Interview: SpaceCream visionary Savannah Pope embraces the strange

SpaceCream - Savannah Pope 001

“As I’m sure you can imagine, I was a strange kid. I was never interested in pouring tea or being a princess. I was intense, imaginative, and enthralled by complex narratives,” says SpaceCream singer, songwriter and aesthetic visionary Savannah Pope from across the pond in LA.

It’s evident. The notion of living your weird and embracing your strange seeps from every pore of SpaceCream’s musical and visual style. Pope’s philosophy is one of otherworldly wonder; an energetic and positive explosion of riotous colour and character. Importantly, it is also one of self-acceptance and personal empowerment. More than just a group of talented musicians with a strong collection of songs, SpaceCream seems to be a way of life that says love yourself and don’t apologise one bit for being exactly who you are.

The band released their extraordinary debut album, Pterodactyl Sky, at the end of January, celebrating with a launch show at LA venue The Mint. Skin Back Alley caught up with Pope online shortly thereafter.

SBA: First thing’s first: how did the album launch show go at The Mint?

Savannah Pope: It was beautiful – I will always remember that night! There was a line down the block and the crowd was incredibly enthusiastic. There’s no high that can top facing an engaged audience.

I imagine it is both amazing AND terrifying to be finally releasing your album?

An accurate insight. On one hand, it’s exhilarating and wonderful to put art into the world; on another, it’s scary to expose something so personal to criticism. I agonised over the details of this this record for months, but at a certain point I had to let go and have faith. Overall, I’m very proud of Pterodactyl Sky. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, so I can’t complain.

As an album, Pterodactyl Sky is a real gem. It’s detailed; the arrangements are fantastic; it sounds brilliant. How long has it taken to pull together and who have you worked with in doing so?

Thank you! That means a lot.

Pterodactyl Sky is over two years in the making, comprised of my favourite songs from SpaceCream’s repertoire to date. I’ve always been the primary lyricist but the former guitarist and I took turns writing the arrangements and ‘Superstar’ is largely his song. Storied drummer Owen Goldman helped and prodigal LA bassist Nathan York Jr. helped with some of the structure, particularly time signature changes. We recorded at Kitten Robot Studios with engineer Paul Roessler (45 Grave, Eliot Smith, Nina Hagen).

Towards the end of the recording process, the former guitarist and I parted ways and SpaceCream went on temporary hiatus for a while. During that time, I auditioned new players and worked on the album. I was so obsessive that Paul ended up teaching me the basics of Protools so he could get some rest while I scrutinised. For me, the studio is a challenging and cerebral environment – almost the antithesis of a stage – so the process was somewhat arduous. Still, it was absolutely worthwhile and I’m very grateful to everyone who contributed to this project.

Every aspect of your work seems to have been thought through in great detail. SpaceCream has a whole and coherent aesthetic, not just a sound based in a genre. Are you a detail oriented person and band? Would you say you think ‘conceptually’ as an artist?

I first mapped out the conceptual aspirations of SpaceCream in 2012. I wanted to pay homage to what I consider to be the greatest era of music, while incorporating the captivating elements of a number of genres as well as my garish sense of style. I wanted SpaceCream to serve as a beacon of intellectually-charged love for anyone who feels like an outsider. It took years of hard work for that vision to manifest musically, aesthetically and personally.

Because I’ve put so much effort into my creative ambitions, I am not inclined to compromise when it comes to details. I know what I want, and I don’t stop until I get it. For a long time that was a hard pill for people to swallow, especially coming from an unapologetic young woman like myself. There was a lot of struggle and heartbreak involved. It wasn’t until SpaceCream won the Battle for Vans Warped Tour and recorded this album that things really started to fall into place. The current outfit is a dream incarnate.

The title track of Pterodactyl Sky is a standout for me. What was the starting point for that song? It’s not every day you come across a rock song about dinosaur-riding warriors fighting merciless alien invaders!

‘Pterodactyl Sky’ is one of the few songs I’ve written without an instrument. Normally I’ll sit down with my Martin or sing to a rough recording, but this time an arrangement popped into my head out of nowhere. It must have needed to come out!

