This Godless Endeavour
CoC chats with Curran Murphy of Shatter Messiah
by: Jackie Smit
If the name Curran Murphy rings a bell, chances are that you'll already have at least a vague idea of what to expect from his latest musical outing, the rather eloquently dubbed Shatter Messiah. A seasoned veteran who cut his teeth in class acts like Nevermore and Annihilator, his new venture has spawned a colossal beast of a debut album that bludgeons the senses in a decidedly old-school fashion; and Murphy is rightfully proud of his band's achievement. It begs the question: what took him so long to put together something of his own?

Curran Murphy: The biggest thing was when I relocated from Seattle to Ohio, and then the other factor was being previously involved in two international acts (Nevermore and Annihilator). You're busy when you're with those guys! <laughs> So, after I finally got the time to sit down and write some music of my own, the hard thing was finding the players and finding the guys of calibre who can do this and who want to do what I want to do. So it took me about a year and a half to get this band off the ground, from getting the players to signing the record deal to writing and recording an album. That actually feels pretty fast to me, because I've seen some bands take that long just to find a fucking bass player!

CoC: Well, Nile had to fly in their new drummer from Greece, so you thankfully didn't have to go to such extremes.

CM: Yeah, finding Bobs [Robert Falzano, drums] was a fucking miracle, man. I mean, he got recommended for the Annihilator gig by Mike Mangini, so even before I met him, I knew that he had to be a fucking great player. Initially I gave him the demos for the Shatter Messiah music with the cheesy little drum machine beats, basically just to see if he'd be interested and if he thought that it was any good, and he came back a half hour later and said: "Dude, can I play drums for you?" I was just like: "Fuck, you're hired!" <laughs> So, yeah -- a lot of good luck in getting the calibre of player I've managed to get for this band.

CoC: What sparked the idea for Shatter Messiah from a musical point of view then?

CM: This is what I want to do. This is how I write, this is how I play guitar, these are the kinds of vocals I like to hear, and these are the kinds of drums I like to hear. So it was natural in that sense, but it was a conscious decision from the get-go in terms of how I decided to do this band. From the start, I said that there would be no fucking compromises of any kind. If it's good, it's good. If it sucks, it's not going to be on the record. That's the situation I've been in with other bands that nobody has ever heard of, where people in the band keep asking why their material isn't being used, and it's like: "Because your shit sucks." The problem is that you can't be like that with your friends. So from the get-go, I was very upfront with everyone who came into the band, and I told them that they're welcome to contribute, but everything they do has to be on par with my stuff or better to even be considered. To be honest with you though, it's turned out well enough that we've already started working on the next record, and everyone is bringing in killer material. It's all about what feels right and what feels natural. I want this band to be on a level with bands I love, like Annihilator and Nevermore.

CoC: It definitely sounds like it's been slightly easier to get this band off the ground than it may have been for others. What did you learn from being in your previous acts that you took with you and that helped you get this done?

CM: Fuck, dude -- the list is a mile long. The incredibly important lessons from both those bands were everything from how to talk to your record label people, how not to talk to your record label people, how to treat your fans, how not to treat your fans... The lessons were in the good things and even in the mistakes, because nobody's perfect. I just tried to remember all that stuff when I was putting Shatter Messiah together, and tried to make sure I had that list of dos and don'ts in the back of my mind every day. I also have to give huge props to my drummer, Bobs, because he has a great mind for business and he and I work really well together. There's a team atmosphere in the whole band actually, which isn't meant as a cliché or anything like that, but that's just how it is. We all want the same thing. So being able to take all those experiences of mine, distil that down into what I wanted this band to do, and then having a great band, great management and definitely the right record label backing me up was a huge help.

CoC: So speaking of your record label, what made you decide to sign with a young label like Dockyard 1, rather than someone bigger?

CM: <laughs> Do you want the true version, the partially bullshit version or the entirely bullshit version? No, seriously -- we had a couple of offers from other labels, but they were bullshit offers where they own everything from merchandise to publishing. It's the sort of deals that a lot of bands are stupid enough to sign and they basically end regretting for the rest of their careers. So we changed a couple of things, had our manager go back to all the labels and he came back to us and said: "They basically told me to go and fuck myself." So, how confident would that make you in signing with any of those labels? I'm not even talking about a Century Media or a Nuclear Blast here. These are much smaller labels. Dockyard 1 came back to us with a very fair and honest record deal. My manager looked at the contract, my lawyer looked at it, and they both felt that the label was expecting us to succeed. They don't sign you and sit back and see what happens. They're signing you because they expect that they'll get a return on the money they're investing. There was just huge respect from those guys, and I think that their attitude is that the bands that they're signing right now are going to help build the label, which is great. When we'd signed with them, the label president called me and told me that they don't normally sign bands that don't come highly recommended or that they don't know about themselves. In our case, we were the first band that they'd signed purely based around the music, and that was a big compliment and it gave me the confidence that they're going to do great things for us, because they like what we do and they don't expect us to change a lot of things. There's none of the bullshit that I'm sure we would have run into with a lot of the other labels.

CoC: What was it like taking Shatter Messiah into the studio to record your first full-length? Were there any surprises along the way?

