Shedding some light on For Ruin's "Last Light" album
For Ruin originally started out as a one man project by main-man John Murphy before evolving into the melodic black metal demon that has pleased many fans today. With two studio albums under their belt and plenty of EPs and demos, For Ruin has been shelling out music for the past seven years and are still going strong. Hailing from the small country of Ireland, the band has had the exciting pleasure of touring Europe with the likes of Paradise Lost, Skyforger, and Rotting Christ. After seeing how their latest album was such a hit with the Forge, John was kind enough to contact me and let me interview him about the band's upcoming plans and some backstory on Last Light to share with the readers and any fans that might stumble across this interview.
2010 has come at last! What's For Ruin's big plans for the year? Multiple tours? Perhaps cranking out material for a new album in between?
Hey Colin, thanks for the interview. We spent a lot of 2009 waiting for Last Light to be finished – we recorded it in January ’09 and released it finally in October so yes, 2010 was shaping up to be a busy year from us from the moment we released it. We played only 7 or 8 shows during 2009, not too many really. We did a show with Rotting Christ and Paradise Lost in Belfast which was great and a few other shows here and there in Ireland, but our focus for 2010 is firmly outside of Ireland. We just announced a short UK tour in April with Belphegor and we were picked by Bolt Thrower to open a show with them and Rotting Christ in May. After the summer then in October or so we hope to head to Europe for the first time…. We’re writing a few new songs at the moment so that’s going on all the time!
What do you enjoy most about touring? Any memorable places you'd wish to revisit over and over?
We haven’t done that much touring really, the UK will be our first proper tour. We played the Underworld in London in 2008 with Skyforger which was great – I enjoy seeing the other bands, having a good laugh with the guys in the band and getting away from my day job for a while! Im really looking forward to playing London again in April, I lived there for a few months in ’97 and always enjoy going back.
Name the ultimate dream touring lineup to share the stage with (bands presently alive of course) and why.
I guess the guys in the band would include names like Atheist, Napalm Death (who we already played with), Carcass and King Diamond. For me personally, I’d pick Hypocrisy, Unanimated, Paradise Lost again maybe… if it were possible I’d include Dissection and Death in there but sadly…
Growing up, what got you into metal music and made you want to create a melodic black metal band?
For me personally I grew up listening to Dire Straits, Chris Rea, Iron Maiden, Rory Gallagher and Lizzy. All very much guitar-based music in general. As I got older, as happens to many metal fans, my taste was veering towards the more extreme, Sepultura, Death, Celtic Frost etc. I guess that’s what pushed me further towards the black-metal style – but always towards bands that had a keen ear for hooks and melodies – I’m not a big fan of grind I guess for this reason.
Personally for me, it seems very hard to find people, especially here in San Diego, where I am based who have an appreciation for music that is as fast and furious as For Ruin. Do you think the European continents have a greater appreciation for metal than the States, and if so why?
I’m not terribly familiar with the US extreme metal scene coming from Ireland, only the better known acts I guess. I was in San Fran last month and managed to find a good few record stores there that sold extreme metal so there must be somebody buying it…! My exposure has mostly been to the European scene and although we live on a small island in the freezing Atlantic in the north west of Europe, the metal reached us. Bands never toured here when I was growing up or very rarely at least and only the very big ones at that. The festival scene has become huge here in Europe in recent years, they are springing up everywhere (some have become far too big, Wacken take a bow!).
The band seems to be extremely comfortable with their sound of melodic black metal ever since the Obsidian EP. Any particular influences or reasons why this seems to be 'the sound' that you will probably keep throughout the mainstay of your career?
I would even say that the basis for our sound goes back to the second demo “Shade” which preceded Obsidian, but Obsidian was a little more accessible and more polished certainly. I was the only member of the band at that point so I guess my influences shaped the sound then in the same way that they do today – our music will always be melodic but extremely aggressive and fast at the same time. The things that influence our sound come from various sources, musical influences, our surroundings and history, stage of life and experiences and so on.
What are you most proud of with "Last Light," you latest album? Any disappointments once the entire album was produced? If you could do anything different, would you?
Personally I’m happy that the band sounds the way it should sound in terms of production. Of course there’s always room for improvement, but for a self-funded and self released production we’re very pleased. We were signed for the first album “December” (2007) and that has some really great music and performances on it, but its production let it down. We made the decision to leave the label ourselves. We have moved on significantly from that album. Last Light was something we worked on for a year, recording a full pre-production demo of the album in advance. We would liked to have had more resources to promote it and publicize it, but that’s part of going it alone without a label and we’re doing pretty well I think – a lot of the international media have responded well to it. I’d like to have been able to include a larger booklet with the CD but sadly you can afford everything.
