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Shatter Messiah: Former Nevermore guitarist spread his wings

Interview with guitarist Curran Murphy of Shatter Messiah by Vera in November 2007

Curran Murphy perfected his guitar skills as live guitarist in eminent bands like Nevermore and Annihilator. Of course these were bands with someone else at the helm. Curran felt the need to record his own songs and that’s why he founded Shatter Messiah in 2006. This band recently released their sophomore album ‘God Burns Like Flesh’. Since this is a stunning album with an impressive blend of aggressive metal and melodic skills, it was time to learn more about this sure-fire outfit. Curran Murphy tells all about his new adventure in the following interview.


Since this is the first interview in our magazine, I start with some foundation questions. Curran, you decided to form a band of your own after working with Nevermore and Annihilator, two eminent bands. Can you tell me about these early days of Shatter Messiah and the reasons for this decision? I just needed to stop being in other peoples bands and had to start writing my own music. It is the same for any artist out there; you want to get to create your own thing and not have to be told what to do by others.
How did you meet the current members and can you tell a bit more about them? I met Wags first, after I had given the very early demo music to a friend of mine to see if he would like to play drums for me on the material. He told me he just could not play the kind of drums that I was demanding, but that he knew this singer named WAGS (“Greg Wagner”) who would probably fit the bill for what I wanted from a singer. I needed some one that could actually sing but was not afraid of growling and being heavy as well. So Wags comes into my studio and I tell him the deal about what I had envisioned for Shatter Messiah and he wanted to start recording right away. A lot of the first day ended upon the first Shatter Messiah album "Never To Play The Servant". It was really wild to have this maniac just roll into the studio and throw vocals all over the music and have it sound AMAZING!!! Wags was a real find. The next person to enter the fray was Robert "BOBS" Falzano. I met him through Annihilator when we both did the Judas Priest tour together. Bobs had come to Annihilator from Mike Mangini's recommendation for the tour and he was fucking incredible behind the drums. So I passed him the demo music of Shatter Messiah with the really lame drum machine beats and he came back to the hotel and was banging on my door wanting to be in the band!!! From there Bobs and I have become great friends as well as partners in Shatter Messiah's business work. I could not even imagine having to try and find another drummer to play this music, it is just to fucking out of control on the drums. From there I was able to find Dusty through a friend of mine that plays guitar in Wintersbane. Dusty came over a few days and we worked on some of the music for the new record and he just kept getting better and better at the riffs and he has a very mellow personality which meshes well with me running around and yelling like a lunatic all of the time! (laughs) And now this brings us to Jason who is playing bass for us after Ron needed to leave. He actually came up to me about playing in Shatter Messiah as just a "fill-in" guy for shows and stuff until we found a permanent bassist for the band. But his personality and skills just made it feel right to ask him if he wanted into Shatter Messiah, and lucky for us he has said YES!!!

Did you approached musicians while having written songs or did the other musicians contributed in songwriting since the very beginning? On ‘God Burns Like Flesh’ I still ended up writing about 90% of the new music, but we did get together three times for writing sessions with everyone in the band giving ideas for arrangements and music riffs as well. Dusty had a great riff that turned into the intro riff for ‘Pathway’ on the new record, and Bobs and I wrote the second part of ‘God Burns Like Flesh’ at the very end of the drum tracking sessions, when I played Bobs this one little riff. From there he said we needed to turn that into something, so we rolled my mesa amps into the drum room and jammed a bunch of riffs until we got into what became that nice sneaky second half of ‘God Burns Like Flesh’. It was really awesome. But for the first record I had had everything written and recorded before anyone came into the band. So Bobs just recorded his drums to the finished guitar and vocal tracks. From there we went into the mix stage of things for ‘Never To Play The Servant’. I was much happier to have more of a band feeling on the ‘God Burns Like Flesh’; I think it made the album heavier and more aggressive.
'Never To Play The Servant' was a collection of two E.P.’s. Why did you decide to turn it into a full length? Bobs and I really wanted all of the 14 songs to be released but the record label was very against releasing it as two separate CD's so we worked out a compromise of putting it all on one CD and letting the label decide the song order. It was really supposed to be ONE very aggressive and thrashy type of E.P. and one more melodic and driving type of E.P. but I am just glad that all of the songs were released.

Was the album followed by touring? Yes, we did a bunch of U.S. shows in support of ‘Never To Play The Servant’ but we could not get over to Europe for any tour dates. We had a great time and got a bunch of people to dig the music and buy CD's and shirts and have beers with us!!!!
'God Burns Like Flesh' marks the entrée of new bass player Jason Chamberlain. Why did Ron leave and can you tell a bit more about Jason? Ron left because he wanted to have a normal life. Like a wife and kids type of thing. So we were very sad to see him leave but he is happier now and we are all still friends. He has been Bobs’ friend for something like 10 or 15 years, so I am glad to say that we don't hate him or anything. But as for Jason he came to the band to just fill in and help us out while we tried to find another permanent member for Shatter Messiah. But as the shows kept coming and we kept getting tighter as a band with Jason it just made the most sense for him to be the bass player for Shatter Messiah. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be to get him to join since he was in like three other bands at the time but he was real excited about playing for us and we are very glad to have him in the band.

