It often seems like no other band has experienced more turbulence in their career than My Ruin. The list of infamous events is quite amazing. Consider this when you hear the next artiste complain about the backstage catering. Over the course of their 12 year career the band has dealt with: band members who have quit on the eve of recording sessions; a near-death experience during another recording session; labels signing and then turning their back the band; hired musicians who flip out on their employers during overseas tours; visa problems getting into and out of countries on tour and during recording; backlash from press regarding many matters unrelated to the actual product…. It goes on and on.
Yeah, I know. All bands have encountered one or more of these setbacks. However try rolling them all together in one long string and also splitting all the heavy lifting between two people. There's no entourage, manager or record company families to help shoulder the burden.
The latest nightmare came in the form of their record contract with Tiefdruck Musik for the record Ghosts & Good Stories in 2010. After enthusiastically courting the band, the label owner promptly changed gears and became Hyde to his previous Jekyll character, essentially "stealing" the band's album and leaving them high and dry.
As sure as the sun coming up in the morning, there was only one alternative, the band sighed once again, dusted themselves off and merely went about the business of funneling their anger into what I consider to be their greatest outing yet. A Southern Revelation has been almost universally acknowledged by the rock press as a whoppingly savage yet brilliant piece of work.
It's always a thrill and a pleasure to get to speak to my friends Tairrie B Murphy and Mick Murphy. We got together recently to talk about the crazy situation they had just come through as well as exciting plans for the future. I can't think of anybody I respect more in the music biz. As well as being one of my favorite bands, these are talented individuals who work incredibly hard despite often having the odds stacked against them. Other bands would have laid down and died. They keep fighting.
You can still download A Southern Revelation for free from the band's website here.
antiMusic: By this point, everybody knows what happened with your former label. How familiar were you with Tiefdruck Musik when you signed with them?
Tairrie: We didn't know much about the label. We did some research after they approached us but apparently it wasn't enough because shortly following the announcement of our signing we were contacted by an old friend [Shaun Glass of Soil & Dirge Within] who warned us not to trust the label owner Daniel Heerdmann based on his previous business dealings with him. Unfortunately it was too late as our album Ghosts and Good Stories was about to be delivered. We were concerned about what we were told and openly addressed it with Daniel who at the time seemed to have many well-oiled answers for all of our questions. He portrayed himself as professional and was very convincing in his act so we believed him. We've always believed that you get to know someone based on how they treat you, not rumors or gossip because we would like for people to do the same when it comes to us.
In the beginning Daniel seemed like a cool guy and being that he was a former musician himself, he made it a point to relate to us and was very supportive of our band from all our Skype conversations and emails. He said he had been a fan of mine since he first saw me in Manhole when we toured Germany with Fear Factory back in 1996 and was excited about the album and working together. We were looking forward to meeting him and everyone at Tiefdruck when we went to Europe in the coming months for the tour we were planning at the time. Unfortunately we had no idea the little warning we had been given from Shaun about the man was indicative of what was to come with us but on a much bigger level.
antiMusic: Can you describe the chain of events that led to what you say was a breakdown in promises by the label boss? What were his reasons for not following through? Was this purely a personal vendetta and if so, why?
Tairrie: We have no idea what happened. There was no reason for him to have a personal vendetta against us but it certainly began to feel like he did as time progressed. Things were fine during the recording process and the relationship was great but as soon as we delivered our album artwork everything got weird. We quickly began to realize the guy was a total con artist and he seemed to have a split personality that was Jekyll & Hyde level scary. We've had to deal with some bizarre behavior over the course of our career but Daniel Heerdmann was by far the worst.
His long time in house press officer Mona Miluski [vocalist of the German-based rock band A Million Miles] also left the label around this time. She was aware of everything behind the scenes and did not trust him or agree with the way he was conducting himself and treating his artists. It got to the point where we had to have our attorney step in to deal with him because his emails were so disrespectful and outrageous. On top of this, his lies had begun to affect our tour for which advance tickets had already started selling.
