From the land of Guinness and leprechauns hails another legendary creation – by the name of Murdock. With vocalist Aidan Cunningham’s contagious synthesis of sinister whispers and cutting screams, Ronan Nolan’s rousing mastery on the drum skins and Rob Powderly’s ever-present towering bass lines, the Irish trio are hell-bent on chaos. Their debut ‘Dead Lung’ is ready-made hardcore gold.
To find out more about the album, Murdock vocalist, guitarist and producer Aidan Cunningham recently took some time out to speak to Already Heard in detail about ‘Dead Lung’. Cunningham goes in great detail about the writing of each song on ‘Dead Lung’ and how they came together.
1. ‘Deer Noises’
This was the last song that we wrote in the sessions for this album and it is the one that I feel the closest connection to, both musically and lyrically. I feel it is the best iteration of what Murdock is. I hear how I want us to sound in my head and this is my favourite representation of what we do. In saying that, I am also prone to falling in and out of love with our songs and aside from the fact that we play them live over and over again, I recorded and mixed the album, so from writing through to final master, I must have heard these songs a couple of thousand times each and ‘Deer Noises’ still excites me. Lyrically it is pretty dark like the rest of the album. I have been doing some deep thinking about the nature of reality and how it’s easy to fall into the idea that there is a purpose to life and that everything has been designed by a supreme being, but when you really look and realise that we are all just atoms, that time doesn’t exist and that we are an insignificant spec of rock in the universe and that we can only perceive an infinitesimally small percentage of what is reality through our limited senses, then there is no need for religion or “god”. That may seem bleak, but to me it is the most positive realisation that I have had in my life. The very fact that there is no “purpose” to life and that we are simply a biological process, makes all the good things in life more special because the chances of “you” being “you” aren’t even quantifiable by statistics, but yet, hear you are reading this piece. I don’t like to just be blunt and say “f*** your god and f*** this thing”, I like to think I am discussing the topic eloquently, in amongst all the noise. The whole album pretty much follows the theme of “you are lucky to be alive”, and time spent waiting to get a place in the ‘afterlife’ is a waste of time. Go live life now.
2. I Am Not A Continent
Like ‘Deer Noises’, the song title has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrical theme of the song. This title came from us saying that our drummer Ronan (Nolan) didn’t just look Asian, but that he was indeed Asia personified. The song title was his response. This song is pretty damn hard to figure out on first listen and it sounds like the bastard child of indecision and hatred. As complex as it is, Ronan nailed it on the first take in the studio and because we have spent so much time working on it and tweaking it, it’s probably one of my favourite songs to play live because it just spews out of my hands without having to think about it on stage, thus it is very cathartic. Lyrically, this song is me telling myself to get a handle on my general anxiety disorder and how I find it very hard to do things without over-thinking and weighing up all the potential reasons why it might not work. It is a reminder to myself to keep pushing myself and get out of comfortable situations and to try new things. I am probably my number one own worst enemy at stopping me from doing things and this song reminds me to shut up and do it. “I’m lighting a damp fuse, I’ll burn my boat so I can never make it home”. Although the song name came about from joking, it serves as a reminder to me that it is okay to fail, once I keep trying.
3. What You Don’t Like, What You Don’t Know
One of the earliest songs that we wrote for ‘Dead Lung’. It is such a fun song to play live, loads of groove, loads of half-time headbang moments and quite an anthemic chorus. Picking the track order for an album is always a very hard thing to do. It is like trying to line up all your children in the correct order, there are always gonna be favourites, right? ‘WYDL,WYDN’ was always gonna be the third song, it just has that “okay we have got some of the crazy shit out of the way, now let’s show what else we can do” vibe. This song is about people not appreciating what they have and the more that technological comforts enhance our lives, the more our appreciation of how lucky we are to be alive goes out the window. When someone’s biggest complaint of the day is something trivial like “my new phone sucks, I hate my life”…I’m sorry?, your magical pocket device that can get you any information that you need in an instant that communicates with the rest of the world through invisible magic Gandalf wizard signals, and that has more processing power than the computer that sent Apollo to the moon, is not good enough for you? I distance myself from people like that.
