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A translucent, transplanetary elevator to explore musical horizons [2003-08-18]

Former Estradasphere drummer David Murray didn’t sit down and do nothing after he left the Santa Cruz outfit. He moved back to Los Angeles and besides playing with friends in for instance Daedelus he also started his ambitious project The Deserts Of Träun of which Part III is about the be released (they will be delivered from the factory next week, the 3rd week of August). Dave had a lot to tell about the whole project and some more:

m[m]: Just to get that out of our way: why did you leave Estradasphere?
Dave: I've been getting this a lot lately... Basically people in and around the band the band didn't like how I handled business, or whatever badly needed business I was trying to get started for the group. I took Esphere very seriously until then and it basicly dominated my life. I did not like how the group seemed to want to run things, and after a lot of drama i realized i was not interested in a hobby that controlled my life and made it hard to pay the bills. I had to reclaim my independence, and that was very fulfilling. But, the main reason I let go of it was that I didn't like being on tour so often, especialy the way we toured. My body and mind just didn't agree with it, and I preferred to conserve my energy and put it into a lifestyle that I believed in and preferred. Also, the music was not as appealing once Esphere felt like jamming more. Alot of people think that this change happened after I left, but it was definitely a change that was happening during my stay.

m[m]: After you left the first ‘project’ was a European tour with Daedelus, Ben Wendel played on your album, will you play on their albums (or did you already)
Dave: No, i haven’t. Alfred (I mean the electric DJ gentleman Daedelus) meant to record some crazy drumming of mine but we never got around to it. Ben doesn't use me for his projects except for his up coming debut of Tantric Sax. Alfred did play double bass parts on Träun as well

m[m]: Would you ever really commit to a band permanently again?
Dave: Maybe, it depends. I'm not interested in a band to 'make it'... I am more interested in recording, composing and teaching to be honest. I don't care so much for being a rock star or being a 'performer' although I still plan to perform here and there.... I enjoy my independence as it has opened up all sorts of creativity and freedom.

m[m]: With music like this, chances are slim you can make a living out of your music. What do you do to make ends meet?
Dave: I run a Russian Bride Trafficing Internet site... No, I teach drum and didjiridu lessons, play piano for beginning ballet classes (which is still a mystery to me) and work for a habitat restoration company which likes to fire and rehire me all the time.

m[m]: So you started this project The Deserts Of Träun. How did the Träun story come about?
Dave: Well, I started a jazzgroup in high school, standards and other boring stuff. Joe Wilis, who also spilled a lot of blood over this project in the past, used to play a melody on the Fender Rhodes that triggered this image of Tron from the 80’s sci-fi classic descending upon an alien desert landscape in a translucent, trans-planetary elevator. Sort of random. I told Joe about it and he liked the idea. We subjected the song to ‘jazz form’ which came down to: play the part, solo, play the part again, end. No further imagination condensed upon it until we wrote the elf-theme, a battle and a princess theme. Suddenly we had a loose-knit story and we also realized that jazz wasn't everything.

m[m]: Joe Willis doesn't play on the album himself, how come?
Dave: Joe chose not to be involved in the slightest bit. My understanding is that he thinks I'm crazy for wanting to re-do this project. Perhaps he's right, but I just thought it was such a good piece of music that I wanted to make a professional product out of it. He is more focused on new material, and like most people he has little time for projects. In the end I'm glad i did it alone, because I learned a lot and I had room to write new material which ended up giving Träun something fresh.

m[m]: Can you give a brief synopsis of the story?
Dave: Hmmm, well, basicly two worlds collide. One of an evil and lonely BlackMetal emperor named Träun who is pirating h2o from vulnerable planets in hopes to build the biggest health spa in the galaxy. His terrible affluence leaves only deserts of these once water bearing planets. The protaganist whom discovered an ancient trans-planetary elevator system accidentaly/propheticly - depending on who you ask, becomes involved in saving one of many newly desertized planets. Betrayal of a brief love affair with the rescued enigmatic princess delivers the protaganist to a much grander and darker plot that sees him only the receeding edges of an unforgiving mire . The Detective Mel Function, and his sidekick Gary emerge from a short retirement to seek out and rescue the slowly sinking protagonist and together do away with Träun and his effects over the galaxy..

That should be good enough... it’s OK to be confused for now, just enjoy the music as it is with the intention of a story.

m[m]: Why did you start with part 3?
Dave: Originaly out of frustration, I set out to modestly boil down all the original material that we recorded in 1995-’97 into one project. I was also willing to do away with any chronological sense to a story since I had little hope that it would come off right. Once i made the demo and began working in the studio I realized that in the end the order of the music fit the third part of the previously abandoned story like a glove. So, it really just chose itself in the end. Even though i knew it was quite George Lucas of me to release things backwards.

m[m]: Will there be albums for 1 and 2?
Dave: As long as i am a musician and able to record. Most of it is written.

m[m]: Would the other 2 parts be very different musically?
Dave: Yes and no. Because the trilogy is related I am repeating some important themes with variations. But there will be tons of new stuff particular to the parts.