This ultimately forced us to cancel our dates due to circumstances beyond our control and this was the turning point when put our band, career and reputation in jeopardy. We let our attorney know we were done and he agreed with our decision. We wanted nothing more to do with the label so we ended the relationship and stopped all communication with Daniel. He was a cancer that needed to be cut out.
We continued to work with Mona who after leaving the label, started her own independent publicity company called Platinum PR. Mona helped me handle all the press for Ghosts and Good Stories on our own without Tiefdruck as well as the press on A Southern Revelation. Had Mona not had our backs they way she did at the time everything went down, G&GS would have been completely dead on arrival so we're very grateful for her loyalty to us as a friend and publicist. She's an amazingly strong woman as well as vocalist in her own band A Million Miles.
antiMusic: What was your reaction when things began to unfold with the label as they did? Describe the mixed emotion that you must have felt after delivering what I feel was your strongest work to that point and then, with the turn of events, wanting it to do well but not wanting it to financially benefit the label.
Mick: We felt betrayed and extremely angry because of the realization that we were working with just another liar. The music industry is full of them. It's impossible not to take it personally when you put so much of your life into your band while the label that has agreed to help support your new record and tour breaks their promises causing months of hard work and planning to go down the drain at the last minute. Our reaction was to start writing music and lyrics for what would soon become our 7th album A Southern Revelation.
Tairrie: We invested a great deal of time and trust into what we were being led to believe was a real label run by a decent guy. We were fooled on both counts and we were angry. We had a right to be and we still are. Ghosts and Good Stories is one of our finest albums and we were very passionate about those recordings. It sickens us that it was given to this label to do nothing with and that so many people have not had the chance to hear it because he made such a mess of everything. My Ruin was not the first band Daniel Heerdmann manipulated into believing his lies and we were not the last from what we have heard. We are simply the first to go public with what he did rather than keep quiet like most bands do when this type of thing happens.
Once we announced we would be releasing another album and offering it as a free download it was time to let our story out and the truth be told. This was when we were contacted by other artists who had been signed to his label sharing similar horror stories and some asking us for advice on what they should do in their current situations. The amount of bands this man has wronged is truly shocking. Apparently he also owes money to many people on other sides of the industry as well from what we've been told by editors and writers we've done interviews with.
antiMusic: Was this a one record deal?
Mick: It was a two record deal but we weren't about to give the label another album after all we had just gone through.
antiMusic: How did the idea of offering the record for free come up?
Tairrie: It was my idea. It came to me one evening while we were in Knoxville recording. I shared the idea with Mick and our co producer Joel to see how they felt about it and when they both liked the idea so I ran it by our attorney and press officer and everyone agreed it was the best way to release it. Simply put, it was our gift to the fans and our middle finger to Tiefdruck Musik.
antiMusic: What has been the response to this method?
Mick: It's been great. I think a lot of our fans were initially surprised that we chose to do this but we really had no other choice at the time. We're happy with our decision.
Tairrie: When we released it many people began writing us asking if they could pay for it or donate towards our band in some way which was a nice surprise so we decided to create a donate button via pay pal on our site at www.myruin.net. Being that we do this all ourselves with no label it was great to feel that type of love and support. We truly appreciate it and our fans.
antiMusic: Have you heard from the label since the release of your new album and do you think Daniel has heard it?
Tairrie: Yes, we know he has heard it but no we have not heard from Daniel. We're not interested in anything he has to say at this point. Apparently Tiefdruck Musik is no longer functioning as a label. Ironically all the staff quit shortly after our album came out and the office in Hamburg, Germany has officially closed down. The label website is defunct as well. The link to it now goes directly to a store where he seems to be selling off the last of Tiefdruck's albums from his home address. It's a pretty sad state of affairs. He fooled so many bands into believing his bulls--- over the years and seems to have no remorse or self respect. The music industry is a dirty world and it's rare that you deal with someone who is actually in it for the right reasons. There are a lot of Devils and deceitful people behind the scenes.
antiMusic: When you started writing the music, did you know that the songs would be addressing the situation with your former label? If so, did that affect the mood or direction of the music?