As I’m sure you can imagine, I was a strange kid. I was never interested in pouring tea or being a princess. I was intense, imaginative, and enthralled by complex narratives. When I was at school, I’d read books whenever possible. At home, I’d shave Barbie’s heads, give them pirate warrior names, and mount them on dinosaur figurines. My private life was decorated by colourful fantasies of warfare and star-crossed love. There were no limits.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve infuriated people who prefer the norm, so the freedom of imagination is my sacred oasis. This song is a tribute to that sanctuary, as well as my way of encouraging others to cherish their unique ideas.

There’s a strong theme of self-acceptance running through your work, be that body positivity, sexual positivity or simply accepting the more wonderful and wacky aspects of your personality. Is that a real driving force for your music and lyrics?

Abso-fucking-lutely! I think it’s abhorrent how our society imbues basic facets of the human experience like individuality, sexuality, and physical appearance with debilitating shame. I’ve experienced a great deal of this shame first-hand and have discovered that the only way to recover is through self-acceptance. I am what I am. I’m not skinny, I’m not chaste, and I’m certainly not timid. These are traits expected of women, and in the past I’ve tried to make them my own. But they’re not. They probably never will be. And frankly, I’m glad! Being different has taught me a lot about empathy.

What was your journey in to music like? Has it always been something you’ve been involved in and wanted to do?

I’ve always been passionate about music but the idea of dedicating my life to it didn’t occur to me until several years ago.

The first time I ever got a taste of the stage was actually in reform school. I was fourteen at the time, and so terrified of my environment that I barely spoke to anyone. To challenge me, a staff member gave me the assignment of performing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ a ‘capella in front of the entire school. Nobody knew that I could speak more than a few sentences, let alone sing, so when I belted that song out the room just erupted. I honestly surprised myself.

After that, I picked up some rudimentary guitar and started writing songs to relax. I had no idea that something would come of it – I just thought of music as a kind of meditation.

I wanted to be a lot of things before I fell in love with performing. I spent a few years raising grant money and running around with live-off-the-land hippies, hoping to be an environmental activist. When that world started to feel small, I moved to Spain to make art and party. Eventually, that lifestyle life took a real toll on me, and I crawled back to the US felling irreparably lost.

One night, some friends dragged me to go to an acoustic open mic in the hope of cheering me up. I had a very strange, new feeling in the pit of my stomach throughout the evening until I decided to borrow a stranger’s guitar and perform one of my songs. Again, the response was palpable. Once I got onstage, I realized that what I had experienced was not discomfort but a rush of pure creative adrenaline. I’ve been hooked ever since.

When did you begin to discover and develop your voice? It’s incredible; such power, pitch, and control!

Thank you! I have no formal training, so I’m sure it could be improved. I’ve just been singing to my favourite records for twenty years. When I finally got a band together, my voice naturally developed more of a rock sound because I had to compete with the instruments.

I’m intrigued. How did you achieve the celestial sounding choir-like passages in ‘Pterodactyl Sky’? Were there a bunch of angels in the studio, or was it the mystery of multi-tracking?!

Multi-tracking all the way! That opera solo was not a part of my original arrangement. I was laying down a simple harmony when more parts popped into my head. I asked the engineer to record each one, and when I heard them all played back I said, “Cut the instrument tracks!” We had a lot of fun.

SpaceCream crop 2016

How did you put the band together as it is?

A thorough audition process. I’d been through a number of members in the past and decided that enough was enough. These guys were highly vetted, and I waited until I was confident they were right for the project before I offered them a permanent place. I am really, really thrilled with the current players. They’re incredibly talented and smart.

David Bowie’s work seems to have been a significant influence on your own. You must have felt his death quite keenly?

I have him tattooed on my left shoulder blade. His work has filled me with such comfort and creativity. I am devastated about his death and still crying about it. But how incredible and unlikely is it that we got David Bowie at all? I’m so grateful for him and thrilled that he got to live a fabulous life. He even died beautifully. An artist forever.

Do you remember when you first discovered his music?

