By Carl Begai
“Take these words home and think them through,
‘Cuz the next song I write might be about you.”
Project Wyze – ‘Only Time Will Tell’
Nobody in their right mind wants the publicity Tiefdruck Musik label boss Daniel Heerdmann is getting these days. Granted, it’s small scale recognition that likely won’t make it to a CNN news reel, but his so-called business practices have been yanked out into the open by My Ruin. A tale of band vs label conflict turning ugly is hardly unique, but My Ruin’s recent test of will is one for the books; or in this case, an album. Their new outing, A Southern Revelation, is a response to a record deal gone painfully awry, which saw the band’s 2010 album Ghosts And Good Stories die a premature death at the hands of Tiefdruck Musik. Not ones to go meekly into the night, vocalist/founder Tairrie B. Murphy and guitarist-turned-multi-intrumentalist/husband Mick Murphy chose to call Heerdmann out directly in response, first in a press release, and then in the lyrics on the new album. The attack is direct and leaves no question as to who’s leaving the ring with a bloody nose, metaphors be damned, and Tairrie is quite content being the one doing the damage.
Tairrie: “At this point I really don’t give a fuck. This man conned us; he snowed us big time. Calling him ‘The Soulless Beast’… it’s really true. He led us to believe that he was going to do all these things for us. When he approached us about the record deal – and we had a lot of conversations with him on Skype – he was cool. He told us that the reason we weren’t bigger is because nobody had ever promoted us properly because they didn’t know what to do with the band, but he could do the job. We were thinking ‘Wow, this guy really gets it.’ He told me that he’d been a fan since my Manhole days, that he saw me on tour supporting Fear Factory on the Demanufacture tour in 1996. I felt that we had a connection with this guy, which was amazing.”
“We got the deal going, and it was almost like a friend thing with this guy. We announced the signing while we were in the studio recording Ghosts And Good Stories, and soon after we got this really weird email from an old friend, Shaun Glass from Soil, who is now with Dirge Within. He told us we had to be really fucking careful because Daniel Heerdmann is a lying sack of shit. We wanted to know where that was coming from, and we told Shaun we were going to confront Daniel about it. I’m very open and forward when I want to know something.”
“So, I went to Daniel right after that and told him what Shaun had said, and Daniel had a comeback for everything, which was fine. At this point we’d signed the deal; what were we going to do? Daniel tried to really explain himself, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt because God knows people have had run-ins with My Ruin. There have been altercations, and I know some people out there talk shit about me and my husband. It did worry me a little in the back of my mind, but we decided to walk our own path, and as we got deeper into the record Daniel became even more supportive. He wanted to hear what we were doing and how the songs were coming along, and we’d never had that experience before. It was great. But, as soon as we got done with the record and we delivered it – and it was something we were so proud of – this guy did the Jeckyll and Hyde thing overnight.”
Unfortunately, with My Ruin located in California and Tiefdruck in Germany, the Murphys were severely limited with regards to action that could be taken to somehow save Ghosts And Good Stories. The label had essentially stolen the band’s music and nothing could be done face-to-face to rectify the situation, which could and likely would have made a difference.
Tairrie: “It was so bizarre. We didn’t know what to make of it. Our lawyer had to get involved, and it got to the point where Daniel started saying derogatory, misogynistic, horrific things about me to my attorney. And my attorney was copying us in on these emails. All the promises… we were working up to having this European tour booked, Daniel and his company said they wanted to book it for us, do the logistics for us, and they didn’t do any of it. It was all a lie, and they basically told our attorney it was never going to happen, that they had never planned on doing it. We had something like 300 tickets pre-sale for London at that point, and they were never going to go through with it.”
“It started spinning out of control with this man, to the point that my old self really would have gone at him, telling him to fuck off. I didn’t do that, I let my attorney handle it, and I cut off all contact with him. And this clown says to my attorney, ‘They deleted me on Facebook…’ It was like, ‘Really?! You asshole, you deleted our tour!”
Mick: “We were three or four weeks away from a European tour and a show at the Whiskey (in Los Angeles), we were flying in our drummer Matt LeChevalier from France, we were waiting for all this stuff, and we were basically in limbo.”
