Wild At Heart
My friends know that I am not a huge rap fan though I have enjoyed a number of artists live such as Common, B.o.B., and Jay-Z. Despite my semi-love for the musical form, I recently enjoyed a conversation with the artist known as Murs who will be playing tomorrow night at the Magic Stick.
I caught Murs as he was getting ready for a show in Pittsburgh and was mildly surprised when our conversation started talking about one of my passions, comic books. He remembered his first book being Booster Gold #1 and currently is getting into the mainstream titles of Marvel and DC, esp the new 52 storylines.
He admits when he goes into comic shops, the owners frequently think he will be a indie or zombie reader but with few exceptions he is a hardcore fanboy for the big 2. He mentions artists like Brian Wood, Bendis, Peter David and Millar who are all excellent storytellers in the form. He admits to following artists more than characters. His favorite character is the Black Panther and he says he enjoys the character but not the current writer but he is my guy and I’ll read them waiting for the next writer to take over because “I hate to have gaps in my collection”.
The appeal of the super-hero books for him relates to the overall morality of the characters. Growing up in a “tumultuous household”, it is a comfort to see a hero with his clear cut good vs evil. With the advent of of anti-heroes, some of the better ones have great stories, like “Kick-Ass” but comic book heroes, like Spider-man, still fight the good fight and “you don’t get a lot of that anymore”.
He also mentions a love of sci-fi, Japanation and even the indie book “Love & Rockets” by the Hernandez Brothers which he finds has “great art and is very subliminal” and is the title of his new album.
“Love & Rockets Vol 1: The Transformation” came out this month and is his 7th album. Of course, he has been around since 1993 and has worked on many projects like the wonderful Felt as well as with 3 Melancholy Gypsies and the Living Legends. He has kept himself very busy.
When asked what the biggest change in the evolution of his music since starting, he proudly mentions that he is always trying to learn from other artists which includes working with producers and trying to let them take creative control and trusting them to do what sounds good and is right for him. He admits “I am always trying to refine my craft and evolve”.
He is also recently married which has calmed him down a lot (cutting down on the drinking and smoking), as well as getting a haircut, working with Habitat For Humanity and doing work with autism charities. As his career has progressed, he has found himself with more opportunities to give back to society. This comes from the fact as he gets older, he sees that one has to mature. “I remember going to the clubs when I was 20 and seeing guys twice my age going after girls my age” and thinking that was messed up. These guys hit their peak and then want to rest on their laurels.
He also thinks rappers need to grow musically and they don’t. Part of this might be blamed on the media which does like to pigeon-hole artists, esp in the mainstream. But he admits a lot of guys don’t want to give the effort. Here they are at 40 living a good live still singing about dire circumstances and not seeming to grow up and maintaining that frat boy, misogynist attitude. That is just them as artists not wanting to give a lot of effort. He says he knows rap came out of Do-wop and while those guys, like Smokey Robinson, didn’t put it into their music, he thinks today’s rappers almost put too much of it in.
He admits “none of the people I looked up to talked about their wives or taught about love and responsibility” and that is where Murs is in his life and while he admits he uses some bad words, it is within the context of a storyline, much like the stories the comic book artist he admires do.
With his continued work, he has a festival which gets 10,000 kids and he wants to make sure he portrays a positive image for them to relate to. “I’m not saying you have to be this mature now and do some partying, but when they hang out with me, they can see my lifestyle as something to work towards when they get my age”. It is good to have role models.
In regards to the new album, I have listened to about half of it, esp enjoying songs like “Easy-E” (an almost nostalgic look at the LA of his childhood) and “Remember 2 Forget” (about a woman he wanted to forget that was bring him down), I did call him out on “67 Cutlass” which is based on a true stories involving two young men driving down the road smoking pot and getting pulled over and one knocks down the cop and they stuff the “pig” in the truck. Murs admits that he did have reservations about the song stating that he knows a lot of cops that listen to rap music but also thinks back to when he was successful and young drivingin his car (his friend did have a Cutlass) and getting pulled over for no other reason than being black in a nice car. This shows the pros and cons of equality in the country and while this song tells a story (and that is what it is), it doesn’t define what he thinks of all cops and nor should anyone else. There are good and bad everywhere.
We also talked about the songs “316 Ways” which is part indictment about the industry as mentioned a few paragraphs ago. It is about his younger, more partying days and his empty lifestyle it brought. Then there is “Animal Style”, a song which talks about acceptance of homosexuals. This is something that doesn’t present itself in rap too often and there is some moral responsibility to have these discussions.
I enjoyed the album for the most part though I must admit, his stuff with his side project Felt is more my style. Still, I found Murs to be a very smart intelligent man who had kept up an indie style music until moving to Warner Brothers which while it didn’t last, did “provide a perfect opportunity to change myself for the better (he found Habitat For Humanity through them).
On a parting note, we did mention, he would like to see the industry grow because there is to much greed going on and sees the mainstream not really cater and to innovation, much like the way healthcare is being run today. Trying to do what has always been in place when a new perspective is needed.
We talked about music and found he enjoys artists like Elton John, Curtis Mayfield, the Beatles, Fran Sinatra and Sublime (which blew him away as seeing a white group sing about LA Riots with a strong hip hop energy that surprised him).
His tour manager is from Detroit and admires that he is trying to live in a hard place and not running away but trying to make it better. It is great to support local businesses and try to make something out of the area. He also points to the strong musical legacy of Detroit with Motown, Kid Rock, Jack White, Eminem and the energy that ICP is bringing which is nothing short of amazing. He looks forward to the show here in Detroit and is looking for some amazing energy.
I wish I wasn’t in NY and could take in the show so make sure to check it out for me.
Here are a few more suggestions along with Murs @ the Magic Stick Tuesday night to see:
Tuesday (10/25) - Trombone Shorty @ Toledo Museum of Art
Wednesday (10/26) - Tedeschi Trucks Band @ Royal Oak Music Theatre, Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers @ Blind Pig, Thrice @ St Andrews Hall
Thursday (10/27) - Debbie Davies Band @ Callahans, Frank Turner @ Magic Stick
Friday (10/28) - The Verve Pie @ the Ark
Saturday (10/29) - Gwar @ Harpos, Joe Bonamassa @ Fox Theatre, Howling Diablos @ Callahans, Plain White T's @ Eagle Theatre, Opeth @ St Andrews Hall
Monday (10/31) - Insane Clown Posse @ Fillmore Theatre
I also had some fun at the Art Gallery here in Rochester, NY. They had an exhibit where artists use “extreme materials” to create art which runs the gambit from a sculpture made of soap to a dress made out of condoms. Some of my favorites include a grasshopper adored with clock parts, an Egyptian obelisk decorate with computer boards and a room decorated with insects. I took some pictures of the fashion show and here are some of the better ones which include dresses made out of toilet paper, cardboard and magazines. I had a bad spot but got a couple of decent pics.