Another nod to reform school! It was a fluke, really. Most of the music that came into that place had to be approved by the staff, but for some reason our gym teacher decided to play the radio one day. ‘Rebel Rebel’ poured through the speakers like a warm beam of light from the Mothership. I felt it had been written just for me – a trapped, misunderstood, androgynous creature from some other planet.

And do I detect a distinct Rock Horror/Richard O’Brien influence in the opening bars of ‘SpaceCream’?

Haha, couldn’t help it! Watching Rocky Horror was among the more formative experiences of my childhood. The visual decadence, the soundtrack, the encouragement to love your weird – it was like coming home for the first time. Richard O’Brien shows up in the work unintentionally. He’s just there!

Where else do you find inspiration for your work, be that music, subject matter or stage wear?

Everywhere, I suppose! My creative process is intuitive. I have a very specific and personalized aesthetic that I work to achieve on all levels. Being a visual artist definitely helps, as does reading and travelling. I also find a lot of inspiration in old films and photographs.

Are there any SpaceCream music videos in the works? I’d love to see how you translated your work in the medium of film!

Yes! I love making music videos. That will probably be the next step for us. Expect a lot of gold.

How is the rest of 2016 shaping up for you so far? Can you share any plans for the year ahead?

Releasing Pterodactyl Sky was a sensational way to kick off the year. As a result of that night, SpaceCream has secured a number of great gigs and opportunities. We headlined iconic venue Molly Malone’s last week and will play LA Record’s Silverlake Lounge residency with Vice Versa on February 23rd. We have six So Cal shows mapped out for March, including a return to The Viper Room on the 2nd.

I’m especially psyched too for our big LA Fashion Week show at the Taglyan Complex on March 17th. I remember snagging tickets to the runway last year and thinking, “I’ve never seen a venue so regal and exquisite. Maybe, if I work really hard, I’ll be able to play here someday.” I’m so grateful that the creative director of Art Hearts Fashion happened to be at our album release! He was impressed and asked us to participate in the closing gala.

I can also tell you that we plan to go on tour this year. I really want to take this act all over the states – not to mention overseas!

Connect with SpaceCream at:
Facebook: facebook.com/spacecreamband
Twitter: twitter.com/SpaceCreamBand
Instagram: instagram.com/spacecream_official
Web: spacecreamband.com

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Interview: This Year’s Ghost talk origins, sonics and future plans

This Year's Ghost 2015

This Year’s Ghost released their debut EP, Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow Today, back in November. A sagacious slice of grunge-inflected rock n’ roll, it seemed rare in that it was a first salvo that felt fleshed-out and fully formed. In conversation with frontman Paul Mckenzie, it soon becomes clear why, as he reveals the extent of the hard work that he and the band put in prior to recording the material.

A substantial and auspicious start then, and one aided and abetted by the likes of The Defiled’s Stitch D, and production and engineering from Matt Hyde (Slipknot/Machine Head/Funeral For A Friend/Gallows) and Meyrick de la Fuente (Exist Immortal).

“There’s a lot riding on the first couple months,” says McKenzie whilst answering Skin Back Alley’s questions. Too true, but to these eyes and ears, so far, so good…

SBA: Congratulations on the new EP, it’s a killer set of songs. I feel compelled to ask, as I am sure many others will, where did the mind-bending title of Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow Today come from?

TYG: It was simply meant to imply the letting go of the past today as our time here isn’t always certain but it has somehow turned into a brain twister for sure!

It’s only been out for a comparatively short while, but from your perspective, what has the reception to YBTT been like so far?

We have had a great response so far. There’s been a few pretty humbling comparisons drawn between us and some epic bands in these reviews. One even went as far as to draw one between Chris Cornell and myself which is extremely flattering (but entirely untrue in my opinion!!!)

Given your disparate geographical roots (Paul hails from Edinburgh, Jake originally from Michigan), how did you come together as a band? Given the lack of US accent, I’m guessing Jake has been on these shores for some time?

Yeah he’s been in England for years (American father/English mother). We met in Bromley actually through the tattoo shop (Valhalla) that I work in. Joe and I had met in London and been through a plethora of drummers which had slowed the development of our sound down but soon as Jake and I met it amped up immediately. I think we did the drums with Matt Hyde something like three weeks after meeting each other.

