Thursday, May 14, 2009

Posted by xCHIPxSEM |
Hey y'all, Jake/Andrew Jacobs here with an interview that I did this past month with Kevin Murphy of Farside, Headfirst and 411 fame. As 411 still holds the title as my #1 favorite Orange County, California band of all time since their inception in 1990 and Farside & Headfirst are in my top 10 (not to mention the fact that Kevin has always been and continues to be one of the coolest guys I know in the scene), I've decided to write the lead-in to the interview myself. I also wanted to mention that Kevin will be riding in a number of upcoming charity bike rides and all the info can be found on his 2009 LIVESTRONG Challenge donation page. I strongly urge all of you to check it out and make a donation. Thanks to Kevin for his participation in the interview and I hope you enjoy it!

Having played guitar in Farside & 411 and drums in Headfirst (as well as one or the other in a number of other bands), you were literally a jack of all trades in the early '90s Orange County, California hardcore scene. How did you learn how to play all instruments?

I love the way that question is worded because it makes me sound like I can play(literally) all instruments. Zither, Lute, Clavichord, you name it. But the reality is that I wasn’t a jack of all trades by any stretch, it just happened that I could play drums along with guitar. I started with bass, actually, when I was 13. My favorite bands at the time were Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Metallica. And in 1984, those were the best bassists going. I still think Lemmy is very underrated when it comes to his bass playing. But after hearing Black Flag and Husker Du for the first times (and Venom too I suppose), I ditched the Sears brand bass and conned my parents into buying me a Sears brand guitar. Those two bands made me feel more comfortable with the fact that I was never going to be Yngwie Malmsteen. Now, at the same time my younger brother was taking up the drums – both in school (marching band) and at home. He was really into the Dead Kennedys and JFA and had this cheapo Sears brand kit that he pounded on all the time, but since my room was bigger than his, the kit lived in there. So I was always pounding on them as well. This was in 1985 or ‘86 and it was around this time that I started my first band with some fellow hesher dudes from down the road. We were called Cryonics and had “blast beats” galore before “blast beats” existed. We were all under the age of 16 so none of us could drive. This meant we practiced in my room on my brother’s drums. So I was around both instruments all the time.

I only wound up on drums for Headfirst because we couldn’t find a drummer after our original guy (Mike Goodman) went off to college. I casually mentioned that my brother had a set and that I could pull off simple thrash and mosh beats. I went from second guitar to drums that easily. I never felt 100% comfortable on drums and missed playing guitar which is partially why I got 411 going.

Headfirst featured virtuoso guitarist Mike Rosas, who took lessons from guitar legend Joe Satriani among others. What was it like playing drums in a band with such a skilled musician?

Wait, Mike took lessons from Joe Satriani? Is that true? I had no idea. Anyway, like I said before, I was never 100% confident in my drum skills. I felt like I was sufficiently ok, good enough for what we were doing. The only time I ever thought I might be kind of “good” at the instrument was when we completed the song “Intervention” which was the last song Headfirst wrote. There’s a passage in the song that I stole from a Rush song (Subdivisions I think) and I was always pleased with myself for being able to pull it off. It’s funny how Headfirst wound up sounding. When I moved over to drums it was with the belief that since I could play thrash beats that I’d be fine. At the time we sounded very much like Slayer meets Youth of Today, so stealing Rush drum lines was a pretty strange final result.

Discuss some of the many differences between Headfirst's Back In Control EP and The Enemy LP.

Oh that’s easy –The LP was a rock record. When we released it, we didn’t really see or hear any difference since we had been steeped in the progression the whole time. To us, it sounded like Headfirst. But looking back and really having distance from it, they are substantially different. I mean, obviously. Everyone talks about the LP as though it was a metal record, but we were much more metal when we did the 7”. But I get it. When Discharge did Grave New World and The FUs became Straw Dogs, I was there waving the sellout flag and hating those LPs. But I respect those moves now the same way I respect the fact that Metallica hasn’t made a decent record in 23 years. I think their music is shit, but they’re certainly doing what they want and I get that. So I’m still very proud of the Headfirst LP – it’s a document of where we were at the time. Which was listening to Soundgarden, Melvins, Voi Vod, Bl’ast!, Mind Over 4, Infest, Verbal Assault and the Bad Brains. And for a bunch of kid

s whose oldest member was 20 and youngest was like 16, I still think it’s a pretty solid effort. A bit overproduced and slick sounding, but whatever.

