“WE’RE AN UNDERGROUND BAND,” says My Ruin guitarist Mick Murphy. “You
really have to seek us out. We’re not part of any scene, and we’re
committed to doing our own thing on our own terms. We’re not plugged
into the big machine trying to become a cookiecutter band, and doing
whatever we’re told just to get famous. Our fundamental goals are not to
take over the world, sell a lot of records, or be popular. We know what
we are, we know what we want to do, and we’re not easily guided by
outside forces. We are very difficult to work with, but I think we are
one of the most independent bands out there.”
Although the above comments
might sound like a manifesto of defiance,
the words actually come from an
extreme dedication to making music
that’s unforced and natural and honest.
And they’re voiced by a sweet guy
who happens to be one of the most ferocious
and creative hard rock guitarists
you’ll hear underground, aboveground,
or bouncing off satellites. My Ruin’s
two latest releases—Throat Full of Heart
and the live-in-the-U.K. CD/DVD, Alive
On the Other Side [both Rovena]—are
loaded with bulletproof guitar tones,
surprising and memorable riffs, and
absolutely screaming solos, and they
stand as rhapsodic monuments to the
glory of impassioned isolationism.
On Throat Full of Heart, you buck the popular
trend of layering tons of guitars to
create “heaviness,” instead choosing to
focus on a single part.
Well, we’re a one-guitar band, so I
don’t like our records to sound like
walls of guitar textures. I doubled all
of the leads and rhythms, but that’s it.
I also go for the one-part approach
because Tairrie [B., My Ruin vocalist]
and I like things to sound raw and natural—
natural reverb from the room the
band records in, natural drum tones—
which, in turn, produces a sense of
space and openness around the tracks.
If I layered guitars like crazy, all that
air between the instruments would disappear,
and I think the band would
actually sound smaller.
You get a huge sound with a pretty minimal
Yeah, I do keep it simple. I’m using
BC Rich guitars. I’ve got two Eagles and
two Mockingbird Specials. I used the
Eagles on Throat Full of Heart, and I used
a black Mockingbird Special on Alive On
the Other Side. I use a Mesa/Boogie
Stiletto Trident head with my vintage
Marshall 4x12 cabinets in the U.S., and
when I’m in England, I get hooked up with a
Laney VH100R full stack. On Throat Full of
Heart, I used my Stiletto head, some modified
Fender Bassman heads, some Bogner heads, a
vintage Marshall cabinet, and a Bogner cab.
I’m still using Korg effects. I have an AX3000G
floor pedal. For strings, I like the .010-.052
gauge, but I’m not partial to any brand.
Was there any reason why you kept to the
Eagles for the record, and then took the Mockingbirds
I actually had the Eagles before I had the
Mockingbirds, but since I got the Mockingbirds,
I haven’t really used my Eagles. I don’t
really have a preference that much. It’s just
that, right now, I’m into the Mockingbirds,
and I’ve been using them pretty much every
time we play.
Specifically, what has led you to bond with
It looks different, but it has a real classic
feel—kind of like a Les Paul—and I’ve
always loved the shape ever since I saw Rick
Derringer playing one.
When you’re switching between Mesa/Boogie
Stilettos and LaneyVH100Rs as the band bounces
back and forth between America and Great Britain,
do you have to make any major tonal adjustments
to get your sound?
They give me what I want in different
ways. They definitely sound different, but I
like them both a lot. The Laney has a very
clear midrange, and it’s really loud and present
without being too saturated. The Stiletto
is also really loud, but its tone is a little more
rounded, and it puts out more low end. All
of my sounds come out of my programs in
the AX3000G, so I like to have a good, powerful
tube head outputting the tones.
So do you run the tube heads pretty clean in
order to translate the AX3000G sounds accurately,
or do you go for some edge on the amp, as well?
Mainly, I run the amps pretty clean. On
the Stiletto, I switch it on Fat Clean mode
just to push the low mids a bit, and I set the
Mid and High knobs to around 6 or 7, and
the Bass at 4. I go for pretty much the same
tone on the Laney’s clean channel.
Your overdrive sounds are really organic. How
do you set up the AX3000G to produce your distortion
I look at the AX3000G as a pedalboard
loaded with individual stompboxes—rather
than a unit with effects chains—and I tend
to go for the programs that are based off classic
distortions, analog echoes, and ’70s and
’80s flangers and phasers. I don’t want the
effects to overtake the whole sound—I just
want them to add something slightly different
to the tone. I usually stay as far way from
presets as possible, so I start from scratch
when I’m programming sounds. I’ll program
a different patch for every song we do live,
because I like to switch between different
delay times and phase speeds. Onstage, I
don’t change programs within a song. I go
to a program for a specific song, and then I
switch the AX3000G to Individual mode so
I can the turn the pre-programmed effects
off and on individually.
Do you employ the AX3000G for solo boosts,
I don’t change volumes. I just make sure
the basic sound is thick and present, and
that the presence doesn’t drop out when I
go to the solo. I’ll often turn on an echo or
something underneath the solo, and that’s
it. There’s really no need for a boost, because
I’m the only guitar player in the band. The
volume level for the solos is pretty much the
same as it is when I’m playing rhythm.
Do you tend to stay in standard tuning?
No. The two tunings we use in the band
are [low to high] C, G, C, F, A, D and D, G,
C, F, A, D.
How would you chart your growth from the
first full-length My Ruin album, 1999’s Speak and
Destroy, and Throat Full of Heart?
It was actually a re-growth in a way. I
started playing guitar in the early ’80s, caught
on to it pretty quickly, and made a name for
myself in the Tennessee guitar scene. Back
then, I was all about shredding. But as I grew
up, I learned more about what makes a song
grab someone’s attention, and I started holding
back. I wanted to be a more rounded
player, and not show everything I could do
in 15 seconds. When I got into My Ruin, I
was still in that phase, I guess, and I didn’t
feel like lead guitar was a big part of the
band’s style. But as we played more shows,
and gelled as a band, I started throwing more
of my “old” self in there—more solos, more
upbeat parts, more rock and roll,and a less
rigid approach to making music.
When you close your eyes, do your hands automatically
go to new and interesting parts, or do you
have to fight the tendency to regurgitate past ideas?
The guitar has been such a big part of my
life for so long that I can draw on years of
playing and listening to find parts that
work—at least for me [laughs]. Sometimes,
I’ll do a first draft of a riff or solo, and something
special will come out of it. Sometimes,
I’ll tell myself, “Hey, you’ve done that before.
Change it.” I try not to repeat myself.
Do you still practice?
Writing, rehearsing with the band, and
doing gigs are my main forms of practice
these days—as well as listening to music for
inspiration. That’s huge. Getting an iPod
changed everything for me, because I can
instantly listen to bits of every era of my
musical upbringing. Now, it’s difficult to nail
down my influences. Everything I do has
rolled into this one great big mental warehouse
of the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s, early
punk rock, classic metal, thrash metal, classic
rock and roll, and more. Having said all
of this, I was listening to a lot of early Iron
Maiden and Michael Schenker Group when
we recorded Throat Full of Heart, and I think
that comes out in the album’s sound. It
sounds kind of, well, timeless. It doesn’t
sound ultra-modern, and it doesn’t sound
ultra-retro. It just sounds like a rock band.
It’s interesting how the more natural sounds
employed by some early rock bands have aged so
well—unlike some ’80s productions with heavily
processed guitars, layered keyboards, and drum
Yeah—that’s why if you look up “Hard
Rock” in the dictionary in the year 3000,
you’ll probably see a picture of AC/DC.