I know you do a lot yourself, also on recording level, but can you give us some more details about the recording process of the new album? We actually recorded drums for this album three times! (laughs) Bobs wanted to kill me after the second time on drums. BUT I wanted to have better drum sounds and not to use triggers or have to edit the drums so much. And we ended up making better songs each time we came back to record. After Bobs was done with his drums I sent him home and I went to work on the guitar recording. Finding the best sounds seven string and picking the correct amp for the kind of distortion I wanted. Going through all of my guitar cabinets to find the best sounding speakers and cabinet. Finding the right mic for the guitar tracks, then getting the guitar set up right with the proper heavy strings for recording and then after all of this sitting down and getting my guitar skills strong enough to record every single part four times to make it sounds HUGE for the record. All of this took a few days and a lot of screaming and yelling on my part since I get so stressed out when I record my parts. I just want them to be as good and tight as they can be, but I always feel like a slob when I am tracking and I freak out!!! But we got all of the guitars done and had Jason come into learn all of the riffs and write bass lines for it. I cannot stand it when the bass just follows the guitar, I think it is very boring and the bass doesn't get to sounds as awesome as it can when a bass player actually writes bass lines to work with the guitars and the drums as a foundation for the low end. So we spent a few days working out what Jason was going to play and then got the tracking done for that. All during this and the guitars as I would get one song finished up Wags would be coming into sing vocals on the songs at the same time. It was really crazy. I would have to get lyrics written as he was coming into do his vocals. Or while he was waiting in the booth. It was very hectic. I remember while I was doing mixes the day before I had to have the album finished and delivered I had Wags come in and finish some hi vocals stuff, re-sing one verse in "Tomorrow Immortal" and sing "Dirge Of The Christ" it was like 9 am. And I had been up for three hours finishing one of the song’s mixes. And before that at about 4 in the morning the day before I had decided to RE-TRACK all of the guitar solos because I did not like the sounds of the guitars I had used on them. WOW. So from there I spent the rest of the day, about 36 hours, mixing and finishing all of the record. It was a manic run to the finish line. It was absolutely crazy. I was finishing art work meetings and manager meeting and sending the final mixes to the mastering house in Germany. After I was finished I think I went and drank an entire bottle of Kettle One vodka. I was blasted out of my mind from exhaustion and mixing and booze. It was great!!!!!
The cover was created by your art guy Felipe Machado. Please tell a bit more about him… We really lucked out on finding Felipe, he was willing to work with us and the very small budget we had for the art work. It was really kind of insulting that I couldn't afford to pay him more money than what we did, but he is the man and made an excellent looking album cover for us. I cannot wait to get to use him again on the next album. He really took my simple idea of demons and angels being burned alive and surpassed my expectations with it. I am very happy with the art he did for Shatter Messiah!
Do you agree that the new album has a more dramatic tinge vocal-wise than the first one? This time when Wags and I started the vocals for ‘God Burns Like Flesh’ he said he really wanted to sing how he felt it should sound on this record, as apposed to ‘Never To Play The Servant’ where I was basically telling him "sing like this, or sing like that" and he really belted out these heartfelt powerful vocals. He took my lyrics and the very basic melody lines I was singing to him and he made them his own and made them deeper than what I thought they could be. Once again it was really amazing to work with Wags like this!!! Very cool.

Has it something to do with the lyrical themes this time? Tell me a bit more about those lyrics? I think the lyrics have more depth to them on this album, on ‘Never To Play The Servant’ I really only had like one or two layers to what was being said with the lyrics but on ‘God Burns Like Flesh’ I am still using the words of God and Christ and things like that and getting even deeper into where I want things to be. The lyrics are not even about God in most cases they are about life, love, betrayal, our failing heroes and politicians deceit. There is so much more for ME and about me on this album that it feels really good to listen back to it. It really delivers some closure on things in my life.
There are two longer tracks on the album this time and they are outstanding. I love the semi-acoustic parts and especially the latest track rules!!! And it is different from the rest. Can you tell about your personal feelings about 'Tomorrow Immortal'? ‘'Tomorrow Immortal’ is just one of those songs that starts with a very dark and menacing vibe about it, and then gets even more sinister before it releases into this sad and lilting acoustic guitar. It feels like dying and being born again and again. This song really took itself over from me and became something more than what I thought it was going to be. It is about life coming to an end but feeling eternity in the fact that tomorrow is coming again. Life never ends, it is always.
Everybody talks about "it sounds like Nevermore, like Annihilator". (you must get bored of it by now) Well, I say that SM sounds like SM but vocals and style reminded me most of all of early Metal Church. Can you find yourself somewhere in this vision? A lot of people have said the new vocals that Wags put down sound like the Metal Church guy that is dead. I never listened to Metal Church, I know that Wags really just went into the vocal booth and belted out what felt right. I know that he was not trying to sound like anyone, so if he is reminiscent of Metal Church I think it is purely a coincidence. I also know that I play and write what I want to and this comes from my early influences of Metallica, Prong and Anthrax. And now a newer part of my playing and writing IS like Jeff Loomis' playing since he and I worked so close together for all of those tours I did with Nevermore. It is now all just a mishmash of how I write and play guitar. I am not trying to copy anyone; I just write what I want to hear come out of the speakers.

