Strawberry Spotlight is a weekly feature on Strawberry Tongue Radio hosted by Lady Audio. She chats with the bands you hear on Strawberry Tongue. In this edition, Lady Audio chats with Owen Murphy of New Age Healers.
This is a transcription of that interview which airs January 18, 2017, 1:00 EST, only on Strawberry Tongue Radio. You can also catch the re-broadcast of this show on Saturday and Sunday at 1:00pm EST. Be sure to tune in!
Lady Audio: Hi everyone and welcome to the Strawberry Spotlight radio show. My name is Lady Audio and I will be your host. Today’s guest is Owen Murphy of New Age Healers. Thank you for joining me today Owen, how are you?
Owen Murphy: Well I’m fine. You may call me “Male Audio” for the rest of the show thank you very much.
Lady Audio: (laughs) Okay.
Owen Murphy: That makes no sense but if you can be “Lady Audio,” I can be a “Male Audio.”
Lady Audio: Well maybe “Man Audio.”
Owen Murphy: Yes, Man Audio!
Lady Audio: (laughs) My first question is what attracted you to the realm of music?
Owen Murphy: Wow! That is a huge question.
Lady Audio: I know.
Owen Murphy: Shoot. Yeah yes so for me – as a kid growing up in Minneapolis in the late seventies and early eighties. The music that exploded my head was punk or punk-influenced stuff. Back then I was naive and I thought David Bowie and Iggy Pop were punk rock. Or Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were punk rock. You know it was that first the first time I heard The Clash and hearing The Jam for the first time. There was a janky video show that used to air in Minneapolis late nights done by a radio station there called KQRS. Having this different kind of sound that didn’t sound like the same stuff it was as far removed from Genesis and Yes and America. That seventies – kind of heavy, boring, slow music. It was up-tempo – it was aggressive. It was melodic – but in a completely unique way. We are used to Joe strummer’s voice now right – he’s a good singer – but it’s an odd voice. Johnny Lydon’s voice is odd, right? But that oddness grabbed me by the shirt and shook me and there’s a 13 – 14 year old kid. It exploded my head and I loved it you know I couldn’t get enough. Gary Numan and Love and Rockets – Tones on Tail, Bauhaus – whatever – as much as I could by and listen to – I did!
Lady Audio: Tell me there’s Killing Joke in there somewhere too…
Owen Murphy: Absolutely! It’s so funny – just this morning I heard – so I work at a radio station in Seattle called KEXP – and the night DJ, Abby – who’s fantastic, played – it was a request – she played “Eighties” by Killing Joke, right? That record – I think it’s called Night Time – I played that sucker over and over. I love Killing Joke. I think they’re absolutely fantastic. Early on in my singing career I was trying to imitate Jaz Coleman the lead singer, because that’s a guy who can scream in tune and who could do that very few that can do that. Kurt Cobain – maybe that guy. The problem is as I don’t have that strong a voice compared to him, but yeah I love Killing Joke. Good for you for catching the that.
Lady Audio: Yeah I was going to say that because I heard that influence in your music but I wouldn’t say from the album Night Time. More from the album Brighter Than A Thousand Suns – it’s not as edgy – it’s got more of an approachable style.
Owen Murphy: Well, I think that’s insightful. So for this record – this is the first time I’ve made music in 15 some odd years. I absolutely took a step back and as opposed to previous bands which were noise-rock post-punk type stuff, which at times – was purposefully grating. We were trying to make rhythms, and groove and have melodies and stuff, but we were also trying to be aggressive. This absolutely take a step back from that. I am trying to create melodies that will hopefully last that will get stuck in people’s heads – that they hum along to. You know it’s interesting. I can see on bandcamp what people search for when they search for my music and it’s always the “Hey Hey Hey” song, which is the last song on the record. I often see that and I can imagine that little hook getting stuck in their heads you know, which is really neat to see it. So, yeah, absolutely I want this to be as approachable as possible and will still be interesting and having twists and turns that you wouldn’t expect sonically.
