Last week saw the release of Teenage Time Killers’ debut album, Greatest Hits Vol.1, surely the most eagerly anticipated release in the world of punk, rock and metal in 2015. It is an album the likes of which heavy music hasn’t seen for quite some time, assembling as it has an unrivaled line up of renowned musicians, all of whom have contributed their own unique talents to a collection of songs that is “the best punk-rock mixtape you’ve ever heard, threading a line through the music’s evolutionary edges, whilst expertly weaving together its common DNA.”
At the epicentre of this righteous rabble of rock’s finest is a quake-inducing triumvirate that have spent the best part of the last two years carving out the bedrock upon which the temple of Teenage Time Killers has been built; Reed Mullin (Corrosion Of Conformity), John Lousteau (chief engineer at Sudio 606) and of course guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Mick Murphy (My Ruin, The Birds Of Satan, Chevy Metal and Neanderthal.)
Here’s what Murphy, one of heavy music’s foremost practitioners of the six-string slinging art, had to say about the genesis of Teenage Time Killers, the writing and recording process, and the possibility of future releases bearing the band’s name…
Skin Back Alley: News of Teenage Time Killers seemed to slip out in the early days of the project and there was a lot of inaccurate information being circulated on the internet in particular. What IS the origin story of the group and how did you come to be involved in it?
=MM= Well, back in 2012, C.O.C. did their self titled record as a trio at 606. Great record, by the way. Probably one of my favourite of theirs. Anyway, my long time friend, John “Lou” Lousteau, who produces and engineers at 606, became close friends with Reed during that time and I guess they kicked around the idea of doing a hardcore EP made up of Reed’s songs and some punk covers with Jello Biafra singing one and Reed singing the rest. Months later, Lou brought this idea to me and asked if I wanted to play guitar on it and I basically said “Fuck yea, I wanna play guitar on it because Reed Mullin is one of my favourite drummers.”
Even after the news about the album started to spread, it seemed to take a little while for a record label and official release date to be confirmed. Was it tough finding the right home for the project?
We took our time with record labels and business side of things as we worked on the album. By the time we were ready to move forward, there were a few offers on the table. With all the well known people involved, there was interest right away.
Am I right in thinking that the essential core of the group is Reed Mullin of Corrosion Of Conformity, you and producer/engineer John “Lou” Lousteau? You guys were the trio who wrote the songs and pulled them together in the studio?
Yes, you are correct. We’re the core members of the group.
How did the writing process tend to work? Did you all bring in your own songs? Did you work on each other’s? Was it completely different for each one?
Once we got in the studio, things really took off. The musical chemistry between Reed, Lou and me was really natural because we all grew up on classic punk/metal/hardcore, we’re all from the south east and we all wanted to make a raw spontaneous album with a natural human feel to it. The music for the first 5 songs was finished really quickly with time to spare so in the heat of the excitement, I came up with 3 new songs on the spot so we worked those out and recorded them as well.
As Reed was leaving Los Angeles after that session, he had a chance meeting with Randy Blythe at LAX, he told him about the project and Randy said he wanted to sing a song. It just kept growing from there into a bunch of different guest singers and musicians from the punk and metal worlds including my wife/My Ruin vocalist Tairrie B Murphy (who’s actually the only female artist on the record).
At that point, we needed more songs, so another 606 session was booked, Reed brought more songs, I brought more songs, we did a couple tunes written by Reed’s pal Jonny Webber, one by Goatsnake guitarist, Greg Anderson, and we threw in some more covers. By the end we had 21 songs completed with 19 different singers.
Were there any tracks that you feel are “yours” more than others? The bone-crushing “Crowned By The Light Of The Sun” feels like it has a real Mick Murphy vibe to it?
Haha. Thanks. The riffs in “Crowned…” are indeed mine. Like I said, Reed brought songs and I brought songs to the table so yea, I do feel certain ones are “more mine” than others to a certain degree but Reed, Lou and I all contributed to every song on the record. It was a team effort and we all produced it together.
And the music tracks were all laid down at the infamous Studio 606 on THAT Neve console?
Yes, I’d say about 95% of the music was recorded at 606 on the infamous Sound City console. The record was also mixed entirely at 606.
