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INTERVIEWS KAZ MURPHY
HOME FOR MISFITSSinger-Songwriter KAZ MURPHY is three albums into his career as a solo recording artist, yet his latest release 'HOME FOR MISFITS' has all of the energy and excitement of a debut album. This CD is more than a mere collection of roots rock songs. It's a colorful cast of characters from the teenaged girl freshout of high school and off to the Iraq War in KILLIN' WHEEL, the outsider in the City of Angels in WAITIN' ON ELVIS, or the crazy old lady in the streets who partied with all the movie stars back in the 50's on ANYTHING SHE WANTS. These poetic portraits are given the Americana Rock treatment and will without a doubt bring back a memory or two of WARREN ZEVON or GRAM PARSONS. "People call it Roots Rock but I think it's all just Country Music, really." says MURPHY of his music and the Southern California roots rock scene which he is a part of. "It [The music scene] goes all the way back to the western swing bands that were in LA for years in the twenties and thirties and all the way up to guys like BUCK OWENS, DWIGHT YOAKAM and GRAM PARSONS. Theres a whole scene of bands that tie into that and really it's an authentic western culture."
KAZ MURPHY TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT HIS NEW CD 'HOME FOR MISFITS'
JAMMING OUT WITH ALLEN GINSBERG
AND SEEING THE WORLD
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with KAZ MURPHY over the phone. Here is how it went.
HOME FOR MISFITS is a great CD! Now that it's out for everyone to hear, how do you feel about it?
I feel pretty good about it. The way we approached recording it was different for me and I really enjoyed it. Ussually, with the other records, I already had a band going and when we went into the recording studio the producer would basically say "you guys sound pretty good like that" and we'd start from there. On this one, I recorded all of the acoustic guitar and vocals first myself and put some lead lines and different textures and things and used that as the basis to bring in in the band kind of one piece at a time and put it together. Therefore , it's got alot more range than the other records. It's something that I've wanted to do for a long time, so I'm pretty happy about it.
Explain the title?
I write about strange characters once and a while but each song on this album seems to have a character thats a little quirky so I thought it would be a good name. I came up with it from the back page of a shoe catalogue - "The Page for Misfits - Misfit Shoes." So it all kind of stemmed from there.
And hence the shoes on the cover.
That's right. If you look on the back you can see the shoes hanging from the telephone wire. I live in LA and theres alot of sneakers hanging over the wires.
You're from out east?
I'm originally form New Jersey.
What drew you to music initially?
Really, I was very young whenTHE BEATLES and all of that was starting, just five or six years old, and my mother was actually an opera singer and in operettas thoughout my whole childhood. I would go with her all the time to the operettas and sit backstage, but she also collected 45' of ELVIS and all kinds of Rock-a-Billy stuff, and all of the crooners and everything. She was really influential and supportive. That's pretty much how it got going?
And as you got older and you came into your own a little bit, what artists spoke to you?
I was really into roots stuff from really early on like JOHNNY CASH, MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT, DOC AND MERLE WATSON and PETER, PAUL, AND MARY were the crossover into folk-rock and all that. I was a big fan of COMANDER CODY and THE LOVIN' SPOONFUL.
When did you start playing music?
I started playing drums when I was ten. My parents got my older brother and I set of drums, we shared it which didn't work out very well, he was my older brother. He kicked my ass if I didnt let him play when he wanted to play. I played drums for a couple of years and then started playing guitar and banjo at around the same time. I was about twelve or thirteen. I took those instruments up mainly because I wanted to write songs and so throughout high school I wrote about a couple of hundred songs and I would perform all the time with this friend of mine who was a bongo player- we were kind of like punk folk. It really wasn't hippie folk or anything like that, so that was what I did allthough high school.
Eventually, you moved westward to Santa Fe.
Actually, just when I got out of high school I lived in Canada for a couple of years out in the wilderness in an old log cabin which used to be a school house. It had no electricity or water or anything like that. In the winter, we had to go down to the river and cut a hole in the ice and put buckets down there and fill these 55 gallon drums with water and bring them back to the cabin. Good fun! Good times up there!
So what brought about that change in lifestyle from east coast suburbs to Canadian wilderness?
We were going to dodge the draft but the war was already over. So we were like 'well lets go up there and check it out anyway.' It was great experience, and from there I went to Santa Fe and was there for about seven years.
What year was all of this?
We went up in '74.
I Couldn't figure out how old you were but I just now remember you telling me you were six years old when THE BEATLES happened. I lived in Santa Fe for two years and in Albuquerque for eight.
