For Ruin - When cultures meet
By Katlin Sipos
When I got For Ruin’s second work, Shade for review, I was a bit skeptical; ‘another death-black metal project’ I thought, so I did not expect too much. But as soon as I started to listen to Shade I was hooked, and now I can say For Ruin was the surprise band of 2005 for me. Obviously, I could not miss the chance to have a few words with John Murphy, who was then the only man behind the band.
Hello John! End of the year is almost here, how are you doing after the holidays?
Hi Katalin, Season’s greetings to you and yours out there! I’m doing great thanks, have had a quiet holiday season, watching some DVD’s, reading and having a few pints, and working on some new music… all of the things I like to do in my spare time!
Could we please start with a short For Ruin biography? Officially it says it was founded in 2003 but the material on the split with Meiche was written earlier…
Sure. The idea for the band began earlier than ’03 certainly. The band’s first recorded
output materialized during late 2003 and early 2004, so I suppose that is the real starting point for the band, but back somewhere around 1999, a good friend who is a studio-owner approached me, saying that he had some new recording equipment that he wanted to test out using someone that wasn’t a paying customer, a guinea-pig of sorts I suppose, so I had a couple of songs ready to go that I had always felt were too heavy or different from any previous (and crappy) bands that I had played with. So I went in with him, recorded the drum tracks and guitars over a few nights, he got the experience with the gear (a Digidesign 001 PT setup) and I got the songs. I hadn’t quite got the vocal melodies figured out or anything, so a singer from my old (childhood) band wrote some lyrics and I asked him to sing on them. The songs were ’Starling‘
, but I never did anything with these versions, other than include them on a college compilation CD. The proper version of ’Starling’
appears on the Shade
demo, and a new version of ’Jaded’
will appear on the next FR
release for sure.
So, between 1999 and 2003, I was busy with PhD studies but during what little free time I had I started writing again, and was approached by Taranis to record and play on the Meiche demo – that was 2 years ago now. I agreed on the basis that the demo would be a split release between his project and mine, and so the split release was born. I played on the Meiche half of the cd (drums, some lead and bass guitar and keys) and he contributed some vocals for fun to my half of the CD. It was a good time and we enjoyed the recording, here in my home in Cork. So you can say that FR was born in and around ’99, but only produced its first outputs in 2003-04. Like many bands in the beginning some of the material was quite weak on the first recording and I knew I had it in me to do better. Meiche is currently dormant, as Taranis is now involved with his old band Belinus once again.
For Ruin is a one-man band. Did you intend to form a one-man band or did it just happen this way?
In fact it’s more correct to say that FR was a one-man-band: not anymore. Initially, yes, I wanted to do my own thing, as I was tired of playing a style of music which was not as heavy as I like to play and listen to myself, and as I can play a number of things (a jack of all trades but master of none!) I went and did the Starling/Jaded
songs and that proved to me I could do it. It was an important lesson for me. The benefits of the setup are, of course, complete control over the creative process, but the one-man-band idea is limited to the studio of course, so I always knew that I wanted to move away from that scenario.
I decided to build up the band on my own merits and abilities and see how it went. The Shade
demo was entirely self-produced in Valencia during the summer of ’05, and I knew that I had recorded a good demo, and would need to promote it live. When I moved back to Ireland after the summer, I went about finding capable musicians to play with me – I have always been a drummer in a band and decided that I wanted to play guitar in FR and that is where we are at now – rehearsing and getting ready for some gigs early in 2006.
Being the only composer in a band gives you lot of freedom, but it also may limit you, since you don’t get ideas from somebody else. How do you see it; is it an advantage or rather a disadvantage?
It is both a help and a hindrance. What people have heard from FR so far is the product of a single mind, but it is quite a burden to come up with so many new (and of course original) ideas alone. I’m looking forward to having the input of the new guys in the band, but my style and sound will always be very prevalent in the sound as one of the guitarists and the vocalist in the band. You need only listen to Shade
to hear that I have a love of harmony and melody in music, and I want to keep that – I am not a huge fan of extremely technical, brutal metal, grindcore etc., so certainly the elements that are currently present in FR’s music will stay and develop I hope with the addition of new blood.
What inspires you to make music?
