Derek: Ian and I write the songs together; the band has had a few slightly varying lineups over the years. Our buddies Ross and Adam have played bass for us, and Tom from Depths of Chaos played drums for us for a long time. I’ve known Ian since high school days when he was pretty much the only other kid with a Darkthrone t-shirt in the school, but we didn’t start jamming until years later, around 2010. It began in a phase of madness and partying, but we started to spend a lot of time talking about making music centered around ecology, spiritual and personal healing. We both quit drinking in 2012, and getting sober sort of became an integral part of the band’s identity. Musically, we just wanted to synthesize our favorite sounds into something new and super heavy, according to our own standards.
Ian: The goal of Murk Rider is to take ourselves as well as our listeners through an intense spiritual experience through our music for the sake of healing, growth and empowerment. It’s a painful yet beautiful process and one that we will continue to recreate as long as we can.
2.You got your first full length coming out this month, musically how does it differ from your previous demos?
Derek: It’s a lot more polished than the demos. It’s a proper studio recording, whereas the demos were recorded and mixed live to tape at our rehearsals by our friend Dustin Lehman, who is an analog fanatic. Those demos were fun and very raw sounding, but we spent a lot of time working to ensure that the studio recording presents the definitive versions of these songs. Some parts changed around a little bit. Our friend Kat from Latona Odola did an absolutely incredible job singing on the interlude passage of “Journey”; every time I go back and listen to her part I’m just blown away by her talent. So we’re super lucky for that. Also, my good buddy Mike wrote & arranged an epic horn part for us – something I always wanted to add to the song.
Ian: We always knew the studio album was going to take a long time. We had high ambitions for it and knew we wanted to add lots of layers of sound which we couldn’t do with the live rehearsal demos. The demos are more of a raw expression of our songs. There was much more we couldn’t express in our live studio recordings that we knew we wanted on the album.
3.This is also your first release since 2014, can you tell us a little bit more about what has been going on during that time frame?
Derek: Just living life pretty much. Sometimes life fills up your plate and there isn’t as much time for music. We both moved up to Humboldt for a while, which was an amazing experience for me overall, but ultimately not quite the right place for me to be living. I’m back in Osos now. I’ve been focusing on my visual art for the past year or so.
Ian: There were many trials we faced during the creation of this album. Life happened and we had to learn how to keep working on the album while balancing everything else that came up in life such as work, me finishing college, relationships, etc...
4.A lot of your lyrics cover Shamanism and you also have some songs inspired by the writings of Joseph Campbell, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in these topics?
Derek: I’ve been into world mythologies since I was a kid. Myth provides a cultural framework for understanding one’s place in the universe. Preserving ancient myths is an important way of maintaining our connection to nature, our environment, the living beings around us which make us who we are. People might recognize some religious themes on the album; religion is at its core an extension of myth. Joseph Campbell’s writing was sort of a guide to our creative process on Exile of Shadows. The lyrics are a reflection of this and also an expression of our personal journey in life, moving from a self destructive way of life toward healing and wholeness.
Ian: To me music has always been a source of healing, love and creative energy. To me the idea of using music as a form of spiritual medicine is obvious. So the ideas of shamanism in our music reflect our own love and relationship with music. It also reflects the dark parts of our lives we were trying to overcome while first starting to create the band. I’ve had multiple spiritual experiences in various forms whether they be from psychedelics, nature, or music, and all these experiences kind of led me to the importance of finding some path towards healing and well being through music and other creative art forms. I use the intense, dark cathartic energy that is part of me to make music so it doesn’t come out in more destructive and harmful ways. I hope that people will hear the music who need to hear the music, and that the connection they have with the music may help them learn how to choose life over death or other self destructive behavior.
5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Murk Rider'?
Derek: The one who walks the razor’s edge, the blade of twilight between light and shadow. The spiritual warrior who rides on through the unknown. I’m not much of a surfer but we used to paddle out at dusk sometimes, and it’s a freaky feeling. You have to sort of find your zen, sit there with the knowledge that you’re hovering on top of the abyss and make peace with that sensation. The ocean is a super apt metaphor for the unconscious mind, and that’s what we’re trying to discuss in our songs.
