JAMES MURPHY Talks About His Brain Tumor, Upcoming DEATH Tribute Album

August 22, 2004

Renowned metal guitarist/producer James Murphy (ex-TESTAMENT, DEATH, OBITUARY) recently spoke to AbrasiveRock.com about his battle with a massive brain tumor with which he was diagnosed in August 2001 as well as his music-related activities and projects. Several excerpts from the interview follow:

Abrasive Rock: First, I would like to start off with your cancer treatment. How is that going right now?

James Murphy: "Well, they had an option after the surgery of doing radiation, but they decided not to do it because right after the surgery, immediately after the surgery they don't put you on any kind of radiation because, especially after a majorly invasive surgery like that, they want your body to heal before they put you on any radiation. They did put me on a medication right away, a medication that shrinks the tumor. After a couple months of [being on] that medication, they brought me back in to evaluate whether I should have radiation and just to see where I was at with it. I guess I was responding well enough to the medication that they felt that the radiation would be an excessive measure at that point. I am continuing to take that medication, I still take it and I will undoubtedly have to take it for the rest of my life."

Abrasive Rock: Is there a chance that [the cancer] could pop back up again?

James Murphy: "I suppose if I stop taking my medication, I suppose so, but I'm being monitored often enough that, were it to start again, they would probably [catch it]. There's also one, maybe two, but I think only one other medication that is good for this type of tumor, and they would probably switch medications to see if the other medication would help. If it didn't, if they exhausted both of those possibilities and none of them were helping, they would undoubtedly proceed with the radiation. Just a real focused radiation. But at this point I have not had to have any radiation and my doctors feel that, just going by my last MRI, my neurologist feels like I am responding well enough to just continue this course of treatment. He feels that I could probably carry on with my life without ever having the radiation unless for some reason this medicine was to stop working."

Abrasive Rock: [Regarding the upcoming DEATH tribute album which James is spearheading] Are you trying to keep it in the style of DEATH or are you allowing some artistic license?

James Murphy: "Yeah, there's some artistic license, but we're not talking hip-hop mixes here. We're definitely not talking anything like that. Basically, the guys that are playing on this are guys that are influenced by DEATH. They came up listening to the music. Everybody on the tribute is somebody who was influenced by Chuck as they came up as a young musician. Most of these guys, they've known these songs for a long time. Jason Bittner of SHADOWS FALL, he knew the songs he played on for quite some time. Rather than ape what was originally on there, I'm allowing and encouraging these guys, who are well known in their own right, to play the songs how they feel them; if they were in DEATH, what they would do. For the most part, so far none of them have completely snubbed the original performances, not at all. They are definitely incorporated. Before they ever put their style into it at all, they learned what was on the CD lick for lick, riff for riff, beat for beat. I personally couldn't imagine that anyone would want to hear a straight copy, because what do you end up with when you make just a straight copy? I think it's something less than the original, always. Literally just trying to copy note for note exactly the way every drum fill was done, the way every guitar solo was done, you end up with something that's like 'You know what? That's already been recorded by the original line-up.' It would be very pointless I think. It'd be pointless and stupid and there's no way in hell that it would be as good as the original, I think. It would just be aping it and any monkey can ape something. This is more about people who were influenced by Chuck showing how his influence affected them and how it influenced them. I was influenced by Randy Rhoads, but I don't sound like Randy Roads. I was influenced by quite a few other players that I don't sound like at all. These guys were all influenced by Chuck, but they don't necessarily sound like Chuck, or they don't sound like Sean Reinert or Richard Christy or etc. etc. Gene Hoglan or Chris Reifert or Bill Andrews. They don't sound like them just because they were influenced by them. For me, every musician I was influenced by, it had a certain effect on my playing, but it didn't make me ape them, and I think it's more of a fitting tribute to show how Chuck's music or how the music of DEATH influenced these guys to come up with their own [music, and] how it influenced their style, not how well they can mimic it. I don't know, do you agree or not? I think it would be ludicrous to just ape the song."

Read the rest of James Murphy's interview with AbrasiveRock.com at this location.

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