A purposeful misspelling of the word ‘Irk’ – to be very annoyed. The closest Murdock have ever come to a political song. The way I see it, the higher up your physical viewpoint of the world is, the easier it is to see that all the boarders that separate us (Countries, Race, Religion etc) are all make believe invisible boarders that are in our head. Injustice frustrates me so much, and when people die for reasons that aren’t even real, I just can’t handle it and I write angry music. The entire song developed off of an interesting rhythmic pattern that Ronan was jamming on the kit. None of the riffs ever existed previously to writing the song, they were made to fit around the insanity. Very organic and spontaneous. Something that we do a lot in writing! I also damaged my arm from recording the guitar to this song as I was doing it all in a down-picking fashion and I had to stop recording for 4 days. It is a very intense riff and I actually needed physical therapy to get back to normal. That is dedication!
Another one of my personal favourites on the album. This is the biggest departure from anything we have done before and I believe it is our slowest and straightest tempo song to date. This was one of my favourite songs to mix on the record too as there was a lot of space for me to get weird with it. Two distorted bass guitars, loads of weird delays and spooky reverbs and drums that I recorded at the amazing Grouse Lodge Studios.
FUN FACT #1: Michael Jackson lived at that studio for 7 months just before he died, and we were buzzing hard on the idea of him using the same mic pre-amps as us.
FUN FACT #2: No digital reverb was used on this song, it’s all the careful placement of room mics capturing that amazing huge live room. We are very into the idea of recording being an actual recording of a specific moment in time in a particular room, not a representation of a song made perfect by a computer. Not one note on the whole album has been dragged into time or quantized by the computer. It is played entirely as you hear it, by humans.
6. 51 West, 95th St.
A chance to rest your ears before the chaos kicks off again. Before we started writing the record, I knew I wanted to have a smooth-jazz New York style song on the record because…why not? I don’t really identify with albums that are at the same intensity from start to finish. You can’t perceive loud without quiet, you can’t perceive fast without slow and contrast makes the heavy hit harder and the quiet feel deeper. This idea is a huge part of Murdock’s sound and is the reason we are so convoluted sounding. I played double bass and Saxophone on this song and we covered the drum skins in handkerchiefs and used brushes for that soft jazz sound. The name of the song is a secret that I’m sure only an avid 90’s Christmas movie fan (or a google search) will spot.
7. Brain Face
Aaaaaaaand we’re off again. Another live favourite of mine because it just simply kicks peoples heads in with their own feet. I think we wrote this song in twenty minutes in one jam session and that was that. It’s just over two minutes of twisting riffs with a punk attitude. The name of this song came from the face that we all made when trying to nail the opening riff. You know…when your face shuts off because you are concentrating so hard, sometimes your tongue hangs out a bit. It was the working title of the song and it stuck. Lyrically it is about finding beauty in chaos. Making the most of bad situations and how I find comfort in writing about dark and unsettling things. It is my cathartic style of writing. ‘Here are all the the things that worry, annoy or interest me and I am lucky to be alive to experience them’ That is pretty much the whole album theme right there. The key line in this song “I’m not scared to die, I’m just scared not to be alive” is a motto that I try and live by every day.
8. The Signal In The Noise
The song was initially an experiment to see how many different ways I could present a few simple chords and riffs by constantly shifting measure and structure. It is a relatively simple Murdock song to play, but a hard song to remember how to play, if that makes sense. It feels like about 8 songs at once, but weirdly it also has our most “pop” structure of an identifiable verse and chorus. Did I just say pop? We probably listen to more pop than heavy bands in the van so that has something to do with it. The theme builds upon the same idea in other songs, that it is very easy to be complacent and just accept what is thought and taught to be true, simply because that is the way it has always been, but if you actively look and question things, you can find some meaning buried in all the ‘noise’. My most hated phrase of all time is “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. I say “let’s take it apart, figure out how it works and then let’s see how many new ways it can be put back together again”. Also this song reminds us again (Incase you weren’t paying attention for the first 7 songs) that even though time isn’t real, you only have a very limited amount of it left to live your life. “Each tick closer to the grave” – while that may sound negative, it is a positive assertion to make each second count. If you are aware of the “now” then each second has more value.
