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California – “The Graceless Age” 2012
Words and News
Five years in the making John Murry’s solo debut, The Graceless Age is world’s away from the startling World Without End, an album of murder ballads and gloom laden tales he released with Bob Franks in 2006. With a warm and at times lush sound the music is in stark contrast to the pessimism and grim acceptance of fate contained in the lyrics.
Produced by Tim Mooney the news of his tragic and untimely death just as the album was released cast a dark shadow on what should ultimately be seen as a triumph and a tribute to Mooney’s perserverence with the occasionally tempestuous Murry. As it stands The Graceless Age is a fitting memorial to Mooney and Murry’s best work to date.
Tell us about yourself and what you do?
My name is John Murry. I do as little as possible and make as much noise as is allowed by my family, neighbours, and law enforcement officials. Sometimes I record it and turn it into records with other people. I did a lot of those with Bob Frank and virtually everything with Tim Mooney, the most important influence on me musically and personally I’ll ever have. I learned the lessons he taught, though. Won’t forget them.
How did you get together/start out?
Tim and I began working together in 2005 or 2006 with World Without End, something Bob Frank and I came up with. I’d heard some stuff he’d done (not what you likely think – I didn’t know who Mark Eitzel was) and just called him up with the idea for World Without End. We did it and just kept on working. Bob and I co-wrote that record, wrote and recorded a single and an EP together and, later, a record called Brinkley, Ark. and Other Assorted Love Songs. That record was never really released. Tim and I began working on The Graceless Age in early 2007 and finished it all not too long ago…
What is your current release/future release?
The Graceless Age, released by one of the last bastions of real music criticism by folks who still do what they do because they truly and simply dig rock and roll: Bucketfull of Brains (on y’all’s side of the pond). Tim and I had begun a new record that Joe Goldring and I will finish at the studio we began it in (Ausgang Audio in Petaluma, CA, run by Justin Millar and Cara LP. Joe is a North Londoner… Sort of…. Played in The Toiling Midgets, with tons of great folks, and still does. He’s a brilliant guitar player, a total asshole in an oddly loveable way, and a brilliant drummer (though he thinks otherwise). He and Tim were brothers, in a quite palpable sense, and Joe gets me (and what I do), and gets it quite eerily in the way Tim always did – in a way I don’t always get myself. Like a loving but pissy big brother who doesn’t hate their annoying and much younger sibling, though Joe is a bit younger than Tim was, even. And Tim sorta saved me from myself, what with all the fucking up I did and all Of course, Bob was retired when we began working together…. Young people in the USA are generally obnoxious and can’t feel their way past their dreams of acceptance within insular and incestuous hipster “scenes”. Fuck “scenes”. I like “making a scene”… There’s an alternate version of The Graceless Age that’ll be released, an EP of covers Tim and I did, and an EP I just did in Memphis with some friends, primarily J.D. Reager, and Kyle Johnson (of Goner Records) engineering. Bob and I wanna do another record. I produced his last solo one (unreleased so far) with Tim. It’s great. There are just tons of songs, lots of material…. I’m kinda obsessive and make too much stuff. Joe and I are starting up a project, too. It’ll work. I’ve wanted to do something like this with Joe (and Kevin Thomson) for years but was always too insecure to ask. They’re kinda heroic to me. Watch them do what they do and tell me it doesn’t blow your mind, too….
What is the best part of being in a band/singer/song writer?
Not having to wear or say anything I don’t want to. Getting to say what everyone else can’t doesn’t suck, either. Making up random crap to entertain myself. Of course, we could all choose to stop the charade at any time, but who has the time to be thoughtful? Not me! Or do I? I dunno…
What is your most significant moment yet?
What are your biggest musical influences?
Those I know influence me more than those I don’t. So the ones I know (or knew) first: Tim Mooney, Chuck Prophet, Bob Frank, Joe Goldring, Kevin Thomson, Nate Cavalieri, Jeff Finlin, Andy Grooms, Jim Dickinson, Kevin Cubbins, Kenny Brown, R.L. Burnside, Robert Belfour, Greg Cartwright, Jack Yarber, Cary Hudson, Jeffrey Evans, and Junior Kimbrough.
Then there’s all the stuff I listen to too much and too often: the Dylan records others seem to not like, Mark Linkous was a fucking genius, Clapton sucks but Layla(…) is a brilliant and near-perfect album, The Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen is a constant obsession, and early (and some later) Mogwai, Arab Strap, Neil Young (half the time), Westerberg, My Bloody Valentine, Skynyrd, Duane Allman, hell: Katy Perry and Taylor Swift (I have a 7 year old..). I don’t know. I like way too much stuff. I also hate way too much stuff. You know, like Yankees affecting Southern Accents and calling it “Americana”. Banjos everywhere! I think there’s even a dress code! Last time I checked, using fake accents was essentially the same as lying. What the fuck happened? I wish to Christ I DIDN’T have one… Birth decided that one. Indignancy does not relieve ones’ self of it. “I don’t hate it, I don’t hate it, I don’t hate it…..”. Somebody said that once.
Producers: Lanois (sometimes), Eno (sometimes), Froom and Blake, Dennis Herring, Kevin Cubbins – even if we are worlds apart in many ways, Muscle Shoals and Stax, and Tim. I pray that at some point in this world’s fucked history someone will realise what a genius he was and what a fucking man of true dignity he was. He was beyond us. And I got to be his friend. I’m grateful for that, most of all.
I read a lot of books that dead people wrote, too. But who reads anymore, ya know? Oh! And I like Terence Malick and Werner Herzog far too much. And David Milch. Milch can make the word “cocksucker” sound as musical as Mick Jagger (and without any music!).
What venue/gig do you most want to play?
