredibly chilled and humble man, how have you sustained this in an industry that has a reputation for destroying musician’s souls?
MM - I don’t have time for bullshit so I don’t go around bullshitting. This town and industry pretty much sucks but I love to play music so that’s what keeps me going. My southern upbringing also helps me keep both feet on the ground (most of the time).
Ghosts and Good Stories’ seems to be much heavier in sound than your previous recordings, what do you think has influenced this?
TBM - I would have to say that our growth as musicians and Mick’s getting more involved in the recording and producing side of things with each new album has definitely influenced our sound in many ways. I think we always try to keep the soul of our music true to who we are as a band with each record but it’s nice to experiment and try new ideas when we go in the studio.
MM- Heavier songs just happened this time around. The record also has a big sound and that helps convey the heaviness more effectively as well.
The lyrics of ‘La Ciudad’ speak of your love and hate for LA, what was the motivation for the lyrics and how has L.A. changed during your musical career?
TBM – I am a California native. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and being that I was born and raised here, I will always have a certain heartbeat for Los Angeles but at the same time I have had a sort of love/hate affair with the city for years. I found myself writing this song as a narrative for how I began to feel over time as someone who has spent her life in LA and watched it evolve through the TV eye of the media as well as the music scene and various friendships with people who reside here. While this city can indeed be very beautiful and inviting there is also a darker side and this particular track is more of a misanthropic ode to its plastic wasteland of fakeness with six degrees of separation between reality and fiction under the bright lights of the Hollywood sign. That’s how I would define it.
How do you collaborate on the writing and structure of My Ruin songs?
MM - I demo riffs, arrangements and songs and present them to Tairrie and we work on them from there or sometimes she’ll give me a rhythm, a lyric or a tempo and I’ll work off her idea. She then writes lyrics and vocal lines to my demo recordings.
G&GS seems at times to have an operatic aesthetic, was this the intention when writing the album?
TBM - That’s an interesting and very unusual interpretation. When I think of the term “operatic” I usually think of singers like Tarja and bands like Nightwish which I would consider My Ruin to be the polar opposite of vocally speaking since I’m more of a screamer than singer. I feel the new album actually has a more of a doom aesthetic than that of our previous recordings which are more rock & metal oriented but I suppose everyone hears things differently and isn’t that really the true beauty of music?
MM - Hmm. That wasn’t necessarily intentional but I’ll take it. Obviously we aren’t operatic sounding like many other bands around today though. We aren’t “sing-songy” at all. It’s more like an aural assault.
What was the motivation for The LVRS side project, and how different was the approach to recording it from recording as My Ruin?
MM - It’s an interesting and different way to approach making music. It’s very cinematic and story oriented so the music must create atmosphere for the words.
TBM - The LVRS recordings were born one evening back in 2003 after I watched a documentary about the murder of Elizabeth Short AKA the Black Dahlia. I had known her story but not in such full detail as that which was told in this particular film I had seen. The details which were so brutal and tragic coupled with the fact that she was so young and beautiful at the time really struck a chord with me and seemed to resonate in my mind to the point I found myself almost being compelled to write about her. I asked Mick to put together music that would be something different and more dramatic than the type of stuff were writing for My Ruin and things just began to take shape. ‘The Sum of Her Parts’ was the first recording for The LVRS debut album ‘The Murder of Miss Hollywood’. I had recorded a few spoken word pieces over the years on the first two My Ruin albums as well as in my previous band Tura Satana but this time it was different and the stories seemed to have a life all their own so we created The LVRS to give them a way to breathe and as another way to express ourselves together musically. The LVRS recordings are heavily influenced by death and romance with the idea that a whisper can sometimes be more frightening than the scream. There are elements of sex, violence and religion thrown into the mix but unlike My Ruin songs which are all based on true life experiences, The LVRS mix fact with fiction to create stories and set scenes that have an almost otherworldly feel and sensibility within their ominous musical soundscapes. They have a very intense yet poetic style to them despite the graphic nature of some of the lyrical content. In 2006 we released ‘Death Has Become Her’ and in 2010 ‘Lady Speaks The Bruise’. "Both are available to download" online at www.thelvrs.bandcamp.com
What song is guaranteed to get you playing air guitar?