Musically as a kid I was inspired by my peers from both within the Irish scene (Rory Gallagher, Horslips, Thin Lizzy
etc.) and abroad (Dire Straits, Chris Rea, The Police, Maiden, Purple, Sabbath
…) Too many to mention – but the key constant factor was always the guitar, and that has stayed with me while my tastes have moved in various directions, obviously towards heavier music as I grew up, but I also love classical and traditional Irish and folk music.
In a non-musical sense, I have been inspired by my life’s experiences so far – I have traveled a lot and met a lot of cultures and am lucky to have done so – it has broadened my horizons, and opinions. My country inspires me continuously (how could it not?!) and I am an outdoors person and am inspired by what I see around me.
You are from Ireland and you lived a few years in Spain - two completely different cultural environments. How much impact Spain had on you, on your musical conceptions?
Personally and from a ‘life experience’ perspective, Spain had a massive impact on me, and continues to do so. In 2001 I began a relationship with a Spanish girl and on completing my research in Ireland, I moved there and lived happily for 2 years. The relationship exposed me to a new culture, way of life and thinking and opened my mind even further. Professionally it was an excellent experience as I got to spend a lot of time in Sicily, working on Mt. Etna. I played drums with a number of rock/metal bands which was great fun, and also helped me learn new things, as well as with the language. My time in Spain produced the Shade
demo, and a number of people have commented that it has a Mediterranean feel to it in places, which is understandable of course. There are also some Celtic moments in there which should also be no surprise - although I am not a huge fan of the ‘Celtic/Folk’ metal scene that is out there - some bands do it better than others, but it is not my thing.
You worked as a recording engineer before, how did the experiences you gathered then help you with For Ruin’s music?
Yes I have worked as an engineer for quite a while now, but only in an amateur sense. I have recorded many local acts but I would not call myself a professional – it is a hobby. I am lucky in that the technical aspects of recording come relatively easy to me, as my background is in physics so I was always coming at the process with a good grounding. In addition to that, one of my best friends (who recorded the original FR tracks) is a professional engineer so I have had the best of advice and technical support for some time. I think I am reasonably competent at what I do, but there is a lot of scope for improvement. When I can record and produce albums like Mutter
), Vol. 2
) and Abducted
) I will be a happy man!
What are your musical influences?
How much time have you got?!
As a kid i started with with early Dire Straits
and Horslips and graduating on to Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and Deep Purple. I also listened to some classical and traditional Irish music and a lot of blues music at that time, and in particular, the Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher but as time went on my taste for the more extreme side of metal grew and I quickly left behind the Megadeth’s and Metallica’s for Celtic Frost, Paradise Lost, Massacre, Carcass and Death. By the mid 90’s I was listening to the early Katatonia, Dissection, Amorphis, Samael, Satyricon, Desultory, Impaled Nazarene, At the Gates, In Flames, Rotting Christ, The Crown (Crown of Thorns), Anathema, Hypocrisy, Darkthrone….its a long list, and many of these bands are still what I listen to today – although my taste for blues and classical music remains, and I also listen to The Police, The Cult, Rammstein and Type-O for a bit of variation within the rock-scene. Music with strong hooks and melody is what interests me - aggression is important too, but slightly less so I think. In the last few weeks I have listened to Soundgarden-Superunknown, Primordial – Gathering Wilderness, Hexxed - demo (from NI – well worth hearing), Belinus - Battlechants, Rammstein – Rosenrot (pity about the second half of the CD), Enslaved – Isa, Death – Individual....
What is your musical background? Are you self-taught?
As a kid I was forced into piano lessons, and hated it. I started to pick up drums and guitar at the age of about 14, and played and loved both equally. I concentrated more on drums though as I was playing in bands. I never took guitar lessons and am self taught, but I have a good ear and am lucky that way. I taught myself drums too, and only took lessons (3 or 4) when I was 24 or 25 and bored of playing the same metal stuff, so I learnt some jazz/Latin rhythms from a guy in East Cork. I am not the best drummer in the world but can hold my own and nowadays, it’s more guitar that I play.
For Ruin’s first material came out on a split with Meiche. Didn’t you want to release your first demo independently?