Mick: Yes. The mood of our albums usually comes from what we're feeling at the time. I was channeling my rage and frustration into the songs and Tairrie was doing the same thing in a letter which would eventually inspire many of the lyrics and song titles on the album.
antiMusic: At what point did the idea of an open letter or retribution record start to take shape in your mind?
Tairrie: We never planned on writing, much less recording another record so soon after releasing G&GS. It just happened naturally because of the situation we were going through at the time. We felt helpless and needed to vent so we did what we do best and wrote. The first song, which was "Reckoning" just sort of poured out of me like an open letter because much of it was initially written as one.
antiMusic: Where was the bulk of the music written, LA or Knoxville where you recorded the album?
Mick: The music was written and the pre-pro demos were made entirely at home in LA. Tairrie wrote the lyrics in both LA and Knoxville. She didn't demo anything with me beforehand; her first vocals were recorded in Knoxville and are on the album.
antiMusic: How did Knoxville influence the songs, if at all?
Mick: Knoxville influenced the overall vibe of the record in many ways. You can feel East Tennessee all through it, not to mention a cold chill that came with our recording in the dead of winter.
antiMusic: Usually I get you to break down the songs of a new record but in this case the material is pretty self-explanatory. Clearly songs like "The Soulless Beast" and "Highly Explosive" take direct aim at the label. What was the song that started it all for you and did you ever feel the need to have to rein in your venom?
Mick: "Reckoning" was the song that started the ball rolling. Some of the riffs were in a song that didn't get used during The Brutal Language era. I reworked it, played it for Tairrie and it came together very quickly.
Tairrie: I've never really felt the need to rein in my venom because it's usually well deserved when delivered with an intended message. I've learned over the years to be as thoughtful as possible when it comes to my lyrical content because a song is timeless and I want the emotion of the words I write to stand the test of time no matter how many years pass from when I first recorded them. Sometimes a song comes easily but other times you have to work at it and dig deeper to find the right words to fit the story you are trying to tell.
"Soulless Beast" is one of my favorite tracks on the new album because the music is very doom-laden and epic. It evoked a haunting feeling that spoke to me immediately when I heard it. I found myself drawn to the idea of wanting to paint a vivid lyrical portrait and describe a very dark side of a man and the evil that he was capable of which I felt we were experiencing first hand.
The idea for this song came to me one evening in Knoxville while reading the Book of Revelation in the Bible. It sums up the album as a whole and the story behind why we felt the need to record it. "Highly Explosive" was actually based on one of many freaky emails which Daniel Heerdmann had sent to our attorney using this term to describe me. I couldn't resist throwing it back in his face because we found it so funny.
antiMusic: "The Soulless Beast" channels the essence of Mr. Iommi. Did you have his sound in your head while writing this one, Mick?
Mick: Yes, I was thinking about vintage Sabbath on that one with a nod to classic Aerosmith as well.
antiMusic: Tairrie, Mick has come up with some material that is a slight change up from your back catalog, in particular "Walk of Shame" and the intro to "Vultures" (which sounds like it was taken from The LVRS). Were these songs more of a challenge for you to fit your lyrics to / vocals over and were you surprised that because of your mood that the music Mick came up with wasn't quite as heavy as your last record?
Tairrie: I agree with your thoughts on "Vultures". It does have a LVRS vibe to it although that wasn't the intent. "Walk of Shame" was a slight challenge but "Vultures" came very easy for me to write and record because of the spoken word style delivery which I have always tried to incorporate into my vocals. My only difficulty with this song came from the subject matter itself.
antiMusic: "Vultures" has some pretty pointed declarations about friends. I assume it is at least partially directed to your former best friend (telling by the line "The sky is far and wide to London from LA"), among others, including former band members. At this point, considering you write that "every friend is a future enemy", are you now gun-shy with regards to personal and professional relationships?
Tairrie: Both "Vultures" and 'Tennessee Elegy' which was a eulogy for the death of a friendship, were inspired by the same person. There are no songs directed at former band members on this album and yes, we are extremely gun-shy in regards to all relationships we enter into these days whether business or personal, for good reason.
antiMusic: My favorite track on the record is "Walk of Shame". Tell us how that riff came to you and why you felt it fit in with the rest of the record.