Last Summer you did a long tour with To/Die/For. Can you tell a bit more about this experience? That fucking tour was a disaster!!! We actually left the tour after just one show. The American promoter that booked the tour lied about everything that had to do with the tour. The money, the shows, the dates for the shows, where the shows were located, everything was a lie. He totally fucked To/Die/For, Shatter Messiah and Virgin Black. We just refused to do a tour under the situation that this asshole promoter had made, so we left after the first show, which was a good thing because we had to make the new record for delivery and would not have finished it in time for the release date the record label wanted!! So it worked out good for us, but I know that the rest of the tour had a very hard time out there on the road in the U.S.
Are there plans to come over to Europe? People have to demand for us to come over and we will be there in right away! Shatter Messiah loves to tour and play shows, we definitely want to get out on the road in Europe, so we shall see what happens for us in the next few months.
Wasn't it strange that your first album was released in Europe in 2006 and the release in your home country came not earlier than April 24th 2007? Yeah it was a long time for us to get that album out. We actually had to self release here in the States through our management companies record label.
Will DCA Recordings release 'God Burns Like Flesh' again in the States? When? We are actually trying to secure a release date for the album as soon as possible through a bigger company so we can have better distribution of ‘God Burns Like Flesh’.
Where in the States are you based? Bobs lives in Massachusetts and the rest of Shatter Messiah all live in Ohio. It is a 14 hour drive for Bobs to come into town to rehearse for shows and stuff. It kind of sucks but then again when Bobs is in town, we are all business since his time here is always limited! It makes us all work harder when we are together, which makes Shatter Messiah a better band I think.
The third track is a hidden track. Why this mystical approach? It was actually a joke. The title track ‘God Burns Like Flesh’ is really two separate songs, they are different key signatures, tempo's and everything. But I wanted them to be the "same song". So I decided to do what Slayer does sometimes. They will have two very different feeling songs put together as one song. So I took this approach but I wanted to goof around with people by leaving the second half separated on the album track count but not listed on the art work. Just to mess with people a little and make people double check their CD players and the art work again!! (laughs) It even fucked with Bobs when he was listening to it, he thought the mastering guy had fucked up the running order of the record; it was awesome!!!! (laughs out loud)
Greg, who did you admire when you started to sing? What are your influences as singer? The gods of rock and roll Kiss!!! I also love AC/DC, but my main influence is the true metal god Rob Halford of Judas Priest. He is the “bad-est” mother fucker out there. No one can sing like him and no one can control a crowd like him he is the metal messiah!!!!!

Curran, and what are your roots? Can you tell me a bit about the time you started to play guitar? Early thrash metal like Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, Prong the true thrash metal classics. From there I started to get into the heavier music like Machine Head and Slayer, Testament, all of the great, great thrash bands of the eighties and nineties. I always wanted to be a killer rhythm guitarist like James Hetfield, Tommy Victor, but I always got stuck playing lead guitar as well since I knew my theory and scales. So it worked out for me in the end since I play lead in Shatter Messiah (laughs) But I learned guitar after my cousin showed me the tablature for Metallica's song "One". I then knew that anyone can play guitar, you don't even have to know how to read music. Just follow the numbers and go!!! Woohoo !!! From there I bought tons of books and studied jazz for a few years like Alex Skolnick of Testament did, and from that I really got my harmony and dissonance thing that I like to do. With jazz, if you deliver the note with conviction you can make any tone work in any key. The same thing about Steve Vai, he makes the most bizarre note choices but they work over the lunatic chord progressions he makes! A true genius of the instrument. I just really love to play guitar and make music; it is what I am lucky enough to get to do for a living. I may not be a rich rock star but I do get to pay the bills from making noise on my guitar.
Is there a chance you will work again with Nevermore or Annihilator in future besides Shatter Messiah or do you prefer to focus only on your own band from now on? I will never say never about working with anybody, I am not really interested in going backwards but you never know; it can always be something that is fun to re-visit. But for now my main concern is Shatter Messiah and building this band into something awesome for everyone who likes metal.
What are the plans for the near future? To get out on tour and to secure a US deal for ‘God Burns Like Flesh’!
To occlude, last words are for you to convince people to buy 'God Burns Like Flesh'… Shatter Messiah writes metal albums, no bullshit, just killer fucking metal. You will not be disappointed by this band on the albums or on the stage. We love what we do and we know that you love what you listen to.
Massive thanks to you for this interview… Thanks so much for all of your praise and I know we will meet you soon on tour!!!








Geplaatst door Vera op woensdag 05 december 2007 - 11:02:46
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