What was the impetus behind leaving Edinburgh for London?

I used to come to London a lot for years anyway and knew the city well already. It’s always been the place kids in bands in Scotland are told they have to play to get any recognition and it’s absolutely true. These days there’s a couple of companies doing great things back home but the scenes are still a lot smaller. It just made sense to be here permanently.

And how did Stitch D come to guest on the EP? At first I wondered whether it might be a familial connection between you and Stitch? (Well you don’t look a million miles apart from each other!)

Ha!! He’ll love that one! Na we worked together years ago in a tattoo studio in north London and just hit it off. He’s been a real big help in pointing me in the right direction with this band in London as he’s been slugging it out for a long time with The Defiled. I learnt a lot about how the bigger shows, PR etc works from being his mate and going to shit loads of Defiled shows with them. Being side of stage with them on the main stage at Sonisphere was inspiration to keep going with this.

Sonically YBTT seems to draw on elements from across alt-rock, grunge, and metal and there are a couple of more technical/progressive passages too. Does it feel to you like that’s the sort of canon you’re working within? Are they fair observations, do you think?

I’ve always strongly been influenced by grunge music yeah for sure. Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden etc… But you’re right, this album was definitely written to have a broader appeal. It’s simultaneously much heavier whilst being much poppier in the choruses which is a direction I’m really enjoying. The slight techy feel to a couple of riffs there has definitely been explored further in a couple of the demos for the 2016 record.

Did you have a particular sonic palette in mind when you began the EP? How did you develop and find your sound?

We wanted the really crisp, full bodied guitar tones and full heavy drums we had heard Matt Hyde produce before so that was a no brainer. The development of the sound we have found is definitely down to meeting and working closely with Meyrick De La Fuente at Floodgate audio.

You’ve said that the record in part draws on your experiences of a group of friends who all passed away around the same time. On the face of it, that could make for some dour listening, but the EP doesn’t seem like that? It feels like more of a release, or a catharsis?

It was exactly that for me personally. Not only was it a relief to release these thoughts surrounding those events but it was made extra special being able to immortalise those people further in the forms of these songs.

What were the specific inspirations behind the track “Silver Tongue” and its recent video?

The song “Silver Tongue” was written about the stress that came with loss and not one person specifically. There’s a couple of small direct references in there about the breakdown of relations between friends and family. It depicts that stress as its own entity that can be addressed personally. Bit weird eh?

Who did you work with on the video itself? It has a very simple but very striking aesthetic.

The guys at Limetree Productions did our video for “Silver Tongue.” Cracking group of guys. They actually turned it round super-fast for us to fit our PR campaign which really impressed us. Looks like we are doing another one with them next month too.

Matt Hyde and Meyrick de la Fuente, who provided production and engineering for the EP, have worked for some seriously influential bands in their time. How did you make the connection with them and how did they come to work with you on YBTT?

A few years back the boys in The Defiled played the Metal Hammer Golden Gods boat party and Meyrick and I first met there. He was just finalising his studio set up so we made a record together. It was still in the infancy of This Year’s Ghost but was part of the process of reaching this point and sound now. Since then Meyrick and I work together on every single track TYG do. Matt Hyde was a lot less elaborate. We just really liked his work and I emailed him to set up a meeting. The meeting then turned into a shit load of pints in a bar in Victoria and the rest is history.

Paul, you said recently that your show in Islington was going to be your last as a 3-piece and you hinted at adding to the band’s line-up. Can you share anything yet, or is it all still under wraps?

Ah ha! We have a photo shoot in a couple weeks with the amazing Scott Chalmers and that will be when we have the big reveal. From everything I’ve said in interviews recently you don’t need to be Columbo to work out who is our new guitarist but hey…… Wait till January!

What does 2016 have in store for TYG? Can you share any plans?

Well 2016 is set to be a lot of fun. There’s a lot riding on the first couple months as we start the ball rolling with the live shows but if everything goes to plan there will be a lot of great announcements come February/March regarding our summer plans. We really want to get up and play some shows in Scotland too as it’s been way too long.