Ian: Derek named the band. As I’ve grown older the name has taken on various meanings. I think to me the Murk Rider is someone who has chosen to tread the path of the wounded healer. Someone who understands that to find truth in life one must dive into the darkness of their own mind to unravel and transform the frightening and unknown parts of themselves. A main thing that brought Derek and I together was our interest in the energy of night and darkness, which is reflected in our music and what got me interested in black metal to begin with. We used to go on night walks for hours out in nature and just discuss the mysteries of life and the fears we both shared. Something about the darkness, the unknown, the subconscious, the dissonant calls to us and we find comfort in trying to understand and express it.
6.What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
Derek: We used to do some theatrical stage show stuff which was a lot of fun, and it tied in with the symbolism in the songs. Adam would come out in a Hannya mask as the Rainbow Demon and show the audience their own reflections in a blood stained mirror. We had a pretty good altar that we would set up with ancestral skulls and torches and maize. My favorite gig was with Bell Witch at the Stella Natura pre-fest in Nevada City. We also had a rad one with Wolvserpent in LA. Our worst gig was no doubt opening for Fauna at Cascadian Yule, which is hilarious because they’re one of my favorite bands ever and I always wanted to play with them. Due to some miscommunication we believed we were not going to play, so we had no gear. Ian is a lefty; he had to borrow a righty guitar and string it upside down. It was ridiculous, we sounded awful but it was a lot of fun. We made do with the equipment that various band members kindly shared with us. Joshua and Johnny – the Fauna dudes – are super gracious, sweet people. The whole Cascadian scene has been nothing but rad to us.
Ian: We got to open up for Fauna which for me was a dream come true. They are one of our largest inspirations for the kind of music we play. But that also happened to be the worst show we’ve ever played. We weren’t planning on playing, it was a last minute decision on the part of the people running the fest so we didn’t have any of our gear. I remember frantically trying to restring some shitty Ibanez guitar to make it left handed just minutes before having to play, because unsurprisingly none of the musicians at the festival had a lefty guitar for me to play . The guitar didn’t stay in tune at all, we weren’t prepared, it was a disaster lol. But it was still rad we got to play with some of our musical heroes.
7.Do you have any touring or show plans once the new album is released?
Derek: We’re working on learning some new material with a new lineup, so hopefully we’ll be able to start gigging relatively soon.
Ian: We are working on the second album now so no planned dates thus far. It’s a long process and learning songs that are upwards of 30-40 minutes can be a difficult task to undertake. But yes I would love to start playing shows once we get our new material down within the next few months.
8.Currently you are unsigned, are you looking for a label or have received any interest?
Derek: I’m content releasing everything ourselves unless we get a significantly interesting offer. These days labels are not necessary like they used to be, and we’re not making music that has any kind of commercial appeal. We’re talking to a few interested parties about some limited edition versions.
Ian: It would be great to get a label or someone to release our album on CD. We have a pretty elaborate packaging idea for the CDs and barely any money. So if we could get some help to get the album released on CD or vinyl that would be rad.
9.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black, stoner and doom metal?
Derek: We’re not a worldwide band, so I have no idea. Our friends here on the west coast have seemed generally positive, which is cool.
Ian: I have no idea, we are still a pretty obscure band. I would be surprised if we had a fan base anywhere outside of the West Coast of the US. The music we play is not for everyone, it’s also not easy listening. I believe those that seek out this sort of intense underground music will love it, but I’m unsure as to if we will every have a worldwide audience.
10.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?
Derek: I’ve been playing bass in the band Lesions; we have a few gigs coming up. I have a million Procer Veneficus recordings that I started and never finished over the years; it’s hard for me to prioritize that stuff. I also record some weird droney, doomy desert rock influenced material which is way on a back burner, but which I hope to release someday. Ian has recorded some solo synthesizer music which is rad, and Ross is always busy with his array of awesome bands that he spearheads; At Dusk, Malfet, Fetters, etc.