Tairrie: “Money transfers… Daniel bold faced lied to us saying that he did it, and then later ‘I never did it, I was never gonna do it.’”
Mick: “It was truly insane. So, we had to cancel Matt’s trip from France, cancel the tour, cancel on the Whiskey, and it was horrible. We were so let down and angry and betrayed that we eventually said ‘We’ve gotta write a record about this.’”
Keeping the nightmare scenario in mind, it’s surprising to find that A Southern Revelation isn’t a screaming, skin-flaying shitstorm of violence. On the contrary, it’s a step away from the grit metal approach of Ghosts And Good Stories, instead featuring a foundation rooted in hard-edge Southern rock. My Ruin hasn’t toned down their trademark attitude by any means, and there’s nothing soft or sellout about A Southern Revelation, but it’s definitely a different animal from its predecessor.
Mick: “I think this one stomps a little bit harder than Ghosts And Good Stories. I joke around with Tairrie about this – and in no way and I putting My Ruin in the same league as KISS – but I think Ghosts is like our Destroyer and A Southern Revelation is our Rock N’ Roll Over (laughs). All the music was written in LA because we had downtime, but I wrote differently this time. I just started playing guitar like the old days. I plugged into a practice amp and just started playing riffs and made little changes that way, instead of doing it in front of a big recording rig with guitar, bass and drums, trying to get a song done in a few hours. I took more time and wrote like a guitar player first. I think that changed the vibe a little, too. I’m really proud of the guitar on this record.”
Tairrie: “We weren’t really prepared to write another record. This thing sort of came to us naturally. We were sitting at home with a cancelled tour, pissed off and angry, unable to vent our frustration, and Mick started writing music. Me, not really paying attention to what he was doing, I was kind of writing my own letters to Daniel in a way that I may send some day. I was working out my thoughts on what I wanted to say to this guy, and I suddenly realized that I was writing lyrics. Next thing you know I had the song ‘Reckoning’. Mick told me he’d been working on new music, and things started to come together and fall into place as if they were meant to be.”
“For me ‘The Soulless Beast’, ‘Middle Finger’ and ‘Tennessee Elegy’ are the meat of the album for me lyrically. They encompass the theme of the album. ‘Soulless Beast’ was a song I worked on when we were in LA, and I wrote it several times because I couldn’t get it where I wanted it. In the beginning I wanted to write it like a biblical parable, but I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it. It wasn’t until we got to Tennessee, and it’s the funniest thing because we were staying with Mick’s family, and his mother pulled out her bible and some religious books for inspiration. I started to read the Book Of Revelation, and I hadn’t read it in a really long time. It was like I was having my own revelation. This is our seventh album, and the number seven figures very prominently in there. The Book Of Daniel is part of it, and it was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!” It started unfolding itself and I started thinking about how the Beast is the abomination that causes desolation, which is what we were dealing with. So, the Book Of Revelation took center stage for me.”
Mick: “It’s like we’re starting our second decade reborn and even more focused, with our own definitive style.”
Tairrie: “The other thing I really love about this album is that it’s got a very heavy spoken vibe. I’ve been doing spoken work for many, many years and I’ve incorporated it on a lot of our albums, but I wanted to get a bit heavier with that on this record. I didn’t want to make it a full-on screaming record. I think ‘Soulless Beast’ really comes through with that style in there, breathing the vibe and energy of The Lvrs project we do in there, which I really like.”
“I think that Ghosts And Good Stories and A Southern Revelation is our best work as artists to date. If anyone is discovering us right now, this is the time to do it because you can really get to know who we are.”
A Southern Revelation was recorded over Christmas 2010 during the Murphy’s holiday visit to Mick’s family in Knoxville, Tennessee. With no plans to record and no budget, they were invited by Mick’s friend of 20+ years and co-producer, Joel Stooksbury, to use his home studio to lay down the tracks. It was a gift they couldn’t refuse, just as A Southern Revelation is a gift to the My Ruin fans as a free download. Another surprising and risky move by Mr. and Mrs. Murphy.