9. Leave Me Here For The Crows
A flirtation with melody and sadness. This first section of this song sounds lonely to me. I always find it easier and more natural to write dark lyrics and cold dark guitar parts. I guess negativity is a stronger emotion and evokes a greater response when poked. The title is actually a line taken from the song ‘And With Her Came The Birds’ by Cult of Luna, which is my most cherished piece of audio to have ever been recorded. To me, ‘Crows’ is about being aware of the value of things. Similarly to “What you don’t like…”, it is about appreciating small things that you are lucky enough to have in your life and it doesn’t matter what it “cost” once it has value to you. I feel writing in Murdock gives me a certain “artistic licence” to say what I want. “Time spent slowly dying, living worthless lives” isn’t typically something I would say to someone if they asked me what I thought most people do with their lives, but if I didn’t say what I needed to say, then I am not being artistically true to myself.
10. Old Blood Dead Lung
I wrote this song in between our previous release and starting to work consciously on a new album which would become ‘Dead Lung’. Our old bassist had left the band, we weren’t sure if we could continue and even then we weren’t sure how to go about it. This song was born from the feeling that If I didn’t have music in my life, I would not feel complete. Music is integral to my own identity, and the fear of that stopping would figuratively kill me. The whole song twists around this idea that a boy could be created out of all the right parts, an “automaton” if you will, but If he doesn’t have all the parts he will never feel complete “A dead lung that just wont move, a boy with the world to prove”.
A term that I devised to represent the feeling of not knowing how to get words out of my head and on to paper. An active surgery to remove them from my mind, or a ‘Verbalectomy’ if you will. Not just a case of writers block, but a doubting of my own ability to articulate myself. Much like ‘I Am Not A Continent’, it is me constantly doubting myself and fearing all the possible outcomes. I’m the kind of guy who worries about whether or not we will be able to find parking at the venue, instead of enjoying the fact that I am on the way to play a show. This is probably our least chaotic and technical fast song. It’s a pretty straight, stomping melodic hardcore song that reminds me a bit of Modern Life Is War. It also has some half time drops that have made people pregnant in the crowd*. (*may not be true)
An instrumental song to represent all the dark days I have had since the day I was born. There are two chords in the whole song that repeat and drone, all to make the atmosphere more tense. I’m not going to lie to you, this song won’t be used in an advertisement for health insurance. This song was recorded in the same session as ‘Narrowcasting’ at Grouse Lodge. We wanted to capture the room shaking from the drums and make it sound as big, real and as close to the end of the world as we could. Incase you hadn’t noticed, I treat Murdock as my mental health vessel. I get all my worries and fears out in the songs and I’m actually a really happy balanced person because of it.
My fear of not knowing what happens when I take the next step, can stop my feet from leaving the ground in the first place. ‘Monographia’ is the last track on the album and it was always going to be “the closing track”. A sad lonely and dark way to end it all. We initially recorded the drums for this, packed everything up and then realised that we had left out one snare hit from a fill, so we went back and recorded the whole song again, because I knew that every time I heard it, it would kill me that we accidentally left it out and I would end up hating the song. I’m really glad we re-recorded it and I love the atmosphere of the song. I recorded the drums in a very different fashion on this song, using more room mics than direct mics and I am really happy with the result. I think throughout the album, there were nine different drum kit set-ups to capture the various different styles and mini-sections in songs. I also got to play some gospel organ in this song and that Is what I love about being in Murdock, we have a freedom to put in anything we want.
‘Dead Lung’ by Murdock is out now on Basick Records.