Lady Audio: So what is New Age healers? Is it a band and also how did the the project get started?
Owen Murphy: Yeah – for all intents and purposes it’s sort of a solo project, but the thing is – who wants to make music by themselves and not take it out for the public to enjoy with friends and new friends right? So, I have 2 jobs right now. Like I said earlier one job is producing the morning show for John Richards at KEXP Seattle. The other one is – I work for ESPN the sports network I produce national radio play-by-play events for them. The reason I bring that up is because from that hack last Saturday I was in Jacksonville Florida for 24 hours or so I have a ton of frequent flyer miles so what that allows me to do is have bands – live bands in other places. So far I’ve only played one show and that was in Minneapolis where I’m originally from. So I have members of the band Arcwelder in the band, members from 900 Pounds, Greg is in a number of Minneapolis bands – he’s a drummer – he played in Sickbay, and Dan. Dan was in my first band ever – my guitar player. He plays guitar but I can’t remember which bands he was in. I have a three-piece here in Seattle. We haven’t played out yet, and then I have four out of five members so far on the East Coast. Sandy was in a band on Bar None Records called Ms Lum, Patrick Seton O’Connor – he’s a television personality – he’s on The Dan Patrick Show – as our guitar player, and Andrew is the drummer from my old band called Mickey Finn that was also in Minneapolis. That’s the East Coast version so far but we haven’t played it yet so we’ll see. You so it’s a solo project with the hopes of being playing live shows in various parts of the country.
Lady Audio: Also when you’re recording – how does that work how do you record the songs?
Owen Murphy: Yeah it’s all me. I played bass, drums – let me back that up. I played guitar, I played bass, sort of program drums – programming is right way of saying that because I kind of played them live with my fingers. I have my drumset here but the problem is – I have elderly neighbors in kind of a quiet neighborhood here outside of Seattle and I just I couldn’t ruin their days with my crappy drumming cuz I haven’t played drummies/drums for 20 years. So it would have been take after take after take of terrible drumming so I so this case I program the drums for lack and the most happenstance kind of stumbling way possible. But that’s how the music is created, you know?
Lady Audio: When you go and play out live you’re going to be playing with his other musicians?
Owen Murphy: That’s correct.
Lady Audio: Nice.
Owen Murphy: It’s unbelievable fun. The show and Minneapolis was outrageously great. I mean yeah – the songs stood up and felt good live. I sure hope we can do it in other places.
Lady Audio: So you touched on this a bit earlier – your music has been described as Shoegaze or Post Punk – but I wanted to ask you what do those terms mean to you?
Owen Murphy: Yeah when I think shoegaze – I think kind of soft melodies buried in huge guitars and I think the first song “Lost Your Mind” and the last song on the record “Hey Hey Hey” for sure have those elements. And Post Punk what does so what’s that mean to me? You know it’s funny. It’s like I’ve heard The Smiths described as Post Punk and I guess it never even occurred to me, until recently, that they would be called post-punk. But I am thinking of the for and why are post-punk but I suppose dissonant guitar sounds with danceable drums and funky bass. Sort of what I think of when I think of Post Punk – Gang of Four – but that’s probably just my ridiculous, ignorant, naive way of thinking that’s what that music is. But honestly, I don’t know.
Lady Audio: It’s hard for me to describe two because – when you grow up in that time frame that has been categorized as from this year to this specific year is considered Post Punk and from this year to this year is considered Goth and then after that it it’s Nu Goth or it’s or it’s whatever – it is so – it’s kind of hard when you grow up in it and you look back at it back in those days we just called it Alternative or we called it Punk and that was it.