Good question, with a number of answers. First of all, when starting a band, it’s no use unless people hear your output, and give you criticism be it for good or bad, to help you improve. For me, (as a person that effectively was absent from the local scene for a number of years due to other commitments,) it was important to try and gain notice and recognition for For Ruin amongst the busy Irish metal scene initially, before looking further a-field. To that end, forming a band (Meiche – pronounced ‘Meh-ha’) with Taranis, presented an opportunity to make a step in the right direction for For Ruin, as he is a well known figure in the scene, and also is a co-owner of Acheron Productions (label/promotions) here in Ireland. His other bands (Belinus and Demogorgon to name but two) are reasonably well established and, by association, For Ruin was likely to gain some notoriety.
Both halves of the demo are quite different and contrasting so that is always a good thing.
There were problems in making it available though. The most significant delay was caused by my studies and moving to Spain in 2004.. Starting a new life in Spain meant a lot of changes, and the split cd release fell down the list of priorities and we eventually started promoting it after summer 2004.
How would you compare Shade to For Ruin’s first material? How much different are they?
The obvious difference between the Split and Shade
demos are the overall quality. Shade
was bound to be a step up over the initial recording, but many people didn’t expect such a large step. Some have commented that Shade
doesn’t sound like a demo at all, that it is so much better than that, and that’s flattering. I am not going to bad-mouth the split demo at all, I am proud of it- it was a first step and representative of the band at that time. One or two of the songs on it very definitely will never be heard again though, but certainly ’Treading’
are good songs which I enjoy playing.
Congratulation on your demo, Shade! According to the reviews you collected on your website, it got a very positive feedback. How do you feel about it? Did you expect such a warm welcome?
Thanks! Without being too proud, I knew that I had recorded something good, and unusual in many respects. The responses have reflected that and the reviewers have back it with very flattering comments. Here in Ireland, the response has been incredible and there are some 400 copies of the demo (from sales and promos) in people’s hands around the country which is pretty good for such a small metal community. I am very happy with the response and hoped for, but didn’t expect the welcome. A number of prominent people in the Irish scene have applauded the release, so that’s really nice to hear.
This good feedback rather inspires you or put pressure on you with the expectations people may have now?
I certainly don’t feel any pressure right now, and have been continuing to write new material with ease since the release of Shade
, so I hope it continues that way! The only pressure I did feel was to find committed and talented musicians to take the music to the stage and I have done that so now it is simply a question of polishing the material.
Has any label showed interest in For Ruin so far?
Yes, there has been interest and I have been in contact with one label in particular and will talk about details with them during the next few weeks. I have been playing a waiting game though – I was waiting for all of the reviews to come in to support my case, and there are still 2 or 3 major reviews to follow as of today (Dec 30th) and when I have them all I will approach a number of key international labels to see what happens. I was also waiting to have the full lineup complete before approaching them, but as that is complete now we are nearly ready to go!
Tell us about the recording of Shade please.
was recorded in a small room in my old apartment in Valencia, Spain. It was basic studio based around my recording gear (laptop, Yamaha 2816, ProTools, Cubase SX, my Pod-Pro, electronic kit, Alesis DM5 and a few other oddities). I recorded it after work most days during the summer months of ’05, and tweaked it for quite a while afterwards. It took, all told, about 6 weeks to record, on and off. The new material I am working on now is recorded using the same setup, which I have re-located to Ireland.
Regarding ’Rinn Bearna’, do you plan to use more acoustic / folk tunes in your music?
It’s hard to say- right now the answer is no, as that piece of music is probably the oldest piece on the demo, and has been around a long time. I have written a few other little piece like that but I have no plans to use them just now. Many people have compared Rinn Bearna
although personally I don’t see much of a similarity between them, other than the fact that they are more ‘relaxed’ than my other music. Contrast is important to me when I listen to albums, and if everything sounds the same or is constantly aggressive, I get tired of it quickly and songs like these are a breather of sorts.
If we had a ’with your own words’ section, what comments would you put to each song on Shade?
Lyrically, I do not go in for the rubbish that many sing about- occasionally my lyrics may venture into the darker side of life, but mostly they reflect my views on personality, places, people… these are where I draw my ideas from. I am a big fan of Schuldiner’s style of lyric writing; he had a great talent for observation and getting his point across.