Read Skin Back Alley’s review of Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow Today here.

Connect with This Year’s Ghost at:
Web: thisyearsghost.com
Facebook: facebook.com/ThisYearsGhost
Twitter: twitter.com/thisyearsghost

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Interview: Eva Plays Dead talk new EP, temperament and tenacity ahead of UK tour

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Eva Plays Dead feel like a band in the ascendancy; a hard rock outfit building a solid fan-base on the back of hard work, sheer grit and determination, combined with an ever-growing catalogue of memorable, mosh-inducing tunes and a reputation for reliably raucous live shows.

Following the release of a new EP, Sounds of the Written Word, this summer, and the recent unveiling of the official video for their track “1950’s Woman” via the UK’s premier rock outlet Kerrang!, Eva Plays Dead are about to hit the road for an extensive UK headline tour.

SBA: How are you feeling now that your “Sounds Of The Written Word” EP has been out for a little while? What’s the response been like?

EPD: Putting out the EP carried both a massive sense of relief and a nerve wrenching experience at the same time. We spent a long time writing and recording, followed by an equally long time sitting on it to make sure that we gave it the best release possible (and we’re not the most patient of people.) However as soon as it was out there we were straight back to being on edge whilst we waited for the response. We’re really happy with the reception to Sounds of the Written Word, both from the press and our fans since picking up some sick reviews and messages.

I get the impression you’re a very hard working band. You certainly gig a lot and put in the miles to build support for your music. Where does that drive and determination come from?

We’re glad it’s not going un-noticed! We’ve been writing in this line up since 2011 and were all playing in bands prior to that as kids and over the years the drive has kept growing. It’s very cliché but whenever we make a tiny step of progression, it makes all of the hard work worth it and doesn’t faze us. Progression can be anything from getting a great review, playing an awesome show or gaining a new fan.

The time and effort you’ve invested seems to be working for you. It’s not every band that can mount a successful Pledge Music campaign. Do you feel that you’ve progressed in that regard and how does it feel to have a devoted core fan base like that?

The Pledge Campaign was a massive shock to us as we were 99% sure that it wouldn’t go through when it kicked off – we had around 3 different back up plans! The fact that we surpassed our target was the first real time that we realised how solid our fan base is – it’s a very humbling feeling.

Given that you do work hard on the road, have you got any words of wisdom for new and aspiring musicians about the perceived ‘glamour’ of the touring life?

We’d hardly call our approach glamorous. A few years back, we bought a van (and then another when that one died) to get around on our tours as it is more cost effective than renting a flashy van with all of the frills, considering how much we travel (50 shows in 2015). We’d only recommend doing this if you’ve looked carefully at the band’s funds, considered every expense and are certain you can afford it. We recently had a catastrophe where our engine melted and since our money had just been pumped into the release, we asked our fans to help out and couldn’t believe how quickly we raised the cash! 24 hours must be a record.

Generally though, touring is a lot more than sitting around in a van and playing a show when you’re first getting started (it is for us anyway) so when taking the DIY approach you need to have the focus and ability to see the bigger picture to make sure that everything is covered: secure bookings, logistics, accommodation, fuel costs, promotional campaigns, chatting to people at the show, designing and ordering merchandise for the runs and all of the rehearsals leading up to it.

Why do you take a DIY approach to your career in music? Mind-set? Necessity? A mix of the two?

Since we launched EPD in 2013, the DIY approach has been much more attractive as we had a bad experience with a previous record label affiliation, so this gave us the freedom to work at our own pace without relying on anyone else – everything we achieved was down to our hard work which offered a massive sense of accomplishment. Alongside this though, we didn’t want to pitch to management teams or labels when we had no history, so the DIY approach has allowed us to build our own foundation and track record.

How do you think that DIY ethic and direct approach with your fans has helped (or hindered) you as a band?

It has most certainly helped us as it means that we have direct contact with them on a daily basis. We have such a strong relationship with our core fan base and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them as they always share our new release online, buy and wear our merch and give us that boost when we need it. Saying that, introducing management or the like to the EPD team wouldn’t hinder the band as we’d make sure that we work with people who ‘get us.’

