By Carl Begai
My Ruin vocalist Tairrie B. Murphy and guitar-wielding multi-instrumentalist husband Mick Murphy could write a book on perseverance. They’ve been recording the audio version for almost 15 years.
Originally launched as a solo project by Tairrie in 1999, My Ruin has had career made up beautiful highs and brutal lows, the lowest being the systematic destruction of their Ghosts And Good Stories album in 2010 by their previous record company president. Long story short, the man that lured My Ruin to his now defunct label (Tiefdruck Musik) and played the good guy became the band’s worst enemy once the album was in his hands. Ghosts And Good Stories was dead before it had a chance to breathe. A year later, My Ruin stormed back with probably their angriest album to date, A Southern Revelation, making the surprise move of offering it to anyone that wanted it for free. Now, the band is back with The Sacred Mood, their eighth studio album, a record that perhaps best encapsulates what My Ruin is all about. It’ll cost you to take it home with you, but the long time diehard fans will tell you its money well spent.
Tairrie: “Let’s be honest, in this day and age, every record is available for free. With or without a label, your record is out there on the internet, and even if you want to fight it you really can’t. Writing and recording A Southern Revelation was cathartic for us at the time and we needed to do it. It was our middle finger to our ex-label owner Daniel Heerdmann, but also the only way we felt able to take back our power as a band while we waited out our contract with the label. Other than doing nothing but mourning the album he killed, it really was our only option at that point and the fans of our band understood this and supported us in a big way. So did the press, who really got behind us and championed our album with some of the best reviews of our career. We were extremely mad about the lies, broken promises and complete lack of promotion for the release of Ghosts And Good Stories because he did nothing with it – an entire UK / European tour for which tickets had already been sold had to be cancelled – so rightfully this led to me and Mick taking matters into our own hands and addressing what he did to us head on. We decided to channel our anger and focus our rage by writing A Southern Revelation. It was our reckoning and our slaying of the beast.”
The natural assumption is that The Sacred Mood – rounded out by bassist Luciano Ferrea – is less likely to take a firm hold with the masses compared to A Southern Revelation due to the fact there’s a price attached to the music. But, as is the case with any band that boasts a loyal fan base, My Ruin’s followers had no problem forking over their beer money even though A Southern Revelation was a freebie.
Mick: “We decided to self release The Sacred Mood via TuneCore, which has made it available worldwide through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play etc. This way people can find it in a lot of different places and not just on our Bandcamp page. We’re not making music for the masses. We never really have. We make it for ourselves and the fans of band that understand and support what we do. The diehards always show their support; even with the free record we got donations because many people still wanted to pay for it.”
Tairrie: “There were fans that made $100 donations for A Southern Revelation, while others donated $6.66 in the name of metal and the devil. We know a writer who used to work for LA Weekly, he was someone we really respected who had interviewed us for a cover story when we won the People’s Choice Award for Best Hard Rock / Metal Artist and heavily supported the band back in the day. He’d moved on from the Weekly and we hadn’t heard from him in a few years; suddenly there he was making a massive donation out of the blue. It’s very touching to feel that kind of love and support from friends and fans, new and old. I guess a lot of people liked the DIY aspect of it and I’m sure the back-story of the hell we went through with our ex label pissed a few people off as well. We can’t give every record away for free but once in a while certain situations dictate we take alternative routes with our releases. For The Sacred Mood, we simply chose to do it this way and thankfully we have had a positive response.”
“However, on the topic of free downloads, we’ve recently obtained the rights back to a certain album from our past which also never got much of a push in regards to distribution. Being that we now own the rights to it after all these years and it’s a great record; we thought it would be fun to remix it at Soundtrack Black Studio with Joel (Stooksbury/producer) when we go home to Tennessee for the holidays later this year. Keeping with our DIY spirit, we may possibly offer it as a free download to help promote our appearance at Alt Fest and a few select dates we have scheduled for the UK in 2014. This way, those who missed it because it was hard to find at the time will finally get the chance to check it out.”
Free music or not, My Ruin is a band that has to fight for every step taken. Eight albums in and they’ve seen an unfortunate share of record labels come and go, ultimately leaving the Murphys to pick up the pieces and push forward as if the suits with the record deals don’t matter.
Tairrie: “The suits don’t matter. Record companies are becoming more and more obsolete and the idea of trusting another label has become more and more unappealing to us over the years. While we’ve seen so many bands come and go, we’re still here and making the best records of our career. We’ve been doing this for a long time and sometimes we don’t know how we do it. It can be as disheartening as it is frustrating and it can take a toll on your soul. People often assume we’re a bigger band than we are, others think we’re smaller, but we’re in the middle somewhere just continuing to do what we do. Nowadays it’s much harder to get a booking agent than a label. Anyone can put a record out and many labels have put ours out and done fuck all with them. It’s shameful. Not for us but for them. I think many bands have gone through a lot of the same things we have gone through but the difference is, they break up because it’s not always easy to keep the fire burning.”
“With Ghosts And Good Stories we had a label that we signed to that completely turned on us but instead of allowing them to kill our band, we assembled a good team together and worked hard doing our own press and promotion, which carried us through to A Southern Revelation. All the while there was a lot of anger and resentment towards the situation we were in, which we expressed within our music. When we began writing and doing demos of songs for The Sacred Mood, everything had really calmed down because we’d exorcised our demons and we were free of the dirty people we had been dealing with for what had felt like a very long time. This cleansing brought us an inner peace and when it was time to record the album, we were in a really good place which in turn gave a new dimension to the lyrical content.”