Were you concerned about giving the album a cohesive “sound”? With varying styles of music and so many different performers, the collection could become the world’s most killer hardcore mixtape?
I don’t think we were particularly concerned with cohesion so much. I think we wanted to see where the varying factors would take each song naturally. I think that makes for a dynamic work of songs and an interesting listen. Growing up, I loved making mix tapes, so this record is like a dream come true for me. It’s like making the ultimate mix tape and actually being a part of creating the songs!
How did the recording process work? Did you, Reed and Lou lay down the music first with vocalists recording later? The disparate geography of the guest vocalists presumably meant that their performances were recorded in many different locations?
Yes we did the main music tracks first and then Lou would send the session files where ever they needed to go. Dave recorded his bass parts at 606 with Lou and me. Some of the guest guitar tracks were done in Raleigh and some of the vocals were recorded at 606, some in NC and the rest all over the place according to where the singers live.
And how long did the writing and recording process take?
All in all, it took about 2 years to complete the project.
Speaking of the guest vocalists, what an incredible line up! As well as you, Lou and Reed, it strikes me that the pedigree of the performers on this one album is almost unprecedented. What was it like as a fellow musician to work with some of these titans from the punk, rock and metal scenes?
It is a surreal honour to be a part of something like this. It’s been awesome getting to collaborate with so many people that I admire.
Did you have any sense of being star struck by any of the people involved? Were there any of the artists who you were looking forward to working with in particular?
After living in Los Angeles for almost 20 years, I don’t really get star struck. I’m stoked about everyone involved with the project, famous or not. Some of the lesser known artists really shine and hold their own on this album. Everyone gave their best and helped to enhance the final product.
How were the guest artists decided upon? Did you guys have people in mind for each of the songs or write material with anyone already in mind?
Much like Reed’s chance meeting with Randy at LAX, it was all very serendipitous. Certain people just made sense for certain songs and nothing was forced where it didn’t fit. I wrote Tommy’s and Tairrie’s songs specifically for them to sing, Jello was set to sing his from the get go and Reed had the songs he wanted to sing himself. All the rest were pretty much decided after the music was recorded.
A lot of the album’s contributors got together for a photo shoot at 606 earlier this year. What was the shoot like and was that the first time that so many of you had been together in the same place?
It was the first time a lot of us were meeting each other and it was cool. Like a rock n roll party in a killer recording studio with cameras. It was also the first time many of the people involved got to hear the entire record so there was a lot of excitement, good vibes and a sense that we had all accomplished something unique and rad.
Without taking anything away from his work on the album, in those earlier days was it frustrating to read headlines suggesting that Greatest Hits Vol.1 was essentially Dave Grohl’s project, or articles that only picked up on some of the other “marquee name” contributors?
Being excluded from press coverage after putting so much into TTK kinda sucks, but that’s how the media is unfortunately. Thankfully, more of the actual story is getting out there as things move along. With so many people involved, it’s difficult to get all the facts straight and names out there clearly, but it is finally moving in the right direction. Dave’s the most well known person involved so obviously the media is going to print his name first and foremost. He didn’t spearhead the project but he did play a substantial role. He played bass on over half the album and we used his studio for the majority of the recording. The “marquee names” will always get the most coverage when it comes to stuff like this but hopefully, they will also help draw more attention to the record so the lesser known artists can be heard by a wider audience.
I’ve heard rumours that you guys are getting a Teenage Time Killers live show together? Is that true? It’s highly likely to be the best live show on earth, but I imagine it’s a huge challenge in terms of co-ordinating everyone’s diaries?!
Plans are in the works but we’ll just have to wait and see with that. Hopefully live shows of some kind will happen. Fingers crossed.
Making the assumption that some of the contributors won’t be able to make the show, will those people who are there simply stand in for those who are M.I.A?
I guess we’ll have to feel that out as we move along and learn more. I really don’t know at this point. I don’t think we could get every single person together at the same time though, but who knows?
Were there any tracks worked up that didn’t make GHV1, and do have any idea at this stage as to whether there will be any more albums bearing the Teenage Time Killers name?
There are a few b sides that are available with the record on iTunes… some alternate versions with Reed singing and one extra track. As far as more records? If the opportunity arises to do more, I’m in for sure!