Owen Murphy: Well, yes. So that’s really interesting point because you know when I was a kid – I suppose the Soul built around my naiveté and you know ignorance of musical genres but in the early eighties from my point of view Devo and Bow Wow Wow and The Clash and David Bowie I’m drawing a blank but of who else I can think of right now but even Graham Parker these were all in some way shape or form – from my perspective Punk – for me. It’s just kind of about pushing boundaries and trying to create things that are more interesting than a regular song. Pushing the boundaries sonically, I guess, that’s what that means to me. That you’re trying to find a new way to create new sounds within pop song structures.
Lady Audio: So you’ve got a new album out now called “Ghosts” and that was really released earlier this year (2016). I really like the song “I Want More” and I was wondering if you could please talk a bit about it and what is it about?
Owen Murphy: Yeah, I mean it’s literally remembering back to being in my twenties and hanging out with my wife and going dancing at a club called First Avenue and kind of falling in love with her and never wanting that to end. I kind of wanted to the capture that kind of feeling, Clara. You know – especially the sounds that were happening then late eighties/early nineties – in terms of this kind of punk influenced dance music. I was DJ back then as well and you buy these 12 inch dance remixes. One that kind of comes to mind right now the Psychedelic Furs song called – oh shoot – I told you the other day and I can’t remember what it’s called – it’s not Heartbreak Beat it’s it’s something like that its Heartbeat or something I can’t remember what the hell it’s called. You know or Love and Rockets or New Order and these kind of really simple ideas – songs that keep building and building and building so it starts out with it just a drumbeat, and then you add a baseline, and then you add a guitar line on top of it, and then you add a vocal line, and then you had a keyboard part, and it’s essentially building and building and building and then you take it all away and you build again or you’re built differently. A lot of times these 12-inch singles – the songs would last 10 minutes. Another one that comes to mind is a song called “Waiting” by The Suburbs, a Minneapolis band. To me – it’s one of the coolest songs ever written actually and it’s all it’s almost dub style and I love that approach to music. Building this gigantic song and then piece-by-piece ripping it apart and rearranging it and trying to capture that feeling. I don’t know if it succeeded, but was sure fun trying to do it.
[Play “I Want More”]
Lady Audio: Another song I really like is “Lost Your Mind.” What is that one about?
Owen Murphy: Yeah it’s about discovering – maybe finding yourself in a predicament that you’ve gotten yourself into and the last second wondering how the hell did I get here? What have I done to get myself in this position? And there’s nothing you can do to get out of it and you know I think – it’s a universal thing – where we put ourselves in bad positions at times and find ourselves stuck wondering how we got here and how the hell do we get out? The line, I don’t remember the exact lyrics, but what would you do when you realize at the last second you’ve lost your mind and I wonder if when people do crazy things – if there’s these moments of clarity where they realize – holy crap what have I done? Why did I vote for Donald Trump? Now I’m kidding. No, I’m not.
[Play “Lost Your Mind”]
Lady Audio: Another question I have – are you going to go on tour for your new album?
Owen Murphy: Yeah, I’ve got two jobs right now so it’s difficult to do that but I’m hoping to play sporadic dates. There is a band in Canada that’s offered to be my backing band for five songs. I don’t know if I can get that off the ground or not – but how cool. What an amazing offer that is! I’ve got a group of people in Minneapolis that I play live with I’ve got four fifths of a band on the East Coast I can play with. I’ve got three fifths of a band in Seattle that I can play with, but I’m in my late 40s. I’m a dad, I’ve got two jobs – touring is probably not in the cards here. But I’d be blessed if I could do that. I would love to do that.