Tairrie: “Basically – and I hate to say that this is the sad fact of it – a lot of people think that because we’re in magazines that Mick and Tairrie are rolling in dough. Fans don’t understand a lot of the business behind the scenes. They see you in a magazine or on tour, and they think you’re doing so well. We’re a do-it-yourself band and we always have been, so no matter what labels we’ve been on or what management we’ve had, in the end we’ve done it ourselves because no one seems to do their jobs when it comes to us. With Ghosts And Good Stories, that thing got out there and had so many downloads via torrent sites, and I couldn’t believe it. I was thinking that if that many people bought our record we’d be really successful. It blew my mind. So, when this whole thing with Daniel came about, we decided that we weren’t giving this man another record. No way in hell.”
“As we were making the new album we came to the conclusion that the biggest ‘Fuck you’ would be if we gave this record away for free. It didn’t cost us anything to make except time, and we wanted everyone to hear it. We wanted everyone to know what he did to us. And maybe this album will open the door for us, because we’re able to say ‘You’ve never heard of us, but here’s our new record. Download it, check us out and you’ll see we’re not a goth band (laughs), maybe you’ll like us.’”
Mick: “The way the industry has been going, the physical CD format is dying out in many ways. Most people download their music now. Physical record sales for a band our size, there isn’t much of a profit for the band. Why not give it away, and that might lead to more shows. We’d like to gig more.”
My Ruin have been in the trenches long enough to have earned a loyal fanbase, however, so although A Southern Revelation is free to all comers, they’ve received donations from those that believe the band deserves to profit (for a change) for their efforts.
Tairrie: “After we announced that the record was going to be free, we were bombarded with emails from people saying ‘I’ll pay for the record. Is there a place where I can donate money to you, because you’ve been through so much.’ We didn’t really think of that before they mentioned it, so we talked to some people about it, and now it’s possible for the fans to donate money for the record on the My Ruin website. We’re very appreciative of it, because we do everything ourselves.”
And that do-it-yourself drive is what keeps My Ruin kicking and screaming for more. At the very least, A Southern Revelation proves that so long as My Ruin have their pride, their friends, and the fans, the leeches within the music industry can’t bring them down.
Tairrie: “Some people say ‘When are My Ruin gonna give it up?’ Why do we have to give it up? I’ve been in this business for a long time and I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go. In the Manhole days there weren’t a lot of women around doing what I did. I’ve definitely watched the change. I feel like a veteran in this, and in many ways I feel like a woman that opened the door and kicked down some barriers for other women to come in, grab a microphone, and scream on it this way. I didn’t even know what I was doing when I started out. I was a fucking rapper, for God’s sake (laughs).”
“I remember sitting backstage at a Pantera show once, and I was watching a lot of the girls walking around back there. They’re all dressed sleazy and I’m listening to the talk about who in the band they were going to have sex with. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I don’t wanna fuck Phil, I wanna be Phil.’ I didn’t want that, I wanted to be that. That’s when I knew I wanted to be out there screaming and bloodletting and having those emotions. It wasn’t about that other shit and it never has been. It’s never been about money or those other rock n’ roll things for me or Mick.”
Ultimately, it’s about the love of music, which explains why Tairrie and Mick chose to put the nail gun away and end things on a positive note. Namely, a cover of the Van Halen classic, ‘Mean Street’.
Tairrie: “I love the fact that we have the ’70s Southern roots with Mick, and with me, in the early days I was going to Black Flag shows, NWA shows, I went to see the Go-Gos, so we have this melting pot of ideas. I did listen to KISS back in the day, and that classic rock is where we come together. We decided to cover Van Halen on the new album because we really loved doing the AC/DC thing (‘Have A Drink On Me’) and got a great response.”
Mick: “Fair Warning is one of the biggest records in my life. It’s almost underrated in Van Halen’s catalogue, but it’s a thick, chunky, mean record.”
Tairrie: “I think it definitely encompassed our feelings when we were making this record. We also felt at home, in a way, doing up the song like that.”
Mick: “Yeah, My Ruin lives on Mean Street (laughs).”
- A Southern Revelation is available for free download here.
Live photos and Blasphemous Girl pic by Maggie Young. Used with kind permission.