How could anyone ever forget the name Gurf Murlix? I didn’t ask him if that’s his real name or not. What do you think? There were tons of other questions I didn’t ask him either because these are supposed to be Quick Q and A’s. Gurf is a member of both the Austin Music Hall of Fame and the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. How many people can say that? Probably only one. Gurf has been around the musical block for a few decades and has played, recorded, and produced the best of them. Imagine touring with Warren Zevon. Playing with Lucinda Williams for eleven years. Playing a regular gig with Ian McLagan from The Faces. The list goes on and on so I better stop or the list will be longer than the Quick Q and A.
I strongly suggest you check out Gurf’s website and learn more about what he’s up to and get your rear in gear and go to see him when he hits your town!
I have to say— I love the title of your new recording, Gurf Morlix Finds the Present Tense. I suppose that title can mean a number of different things. What do you want to convey by it?
Well, there’s the obvious pun, but these ARE very trying times, for lots of people. I think a lot of things are about to come to a tipping point soon. It’s not going to be easy, and I shudder to think what things will be like in 50 years. I’m talking about things like population density and availability of water. And the cost of travel. There will be problems. Bigger is not necessarily better.
This is your first CD of original songs in about four years. Did you put these songs aside as you worked on your last CD, Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream, which you’ve said was an important record for you to make in order to honor Blaze’s music.
I needed to make Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream. I did it for Blaze, who never got the success he wanted. He never even got to tour. He only played in the cities he lived in. Dedicating two years to making that album, and then touring behind it, gave me two extra years to make sure the songs for Finds the Present Tense were as good as I could possibly make ’em.
How would you describe this new CD–does it depart in style from your other original albums?
Well, I managed to get the body count down to about two, on this album. I’m somewhat proud of that. The songs are basically in the same style. Maybe they’re a bit more personal. There is a lot more Hammond B3 organ on this album. I love the sound of that.
Tell me about the cover photo–you with your head in your hands, some sticks of dynamite and a ticking clock. Without even listening to a note of what’s within, one would get the immediate sensation that this album is pretty dark. Is there anything hopeful within? Is there the possibility for hope for any of us?
My songs are often perceived as dark, by a lot of people, but I don’t think they are. I think there’s a message in them, and the message is that life is a short movie, so it should be valued fully. You can’t afford to wait for tomorrow. Tell those wayward souls you love them, now.
Back to Blaze Foley. For those of us who didn’t get to experience him, how would you describe him and his music?
Blaze was a very soulful and passionate singer songwriter. Champion of the downtrodden. Friend of the Working Girl. Truth seeker. Atmospheric disturbance. Tender caring person with a big ol’ bag of deep-rooted troubles stuffed down into one of his pockets. Blaze could cut right through the bullshit, or he could be the cause of it. The funniest person I ever met, and also the most tragic. He never wrote a dishonest word in any of his songs. Just the plain, unvarnished truth.
How did you first meet Lucinda Williams? Did you have an inkling from the beginning that the two of you would be musically tied for a good long while?
We met in Los Angeles, and started playing together. I loved her songs, and it seemed to work really well. For a while. After 11 years, I realized that making music doesn’t have to be an ordeal, and I chose to move on.
Do you have any horror stories to relay about your early gigging career?
I’ve probably seen it all. The good, the bad, and the weird. Playing in front of thousands of people. Playing in front of no one. Fights, riots, you name it. Fights on stage! Things seem a little smoother these days.
You’ve produced a number of terrific artists, including Slaid Cleaves, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Tom Russell. What’s the most challenging aspect of producing? Do you need to find new and different ways to approach each project or do albums just evolve during the recording process?
I’ve been really lucky to be able to work with a lot of songwriters who I consider to be among the best in the world. Every artist is different, and I feel that every album I make for these great artists is therefore unique. The artist, and the songs dictate the direction of the project.
Do you plan to tour extensively with this new CD? Any other plans for 2013?
Yeah. I’m planning to play anywhere anyone wants to hear me. I’m starting in Texas in March, and then it’s on to California in April. Plans are afoot for a midwest tour, and a Northeast tour. I’ll get to Canada at some point, and will go over to Europe and the UK later in the year. I want people to hear these songs.
I am finishing up producing an album for Noel McKay and Brennen Leigh. They’re from Austin, and they write and sing and play amazingly well. I’m anxious for people around the world to get to hear them.
There will be more production work coming. I’m hanging’ on to my day job, in case this touring thing doesn’t work out.