DATE OF INTERVIEW:
18th January 2010
Originally conceived as the brainchild of John Murphy, melodic death/black metallers For Ruin began life as a one-man project before becoming a fully fledged band at the end of 2005. Unleashing their debut album, 'December', on Sentinel Records in 2007, the Irish crew decided to go it alone with latest full-length studio effort, 'Last Light', and simultaneously self-released the CD as well as making it available for free download. Metal Discovery's Paul Sims posed a series of questions to For Ruin main man, John Murphy, to discover more about the band and their autonomy...
METAL DISCOVERY: For people not familiar with For Ruin, how do you sum up the band?
JOHN MURPHY: Hey Paul, thanks for the interview. I guess For Ruin is an Irish extreme metal band with a wide range of musical and other influences. Many have said that we play a style that’s not easily categorized into one style or another - there’s a lot of death, black and melodic-styles in what we play and most fans of those styles will find something they like in our music, but we do not stick to one particular style. We wear our influences openly and left the confines of a label last year to put out our music independently.
(John Murphy on For Ruin's decision to self-release latest album, 'Last Light')
“We didn’t take this decision lightly, but it came to the point we could all see what was happening in terms of record labels shutting, shops closing and the recession biting hard (especially here in Ireland), along with the global downturn in music sales and huge swing towards free-downloads of music.”
For Ruin promo photo
Interview by Paul Sims
FOR RUIN DISCOGRAPHY
Official For Ruin Website:
Official For Ruin MySpace:
Used with permission from John Murphy - copyright © 2009 For Ruin
EPs & Demos
Last Light (2009)
For Ruin/Meiche split (2004)
MD: For Ruin was started as more of a project of yours, John. Was it always the intention for the project to become a full band?
JM: Definitely. When I started out I was heavily involved in completing PhD studies and had very little spare time to devote to a band, so I just wrote and demoed songs on my own in what little spare time I had. Eventually, with a friend, I put out the 1st demo and that was the first anyone had ever heard of the band of course, not having had a lineup to play shows. I knew that when my studies would finish that I wanted to play this style of music live and that was always in the back of my mind - the music had to come second for a while until I had more time I guess.
MD: Although regarded as an Irish band, the second demo was recorded and released in Spain as, John, you were living there at the time. Does a different country have a different bearing in how the creative process comes about?
JM: I moved to Valencia in 2004 to take a job there and bought an apartment there at the time where I wrote and recorded the second ('Shade') demo. Only one of the songs on that demo was an old song, the others were all written in Spain - moving to a new country and culture brings its own challenges and it was tough for a while, maybe some of that flowed into the songwriting so, from that point of view, moving to Valencia may well have affected the process. In a technical sense it did too in that I had a smaller restricted recording space and had to play electronic drums rather than acoustic ones for noise reasons - that’s a noticeable difference between the first two demos.
MD: The sound of the band doesn’t necessarily follow the template set out by your Irish Metal peers such as Primordial, Cruachan and Waylander yet follows a more Mediterranean (like modern Rotting Christ) and mid era Paradise Lost sound. How did this influence develop?
JM: I was never a fan of the template you mention - that’s true to this day, it's just not a style that interests me much (although I have become far more interested in Primordial’s music in recent years, the last few albums have been really great - I would not count Primordial as having so much of that “folk” influence which does nothing for me personally…). My tastes have always been more towards the extreme side of metal, but extremity with melody and songs you can really remember - that’s probably what brought me towards the Mediterranean and Scandinavian styles. The UK scene (especially early-mid period Anathema, Paradise Lost…) was something I was a fan of even before I looked further afield in Europe - so the PL influence was probably always there, and remains to this day. I can only think of one PL album that I dislike (that one with the bees on the cover…), all the others rate equally highly for me. I guess that the PL influence carried through my tastes then into early Katatonia, Amorphis etc.
MD: Before we talk about your latest album, ‘Last Light’, let’s mention ‘December’, your first album, which was released by Sentinel records. Tell us a little about how this album came to be and your thoughts on it now?
JM: The debut came out in Oct. 2007, and is named after an instrumental piece which first appeared on the 3rd demo that many people in Ireland would be well familiar with by now. It was our first label recording, we were on a very tight budget, we were green, the lineup wasn’t yet solid and my son was about to be born during the sessions so there was quite a lot going on at the time. Its got a few what were then “new” songs on it, the bulk of it being re-recordings of the best of the demo material. Its production is thin and raw, but the songs on it for the most part are very strong and still form a large part of our live set - songs like 'Towards an End' (which was later remixed for the digital only 'Enlightened' EP in 2009), 'Another Breed', 'Dread' and others are strong songs which people know us for by now. It got pretty decent reviews with everyone (myself included) commenting on the production - but it’s a good representation of a young, inexperienced band that’s keen to get their first album on the shelves no matter what and while we may record some of those songs again sometime to give them the production they deserve, we’re not looking backwards right now - onwards and upwards!