Ian: Derek and Ross are always working on something. I’m much slower in working on my other music projects. I’m working on a synth/ambient album now under the title Diamond Forge. But Murk Rider always takes priority over any other musical project and right now we are working on the second Murk Rider album. So hopefully by the end of the year I will have my first Diamond Forge album done, maybe...
11.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
Derek: We’re writing the second album now. The sound is growing organically. I think it sounds a lot more epic, probably featuring more variety. Ian and I often look to film soundtracks for inspiration; we want the music to be cinematic in scope. We’ve become really interested in western guitar sounds and sci-fi synth sounds. I hope the new material will run the gamut from really light, beautiful, and uplifting to horrendously dark and downtrodden – and a lot in between. We’re leaving it open to natural growth.
Ian: I hope to play the same shit we played on the last album but better. Our sound is changing in a rad way but it’s also staying grounded in the roots of the Murk Rider sound. It’s always been our goal to make the heaviest metal album of all time, so we are going to keep going in that direction and see what we can create.
12.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Derek: Besides the super obvious ‘90s black metal influences, the biggest ones for me have always been Neurosis, Sleep, and Kyuss. Motorhead and Iron Maiden are perennial influences that are ingrained in us to the core. Personally, I mostly listen to a lot of ‘70s rock - Thin Lizzy, Sabbath, Grand Funk. The classics. I love stuff with that ‘70s prog vibe to it; bands like Heart, Camel, Druid, etc. In the summer I start putting on a lot of warm solar music, a bunch of desert & stoner rock. When winter comes around I usually dig into the darker, doomier, blacker stuff. Since childhood I’ve been super into the ambient works of dudes such as Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Thom Brennan. I guess I’m a little all over the map.
Ian: I think by far the band that comes closest to achieving what we are trying to achieve through our music conceptually, aesthetically and spiritually is Fauna. The feeling I get when listening to their music is the feeling I’m trying to emulate in my own way through Murk Rider. Besides the influence of Fauna, Murk Rider has always been the sound of intense early 90s black metal mixed with early heavy metal like Sabbath, Priest, Iron Maiden and Motorhead. Bathory has always been one of our greatest musical influences as well. We are constantly trying to blend the epic triumphant sounding heavy rock and roll sounds of Maiden and Motorhead with the dark more intense elements of black metal. There are a few bands who have done this well over the years that we admire such as Dissection and Gorgoroth, they kind of have what I would consider a Maiden style black metal sound.
As for what I listen to personally it varies day to day. There’s the few bands mentioned above I always go back to but I love all genres of music and it mostly depends on my mood what I decide to listen to. I naturally tend to gravitate towards darker more minor sounding music but I try not to limit what I listen to by listening to various genres of music. I love Beethoven, Arvo Part and Chopin, but also love listening to Tupac Shakur, Warren G and Three Six Mafia. I enjoy listening to old country music like George Jones, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams and Buck Owens and also love jazz artists like Charles Mingus, Fats Waller, Herbie Hancock, etc…
I’ve really been getting into Lustmord lately which is a sort of dark ambient artist. I’ve also been listening to lots of classic death metal and black metal albums I loved in my early years for inspiration for the next album including Death’s Symbolic, Nile’s album Annihilation of the Wicked, Gorgoroth’s Antichrist, Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane, and Dimmu Borgir’s album Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. So yea I try not to discriminate with what genres I listen to, but I definitely always end up listening to the same essential metal bands over and over again more than anything- Maiden, Motorhead, Sabbath, Gorgoroth, Dark Throne, Bathory, Metallica’s first three albums, Fauna, and a few more.
13.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Derek: Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview, and thanks to everyone who’s listened to our music or said a kind word.
Ian: Thanks for taking an interest in our music, stoked you enjoy it!