Random Rules: Cory Murchy of Minus The Bear
The shuffler: Cory Murchy, bassist of the progressive post-hardcore powerhouse Minus The Bear. The Seattle band is known for its intricate, crystalline melodies and sometimes prankish sense of humor—though its latest album, Planet Of Ice, is a dark, sober, gorgeous meditation on interpersonal politics, the emerging theocracy, and dangerous sex with strangers.
Tommy McCook & The Aggrovators, "A Gigantic Dub"
Cory Murchy: Tommy McCook from The Skatalites, one of the great tenor saxophone players of Jamaican music. He's really the godfather of a lot of that music. I'm kind of a big nut about all that stuff, actually. I just bought this, like, 30-disc Trojan box set. [Laughs.] So I've been listening to a lot of reggae. As a bass player, it's really inspiring. The music is so bass-heavy.
AVC: You can barely hear the bass on a lot of those early '60s recordings, though.
CM: Yeah, that's because there was just one mic in the middle of the room. But there's something kind of nice about that, too. There's this honesty about it, no overdubs. But I love the roots and dub stuff. I love the whole progression. It's such a cornerstone of hip-hop and rap: the bass and drums, and even some of the dub production.
AVC: You guys occasionally cite hip-hop in your interviews as well.
CM: We all listen to a lot of hip-hop, the good stuff and the bad stuff. You know, the guilty-pleasure stuff. [Laughs.] I think there are definitely times when we're like, "Oh, you know that one Jay-Z song? There's that breakdown that goes like this." We don't steal it, but we bring ideas from it.
Nelly Furtado, "Say It Right"
CM: [Laughs.] I didn't even know I had this on my iPod. I can honestly say I've never listened to it. I've got nothing against Nelly Furtado, but I think I'd prefer Nelly from St. Louis a little more.
Akron/Family, "Meek Warrior"
CM: Ah, this is good. This is one of those great albums to listen to when you're driving around at night. I'm not totally familiar with it; I just put it on every once in a while in the background, but I'm always floored by it.
AVC: What are some other good night-driving albums?
CM: One of my favorites, period, is Perfect From Now On by Built To Spill. That's the perfect driving-at-night music, or make-out music, or go-to-sleep music. [Laughs.] It fills many vague, wonderful voids.
Damian "Junior Gong" Marley, "We're Gonna Make It"
CM: Actually, this is kind of funny. I was trying to finish a song, I think it was "Double Vision Quest," on our new record, and I couldn't figure out what I was going to do at the end of it. We have a local station, KEXP, that has a reggae show every Saturday morning. I was listening to it right before I went to the studio, and a Damian Marley song came on. I was like, "That's the bassline!" So I kind of played around with it and made it work. Damian inspired me. [Laughs.]
Genesis, "Aisle Of Plenty"
CM: What can I say about this? We've got a couple friends who have said, "Your new stuff sounds like old Genesis or Peter Gabriel." I need to listen to it more, I guess.
AVC: Genesis wasn't an influence on Planet Of Ice?
CM: No. Some of us listened to a little bit of it, but we didn't throw ourselves into Genesis. Not that there's anything wrong with it.
AVC: Are there any prog albums from the '70s that did have some influence on Planet?
CM: One of the records I really got into, and that really jumped me into the whole prog world, was King Crimson's Larks' Tongues In Aspic. That record still slays me—the instrumentation and the breakdowns and the sheer brutalness of it. And everyone listened to [Yes'] Close To The Edge a lot, and Animals from Pink Floyd.
Whalebones, "Morning Man"
CM: This is a band from Seattle that are friends of ours. They play this kind of jammy, Grateful Dead-y, '70s guitar rock. They seem like they have so much fun onstage. Amy Blaschke, who sang on some of our records, is in the band. She's made records with [Minus drummer] Erin [Tate], and [Minus singer-guitarist] Jake [Snider] also recorded her. It's all family.
AVC: That's brought up a lot with Minus The Bear—the whole incestuous connection you have with other Seattle bands like These Arms Are Snakes and Pretty Girls Make Graves.
CM: Yeah. [Laughs.] I think we talk about that more in Seattle, so it's more in-your-face. There are a lot of towns that are the same way. Any place is going to have its handful of musicians who wind up playing together. That makes it kind of cool. But yeah, it does seem like we have a lot of that in Seattle.
The Helio Sequence, "Knots"
CM: They're going to be on tour with us soon, and I'm super-excited to watch those guys play every night. They're so good live, the fact that two guys can pump out so much music.
AVC: Minus The Bear likes touring with bands that don't sound anything like them.
CM: We all listen to such different kinds of music, it only makes sense to bring out different kinds of bands with us. It keeps it interesting. We don't want to listen—no offense to them—to some emo bands. We're inspired by musicians doing something different, and I think that shows in our music as well as the people we bring on tour. We're taking Subtle out with us soon, too, and we've taken P.O.S., a hip-hop act out of Minneapolis. People were really responsive to it. I think we're different enough and weird enough that people have to have an open mind.
AVC: In an old interview, you said you'd been listening to a lot of crust-punk like Nausea and Econochrist. Is that something you still pull out?
CM: Absolutely. I really like a lot of Econochrist, Los Crudos, Grimple, Logical Nonsense. I bring it out on tour with us, much to my bandmates' dismay. [Laughs.] Between the crust and the reggae that I listen to, I think they try to keep me away from driving as much as possible.