Lady Audio: I forgot to mention last time so I wanted to ask this time around another one of those things are really liked was Shadows versus Los Angeles what is that song about
Owen Murphy: Yeah so I launched the radio station – I flipped it a talk station into a new sports station in Los Angeles. That was really interesting and adventurous. So I would get up at four in the morning on Monday in Seattle, and fly down and work all weekend Los Angeles and then fly back on Friday night. There was a lot of work and a lot of really great people in Los Angeles, and there was a few that were absolute children. They did terrible things. They were terrible people and they made a really good group of people have a tough time creating great content. I think – gosh – at almost every – except for at the two places that I work right now – it’s almost always been that way. There’s always a few people that just make it absolutely difficult for for everyone else to do their job and to coexist peacefully. So, musically the song is influenced by No Means No and my old band Mickey Finn and the bass player Dennick Cochran. A distorted rolling baseline that kind of propels the song forward. I mean it really is a reflection of my old band Mickey Finn and it’s almost my imitation of the bass player Cochran and the guitar player John Pucci. We had a song called “Impact Driver” and it’s kind of my version of that in some sort of way. You know – folks should dig it up on the internet. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere and take a listen to it you’ll see similarities for sure so maybe it’s and homage to that. I guess I don’t know if I’ve answered the question or not but that’s among a million things that’s what that song is about
Lady Audio: Yes. Thank you so much for telling me about the song I really wanted to hear about I appreciate that.
Owen Murphy: It’s my pleasure.
Lady Audio: And now for a scenario…are you ready?
Owen Murphy: Oh God. Give me a different one this time.
Lady Audio: I did! I’ve got a different one for you this time. It’s very late at night – just before sunrise. The air a silent and crisp and you find yourself waking up by a pond. The stars are bright and reflect on the water. Off of the distance you hear a beautiful sound. Can you describe the sound that you hear?
Owen Murphy: Oh God – I’m too literal for these things. I’m the wrong guy for this Clara. I’m sorry I can’t give you a good answer. I have – I can’t – I don’t – have an answer for you. This sound I hear… maybe my wife yelling – calling to me. I don’t know she’s my favorite person in the world, you know. So, maybe I can do this. It’s been a night of debaucherous drinking, we’ve been partying all night long and we’ve been having a blast and there’s my wife – who’s my favorite person in the world – waving to me – it’s time to go in and go to sleep…
Lady Audio: Awwww…
Owen Murphy: That’s boring – a terrible answer. I’m sorry.
Lady Audio: I think it’s sweet. I don’t think it’s boring at all.
Owen Murphy: Oh, you’re nice.
Lady Audio: ..and last but not least…what is your favorite flower?
Owen Murphy: Oh yeah. I remember I had this last time. It’s not really a flower – it’s a bush that flowers – a lilac bush. I grew up in Minneapolis and underneath my window in Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis we had a lilac bush it’s still there and every spring that sucker would Bloom and for two weeks the neighborhood smelled like the greatest place in the world in some regard this it’s funny this whole album is actually about the realization cuz I wanted to move back to Minneapolis since my wife and I left 20 years ago and I finally come to realize that the Minneapolis I want to move back to doesn’t exist anymore that’s the Minneapolis to the Past everyone’s aged everything’s kind of different everything’s gone it’s not the same I’m not the same it doesn’t exist anymore this album is kind of about those internal battles wanting to go back and then realizing that you can’t go back because it doesn’t exist anymore
Lady Audio: Well it’s appropriately named then with “Ghosts.”
Owen Murphy: Very good. That’s exactly right. Yeah because I go back home and I feel like a ghost. I do I feel like a ghost, albeit a really good looking one. (laughs)
Lady Audio: But, yeah, you’re not a ghost.
Owen Murphy: I don’t mean in a bad way. I just mean yeah there’s different ways to be a ghost. I’m kind of want to go back and I’m kind of wanting a Minneapolis that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a new place for different people and I’m kind of on the outskirts of it – you know. That’s an odd feeling.
Lady Audio: Well it’s a really great album and and I wanted to thank you so much for coming on the show today, Owen. I really appreciate you letting me ask you all these questions.
Owen Murphy: You’re extraordinarily kind to take time to listen to it and ask these questions and be thoughtful about it. Ireally appreciate it.
Lady Audio: Blessed be and talk to you next week!
To hear more tracks from New Age Healers and purchase their music, visit newagehealers.bandcamp.com.