We only came across John Murry relatively recently when following some obscure internet links took us to 2006’s World Without End, the historical album of violent and often brutal murder songs he co-wrote and recorded with Bob Frank. It is about as dark and forbidding as anything you’re ever likely to hear, and naturally it became an immediate favourite.
The benefits of our late discovery meant we weren’t waiting as long as everyone else for his first solo album The Graceless Age, released last year, and deservedly one of Uncut magazine’s records of the year. An incredible musical tapestry that is unflinchingly raw in its autobiographical tales of self-doubt, self-destruction and personal demons. At its heart sits Little Colored Balloons (listen below), which deals with his overdose in the Eula Hotel on 16th and Mission in San Francisco, where he was clinically dead for several minutes before being revived in an ambulance. He has described the song as a prayer of sorts and it is the most arresting ten minutes of torment and anguish, told over a piano and cello backing, that transcends most things you will hear in a lifetime of listening to music.
Musically, The Graceless Age strips Murry bare to his soul and then re-clothes him with hypnotic drones, delicate lap-steel, orchestral strings, electronica, strummed acoustics and blazing electrics – the results are both breathtaking and spine-tingling; as warm and as tender as they are raw and savage.
So obviously, we are delighted then to welcome him as the latest contributor to our 5:1 Interview series. We are even more delighted to discover he will be playing in Oxford on the 31st of this month – his tour starts tonight in Brighton and finishes in London on the 4th February – click here for all the dates.
Five words to describe your music:
Confused, Ordered, Temporal, Haunted, and Quixotic.
One book you’d recommend to an alien:
The Alienist by Machado De Assis (I don’t mean this ironically, either… swear it!)- It sums up nicely the horrors of humanity through the 19th century lens of a do-gooder psychiatrist’s (alienist’s) assessment of “madness” and “wellness”. It still rings all-too-true today. It indicts us all, I think… It’s also short: I don’t want to be the one to blame for taxing the time of space invaders! If their attention spans are longer? Don Quixote. That’s the Bible of the Human Condition.
Five bands (or albums) that have most influenced you?
Arab Strap’s “The Week Never Starts Round Here”, Spiritualized’s “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space”, The Afghan Whigs’ “Gentlemen”, Sparklehorse’s “Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot”, Bob Dylan (pretty much all his stuff has left it’s mark – I’ve been stuck with Bobby since I was a child)
One moment in time you’d like to have witnessed:
I would kill to have five minutes with William Faulkner to talk about family matters….. Maybe post-Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
Five people (living or dead) you’d love to share a stage-jam with:Duane Allman, Ronnie Van Zant, Tim Mooney, Joe Goldring, and Duck Dunn. All at once! Damn, that’d be incredible….. I don’t know what I’d do, but…. I wanna add Jason Pierce, too….. AHHHH!!!!!
One biggest regret in your career (to date):
My addiction to heroin for several years and the destruction it wrought (the destruction I wrought).
Five things on your perfect rider:
If the sound can’t be good, well…… Ha!
This is honesty: lots of Coca-Cola, two packs of Camel Wide Blues, one can of Kodiak, hot food from wherever I am (not a damn burger), and a quiet place to exist and smoke cigarettes and all.
One hour to live – who would you spend it with, and why?
My wife and daughter. I love them above all else. It’s simple and quite traditional. I know, but it’s true. Any human with a wife and children ought be able to say the same, I think. Given that choice, who else would I want beside me when I die? Them, of course. Yeah; I’m just a husband and Daddy first. A “musician” or whatever second. I wonder what most people’s answers to this question are. They’re my blood. I’m theirs.
Five Perfect Songs
FIVE SONGS TO LISTEN TO WHEN YOU HATE THE WORLD AND SUSPECT IT MIGHT HATE YOU IN RETURN:
(the first three won’t help, but prove you’ve got friends…. the last two might…)
1. The Afghan Whig’s “What Jail Is Like”
(“I warn you, if cornered, I’ll scratch my way out of the pen. Wired, an animal, the claustrophobia begins…”)
2. Sparklehorse’s “Pig”
(“Why don’t you see me die?…. I wanna be a stupid and shallow mother fucker now, I wanna be a tough skinned bitch but I don’t know howwwww….” )
3. Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed”
(“People are crazy, times are strange, I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range, I use to care, things have changed”)
4. Neil Young’s “Ordinary People”
(“Two out of work models and a fashion slave try to dance away the Michelob night. The bartender poured herself another drink, while two drunks were watching the fight. The champ went down, Then he got up again, Then he went out like a light. He was fighting for the people, but his timing wasn’t right. For Las Vegas people, came to see a Las Vegas fight. High rolling people, Taking limos through the neon night. Ordinary People.” – I think this is sarcasm, no???)
5. Arab Strap’s “New Birds” (the live from London version)
(“But you have to remember the kiss you worked so hard on. And you’ll know you’ve done the right thing.” THEN FUZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!! FEELS GOOD!)
If I could add one more it’d be all of “Time Out Of Mind”….. It both tells the truth and uplifts…. Seamlessly……
One song of yours that you’d most like to be played in 50 years time:
My cover of ABBA’s “Super Trouper”. That’d just be funny. May I be remembered for something absurd! Please! Not something “profound”!!!