Eva_Plays_Dead

You guys seem to have that quality of being able to move past setbacks or turn them to your advantage. If an average review lands, or the van breaks down on the way back from a gig, you always seem to present a positive response. Is it hard to maintain that approach? How do you do it?

Ha! I feel like I know exactly which occasions you’re on about… In all honesty, the initial response isn’t as calm as our public response. We all talk about it as a band and decide what the best way to approach the scenario is as opposed to just letting it slide by. Negative reviews for example – we’re fully aware that it’s only the opinion of one person so we’d rather put it up for discussion to see whether people agree with it or not.

Reading about your beginnings as a band, “…a Japanese school exchange…” doesn’t seem like the most usual of origin stories. How did the band come together following Matt and Tiggy’s meeting in the Far East?

When we were jamming with some friends back in our school days, we had no intention to take this band to what it is now. The line-ups we experimented with initially didn’t work out so after a bit of online stalking, we found Zach and he bought in Seb, as they had played in bands together previously. In all honesty, if it weren’t for music then we wouldn’t know one another.

I understand in your early days you also went under the moniker of Bury The Ladybird. I can only imagine you sounded very different to your incarnation as Eva Plays Dead?!

We’re going back to our school days reference for this one. The name was a joke, which stuck, but when our sound started to verge into the early sounds of EPD and we started to gain some recognition, we figured that a rebrand would be better sooner than later.

Speaking of things historic, I was particularly intrigued by “1950’s Woman” from your new EP. It stands out in particular because of its narrative qualities. Can you tell us a bit about the origins of the story/relationship in the song and how the track came about?

The lyrics in our songs are generally very matter-of-fact and to the point. I didn’t have the easiest of times growing up – my Dad walked out, family in and out of hospital… just a few examples. My Grandparent’s were always there for me through the harder times and keeping the family together the best they could. They told me the most wonderful stories about their younger lives and they introduced me to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald before I discovered rock and roll so I can thank them for my passion for music. The inspiration my grandparents have provided me is limitless. The Jazz artists they introduced me to really struck a chord with me and the genre is where I take most of lyrical influence.

You’ve got a host of live dates coming up in November and December. What can we expect from the shows? Can you share any plans?

We’re working on the set in rehearsals at the moment and we can’t wait to take it to the road! We’re playing all of the tracks from the EP, a few older tunes and a couple of new ones fresh out of the rehearsal room! We’ll be taking in to the studio early next year, so now is the time to hear it first really. If anyone came along to the last shows in July, they’ll also know that we don’t necessarily like to keep everything on stage throughout the set!

Are you looking ahead to 2016 and beyond yet? What’s the next target that you’d like to nail to the nearest wall?

We’ve got the studio booked for early 2016 and everything else is being worked on behind the scenes. It’s looking like we won’t be as busy on the touring front but it’s too early to say – we’re really good at accidentally booking gigs!

Eva Plays Dead will tour the UK this November and December:

20th Nov: Birmingham, The Asylum
21st Nov: Scunthorpe, The Lincoln Imp
22nd Nov: Leeds, Milos
27th Nov: Derby, The Victoria Inn
28th Nov: Glasgow, Shadow Central
29th Nov: London, Surya
04th Dec: Basingstoke, Sanctuary
05th Dec: Doncaster, Vintage Rock Bar
06th Dec: Bolton, Alma Inn

Pick up tickets at evaplaysdead.com

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INTERVIEW! Tairrie B. Murphy talks Teenage Time Killers ahead of landmark LA show

1 - T&M by Travis Shinn
Tairrie B. Murphy and Mick Murphy. Photo: Travis Shinn.

This Saturday night, 12th September, sees the advent of the most hotly anticipated ticket in rock. For one night only, a thundering hoard of punk, rock and metal’s finest musicians will descend upon LA’s Fonda Theatre for the live debut of Teenage Time Killers, the heavy collective spearheaded by Reed Mullin (Corrosion Of Conformity), Mick Murphy (My Ruin, The Birds Of Satan, Chevy Metal, Neanderthal) and John “Lou” Lousteau (musician, producer and chief engineer at Studio 606.)