m[m]: Do you want to explore specific musical styles there?
Dave: Yes, I will explore other styles. So far, flamenco, jazz, a jungle/drumset samba battle, twisted blackmetal R&B, evil odd time hip hop, and more symphonic layering and circumscribed tetrohedral geometic polyrhythmic pyramid stuff. I am applying some Meshuggah theory to a slow Middle-Eastern classical sounding part as well. And what I'm most anxious for is the blackmetal opera epic at the end of Träun 2 which I plan to sing... ("Paul, can you turn up the auto tune")

m[m]: Some parts on Part III seem to ask for big orchestral parts and such, did you feel limited by budget?
DaveYes, that would be nice. Pro Tools helps make it happen for us poor musicians. All orchestra parts were done with one violin and keyboards and a little double-bass. I felt mostly limited in writing ability. First in my knowledge of writing music and secondly in my lack of equipment to help me compose orchestral sections and all the rest. I had no sequencer or midi set up in the writing stage, so basicly what is recorded is what I was able to play live on my shitty keyboard by memory.

m[m]: I can imagine especially arranging the themes is pretty hard, especially as a drummer. Did you have any schooling in melodic and harmonic instruments?
Dave: I had no training, I hate being a beginner at things, it’s so boring. But for this I had no choice. I took a couple of lessons from Joe Willis and John Whooley for some basics. I also have little keyboard skills. Basicly I just started composing/orchestrating and hoping I would do something good. Also, I think it’s possible to make basic melodic or harmonic ideas sound good if you do something more on the rhythmic end of things. The hardest thing was re-arranging this project, from its original part tonally.

m[m]: Did the music evolve from jams or did you have specific parts and sounds in your head?
Dave: The original music, besides that of guitarist Mike Johnson’s stuff, was co-written in rehearsals, with some personal compositions. I like to think we played through the parts and instead of 'jammed' them. Jamming would have meant too much improvisation and we wanted mostly concrete parts. As far as the new material, it was all written and worked out on paper (the drums) or my keyboard

m[m]: Where and how did you find all musicians?
Dave: I grew up in Los Angeles, so I have a pool of friends from which I can call people for session work. If I was in Santa Cruz still, I'm sure most the musicians would have been members of Estradasphere. Paul and I handled as much as possible in order to not put too much time into other musicians. Ben Wendel (sax, flute) was the best to work with, he's so fucking talented and easy to work with and has a bassoon! I remember during his session on the Greetings From The Lilac Moon flute solo, I had to do some Santa Cruz hippie flopping dance moves in order to direct what i wanted out of him. Amir also was in a high school band of mine and is great on violin reading my fucked up score. Lewis Kijowski is one of the most talented guitarists and musicians I know. Also a long time hesher friend of mine. I recorded Kevin Kmetz on a whim in Santa Cruz and he rips on all string instruments. Anyways all the musicians were friends of mine. I also have to give credit to Mike Johnson who played all the metal parts perfectly before we shit-canned his tracks because of poor distortion tone. Jason Schimmel (guitar, Estradasphere saved the day.

m[m]: Is this a 'Dave Murray' record or a 'Desert Of Träun' record?
Dave: Well, besides Estradasphere I am virtualy unheard of and most people will think: “hey the guitarist of Iron Maiden made a solo album”. So i guess it is titled under a "project' of which it is definitely a Dave Murray project because I directed it.

m[m]: Who are your biggest musical inspirations? What inspired you to make music and your broad musical taste?
Dave: These days the biggest inspiration rhythmically is Meshuggah, especially Fredrik Thordendal’s Special Defects album. Mats Morgan (drummer, Mats/Morgan) is an inspiration as well. I also still find inspiration from Cynic, Death, Dimmu Borgir and others. Non metal, ummm, classical music (especially non western), Basil Poledorius (Conan soundtrack composer, mb). I also admit to like Phillip Glass a lot. Estradasphere opened the door for me to do multi-genre stuff. Before them I was pure metal. Nothing in particular inspires me to do music, I just do it because its what I love to do.

m[m]: Will the artwork be like a cartoon of the story or 'just' some snapshots?
Dave: There is no artistic accompaniment for this release. this is sort of a pre-release to the bigger project (Träun 1, 2 and 3 released together) which in one way or another will have artistic accompaniment. Music will always be the central artistic voice. Also, Colby Bluth, the main artist for Träun, plans to release his own 4 minute animated trailer hopefully late next year.

m[m]: Will you take this 'on the road'?
Dave: No, unless someone wants to invest, and loose. there is no market to support the cost of such a production live. I would like too though..

m[m]: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Dave: Yes, not that i have the money to do them. The very next project will be with Mike Johnson (old friend and a co-author on Träun). Almost everything metal that comes out of Mike is golden. All of his demo’s are in the same box that Träun was, collecting dust. We are hoping to record early next year and put out some good death metal. The type of riffage is fairly ’90's, Death/Carcass, Cannible Corpsey (sic). The drumming will be a mix of fusion and metal and the bass will be interesting as well.

In the works are a faux black metal band of which I cannot pronounce the name, it is so evil. I plan to do the vocals and keyboards, along with guitarist RICE510 (he painted the sleeve for Estradasphere’s Silent Elk... EP. I'd like to do some complicated black metal/orchestral stuff as well, but for now I don't care what they sound like as long as i get to call the album Endemic to the Cave with a gothic cover of a Mortiis looking guy peering from within his cave with a Casio Keyboard in hand..

Tim Smolens (Estradasphere) and Trey Spruance (Secret Chiefs 3) have some ideas that may involve me and John from Cephalic Carnage doing metal gypsy music, but that is so far just an idea. Anyways there are more projects backed up that i can mention here: lots of hope!

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