As a band, we always wanted to be different from all of the other OCHC bands. We didn’t want to be part of any scene and we were often pretty confrontational about that. So when we’d get tossed onto a bill with Poison Idea, GBH or The Flower Leopards, we looked at it no differently than if we were playing with Excel, Haywire or No For An Answer. Just another show. When other hardcore bands were really pushing the “posi” stuff, we splashed a big fat negative sign across the front of our 7”. When other bands made fun of us for being metal and dressing like slobs, we dubbed them “the enemy” and named our LP after them. We played with Inside Out once and Vic scrawled “I am Soul” across his chest with a big black marker. So, not to be outdone, I came out with “I am DEATH” across mine. Stupid, but slightly funny in an obnoxious teenager kind of way. I guess. Maybe not…I had absolutely no beef with Vic or anyone else for that matter – none of us did

. We just liked being different, stirring things up and doing our own thing. I think the LP reflects that mindset.

While Headfirst was still going strong, you also became a member of 411. Both bands released full lengths and went on tours at around the same time. How were you able to pull off being in two very active bands at the same time?

Well I didn’t really have a whole lot else going on. My job was complete

ly disposable and I was sort of in school, but only part time and only half-assed. That was what I did, it was how I identified myself. I was in bands and that was all I was. If I could have toured more and done more shows I absolutely would have. At least at that time, later on I had that chance and chose to stay at home.

411 became very popular and very quickly in 1991, even opening a sold out Fugazi show that year at the 4000 capacity Palladium in Hollywood, California at a time when it was unheard of for an O.C. band who'd been together less than a year to play at such a big venue. What was that whole experience like?

Well, that’s the result of having O’Mahony as the vocalist. Had we had any other singer we would never have been in that spot. And, had Dan been in any other band, that band would have been where 411 was. It wasn’t because we were fucking amazing or anything, it’s because Dan was very connected in the scene at the time and he was fantastic at marketing himself and whatever project he was involved with. To be fair, Dan is a hard, HARD worker when it comes to his projec

ts. I mean, say what you will about the guy, he followed through on everything he ever set his mind to. I wish, even now, that I was that capable. And he had built a pretty solid “fanbase” for himself through NFAA and Carry Nation. Those were great, great HC records. And though I felt like he suffered from verbal diarrhea a bit too often in between songs, there’s no denying that he could hold the attention of any audience.

But your question was around what it was like and I have to say, I never really felt like we were all that special. Meaning that I considered 411 to be just another band in the scene. I do rem

ember going to Zed Records once with a girl I was sort-of dating and when we got back in the car she said that it was weird to watch everyone in the store stare at me and whisper stuff like “that’s the guy from 411”. I remember laughing at that because I just assumed she was fucking around but who knows? So I don’t know, I never really paid much attention to that. I just wanted us to be good live and put on a good show.

Unless you’re asking about the Fugazi show itself? If so, that was pretty scary. I don’t know if I looked at the audience once. It was way too big. But my sort-of girlfriend was impressed.

Having been a member of Headfirst, 411, Triggerman and Mission Impossible, you have the dubious honor of being in more Workshed Records bands than Dan O'Mahony, the label's founder. Is that just a coincidence or was there something about the Workshed bands that compelled you to pull quadruple duty in them?

Hmmm. I’m going to go with coincidence. I think it was more around the fact that the OC scene was pretty insular so we all knew each other. Mission Impossible were from Irvine which is where I went to high school, so when they needed a fill-in drummer, I thought “fuck it, I’ve g

ot nothing better to do” because, well, I didn’t. I wasn’t a particularly big fan of Mission Impossible, I just didn’t do anything other than play and listen to music at that time. Now Triggerman I just liked a lot so when Popeye asked if I could fill in on drums I was more than happy to, but again, it’s just because we all knew each other. And I kind of missed playing drums actually.

Farside is your most well known and prolific band having released 3 full lengths,

two EPs and songs on scores of compilations as well as touring the U.S. and overseas several times in the '90s. Try to sum up that whole experience as best you can.

I am very proud of Farside, but if I were to sum it up . . . how about “could have done more”? That’s how I feel about it now. We could have done more, we could have really pursued the band harder and made more records, toured more, etc. etc. And let’s be clear - Bob and Chu definitely wanted to. Popeye and I were more interested in “real life” as we called it. We were ding dongs and kind of blew it. I guess. Maybe not, I’m pretty happy where I am at these days and with h

ow my life turned out.

You added a whole other dimension to Farside's overall sound. How would you describe what you brought to the table?

Well, I joined simply to fill in the gap they had when Rob left the band. They had already booked their European tour and there was no going back so they needed someone to fill in. 411 was dead at the time . . . I mean, that’s what I assumed. We came back from our second tour and never really spoke again. It was weird. Kind of like we knew the band was over, but no one actually said it and no one really cared. But I think when you tour twice on the same material – mmmmm that’s

a band that’s not doing much.

