What are your earliest musical memories?
From years one through ten: an old orange mono record player in the living room on which my mother would play Count John McCormack albums. The Dubliners’ croaking ‘Weela Weela Waile’ – my introduction to the art of the murder ballad. My first purchase: Gary Glitter’s ‘I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am)’, bought from White’s Electrical in Enniscorthy. My father listening to Ceili House on Radio 1 and Live from the Grand Ole Opry on Radio Luxembourg. RTE Radio 2. The golden age of disco: Chic, Kool & the Gang. Blondie. The Stranglers. The Clash’s London Calling. The 2-tone label: The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter. Adam & the Ants.
Who or what were your musical influences growing up and why?
I was the youngest of five. I’d often sneak into the crypt of my elder brothers’ room and rifle through their records. The sleeves had as big an impact as the musical content. Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak and Live & Dangerous, Horslips’ The Tain, Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. I’d wonder: who are these freaks? They look… unsavoury.
Weirdly enough, I also remember messing around with side 2 of Bowie’s Heroes, the ambient side. I’d play it at the wrong speed and record myself speaking over the top into an old Sony tape recorder, a sort of early template for the spoken word/music recordings I’d do with the Revelator Orchestra.
Does music influence your writing?
It’s so integral to my writing it’s more the substance of it than an influence. Often music – or musicians – provide the subject matter.
Do you listen to music while writing, editing, etc.?
Rarely. Too distracting. Sometimes I will use music as reference, for atmosphere. If I’ve lost the spirit of a piece I’m working on, I might refer back to the recording that inspired it in order to get my head right again.
Is there one particular novel or piece of writing you wrote that was directly influenced by a piece of music?
My first novel John the Revelator was named after the Blind Willie Johnson recording of the old gospel standard. I discovered it on the Anthology of American Folk Music. The first scene I wrote for J the R, an end-of-the-world dream, was a direct response to a Montreal band called Godspeed You Black Emperor. I also remember listening to Arcade Fire’s Funeral and Mercury Rev’s Deserters Songs a lot. That feeling of melancholy memory.
My second book Shall We Gather at the River was also named after an old spiritual song. The soundtrack was darker: Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness On the Edge of Town, early Elvis. Also, I had the luxury of my own tailor-made soundtrack. Myself and my collaborators in the Revelator Orchestra were working on the accompanying album The Brotherhood of the Flood even as I was writing the book.
I’m now finishing a book of short stories, and for atmosphere I’ve been listening to retro electronic music (John Foxx, Tubeway Army), early hip-hop (particularly Timezone’s ‘World Destruction’) and Bowie’s brilliant Blackstar album.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
If you’ll forgive the shameless self-promotion, I’m obsessively listening to rough mixes of tracks being recorded for my first album under the Cursed Murphy banner, written with my main musical collaborator Dan Comerford, plus my live ensemble The Resistance (Rebecca, Tamara and Jasmin Gangnus and Kevin Dillon), and co-producer/engineer/co-conspirator Johnny Fox.
In terms of other people’s music: Ian Doyle aka The Man Whom’s stunner of an album The Dancer from the Dance. Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s The River Holds Its Breath. Johnny Fox’s Aguas. Basciville’s single ‘Post-Youth’. Frankenstein Bolts’ Aglow & Spark.
Musically, what’s your guilty pleasure (or is there such a thing)?
No such thing. I love hardcore punk, hip-hop, pop, folk, post-punk, be-bop. Gospel music. Funk. Blues. Electronica. Blaxploitation soundtracks. My all-time favourite song might be Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’.
Peter Murphy is a writer, spoken word performer, journalist and actor. He is the author of two novels, ‘John the Revelator’ and ‘Shall We Gather at the River’. He has released two albums with the Revelator Orchestra, ‘The Sounds of John the Revelator’ and ‘The Brotherhood of the Flood’. He is currently at work on his third book, and a third album under the name Cursed Murphy.