CM: I was constantly surprised, but it was all good surprises. We'd have Wags, our singer, look at some lyrics, for example, and he'd just belt it out in one or two takes. He'd just throw it out -- it's disgusting! I run a recording studio and I work with a lot of singers, and I haven't seen a lot of people pull it off the way he does. He'd also constantly come up with all these ideas; just continually creating all these fucking cool ideas that were quite frankly better than mine. Or he'd take my idea and build it into something I hadn't thought of. Same thing with Bobs. He'd roll in having listened to the drum parts I had written using a drum machine, and we'd be recording it and he'd just do these things like: "Where the fuck did that come from? Do it again!" So nothing but good surprises. There was just so much respect shared between everyone. There was this total openness to ideas that was just great. You know, you get people who go into the studio and once the record's done they quit, because they hate the singer or the other guitar player or whatever. Shit, I've been in bands where that's happened, but to give you a short answer to an easy question: the process was nothing but pleasant. Even in the rehearsals, it's just been nothing but pleasant. There's no fighting, there's no problems. Everyone just shows up with their a-game going on.

CoC: So for this first album, the writing was more or less all down to you. Am I right?

CM: Yeah, for this record the writing was all me, and for the next one it will probably be about 75 to 80% my stuff. That's purely by default more than anything else though. I'm not trying to get more publishing money or some shit like that -- it was just purely out of necessity, because when I started the band there was nobody else. It was just me, so I thought "fuck it" and I just wrote some music. After that, every dude that rolled in thought that the stuff I had done was killer and we used it. But everyone's bringing great ideas to the table at the moment and they will probably be used in the future. I'm pretty ruthless on shit, but I have to be because I feel like I'm in personal competition with two other bands, Nevermore and Annihilator, because I played with those guys, and I know how good they are. So whatever I write or create has to be as good or better, and the great thing is that everyone in this band has their ego in check enough that nobody's feelings get hurt if we don't use an idea or if we try something different to what they've suggested.

CoC: One of the very obvious themes belying the new record is a dislike for organized religion. Is that something that will continue on all your next albums?

CM: Probably, because there are a lot of holy books I can hate on, brother. <laughs> I've read the Bible several times, I've read the Koran several times, I've worked through the Jewish Torah -- maybe I'll pick on Buddha next time. But I have a sickening dislike for organized religion, because they just make people hate each other. Thirteen year-old kids strapping fucking bombs to themselves and blowing up people who don't believe in their religion. Or people saying you're gay so you're going to hell. Who gives a fuck? Is this person a good person? Then that's all that matters. Technically religion is supposed to be about love and acceptance, and people have just fucking warped it and turned it into something to use for personal or monetary or political gain. So yeah, I hate religion.

CoC: What's the response been like on your most recent tours? I understand that your new record hasn't been released in the States yet, so are you happy with what you've been able to achieve in a live setting thus far?

CM: Well, you ask me if I'm satisfied with what we've done and I'd say probably not. Basically the plan for Curran and Shatter Messiah is that if we could make records for three months a year and tour for nine for the next thirty years, then that's cool. <laughs> I mean, I want to make records and I want to tour. I love being on the road and I love playing shows. We're talking to Dockyard about getting over to Europe. I'd love to do that as soon as possible, and we're putting a lot of energy into getting that arranged now. There's definitely talk of some summer festivals as well. In the States all the touring we've done has just been on our own just to basically get out there and play music. We can also sell the record at those shows, which is good.

CoC: You mentioned that you've already started work on the next record, so can we expect a fairly quick sequel to _Never to Play the Servant_?

CM: I want to be one of those bands that's put out an album every fucking year, dude. I mean so many of my favourite bands you have to wait three or four years before they put something out, and it drives me fucking nuts. I'm a metal junkie! Give me a more! <laughs> So, _Never to Play the Servant_ is out now, and basically we'll see what the record label thinks is a smart move. They know the ebb and flow of things better than I do. As far as progress on the new material, there are two songs completely written, and then there's another eight or nine that need lyrics and some arrangement work, and then I'd like to add a couple more. When I go and spend fifteen or sixteen dollars on a fucking record, I want more than forty minutes. That just pisses me off when bands do that. OK, so Slayer set the precedent for short albums, but listen to _Reign in Blood_ -- that album still kicks fucking major ass to this day. So they can get away with it. I can't. I remember the glory days of _Master of Puppets_ and _...And Justice for All_, where it's almost an hour of fucking heavy metal. That's what I love.

CoC: Having been in bands and now heading up your own, what are thoughts on the current state of heavy music and where do you see it heading in the future?

CM: Well, I would say the coolest thing about metal now -- at least the style that bands like us, Nevermore, Exodus, Arch Enemy and so on do -- is that even if it's never been as big again as it was in the Eighties, all the real bands have survived and are still going on. I mean, in the Eighties the so-called metal that was popular was shit like Poison, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue, who were really only rock bands, and then grunge came along killed off all that shit. But real metal has always been there; it's never died. It may be getting stronger again now, but not to ridiculous levels, and I think that it's better when it's that way. I think that metal can handle maybe one or two Metallica-sized bands. When it becomes more than that, then it gets too much. I don't know, maybe I'm just rambling. <laughs> My feeling is that metal is strong and it keeps getting stronger because bands keep getting better. Bands like Lamb of God and The Haunted are increasing the intensity level and they're getting heavier and they're making the music better, because they're producing better records and they're writing better songs.

CoC: Well, Curran, thanks a lot for your time. What do you have to say to finish this off?

CM: When we're in England, I'll buy the first pint!

(article submitted 18/1/2007)

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