Headfirst was over and I was playing with Smile, but knew I wasn’t cutting it with them (they really needed a solid drummer and they found one in Scott) and was sort of drifting with nothing going on when I got the call from Popeye. I liked Farside, but wasn’t head over heels in love with them. I thought they were a little on the “wimpy” side to be 100% honest (I remember

Adam and Sam from Born Against once asking me if I was still playing with “The Bugs Bunny Band”), but I really wanted to be in a band with a strong vocalist. So I said I’d go to Europe with them mainly, because it was a free trip to Europe. And while over there I came to really like the guys and immediately saw the potential the band had and so I asked if I could stay on.

I like to think I brought the “beef” back to the band. Haha. I am a fan of harmony and catchy tunes, but I like them loud and thick sounding. Farside was, when they started, basically a hardcore band along the lines of Bad Religion or Descendents. And as they moved forward they started to get a little college rocky. I think Rochambeau is a good record, but like the Headfirst LP, it was a little ambitious and way too slick sounding. When I came in, I already had like 4 songs that wer

e written for 411, but that I knew Dan could never pull off. Not a knock on Dan, he just wasn’t as strong of a singer as he was a yeller.

Popeye had really wanted to get his songs out there, but nearly everything that people heard from Farside was written by Rob. When Rob left, that meant that all the new songs wer

e going to be coming from a new set of songwriters. I like to think I had something to do with the directional change Farside took, but the reality is more that my coming in coincided with a pretty substantial songwriting change that was the natural result of Rob’s departure.

There was a lot of “anything goes” in Farside. When I first mentioned that I had a couple songs to add and that I was interested in singing them, I was amazed at how open everyone was to the idea. That was new to me. And when we’d practice, we didn’t ever discard anything because it didn’t fit with our sound. To us, a song like “Bled” was just as good as a song like “Page”. That was refreshing too. I really liked being in that band. But like I said, I look back now and realize we had a lot more to offer.

Is there any possibility of you reissuing the Scrap LP (a collection of early Farside demos that Kevin released on his Comida Records label in the mid '90s) on CD and/or iTunes?

Me releasing it? Very doubtful. I have neither the time nor the interest. But if someone else wants to I’m not opposed as long as everyone who played on it is involved in the decision and

is fairly compensated. Which would be tough. I’m not sure how to track down Josh, Rob or even Zack anymore. Maybe Jordan is interested….hardee har har. And to be fair, it was released by myself and Bryan Chu. Bryan did most of the work.

In 1992, you got to fully spread your heavy metal wings when you played lead guitar on ICE's cover of Quiet Riot's "Metal Health" both in the studio and at a few ICE shows. Was this a dream come true for you? Why or why not?

Well, to be fair, my metal wings were in full flight before I even joined Headfirst. By the time I discovered punk rock in 1984 / 1985, I had a pretty sizeable record collection stacked with what was then called “thrash”. I also owned a red 1979 Pontiac Firebird with a personalized license plate that read “VRY MTL”. The proof fo

r that is on the actual CD of the 1996 EP Farside put out. So I was metal before anything else. And like I said, the first band I was ever in was called Cryonics in Memphis, TN, circa 1985/86. We played a few shows, but never recorded anything. And we were absolute garbage (as any band consisting of four 14 year olds would be). But what we lacked in talent we made up for in lyrics about zombies and Satan, and ridiculously fast songs (especially for 1986). We were totally aping Slayer, but shitty, one dimensional and totally centered around the E chord.

It’s cool to look back at that band though since the South really spawned a ton of great sludgy metal bands later on in the 90’s – Buzzoven, Eyehategod, His Hero is Gone etc. In fact, a couple of the Cryonics guys wound up in Adios Gringo who are really good. -

I'm aware of at least 3 side project bands of yours - God Forgot, Beatless and Chicanochrist. Tell us about those bands and any others as well.

Oh man, Chicanochrist. I love that record. The idea came from sitting around the kitchen table of the house I lived in back in 1990 or 91. Ron Martinez (Final Conflict) was pretty tight with the Econochrist dudes and had joked with Ben about how Econochrist should have been called Chicanochrist. At the same time, Brujeria had just put out their first 7” so Ron and I thought it would be funny to do a Mexican-American themed hardcore band that would be the opposite of Brujeria – songs about being good Catholics, about having clean clothes and lamenting the demise of carnitas. We got Mario from 411 involved and then Little Steve from Freebass to play bass. I was the token white dude which we stole from Walk Proud, hence the name “Casper”. We wrote and recorded the songs within like three days I think. Played one show in someone’s garage in Irvine and that was it. But it was a BLAST. And so cool to have done something with Ron and Little Steve.

Beatless was me killing time with a little money I had saved up. I had a couple songs I had written for 411, but that I didn’t think Dan would be able to sing. Again, no knock on Dan. In fact, I think it was more that I was interested in seeing if I could pull off the vocals. So I recorded two songs where I played everything and then sat on it for a few months. Drew, Headfirst’s do-everything guy, was interested in putting one of the songs on a comp he was putting out and the other song still lived only on my cassette. At one point I thought it might become a new band, but I wound up joining Farside and “Kill Me” became a Farside song. I don’t remember what the other song was called, but it wasn’t all that great anyway.

