James Murphy & Mark Hunter



Magazine: Metal Hammer / Italy
Article: Spiritual Healing

Written by: Fabio Rodighiero
Translated by: Vincenzo Chioccarelli
Published: August 2004



James Murphy, once the guitarist of Death, Obituary, Testament, Disincarnate, etc., playing Chuck Schuldiner’s music surrounded by very special guests: that, in short, is the ‘Within The Mind’ project, coming out next months. It’s expected to be a worthy tribute to a milestone of the scene, by somebody who knew him well.
Schuldiner’s family is probably right: there’s no one better than James Murphy to take care of a tribute to Chuck and Death’s music. An outstanding persona of American death metal, not only did he share the stage with Chuck while in his band, but he had to face a serious health issue just when Chuck was fighting with cancer, eventually losing his battle. Two men on kind of parallel roads, leading them to play together in the same band (on the ‘Spiritual Healing’ album: a title that sounds a bit weird), but then they parted ways (not so amicably, it seems), until they got closer again in the hardest moments, as James tells us. So it’s no surprise he’ll work on ‘Within The Mind’, the official tribute to Death. Our interview starts from this to reach wider subjects: Chuck’s memory, James’s illness (a brain tumor which seems under control now), and future plans… but let him speak now.

“(James Murphy) Actually the idea wasn’t mine, it came from Darren Miller of CKY. In the beginning I wasn’t so much into it, it didn’t seem to be a good idea to me; I feared Chuck’s family wouldn’t have approve, so I was a bit hesitant. But Darren pressed so much with this project so I decided to call Chuck’s family to know what they thought about it. They liked the idea and gave me the ok, telling me they preferred me doing it over anyone else. At that point I started to contact musicians that may have interested in it, and I got a positive feedback… Soon it was no longer me calling people, but them contacting me to know how to be part of this thing. So the number of people participating began to grow, and the track list evolved. The idea was to have as many people as possible, not only those who played with him, but also those who love his music and were influenced by it.”

How did you choose the songs to put into the record? With such a discography, it wasn’t easy.
“The only thing that mattered is to have songs from every album of the band. We have already chosen the songs, but I don’t want to tell, because there would be complaints and that’s not what I want to hear now. By the way we’ll put 13 or 16 songs on the record. I let everybody choose his favorite, with his feelings, without setting rules.”

Did you try to stick to the original ones or will there be changes in the arrangements or structures of the tunes?

“It won’t be just copies of songs everybody knows, they will be brand new versions. I didn’t mean to blueprint what Chuck already did, it’d be meaningless: it was a tribute to his music, I let everyone do their best their way. Richard Christy, for example, played with him, but he recorded on four songs prior to ‘The Sound Of Perseverance’, to get his personal performance.”

It could stupefy someone to have guys from bands like Slipknot and Mudvayne, they don’t seem to be influenced by Chuck’s music that much…

“Actually Mudvayne are not confirmed at 100% yet, so I can’t assure you they’ll be on the tribute. About Slipknot, yes, they’re confirmed. I see it can be strange, their involvement, but if you think about it, they’re very heavy. Mike and Paul have been influenced very much by metal in general, and they’re big fans of Chuck and his music. Nevertheless, they’re very good players. I can assure you their background is very metal (not only death, of course), and all of them have been influenced by Chuck.”

Isn’t it hard to keep all these musicians together in a single project?
“Well, it wasn’t so hard, really. This kind of thing is a very tough work, and that’s been a problem, ‘cause physically I’m not at 100% yet. Musically, it was very easy, I just had to say who has to play what, for the rest, they’re great players, easy to get along with. Obviously you have to keep all the working schedules together to get the record done, and this is what takes longer!”

You said you’re not at 100% yet, how is your health now? How’s the rehab going on after the delicate surgical strike?

“I’m improving, though I still have to undergo therapy and get back to the hospital once in while, and it’s not a pleasure, sure enough. Beyond I have to take some medicines with very strong side effects I must deal with… that’s not easy either. I have to get the resistance back and I have problems with some glands I have to keep under control, but it’s all side effects I said before. It takes time… and a lot of patience, unfortunately…”

James Murphy & Nick Barker

Notwithstanding this, it seems you’re keeping yourself busy again, aren’t you? I read you got many projects on your hands now…

“Yeah, beyond Chuck’s tribute I’m working on production of other artists. In a few I’m going to be in New York to record some parts of the tribute with the boys from Shadows Fall, then I’ll have a couple of CDs to produce or mix. I’m also working on new Disincarnate album but I should write more and at this moment I don’t have the time needed to do it, and I don’t know when I’ll get all these things done.”

About the tribute to Schuldiner, when do you think it will be ready?
“For now it’s hard to be exact. Everyone has his schedule, and some of them are important too, so it will take time before it’s all finished. At the moment I have five drum tracks, two vocal tracks and one of bass done, so there’s still work to do, you know.”

James, you played with Chuck for some time. What’s your memory of Schuldiner as a man and musician?

“Well, it was long ago, ‘cause I worked with him in early ‘90s. In the last times before he died we kept in touch again: he changed, he was a very different person, I felt him closer to me than ever, more than when we used to play together. We were on kind of parallel roads, I don’t mean just the health problems: I remember him as a dedicated guy who believed in his music and was coherent with himself. He never accepted any compromise and so was he until the end and his family is keeping alive his attitude and will.”

Just about this, how’s it been with the Schuldiners? You know, lately there’s a whole buzz, especially on the release of the second Control Denied album…

“As far as it concerns me, I have only good things to say about the Schuldiner family, they don’t deserve any of the bad things that were thrown on them. Chuck’s mom and sister know better than anyone else what his last desires and wills were. The same about the Control Denied album Chuck was working on: the other bandmates don’t know either what he had in mind. I can’t tell you how it’s going to end with Control Denied, but I like what his family is doing. We have a good relationship.”

Did they give you any suggestion or advise on how to go on with the project?
“No, never. They told me they trusted me and I could do as I liked. At this time I’m getting many offers from people wishing to be on the record, but I won’t tell their names ‘cause I don’t want to create alternatives that maybe won’t come true. All I can say is we have a full song and it’s fantastic! This can’t make me anything but optimistic about the following work…”

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Edited for Empty©Words 01-01-05