Mick: That riff came from me just walking around the house playing guitar. We like to incorporate elements of classic rock in our music and "Walk of Shame" is one of those songs.
antiMusic: "Walk of Shame" is a companion piece to "Money Shot". How did this song of disdain find its way into the vitriol that makes up the rest of the record?
Tairrie: I have no idea. It just sort of presented itself as an idea one evening and although the lyrical content of this particular track really does not fit the overall theme of the album, the song seems to feel right at home.
antiMusic: Musically speaking, the material is not as lumbering as say Throat Full of Heart. Did you purposefully set out to take your foot of the gas pedal, so to speak?
Mick: Not necessarily. Those were the songs that came out of me at the time. I feel that ASR is very riff based and guitar oriented.
antiMusic: You guys do a wicked cover of "Mean Street" and it fits the record perfectly. What else was on your short list of covers and why did you settle on this one?
Mick: There was no short list. "Mean Street" was it.
antiMusic: You've started incorporating these cool little breaks in your songs that depart from the rest of the song like in "Walk of Shame", "Tennessee Elegy", and "The Soulless Beast". Thinking about it, this goes back for the first time to your little bass solo in "Cold Hands, Warm Heart", which admittedly is not quite the same. But when do you know what song would benefit from one of these segments?
Mick: Some songs just call for a "middle jam" or "departure section". I know when I'm arranging a tune what will work and what won't. We try to use a dynamic approach to our music with a few unexpected twists and turns to keep it interesting.
antiMusic: How did you come to record the songs with Joel Stooksbury in his studio?
Mick: Joel is a friend from the early 90's Knoxville, Tennessee music scene. His old band Immortal Chorus and my old band Hypertribe used to play shows together back in the day. He digs My Ruin and has an awesome studio (Soundtrack Black) in his home. The idea of recording there came up so Tairrie and I extended our Tennessee Christmas trip to do the record. It was an absolute pleasure and one of the best times we've ever had making an album. I think you can hear it in the recordings. Joel and his wife Mindy are truly great people.
antiMusic: Before we get to exciting news about upcoming plans, can you get some comfort out of the horrific situation with your former label from the knowledge that it produced what I consider to be your finest work to date, A Southern Revelation?
Tairrie: Well, I appreciate you saying that. I don't get a lot of comfort out of that because I felt and still feel really close to Ghost & Good Stories. It was a really precious record for me. Personally, it's my favorite My Ruin record. I love A Southern Revelation but that was a retribution record and that's one of the reasons on the new record that we're doing, I wanted to stay clear of that whole vibe. Ghosts & Good Stories was, for me…lyrically, musically, mentally, physically….such a heavy under taking. So much went into the making of that record and I feel like that man raped me. He took something really personal from me and I'm not sure if I can ever forgive that. That's why we felt so strongly about coming back the way we did with A Southern Revelation. Don't get me wrong, I love the record but I was in a very angry headspace when I was making it, as opposed to the darker headspace I was in when I made G&GS. I was seeking vengeance. Luckily I had a great time with Mick & Joel while we were recording. The environment and overall atmosphere during our time we were in the studio helped me emotionally get through it and allowed me to vent my frustrations the way I needed to at the time which was very healthy and therapeutic.
antiMusic: It's all supposition really, but do you think you had that record (A Southern Revelation) in you regardless or did the emotional upheaval of that whole scenario pretty much guarantee what you produced?
Tairrie: I think the emotional upheaval guaranteed it, yeah. The entire record was not dedicated to this man as a response to what he had put us through but a lot of it was extended from that situation and influenced by our state of mind at the time. Maybe it all happened for a reason or needed to happen in order for us to make that record. We would never have made it otherwise. It's very hard for me. I go back and forth with it. Knowing what I'm writing right now and where my head's at I probably wouldn't have written that record, the way I did if the circumstances had been different behind the scenes.
antiMusic: You're starting a new chapter in the book of My Ruin shortly with the recording of album #8 on the horizon. I realize you don't want to give away too much information at this point but will this one be a brother or sister record to A Southern Revelation or more like a distant cousin?
