Chris Murray, a man who needs no introduction. He has had a very busy year so far, and recently took some time to answer some of our burning questions regarding these activities.
1. So you just got back from a big European Tour with Dr Ring Ding, King Django and Regatta 69. What was that like?
Ska Mutiny was a very ambitious tour, hosted by Regatta 69 and
featuring the other artists you mention as well as Motha Nature, a
rapper from NC. Regatta 69 backed all the vocalists for their sets,
although I split my own set between solo performance and performance
with the band.
The show was one continuous flow, sometimes lasting four hours!! After
5-6 days of rehearsal, we played 29 cities in 29 days. I got home two
weeks ago. I’m still worn out, but glad to have had the experience.
Overall, there was some very interesting musical collaboration.
There were also many crazy moments, like when the bass player from
Regatta 69 (also the main tour organizer) was deported from Germany as
we entered Czech Republic. There were a couple of crazy days where
people were calling around trying to arrange a new visa. The bass
player was able to rejoin the tour within a few days, but we had to
perform at least two shows without him, on only a day’s notice – quite
a scramble, but we pulled it off.
2. What differences and similarities have you observed between touring
in Europe and the States?
Europe has a much different attitude about music and musicians. In the
US, overall hospitality is on the meagre side, and musicians aren’t
treated with a ton of respect. In Europe there is typically catering
laid out when you arrive at the venue, you load in and eat something
after traveling. After sound check, there will be a nice meal.
Accommodations are typically arranged in the performance contract.
Europe is a more lush environment for touring. Europeans tend to
perceive music as a traditional occupation, whereas here it’s often
3. Can you tell us about your newest release Slackness? How did this
project all come together?
About five years ago, I was gigging with The Slackers in NorCal and
also talking to a band about doing some recordings where they’d back
me. Marcus (Slackers bassist) heard about this and said, “if you’re
going to make a record with a backing band, it had better be The
Slackers”. This started the long strange journey of making Slackness.
In brief, the album was recorded over two sets of sessions, then mixed
later by Vic Ruggiero, who produced the album. The first sessions
happened at Noise In The World, which is run by Ira Heaps, who also
operates Jammyland Records. Not too long after those sessions, Ira
dismantled the studio and it wasn’t reassembled in it’s current
location for almost a year.
Between that and the busy schedules both The Slackers and I were
keeping at the time, it was very tough to schedule the final recording
session. Ultimately those happened at the new location of Version City
in New Brunswick, NJ.
Slackness was released a couple of years ago in Japan, to coincide with
a tour The Slackers were doing there. At the time, I already knew I
wanted to start a label myself, and that Slackness would be a perfect
first release. For many reasons, it took me a while to be ready to
start up a label, but earlier this year that happened, with the help of
my partner, Robin Strauss, and now Unstrictly Roots is open for
4.Slackness was releases in the U.S. on the label Unstrictly Roots.
Can you tell us about Unstrictly Roots, and what can we expect in the
future from this label?
The name of the label says a lot about what we’ll be doing. The focus
is not solely reggae and ska, but is open to great roots music of any
type – basically anything Robin and I get excited about. I shy away
from talking too much about future plans, and prefer to announce things
when they’re all lined up, but plans for the near future involve some
live recording at Bluebeat Lounge, a next Chris Murray album and an
Unstrictly Roots sampler. Stay tuned.
5.It looks like Bluebeat Lounge is still running strong. And now you
have a new project called Second Sundays. What’s this all about?
Second Sundays was initiated as a way to satisfy the many requests I’ve
been getting from typically young bands with young followings, who
often have a hard time bringing their people out to Hollywood on
Tuesday night. It’s amazing how many young ska bands there are in
southern California. I was finding it impossible to schedule so many
of them into situations that would really be positive for them. Second
Sundays is my response to that demand. Running the shows early means
kids can be out of the club before 9pm, and home in time to get a good
sleep before school on Monday morning. There have been a considerable
number of parents in attendance at Second Sundays shows.
6. Theres been a growth in the number if venues that feature Ska and
Reggae . Some of these have used Blue Beat Lounge as a blueprint,
installing a weekly or monthly event. How do you feel this contributes
to the overall growth of this scene?
For any kind of scene, having regular events and places where people
can meet up is very valuable. Knitting Factory has turned out to be a
perfect venue for Bluebeat, with both a bar and all ages allowed into
Regular events really help a scene to grow, up to a point. After a
while, it’s necessary for bands who really want to make it happen to
look beyond the comfort zone of a scene and put themselves in front of
wider audiences. When this happens, a band at the top of the scene
starts going on the road, it results in a loss of energy to the scene
in the short term, but also crates a vacuum that newer acts fill. Long
term scenes are somewhat cyclical.
7.You have also been involved in other projects recently, like The L.A. Allstar Review, Unstrictly Roots Posse, and Colin Giles’ solo
album. Are there any others? And how did you get involved?
I guess I get involved in a lot of projects because I stay involved in
general. Running Bluebeat keeps me in constant communication with a
lot of bands, so I usually hear about things that are coming together,
or decide to put something together with musicians I’m involved with.
8. Chirs Murray Combo…who are these guys, and when are you going to
release some music?
CMC includes Ben Farrar on drums and Chiquis on bass. Ben was the
original drummer for See Spot, which is how I met him. I first came to
know Chiquis through Irie Beats. Both have been involved in many local
bands and projects.
As I mentioned earlier, there are plans to do some live recording at
Bluebeat this summer. CMC will be playing every Tuesday in July, and
I’m arranging to record those shows with the aim to compile a “CMC live
at Bluebeat Lounge” release.
9. A greater number of ska and reggae musicians are playing acoustic
music. How does it feel to know you played such a large role in
fueling this fire?
Honestly, that feels great. There are some great artists who have told
me seeing my solo set changed their outlook on music and inspired them
to do their own similar thing. It feels very special to have helped
people find a way to express their own musicality.
Beyond the good feeling I get from having influenced some people to
make acoustic ska and reggae, I really love the sound of acoustic
reggae and ska, so now I’m lucky to have other people making a sound I
10. What’s next on the horizon?
A lot of what’s coming next I’ve already mentioned. I’ll be working on
a new album for myself, and also arranging some live recordings at
Bluebeat over the summer.
As well, I’ll be working to help Rizorkestra’s career become more
active and developed. That guy is so talented – it’s a shame he’s not
better known, yet.
Beyond that, I have a couple of short trips lined up, but plan to stay
around LA most of the time during this summer. Some fall tour plans
are in the works.
For more information on these projects, check out these sites.
Rizorkestra On Myspace
Right now you can buy Slackness and Rizorkestra – American guitar for $25.00 s&h included.