Appearing alongside the likes of Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Neil Fallon (Clutch), Tommy Victor (Prong) and Lee Ving (Fear), is My Ruin’s Queen of Scream, the legendary maven of metal, Tairrie B. Murphy, who is set to perform her track from TTK’s debut album, Greatest Hits Vol.1, “Clawhoof.”

Murphy herself graciously took time out to speak with us in and among rehearsals for Saturday’s show and fending off the inferno that is the current heatwave beating down on LA.

SBA: How did you come to be a guest artist on Greatest Hits Vol.1?

TBM: Nepotism! I highly recommend it. Just kidding! I believe Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity drummer) asked my husband (Mick Murphy) if I would be interested in doing a song after Mick played him our last My Ruin album while they were in the studio recording. Mick was introduced to Reed by our good friend and TTK producer John Lousteau who Mick grew up with in Knoxville, Tennessee and who occasionally sits in on drums with our band live when we play Los Angeles. Once Mick started working with Reed & Lou, that’s when the album really started to take shape and come together musically.

Your song on GHV1, “Clawhoof”, is a killer track. How did you come to record that specific song? Was it written with your vocal style in mind and did you have input in its writing?

Thank you. Yes, Mick did write it with me in mind. Many of the songs were matched with vocalists after the fact but a few were written with specific people in mind. “Clawhoof” was one of them. I had nothing to do with the music. Just the lyrics. Once he demoed the track and played it for me, I loved it.

Where did the name come from?

Believe it or not it was actually the working title of the project before Reed decided to change it to “Teenage Time Killers”. For months, the guys had referred to it as this and I really dug the name because it sounded so evil. I guess it just stuck in my head after hearing them say it for so long and when they decided to go with TTK, I had just started to write my lyrics so thought it might be kind of cool to use it as the title of my track to keep it included in the project. I built my song around it. Unlike many of the other recordings on the album, it’s got a more sinister underlying theme to it rather than political.

I understand you were actually suffering with the flu when you were recording? Is that right? You’d never guess, the song sounds great!

Again, thank you and yes, I was pretty ill the day I went into the studio to lay my vocals at 606. My voice was definitely not in its usual form. You always want to feel you are at your best when recording, especially when you are a guest and being featured on someone else’s album rather than your own. I was a bit concerned with a room full of dudes watching me in between coughing up a lung. I did a couple takes and felt like my throat was really raw but they loved it and that was it. When I first heard the track mixed it took me a minute to get used to it because I’m used to my scream in My Ruin which is more metal, but I think being sick gave it a more punk rock feel which was pretty cool considering the overall vibe of the album as a whole.

During the recording process were you conscious of being the sole female contributor to the project at all? Is that something that’s in your mind at all as the show at the Fonda Theatre approaches?

I didn’t really think about it until the end of the recording and I was listening to the final mixes and sequence. I’m stoked to be the lone wolf representing the ladies on a project which includes some of my favourite male vocalists like Pete Stahl from Goatsnake and Neil Fallon of Clutch. As far as the show goes, I just want to have fun and do my thing. I’m not really focusing on the fact that I’m the only woman, just happy to be a part of such a cool project with so many rad dudes.

The show at the Fonda Theatre in LA is taking place on the 12th of September and being that it’s one night only, should be one hell of a night. It’s an extraordinary line up of musicians to have playing in one place. Can you share any details about what you have planned?

There are no opening bands, just 2 hours of TTK which are going to be a hard, fast and loud on stage. Mick is playing guitar for the entire show on 50 songs with all the guest vocalists. Reed is drumming much of the set and also singing a few songs and John Lousteau is drumming a few as well, including the ones with me which My Ruin bassist Luciano Ferrea is also playing. The show’s set is made up of the TTK album, songs by some of the guest singers’ own bands and a bunch of classic punk covers. It’s gonna be killer. Pun intended.

ttk1

Has it been difficult getting all the musicians together for planning and rehearsals?