God Forgot I’d prefer to forget myself to be honest. Dan wanted to do something really “heavy” and hit me up to do it. So, again, I went in and recorded the music and played all of the instruments. A couple of those songs were original 411 songs. Not many people know that 411 was originally me, Dan, Josh and Vadim Rubin from Half Off (and ICE) on drums. The first few songs we wrote were very metal as we were aiming for a Neurosis type sound, but it wasn’t clicking. We shelved that for a while and then tried the more skate-punky, Government Issue approach that became 411. So, a couple of those were old leftover songs that didn’t work to begin with. Not exactly a winning formula.

Plus there was a lot of miscommunication regarding the project. Dan was living in Northern California and I never saw him or really spoke with him. At one point I had figured that the project was dead and thought it would be cool to have Chris Lohman from Blackspot and Collateral Damage go in and do vocals at which point someone told me they saw the record at Zed’s. So not only did I have no idea what the lyrics or vocals were like, I didn’t even know it was released. It was supposed to be put out by Dan, but wound up coming out on John Yates’ label, Allied. I was really, really disappointed in the whole package. The music sounded half-assed (because it was), the vocals were pretty wooden in my opinion, the lyrics felt kind of half-assed as well. And then there was that moaning and groaning on the slow track. Ugh, I was really not happy with that, hahaha. So, there you go. My opinion is that the whole thing feels forced and undeveloped. But that’s me. Dan may feel differently

Now, when recording the music for that, I also tracked a couple undeveloped riffs that became Farside songs – Silver Anniversary was one – as well as a Gary Numan song I was really excited about. I planned on going in a doing vocals for it just to see if it would work with Farside, but never did. Because I am lazy.

What are some of your favorite songs by all of your bands?

HeadfirstWhat I See from the second demo. Super simple, good hardcore song. Might be our least metal moment except for the guitar solo.

411 - Mmmm…I don’t know. I still like “The Naked Face” because it’s so simple.

Chicanochrist – “Fajitas”. For sure. Great song. But “Pethos” still cracks me up to this day. Watching Little Steve record those vocals was one of the highlights of my entire life. I’ve never seen anyone turn so red.

Farside - I really like Knox and I really like Better than Crying. I can’t listen to Turnip from the EP. Musically, I like it, but those guys should have forced Popeye to do the vocals and lyrics. Ugh, what a trainwreck that turned out to be. Hahaha.

As a musician and a songwriter, who are some of your primary influences and why?

Oh way too many to list. Every song I’ve ever heard influenced me in one way or another, even the ones I hated. So I will go with Hirax, Too Short and David Alan Coe.

Feel free to shamelessly plug any of your current musical and/or non-musical endeavors that you feel like plugging here.

I have no musical endeavors anymore. Popeye does, check out his stuff.



Hmmm, what is Popeye doing these days? Anyone know? Links?

Cheesegrater said...


Anonymous said...

He also plays guitar and sings in Jeff Caudill's Goodtimes Band -

I highly recommend checking out the most recent Caudill CD, by the way. The Popeye stamp is clearly audible on all the songs that he sings backup on.

xjustinx said...

I really wish someone would put out a full Headfirst discography.

Anonymous said...

Mankind Records (David "Igby" Sattani's label) is putting one out. I have no idea when though.

Isaac Golub said...

I don't think anyone is going to call you on the David Allan Coe influence.... But I will....

Dude, NICE CALL!!! 'Don't Bite The Dick That Fucks You' Positive little number.

Weird you didn't cite The Mentors while you were at it.

Anonymous said...

Kev, your right, we should of done more.

bob violence.....

SFader said...

Great interview. A lot of people will agree with Bob and Chu.

The Punk Librarian said...

Great interview, any mention of ICE gets extra points.

Anonymous said...

Oh believe me, I try to mention ICE as much as I can in every interview that I do, so there's LOTS more ICE discussion to come.

Anonymous said...

Per an email that I received from Jeff Caudill:

I am proud and excited to be a member of a new band called YOUR FAVORITE TRAINWRECK. My old friend Popeye (Farside) and I have been kicking around this idea for a long time now and it¹s finally happening. Popeye and I share lead vocal and guitar duties while the tattooed and handsome Jeff Holmes rocks the bass and the incorrigible Robbie Rist shreds the drums. We play our first show in Los Angeles on July 1st. If you live in the area we'd love for you to be there. Think of it as a rock and roll investment opportunity.

Wednesday, JULY 1st at MOLLY MALONE'S
575 South Fairfax Ave. LA, CA 90036 - 8:30pm

Anonymous said...

So I guess there`s no chance of a Farside reunion?!? I would have loved to see them at least once ...