Tairrie: We often describe A Southern Revelation as the older, meaner sister to the moodier Ghosts & Good Stories but the new songs we're writing seem to be taking a bit of a different direction than both of those. While the new album has very dark and doom-laden elements, it's not an angry confrontation album. It's more introspective and there is an otherworldly ethereal feeling to it. I would say it's a very deep sleep-deprived record. I suffer heavily from insomnia. This is something which has plagued me most of my adult life. Mick on the other hand, can fall asleep very easily. It's something I envy. I'm often awake late at night and alone in my own head a lot. I tend to do most of my writing and being creative after midnight and into the witching hour. The new album definitely reflects this mood. There is a very hour of the wolf, esoteric vibe and feel to it.
antiMusic: Kind of like "Diggin for Ghosts?"
Tairrie: If I had to compare, I suppose it would be along the lines of "Diggin for Ghosts", "Long Dark Night", "Deathknell" and "The Soulless Beast".
antiMusic: Can you say in general terms any muse that played a role lyrically this time around?
Tairrie: I usually find something on my bookshelf that will inspire my thought process and this time around, I've been reading a lot of work by Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Anne Sexton, William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley. I also came across an old book of illustrations by Gustave Dore which really spoke to me along with a painting by Hans Memling.
We're also covering a blues song that was originally recorded in 1958 by one of my long time favorite artists. He didn't write it but he certainly made it famous for the way he delivered it. It's very cool, sexy and tough. I think people are going to be shocked when they hear our twist on it but I think it's going to fit on the album nicely and although the lyrics were written for a man to sing, they are actually very appropriate for me [and a little bit sarcastic] given my reputation.
antiMusic: Mick is handling drum duties again on this record?
Tairrie: Yes, Mick has written all the music for the new album and will be playing drums and guitar as well as co producing with Joel Stooksbury at his studio once again but this time, we've asked Luciano Ferrea to play bass on the album. He's been in the band for a couple of years now and he's an awesome bass player and friend. Although Mick and I can easily make the album ourselves, we want to share the experience with Luciano this time so he'll be joining us in Knoxville
antiMusic: What is the update with regards to a drummer for any live shows? Is Marcelo Palomino behind the kit for the next while?
Tairrie: Marcelo played our last LA show with us and he'll being doing a few more when we need him but I think we may be looking for a more permanent drummer in the future because music is not something he really wants to do full time. We've had a couple friends in other bands offer to sit in with us when we're ready to tour again so we're not stressing at the moment but it would be nice to find someone like Luciano, who can be a more permanent part of what we do. We've met a lot of freaks with crazy personalities along the way so we're not very open to letting just anyone in our band at this point. It's really hard to find a good drummer who is a good person, especially in LA and in the style of music we play. At the moment things are cool the way they are.
antiMusic: Yeah. Gigging around town is one thing but when you're stuck with somebody who is crazy when you're on the road must be a real problem.
Tairrie: Well, you never really know someone until you go on the road with them, that's the true test of a musician but it can also be the test of your patience if you're dealing with an a--hole. It's like any relationship, you may think you know a person but often when you live with them, it's a different story. It's then you find out all their quirks and weird s--- you had no idea about. Some people you can deal with and others you can't. There has to be a mutual respect and respect for each others space. Everybody gets on each other's nerves at times, especially when you're in close quarters like a van, hotel rooms or backstage but when people feel the need to go out of their way to act annoying it creates a really bad atmosphere for everyone. I've been touring for many years and I prefer to be around people who know how to handle themselves as adults and handle their alcohol if they drink. Not act ridiculous.
antiMusic: Congrats on the Xbox thing. How did that come about?