TBM - I’m an air drummer at heart but when I do air guitar it’s usually to my husband’s sexy riffs! ;)
MM - ‘Eruption' by Edward Van Halen.
What is the most significant incident /event of your life, thus far, and what lasting effect has it had on you, both artistically and personally?
MM - I have 4 events for this answer … hearing KISS “ALIVE!” at age 4, in ‘75, getting a guitar for X-Mas ’83, starting a band just out of high school and learning about touring and living the rock life and meeting Tairrie in 2000.
TBM - There have been many over the years including getting signed by Eazy E and releasing my first rap album, starting my first rock band Manhole and touring the world, watching Nick Cave sing live for the first time, starting My Ruin, meeting Mick, recording all the albums we have together and the many things we have gone through as a couple both good and bad over the years including my car accident in 2006 which still effects me to this day. It’s really too hard to pin point one significant incident or event because a lifetime is filled with so many highs and lows and they all effect you in different ways and for different reasons.
I assume that music plays a significant role in both your lives. What bands do you enjoy listening to, and is it only metal? And what bands have you recently discovered and would say are worth a listen?
TBM - I enjoy listening to everything from old school rap to classic rock. It really depends on my mood. I love pulling out old CD’s that I haven’t heard in a while and revisiting special memories certain songs evoke. I recently listened to PJ Harvey’s album ‘Is This Desire’ which I haven’t heard in years and fell in love with it all over again. It’s such a gorgeous record. Lately we’ve been listening to the band ‘Ghost’ who we’re both really into at the moment but I fear they might be slowly putting a black metal spell on me with their not so hidden satanic messages and romantic vocals.
MM - I listen to 70’s rock, metal, punk & fusion, 80’s thrash, hardcore and some hair metal, 90’s alternative hard rock & some grunge and post 2000 doom, stoner rock and underground metal.
What was the first song you danced to as Mr & Mrs Murphy and what memories does it hold?
TBM - What an awesome question! This is the first time anyone has ever asked us this. We dance together all the time in our kitchen so I’m sure must have danced to a few of our favorites soon after we got married but the song I really remember as husband and wife would have to be ‘Moondance’ by Van Morrison. It is our song and we danced to a live version of it played by a band at the hotel we were staying at on my birthday soon after we got married. It’s a wonderful memory of an amazing evening.
MM - On a side note, we actually danced to ‘Moondance’ on our 6 month dating anniversary blaring out of my car up in Laurel Canyon back in 2000. On the way home, I got pulled over by L.A. Sheriffs for burnt out license plate lamps and subsequently field sobriety tested on Sunset Blvd in front of The Standard Hotel. I passed!
It is obvious that My Ruin have played some great and legendary venues all over the world, but what is your favourite and why?
MM - The most familiar is the Whisky in L.A. for sure. They treat us like family there.
TBM - I can’t really tell you my favorite venue but my favorite city will always be London.
You are both marooned on a desert island; you have food, bedding and shelter! What three luxury items would you wish to have with you?
TBM - Red lipstick, Angel perfume by Thierry Mugler and my laptop with unlimited WIFI.
MM - iPod, guitar and studio.
With all the turbulent times within the line-up of My Ruin, was there ever a time when you thought about splitting up the group?
MM - There has been many times when I thought to myself it might be over but somehow My Ruin keeps going because Tairrie and I really love making music together.
TBM - Yes. I’d being lying if I said I didn’t. Being in a band is not always as fun as it may seem on the outside to those looking in, especially when you have to deal with some of the people we’ve had to deal with in and around My Ruin over the years. We’ve gone through some serious trials and tribulations throughout our career but we would never end the band because of someone else. When we end it, it will be on our terms because we simply don’t feel the need to continue. Thankfully that day has not come yet. In fact, we have the first of a few very big band announcements coming in August which we have been keeping secret and can’t wait to share!