A CONVERSATION WITH: MURRAY A. LIGHTBURN
Most folks know Murray A. Lightburn as the fearless leader of Canadian indie rockers, The Dears. Here’s a fun fact for you though: for the last 2 years he has channeled all his energy into his goth-pop/rock solo album Mass:Light which was released this past August.
This album is available on all the regular avenues as well as on limited edition vinyl. In addition, 20 lucky fans who were eager enough to pre-order their vinyl copy are also in possession of a shirt off Lightburn’s back. Yep, you heard me correctly, Lightburn included a pre-worn shirt in 20 random pre-ordered packages.
Mass:Light was released on Ting Dun, a label started up by The Dears. Ting Dun prides themselves in making sure that fans have the closest possible connection with their favourite artists. Example? Other than the t-shirt giveaway, each copy of Mass Light is silkscreened, numbered and signed by Lightburn himself.
Take a gander at the video for the album’s premier single “Motherf***ers” here.
Murray was awesome enough to take the time to answer some questions I had about his decision to go solo, Ting Dun’s connection to its fans, and also his disdain for digital video. He also talks about how good (and bad) finding complete solitude was for him during the entire process:
What motivated you to release a solo album?
Truthfully, in the beginning, I was only motivated to make it. Suddenly two years went by and it almost felt like I did nothing but obsess over these recordings. In the end, I had been away on another planet trying to earn the respect of Natalia and our two kids. They are my only reason for doing anything. Actually releasing it is a tribute to them.
For anyone that hasn’t heard your solo stuff before, how would you describe your sound to them? What can they expect?
That’s always a difficult question. I made a rock’n'roll record using only electronic instruments, programs, and sequences. I would spend days sculpting one sound at a time on analog synthesizers or programming some ridiculous nonsense. But I still wanted it to feel rock’n'roll. I recorded things over and over and over until it finally sounded right and that was usually when I was drunk enough, sometimes blind drunk. There are tracks I don’t even remember but there they are, recorded. I drank an obscene about of booze while making this record. And I was alone all the time. In fact, I had never felt so completely lonesome. Apart from the strings and brass (which I still arranged) I made every bloody sound by myself with no one else around. I wanted to make a truly solo recording. And I became so determined, somehow, to finish it. I chased sounds from my dreams and my nightmares — something that should have been a waste of time. And yet that’s what I did, day-in, day-out for over 12hrs, daily. I shudder just thinking about it. When I hit peak madness, Adrian [Popovich] offered to mix it and thank fucking heaven. And he used everything I recorded, too. He never tried to “put his stamp” all over it or try to re-arrange anything or drown it all kinds of crap effects. It’s a gentlemanly mix, nailed down tight. He’s got a golden ear with killer fundamentals and he respected what I was trying to do, always. To my grave, I am indebted to him. His balance of everything renders a sound that is 100% M.A.L. and absolutely no one else. In that, one can expect perfection.
What gave you the idea to do the ‘shirt off your back’ giveaway?
Natalia, I believe, is sick of those shirts. And I reckon I could use a new signature shirt. Anyway, she gave a couple dozen of them to goodwill without my knowledge. Yet I still have a couple dozen more of them, and even more in storage in England. It seemed like a fun and funny thing to do, not to mention fitting; to get rid of them this way. I believe this project might be a new beginning for me. Maybe I’ll get some new shirts to go with it and at the same time offer the old ones as a memento to anyone who might give a toss.
I really dig Ting Dun’s intention of making the connection between artist and fans as direct as possible. Can you tell me more about that?
I’m lucky enough to be a part of something that has a small worldwide audience on which I can try to build something more meaningful. At this stage in my “career,” this kind of “move” makes a lot of sense. It’s not novel. Mostly, like many before me and millions after me, I’ve had utterly lame experiences with labels that are almost always run by a sociopath surrounded by half-wits. I still can’t believe some of the “agreements” I’ve signed, some of the “accountings” I’ve seen, and some of the heaping piles of dung I’ve swallowed in the name of putting out a fucking record. I’m bored with all of it, really, and none of this should be news anyone. While I remain in “show business,” the music industry at large has very little to do with me, my family, the music, or the audience. If I can even attempt to operate remotely outside it even a little bit, and make a living making art, well, then: I must. I never actively sought a record deal for this project. In my mind, I always knew that I would find a way to almost literally put a record directly from my hands into the hands of the audience. Art always starts out personal, instinctive and immediate and then becomes completely commercial and overcooked by the time the barcode is scanned. I think Ting Dun might be trying to explore some guerilla type of option that doesn’t entirely strip away that personal aspect when it comes delivering the work to the audience. We’re not the first, won’t be the last.
Who’s idea was it to shoot the video for “MotherF—ers” on 16mm?
What kind of question is that, anyway? This entire BS is my idea… There’s no one else here! Seriously, I love film. Still, motion picture, 120, 35, 16, super 8, instant; I love it all. Not a huge fan of the didge. Film is king and anyone who thinks otherwise needs an intervention. I’m sorry but I had to say it.
What’s next on your agenda?
Work, work, and more work. And dreams/nightmares. And work.
To pick up a copy of Mass:Light, visit his website here or pick up a copy at your local record store!