The lyrics of the Shade
tracks deal with everyday matters - ’Dread’
, for example, is based on living for the present, in the ’now’ and not being hindered by the past or worried about the future. It is a fast song with some extremely melodic parts that opens the CD perfectly and tells the listener to pay attention!I have yet to get tired of this song which was written in Valencia on afternoon. I have a number of earlier demos of it (as is the case with all my material) and the early versions, unusually, of ’Dread’
are pretty cool too - I just got lucky with this one. The middle staccato section and the tapped harmonies came out really well. ’Vertigo’
is a re-recording of the opening track from the Split demo, and lyrically deals with the subject of depression and how people can ’spiral’ into it. It is a fast song with a memorable, infectious hook and chorus that many reviewers have latched on to. [i]Starling/[i] is an old song that helped to start the band. Originally it was slower with clean vocals but has been ’metalled-up’ to what you hear on Shade
- lyrically it is based on a person looking towards the future but being trapped by past experiences. Musically it is neither black- nor death-metal – it is a mixture of many styles and features layers of intricate harmonies and melodies.The start-stop section I think hints a little at how important The Police are to me!
as stated is quite old and was originally played used an Irish tin whistle. It is a song that reminded me of Ireland while I was away, and I used acoustic asa well as electric instruments on it, giving it the ’folk’ sound, which should surprise nobody as I like some folk music. The title of the song reminds me of where I came from (it is a headland close to my home).
was the final song written for the release and deals with a persons’ struggle to deal with their fears, where dark thoughts are their ’Shade
’ from outside interferences. It is a fast song with a heavy chugging-riff that is extremely memorable. It features an interesting mid-section with nice harmonies. Im looking forward to hearing this one live!
A cover of Rotting Christ’s ’The Fourth Knight of Revelation’
is also included at the end of the CD - for fun as much as anything - it’s a song I like a lot from an album I love and I like to pay my respects to my influences – in fact, a number of non-released covers are also on the band’s web page at www.forruin.com
but again, these are not to be taken too seriously…The split demo also had a number of covers on it but I don’t think we will continue along that line much longer. I enjoy recording versions of old songs and may continue to include them on the website from time to time.
It is no secret that I am a big fan of Rotting, and I know Sakis has heard the FR
demos. They are a favorite band of mine for many years now and I love all of their releases – I like the ’4th Knight’
, it’s a cool track, with a different pace to the rest of the demo again, contrast is important. I know that some people don’t like covers, so it’s at the end of the demo, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to listen to it. I was going to do a version of ‘The Sign of Evil Existence’
but it was too obvious a choice I think!
You area working on new material already. When can we expect it? The musical direction will stay the same or ..?
I have posted samples of two tracks that I have been working on recently on www.forruin.com
, these being ‘Into Red’
and the new version of ‘Treading’
. Starting with the latter, Treading is a song that I like a lot (as did many critics) from the Split demo. It has a slow, brooding buildup to a powerful ending that was intended to highlight my love of old Katatonia. The new version is structured in the same manner but benefits from greater depth provided by some beautiful string sections played by a friend of mine recently. I hope to include this on the next release. ‘Into Red’
is a really great song to play and has a number of interesting tempo changes and strong melodies. It has a cool bridge and a really nice harmony section towards the end. It’s got some blasting sections and some cool Death-like moments…can’t wait to play this live. I have also just finished another as yet untitled short piece which I think will make a really nice intro-track for gigs.
As to when this stuff will be available - that depends on the label interest and on whether the next release is an album or another demo! I hope before summer ’06 though.
What have you been listening to lately?
A lot of mixes of new For Ruin
material! I like to listen to music going to sleep, and while reading to relax. I also listen to a lot of music in the car and as there is no CD player in the car I’m driving these days, I have dug out a lot of old tapes of mine so I’m listening these days to things I listened to in the early 90’s – Satyricon, Death, The Cult, In Flames, Dissection, Primordial, Desultory and others I cant remember now. At home I have been listening to Beneath the Remains, Rosenrot, Symbol of Life, Isa, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and some non-metal stuff (Holst, John Spillane, Sting, Dire Straits…)
Thank you very much for your time! Anything you would like to add…
Just to say thanks for taking the time out to prepare the interview Katalin, and thanks to those who read it! We have a photo session coming up in the next few days and a press release will accompany it publicly announcing the new members and so on, as well as the band’s first gigs of 2006 which are already secure…the goal for the year is to secure a recording contract and to play as many shows as possible – not only in Ireland either – so watch this space!
Official For Ruin website