Royal Albert Hall. With balloons and shit. And a small orchestra. Do a live record. With Jason Pierce. Yep. Has been since Ladies and Gentlemen…
What is your best/favourite song you have written?
I like the last ones Tim and I were working on most. That’s generally true, though. You’ve gotta turn on your own previous releases to avoid the vanity “indie rock” encourages to make anything honest today.
What’s your favourite album of this year?
I listen to very few “new” records these days. I think Spiritualized’s newest one is brilliant and under appreciated. He’s found his lyrical high again. And it’s an honest and painful one. Recently some friends have forced records on me. Unfortunately, many of them are good….
What does the next six months have in store for you?
We’ll see, yeah? A tour or two over there for certain and a few other releases. I don’t really know. It kinda depends on whether or not people dig The Graceless Age and buy it. If that doesn’t work, I’ll be driving a truck for UPS. I promised my wife…
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully NOT in Oakland…. Or The South.
What’s the best thing about Americana-UK?
Y’all get that the word “Americana” encompasses a whole hell of a lot more than just shit that sounds like old country songs. Y’all don’t discriminate at first listen and really dig music. There’s more to be said for people who work within the “industry” who actually like music than there is to be said for any other quality anyone could have. Y’all do. Even if I think y’all are wrong sometimes, at least I know why. Y’all are an honest outlet providing real criticism and that’s a rare thing to be found these days. So thanks!
Today, July 2nd, is the day of the UK and European release of John Murry’s The Graceless Age on Bucketfull of Brains, an album four years in the making. The American release to follow on Evangeline in September. Click on the album cover for more info:
“One of the records I’ve been playing the absolute hell out of these last couple of weeks is The Graceless Age, the new album by John Murry, who Uncut regulars may remember from World Without End, a sensationally bleak 2006 collection of contemporary murder ballads he made with the Memphis singer-songwriter Bob Frank. The Graceless Age, like World Without End, produced by Tim Mooney, the former American Music Club drummer, at Closer Recording, the studio Tim owned in San Francisco, at 1441 Howard Street. The more I played it, the more The Graceless Age sounded like one of the best things Mooney had been involved in, as either producer or musician, a dark and festering masterpiece.
Because I’m reviewing the album for Uncut, I was actually listening to it last week when I got an email from my friend Chris Metzler at Décor Records, home of AMC and the label that put out World Without End in the UK. Chris said he had been about to write to me with details of a new album by AMC’s Mark Eitzel, but instead had sad news for me. Tim Mooney – second from left in the picture above of AMC – had died suddenly, at the age of only 53, from a heart attack.
Tim, who’d previously played with Bay Area punk bands like Negative Trend, The Sleepers and Toiling Midgets, joined AMC in 1992, just as it looked like they were finally going to make what’s usually called the big time after signing major label deals in America, with Reprise, and the UK, with Virgin, for whom they recorded two albums, Mercury and San Francisco. Neither sold, and the band split, reconvening almost a decade later for 2003’s Love Songs For Patriots, which Mooney played on and produced. In 2007, AMC split again, with Eitzel and guitarist Vudi relocating to Los Angeles. Mooney stayed in San Francisco, where during AMC’s 1994-2003 hiatus he had worked with Red House Painters’ Mark Kozelek.
“I knew Tim Mooney for over 20 years,” Kozelek wrote on his blog last week. “As many Red House Painters fans may know, American Music Club was very helpful in giving Red House Painters our start. Later on, Tim played drums on my first solo album, Rock’N’Roll Slinger, and then on Sun Kil Moon’s Ghosts Of The Great Highway. We shared many long days and hours together. Tim was a peaceful, patient and incredibly talented person. The last time I saw Tim was in 2009, in Petaluma, he was having ice cream with his daughter. He was as happy and contented as ever. I’ve been overwhelmed with memories of Tim since learning of the news yesterday. My heart goes out to his family, his many friends, and to the members of AMC.”
Mark Eitzel also remembered Mooney in a blog: “I haven’t seen Tim for a few years now but that still didn’t lessen the impact of his passing. He was the drummer of AMC for many years. He was absolutely instrumental in whatever sound we had. His style was absolutely unique and as an artist no one could match what he did. He was a good friend to so many people and will be missed. What an absolute loss. I wish all the best to his wife Jude and his daughter Dixie. I have spent all day in a fog thinking about him.”
In a separate email that Chris Metzler has passed on to me, Eitzel added: “We were always surprised that Tim wanted to play with us. Before AMC he played in a band called the Toiling Midgets. (If you can find it check out their album ‘Sea Of Unrest’ – It’s a masterpiece). He took all our disparate musical ideas and tied it them together with a style that just cut through. The collision of Tim’s playing with Bruce’s pedal steel and Vudi and Danny was something I had never heard before (and won’t again). Tim was a good and sweet man and in music a true believer. I was lucky to play with him and have him in my life.”
Chris also forwarded me an email from Vudi, who wrote: “I was a fan of Tim Mooney some years before our friendship. Though just a kid, he was already rock’n’ roll star while I was still finding my way. He had made his mark in some great music, with great style. To sense where things were at and WHEN they were at, and – if it was something good – there he was; a real force, right in the beating heart of it all. I’m talking about more than just music, friends.
“Tim had a cat-like cat, hungry intelligence, was beautiful to behold, and an inspiring companion. Mooney had a rare gift: the first time he came to my flat for a social call (I was drummer-stealing), my flatmate thought ‘lightning was gonna strike the house’, and went out. His presence could have that effect. Tim could be the quiet man in the room, but every bright and beautiful thing knew that if he got up and left, the light would dim. Well,….”
The next issue Uncut was already on its way to the printers when we heard about Tim’s death, but there’ll be more on him the following issue.
Have a good week.
Allan Jones, June 19th 2012