This doesn’t mean, however, that My Ruin’s penchant for musical violence has been suppressed. Call it more of a controlled beating this time around, backed by a metal soundtrack steeped heavily in good old rock n’ roll.
Tairrie: “A lot of people ask us about calling The Sacred Mood a subtle re-invention of My Ruin. What we mean by that is this is the first album we’ve recorded that really isn’t confrontational. It’s not a vengeful record. Yes, I’m loud and screaming, but it is done in a more abstract and inwardly vulnerable way. There’s also a fun fact about the album; which is, there’s not one cuss word on it. And what’s really funny is that it wasn’t deliberate. It just sort of happened that way. I think that with the previous record I was so angry in my writing that I guess the rapper side of me came out (laughs). You know; ‘You wanna go, let’s go.’ It was also a different headspace. A Southern Revelation was recorded in the dead of winter and it was cold. When we went to record The Sacred Mood we were in Tennessee during the summer and the atmosphere surrounding us was beautiful, green and lush, our heads and hearts were very clear and calm.”
Mick: “We’re really proud of the new record. Like you said, it’s got some rock elements to it but I think it’s more straightforward than the last record which makes it almost a little heavier even if the subject matter may not be as mean, it is actually more intense and heavy in a whole other way. If you go back and listen to A Prayer Under Pressure Of Violent Anguish, which is the first album Tairrie and I wrote and recorded together back in 2000, it’s pretty straightforward too. In my opinion, there’s a harkening back to that vibe on The Sacred Mood, but there’s a bit more rock n’ roll on this one.”
Tairrie: “The music of My Ruin is a mix of so many different elements however, one thing we are not is goth and we really don’t understand where the hell that has come from. Mick is about as far away from being a fan of goth music than anyone I know and I’m an ex rapper. Yes, I love Nick Cave but I also love Ice Cube. We have punk and hardcore elements as well as classic rock and even a slight touch of rap as weird as that may sound because of my past and I will always have a part of that in me. It’s just who I am. I’m not into the crazy guitar riffs from some of these newer metal bands; it’s not really my thing. I’ve got to have a groove, I’ve got to have vocals that I can feel which speak to me, and that I can understand.”
Mick: “Music that stretches and breathes, that you can feel. That’s what we’re into, that’s what we’re all about. We’re an underground band so a lot of people are just discovering our albums for the first time because we haven’t had the kind of promotion or support behind us that many other bands have had. Therefore, I think people often times get confused about ‘who sounds like whom.’ When it comes to our music, we’ve been doing what we do for a long time. I like the spoken word aspect of what Tairrie does vocally, for example, because she has a great speaking voice; it adds atmosphere to our music and her massive screaming voice is natural and all her own. While other women have been compared to her, there is no one else who sounds like her.”
This discovery process leads yet again to the worn-to-the-bone problem of My Ruin being lumped in with acts they would rather not be associated with. Over the last few years In This Moment has been a critic favourite, for example, thanks to screamer Maria Brink’s voice borrowing from Tairrie’s cauldron. It’s a comparison that continues to get under Tairrie’s skin.
Tairrie: “When My Ruin gets lumped in with the lowest common denominator, it bothers me no matter who the band is, male or female fronted. The comparison you point out couldn’t be more different from me and her band does not interest me in the least musically speaking. Truth be told, I’m finding it harder and harder to respect many women in metal these days, especially when every time I turn around they’re presenting themselves like trashy hookers. Posing naked while sitting on a stool with a dunce cap on your head and the word ‘whore’ written down your back is not empowering to women, it’s actually quite the opposite. I find it offensive on many levels. Is this really what young girls into heavy music have to look up to now? It’s sad. Everyone is so desperate to be famous that it’s become a contest to see who can be the bigger stripper with an over the top image and ridiculous schtick. I find it insulting to women like myself, who have had to fight every step of the way to be heard and taken seriously as an artist. I could take my clothes off as well but that’s just not who I am. I don’t feel the need to go that route because my music speaks for itself and that’s what gives me strength and confidence.”
In closing, Tairrie comments to My Ruin’s rather ballsy move of covering the Elvis Presley classic, ‘Trouble’, which closes The Sacred Mood. Completely unexpected but an instant go-to track… right after ‘God Is A Girl With A Butcher Knife’.
Tairrie: “In regards to ‘God Is A Girl…’ we’ve had a great reaction from the fans to that particular track. It’s very cryptic and catchy. It was inspired by the American author and poet Dorothy Parker who had a reputation for sharp wit and was known as The Mistress Of The Verbal Hand Grenade back in her day. It’s actually one of my favorite songs on the new album. I really dig the way it starts with a killer solo from Mick and it’s dynamic vocally. It plays to both the sultry and screaming sides of my throat. Everybody seems to love it so we may have to film a video for that one. We’re currently putting the finishing touches on a new one for ‘Heretic Dreams’. It’s the follow up to ‘Moriendo Renascor’ which we released a couple months ago.”
“As far as Elvis goes, there are two songs of his that I’ve always loved; ‘Trouble’ and ‘Polk Salad Annie’ which is kind of a strange one. Mick was not about to cover ‘Polk Salad Annie’ (laughs), and I thought that since ‘Trouble’ is such a classic, wouldn’t it be cool with a woman singing it a bit tongue in cheek. I heard Danzig’s version from ages ago, but I wanted our version to be true to Elvis and have that snarl and attitude. It’s one of my favourite songs to do live, actually. I’ve always been an Elvis girl and I love doing covers. It was a blast recording it and even more fun performing it. All hail the King and don’t mess around with me!”
Photos by Kayla Wren for Ren Photography