Tairrie: Thank you! It's very cool. They actually contacted us through an old friend of mine in UK. He dropped me an email one day which was a conversation between him and someone from company called That Authoring Group which works directly with Rock Band. He sent him a link to check out our new album and the guy really liked it so we started the conversation and ended up signing a deal with his company to have A Southern Revelation released on Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Blitz later this summer. The first song "Walk of Shame" is already available for download and there will be more tracks coming in the following weeks.
antiMusic: Excellent. That's great.
Tairrie: Yes, it was very nice and unexpected that it came our way. We're happy that we were asked to be a part of it and hope to have our next record on it as well.
antiMusic: On top of your music, you're also still exercising your entrepreneurial spirit with your custom jewelry line you call Blasphemous Girl Designs. How was you last collection received and when can we expect the next one?
Tairrie: My last collection went great. I actually sold out of everything. I have a very loyal and devoted congregation of amazing women [and a few men] from all over the world that not only support my music but also my art and are a part of my BGD family. I try to create a new collection every few months and I always bring as many custom pieces as I can on tour with me to have in our merch booth so that fans can have something a bit more special and handmade.
It feels more personal than just a typical t shirt or CD however, it's harder than it used to be traveling with lots of stuff because there are new laws now which limit the amount of luggage you can bring with you and on top of this, musicians aren't allowed to bring instruments on board without being charged extra baggage fees [unlike athletes with sports equipment] so it costs a lot more to travel and tour overseas these days
I have just put my finishing touches on a new collection for August which I am getting ready to photograph and online soon. The new collection features my signature leather & metal scapulars, rock candy rings, cameo rings & necklaces and reliquary pendants along with my first lockets & poison rings filled with solid perfume which are amazing!
I also designed three custom rings with the London based jewelry company Seventh Circle Artworks. They deal in high-quality silver and metals. The owner Alex Palmer had seen my some of my BGD pieces online and approached me about doing a custom piece for the release of A Southern Revelation, so I designed this really cool seven-band knuckle style shield ring with him. The seven bands were in honor of our seventh album which included two rosary bands and a thick engraved center.
We followed the original with a more simplified version of the full court design and a band. Each ring is handcrafted in England where it is oxidized and smoked to give it a subtle vintage, aged effect and features the Spanish inscription "Mi Ruina Por Vida" which means 'My Ruin for Life'. A true statement piece for your middle finger if ever there was one!
Alex is a rocker himself and is in a band. He's an awesome guy and we had a great time working together and I hope we can again in the future. My collaboration with him follows on from SCA's other work with doom metal legends Saint Vitus, Candlemass, Macabre and VON, Kirk Windstein, Jimmy Bower and Philip H. Anselmo from Down alt. model/clothing designer Nina Kate and bass legend Ron Holzer of Trouble.
antiMusic: In previous interviews with me, you have always been reluctant to draw attention to the various adversities that the band has faced with every record. At this point, it cannot be denied that you've faced more than your fair share of challenges. To quote 'Reckoning'… "Woke up today and saw our life flash right before our eyes. Were left for dead but once again from ashes we will rise". This incident is the latest in a career that would have sidelined lesser individuals. To what do you owe your resolve in not only surviving but actually thriving?
Tairrie: I wouldn't say that we've been reluctant to draw attention to many of the challenges we've faced because we actually confront them head on in our songs and have no problem calling people out on their bulls--- which is most evident on our current album. Being in the music industry is often like being in an abusive relationship with someone you love and care for very deeply. It can be both wonderful and horrible depending on the day and situation. I sometimes wonder how we manage to have the heart and stamina to continue after all we've been through but we do because at the end of the day it's about the music. This is who we are.
antiMusic: What's next for My Ruin?
Tairrie: We recently premiered a new video for the song "Deconsecrated" which includes footage from our last UK tour earlier this year. It was filmed and edited by Tor Burrows of Notorious Design who co directed our previous video for "Tennessee Elegy" with me and is currently working on a documentary she filmed on My Ruin. We've been in pre production for the last two months here in LA for our next album which we are recording in August in Knoxville. There are also some interesting things going on behind the scenes for us at the moment which we're very excited about as a band and we hope to share soon.
Morley and antiMusic thank Tairrie and Mick for taking the time to do this interview.