Where do you see the future of For Ruin headed? Do you feel completely comfortable where you are in the sense of lablels, tour management, and musical structure, or is there a strong need to evolve even more?
We are comfortable without a label right now. The music industry is in such a state of flux and uncertainty at the moment that we’re happy to be free agents. We may license Last Light to a bigger label at a later point, but for now we’re focused on touring and have a relationship with a couple of booking/touring agents in Europe at the moment. We have a solid lineup and a great sense of purpose and focus with in the band these days and the positive reactions to last Light have helped with this of course. In terms of where we’re headed – we’re still a new band to everyone outside of Ireland so we have a lot of work to do in proving ourselves in what are difficult times. We’ll tour as much as possible and hopefully sell some merch to fund the next record – we don’t make a living from the band, we all work day jobs, and anything the band makes goes back into the band.
In the past, For Ruin was a one man band. Understandably, it gives a lot of freedom but also more responsibility. What difference have you noticed between running For Ruin as a single entity compared to running it as multiple entities? Has one been more enjoyable than the other?
The one-man predicament was something I was very keen to move away from as soon as possible. I would have done it earlier really only that I was completing my doctoral studies in college and that left me with little free time. The first demo was recorded in Ireland, then I completed my research, moved to Spain and recorded the second demo there. I recorded the Obsidian EP on my return to Ireland and before that was released I knew I was staying in Ireland and got the 1st lineup together, we rehearsed material from all 3 releases and played the first shows that way. The lineup has changed a bit over the years since 2004, but now we run it together. I still write a lot of the music, but the guys contributions have been growing and that’s what I always hoped would happen in the band. I prefer the band scenario rather than the 1-man situation for sure – it much more fun and allows you to play live which is something we all enjoy.
Black metal itself isn't always the most clear cut subject; there's still a lot of animosity about the Norwegian church burnings in the 90s and rumors that all black metalists are envoys of Satan. What's your opinion on how the scene has changed now compared to then, if it has at all? Has the group ever been approached with such skepticism and hostility?
That scene in the 90’s was largely the creation of teenage angst and rebellion in my opinion. People have grown up since then I’m sure and you see them distancing themselves from all of that. While I personally am very much anti-religion (all types), I would not support any such criminal activity that happened back then. Many of the people involved back then made great music and should have stuck to doing that and not got involved in the sideshows. Nowadays all those involved (who are still alive and active in the music scene) are quite a bit older than they were back then and my guess is that they’re more focused on earning a living and supporting their families than hell raising!
With the progressive extinction of CDs and hard copies of music, do you see any advantage or disadvantage to the music industry and artists like yourself who may be subject to a future where everything is downloaded, and therefore possibly stolen via the use of filesharing and download hubs like Kazaa and Morpheus?
This is an issue we embraced by making Last Light freely downloadable on our site for the first 6 months or so as a promotional tool. Music is freely available now, most people see it as such and artists must realize that if they want to make a living from music its from touring, merch sales, and other sorts of deals. Music is no longer the money spinner it once was. There are many advantages – we can now be heard in Australia and San Diego for example ϑ but small label-independent bands like us need the support of fans to keep producing music – so we ask people to buy hard copies or downloads or shirts etc. to keep us afloat, that’s all. We make our living elsewhere, music is our passion, our hobby (albeit an expensive, time consuming one!).
What do you think of the future of metal altogether? Is it still diverse or becoming a bit monotonous?
Big question…! Metal evolves, fads come and go (thrash revival for example) so I’m sure something else will always come and go and the die-hard fans will never forget the style that they love and keep supporting it I hope. I wonder how much more extreme it can get. In the 80’s in parts of the US “extreme” meant wearing women’s clothes and makeup. In the 90’s it was about satanic-type stuff. These days it seems to me like there is a lot of very technical extreme bands out there. Where to next? Who knows… the metal-core and nu-metal things were really bad though (to my ears anyway), not my thing at all.
Your fans are obviously the heart of all this, are there any final words you would like to say to them and the readers?
Well if nobody liked our stuff we would probably still do it for the pleasure of playing, but thankfully people do like our music and we are tipping along nicely. But to keep releasing and recording music we need the fans’ support like any young band – and we will be trying to tour more this year to get closer to the people that have being supporting us over the web and through our various distro’s over the years. HYPERLINK "http://www.forruin.com" www.forruin.com is the best place to check us out and with luck towards the end of this year we will get down to recording album number three.
Again, John, thank you for your time and sharing a few personal thoughts with a fan.
You’re welcome Colin – there must be some Irish in your blood with a name like that!?
Colin: (laughs) Only in namesake, I can assure you. I sure don’t have the alcohol tolerance that you true Irish from the homeland have.
Apr 25, 2010
Apr 25, 2010
Next interview: A resurrection of what makes death metal so awesome