Yeah around the early to mid-nineties.
I really love Santa Fe! People say it's all overgrown now but I think it's a beautiful town.
It is a beautiful town. I think I was a little too young to have appreciated it.
Well, you've just told me about how old you are.
In Santa Fe, you were drumming for ALLEN GINSBERG. What was that experience like?
It was really fun. ALLEN GINSBERG, PETER ORLOFSKY and alot of other Santa Fe musicians played with us. JIM BOWIE played guitar and banjo. It was just nice fun. We did nice shows and once in a while we'd go to a party and ALLEN was just like a kid. A real nice guy.
Someone like me, you read the work and that's all you've got to go on. It sounds like it really would've been something to know him.
Yeah. He was soo down to earth, kind and really easy-going. I also played with some bands down there like MOJO DOJO. I used to warm up for ELIZA GILKYSON down there at different clubs and stuff. She was just really getting started back then.
And from SANTA FE you went on to ASIA?
I went around Asia for about a year. That's where I met my wife JACQUELINE in New Zealand. We traveled around eight or nine months together and then when I moved back to the States I moved down to Austin for about a year and a half and made a couple of records and played down there with a little band. Then I moved back up to Seattle and got together with my wife JACKIE.
From this new CD, are there any songs that sort of stand out for you?
I really lik the one KILLIN' WHEEL. It's about a girl who heads over to Iraq right out of high school. The person writing the song is an older person like myself and she's a friend of the family and she's writing letters from Iraq.
What inspired this group of songs?
I wrote quite a few songs to make the record.Over a couple of years I'd say I wrote 40 or 50 songs. From there, I kind of honed it all into where I was trying to get to. The songs come from something I might read in the newspaper or someone I might see on the street. I have a song called ANYTHING SHE WANTS about an old woman who is down on HOLLYWOOD and VINE who talks to herself, but if you go back to the fifties, she hung around with a lot of movie stars. I actaully saw this woman and I was like, let's write a song about her.
How does the whole song writng process work for you?
Alot of times I start with the music and sometimes an idea will come out just by playing the music.
Who all did you work with on this CD.
BRIAN YOUNG played drums. He's been on all of my albums. He's in FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE right now. He was in THE POSIES and he still does live shows when he's in town but you can't always get a hold of that guy. SULLY SULLIVAN and JOHN SKIBIC who are with GREG DOOLEY's TWILIGHT SINGERS. They're pop players but they've also played with roots people and stuff like that. We've got RICH MCCULLEY who produced the album. He's a great multi-instrumentalist and arranger and he played on the album as well. AMY FARRIS played violin and strings. She's a fantastic performer and writer. My wife JACKIE played a little bit of violin and some accordion and a touch of keyboards throughout the CD. KIP did some of the harmonies with me on the album and DWAYNE JARVIS played guitar on a couple of tunes and thats pretty much it. They were great musicians who I thought really respected the music and were really trying to make it work.
Have there been any live performances for this album?
Yes. We just did our first live performance last Saturday and it was really fun to do. It was exciting, we had a great crowd and I think that everybody was happy.
Any plans for a tour at all?
We tour Nashville to Texas basically once a year or so and we're going to go down there with PENNY JO PULLUS and ANNIE CHELSEA whose from here in LA. It'll be a two week tour that will end up with a show at SXSW. After that, we'll be going to Belgium, The Netherlands, and the U.K. We've been getting a lot of reaction there and a lot of airplay, so you've got to go where it's hot.
Has a first single been earmarked for this album.
If anything, it's the song WAITING ON ELVIS. That one or KILLIN' WHEEL.
In regards to a roots rock scene, is there a strong one in LA?
Yeah, there really is. It goes all the way back to the western swing bands that were in LA for years in the twenties and thirties and all the way up to guys like BUCK OWENS, DWIGHT YOAKAM and GRAM PARSONS. There's a whole scene of bands that tie into that and really it's an authentic western culture.
I know the history and all but I didn't think that there wa a current scene.
Yeah, it's quite a scene. A lot of things going on. A lot of good bands and a lot of good writers.
What do you want someone to come away with after hearing this CD?
I would like people to come away feeling kind of good and uplifted, but also feel like they went through a scene in a movie where some different lyric or something made the experience (jokingly) a little but deeper. If I'm allowed to say that.
Yes, you're allowed to say that and it will be printed next Tuesday, so lookout!
My careers' over!