MD: You decided to terminate your contract with Sentinel Records and release your second album ‘Last Light’ by yourselves. Why was this and what are the pitfalls/benefits you’ve found?
JM: We didn’t take this decision lightly, but it came to the point we could all see what was happening in terms of record labels shutting, shops closing and the recession biting hard (especially here in Ireland), along with the global downturn in music sales and huge swing towards free-downloads of music. Sentinel was good for us at the time, but we wanted to try our own thing by giving the album away for free download as well as having standard and collectors edition CDs available along with high quality digital downloads. The free version was a first in Irish metal, but loads of artists world-wide have been doing this for quite a while - labels are going under and unless they become merchandising specialists they will continue to flounder. So we cut out the middle man (at the expense of better distribution) and funded the recording, production, artwork, promotion etc. ourselves. We do not make a living from the band - it's our passion. It's expensive of course and there’s a lot to learn, but we have done well. Of course we lost sales by giving it away, but at our early stage it's more important that people hear our music and that we get the name out there. We may look at licensing 'Last Light' to a bigger label to further that later this year but for now www.forruin.com is the best place to get our music which supports us directly to make more music.
MD: Artwork for ‘Last Light’ was designed by renowned Northern Irish artist Paul McCarroll (whose art can be seen on Martin Waylkyier’s The Clan Destined CD, Primordial’s ‘To The Nameless Dead’ and ‘The Gathering Wilderness’). What drew you to his style for the band?
JM: I always loved Paul’s style - he’s generated some really great covers over the years from the Geiger-ish stuff to those you mentioned above - all very distinct and different. We knew we wanted a single colour cover, something instantly associated with the band - that was challenging for Paul, who in fact said ours was one of the most challenging covers he had done as it was very different for him. The song 'In Suffering' is lyrically based around the heinous crimes of the catholic church in Ireland over the last few decades (and my distaste for all sorts of religion in general) and those lyrics inspired the artwork which itself is our take on a Christian brothers logo.
MD: The album can be purchased from various places but it can also be downloaded for free from your website. What was the thinking behind this?
JM: I alluded to that above I guess - it’s a question of raising our profile using what I’d say is now the preferred media by many people - for some it will always be vinyl/cassette/CD or whatever, but the mp3 format is here to stay and artists have to move with the times and embrace it. I rarely listen to CDs anymore and I sold all my old vinyl! It's all digital these days. It’s a useful medium, not without its drawbacks of course, but it allows us to reach people globally now without them needing to wait for the postman to deliver a CD or paying expensive import costs or lining the pockets of huge media stores that have been screwing artists and the public for years at this stage.
MD: Lyrically, what inspires you and how does this translate into the feel of For Ruin?
JM: The band’s lyrics are inspired by all kinds of stuff, but mostly by my experiences, life, trials and joys, fears and hopes, death and pain, climate and religion. All very broad, yes, but that’s what inspires me to write. I do not write about horror, gore or satanic shit - there is enough horror in everyday life to fill countless bookshelves with terrifying topics so I’d rather write about what’s important to me. In terms of what sort of feeling it brings to the band - well it seems to confuse some people who would like to categorize us as they would other groups into the usual gore/satanic/whatever genre. Labels are very easy to attach, we all do it all the time and I’m glad that people can’t pin a tail on us so easily!
MD: The band have certainly been (and continue to be) active on the concert front, playing with many big names such as Napalm Death, Primordial and Paradise Lost. What are your favorite memories or tour stories?
JM: We haven’t done any significant touring as yet (though we play the UK this Spring I hope) so it's mostly been one-off shows here and there. Certainly playing with Paradise Lost and RC was a personal highlight for me. Playing the Camden Underworld (with Skyforger in May 2008) was another landmark - I’ve seen so many shows in there over the years, it was nice to be on that stage (even if the sound in there is shite most of the time!) The Jan 2008 Primordial show in Dublin was probably the biggest crowd we’ve played to so far and that was a very special show, a landmark in Irish metal and we were fortunate to be supporting them that night.
MD: What are the hopes and aspirations for the band and how are you planning on achieving them?
JM: Our hope would be to continue playing the music we create in a live setting. We would aspire to be in the position that we can self-sustain the band and creatively enjoy recording and writing our music - and if others outside the band enjoy our music then that’s the enabler for all of it - we need the support of fans of the band’s music for it to continue. In the short term we may look at licensing 'Last Light' to a label internationally and to getting shows set up in Europe. We’re currently working on 4 UK dates for March/April 2010, and would like to get a few festival slots if luck is with us. We’re still at an early stage so all of these things take time really. Our feet are firmly planted on the ground and we are realists.
MD: Thanks for your time in answering these questions and best of luck for the band.
JM: Cheers Paul, many thanks again for the interview. Keep an eye out for us in the UK this year - we have a feature in the Feb. edition of Terrorizer I believe and are doing a lot of promo at the moment with full details and all the latest news on www.forruin.com.