When you have this many people involved in a project, it’s bound to be a little complicated and a bit of a logistical challenge. The main core of the band has been rehearsing the past few weeks at our studio with a few of the vocalists who are based in LA coming in, but many of the guests are flying in last minute to do a full show run through with everyone at Studio 606 on the last 2 days before the gig.

I have a huge amount of respect for my husband Mick as a musician and, being in a band with him for the past 15 years, I’ve seen him at his best on stage and in the studio with My Ruin and all the side projects he’s been a part of, from Neanderthal to Chevy Metal, The Birds Of Satan to Heavy Seventies as well as co-producing my new solo rap album with me. But he’s really stepped up his game to another level with the TTK album and this show which he really helped to pull together this past month in rehearsals.

Mick co wrote/co produced GHV1 and played guitar on the majority of the album, but his contributions have kind of gone unmentioned in the press and overshadowed by some of the more famous names involved, which is a shame because of all the time and work he put into it. He’s not the type of guy to toot his own horn so I’m gonna toot it for him! He deserves it. I can’t wait to share the stage with him again and also watch him rock with all the other artists performing before and after me.

Knowing that not ALL the guest artists from the album can be there on the night, have the artists who are going to be there had to learn new songs from GHV1 to perform?

Yeah, there are a few people who can’t make it due to their own touring schedules so a couple of the other vocalists are going to do those songs.

Which songs will you be performing, and will you be playing any songs other than the TTK songs on the night? Can we expect to hear anything from the My Ruin catalogue?

I’ll be performing my track from GHV1 along with “Moriendo Renascor” from My Ruin’s last album and a cover of Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” which I like to put my own red lipstick twist on live!

It’s been a while since you last performed live with My Ruin, and your fans will know that you released your first new rap album in over 25 years, Vintage Curses, last month. Has it been challenging to get back in to that Metal headspace again?

I thought it would be but surprisingly, my scream came back to me pretty quick and naturally. Coincidentally, my first rehearsal with TTK was on the 1 year anniversary of the last night I performed live with My Ruin in the UK which was on The Sacred Mood Tour in August 2014. I hadn’t screamed since then so I really had no idea what to expect given this past 12 months my headspace has really been focused on the recording and release of my new album and working on my first book which I am currently in the early stages of writing.

Is the show being recorded at all? All these incredible musicians from the world of Punk, Rock and Metal playing the same show together seems like too good an opportunity to miss!

Yes, I agree it’s going to be a memorable evening for everyone involved and plans are in the works as I write this to make it happen which I think it will. Unfortunately there are a lot of factors that go into a big show like this behind the scenes and it’s often comes down to money, rather than art much like most things in the music industry but fingers crossed because we would love to be able to share it with all those who can’t be at the show due to it being a one off special event in LA.

Teenage Time Killers appear at LA’s Fonda Theatre this Saturday, 12th September. Get your tickets here: www.fondatheatre.com

Teenage Time Killers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeenageTimeKillers

Check out our review of Teenage Time Killer’s Greatest Hits Vol.1 here, along with our interview with TTK songwriter and guitarist, Mick Murphy, here.

3 - TBM by Travis Shinn
Photo: Travis Shinn

2 - TTK FLYER

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Interview: Mick Murphy talks Teenage Time Killers

Mick Murphy by Travis Shinn crop
Mick Murphy (Photo: Travis Shinn)

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.

Tairrie & Mick by Travis Shinn
Tairrie B. Murphy and Mick Murphy (Photo: Travis Shinn)

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.

Mick & Tommy Victor - Photo by Tairrie B. Murphy
Mick Murphy and Tommy Victor (Photo: Tairrie B. Murphy)

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!

Mick ,Reed, John & Trenton Rogers By Travis Shinn
Mick Murphy, Trenton Rogers, Reed Mullin and John Lousteau (Photo: Travis Shinn)

Teenage Time Killers’ “Greatest Hits Vol.1” is available to buy now. Read the Skin Back Alley review of the LP here.

Connect with Teenage Time Killers at:
Facebook: facebook.com/TeenageTimeKillers
Instagram: instagram.com/teenagetimekillersband

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