Ronan Chris Murphy makes an art form out of bucking the industry norm of producers and mixers finding a single niche and sticking to it. One look at the veteran producer/mixers studio itinerary over the last year makes it clear he has no intention of narrowing down his options. Murphy (also known as R. Chris Murphy) worked with R&B singer Jon Day, the Santa Barbara modern rock/punk band Ike (featuring members of Dishwalla), the alt. pop band St. Friday and did vocal tracks for R&B singer Anita Brigante. He also produced the Swedish band Yellow Fever, whose -Smash Mouth-meets-Ricky Martin- vibe is hot on the charts in Scandinavia and South America, as well as the Sheryl Crow-like Kerry Lauder Band in Seattle.
Over the years, Murphys resume has also boasted the producing and mixing of string quartets, chamber music, the 2000 fusion project for Bozzio-Levin-Stevens (Situation Dangerous), Chucho Valdes and mixing and recording numerous albums for King Crimson. -I have an insanely diverse client base, he says, -and I have actively pursued that and feel that I can bring what I learn from one project into the next situation which is totally different, offering a fresh perspective that some producers might not have. If I do a lot of chamber music for a while, then I need to do some extreme metal. If Im doing progressive rock intensely for a length of time, Ill try a 4/4 acoustic folk project next. I find the diversity keeps me sane, but it allows me to bring a unique approach to the next project I do.-
One of the unique aspects of Murphys career is the effortless switch-offs between working with famous rock veterans and newly signed or even unsigned artists who strike his fancy. His involvement with Yellow Fever is a perfect example of the latter. He met the bands manager in France while doing another project, heard a great demo and offered to help develop the project, which has spawned two hit singles. Working with new artists allows Murphy a chance to offer up his experience and help educate his charges about both music production and the business in general.
-The most exciting part is the work we did before getting into the studio, just getting the songs right, working with them on song structure, making sure theyre playing just right before [recording],- he says. -I do a lot of co-writing with these kinds of artists, basically sitting down each time and asking, -What are you?- And if all they say is that they want to emulate this or that hit theyve heard, Im not interested. I want to help them strive for a special vision. For me, that either involves literally writing or rewriting songs with the band or helping them define their approach. Once all thats down, itıs easy to go in and record and mix.-
With veteran artists like Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin and Steve Stevens, Murphy recognizes his role as defining a new creative vision, looking critically at the past and figuring out some new writing and production possibilities that will keep the oldies-but-goodies moving forward. That trios previous recording, before Situation Dangerous, was, in Murphys opinion, a monster project but lacking focus. -So I asked them, why make this new one? Whats new and original? How can we make this one more cohesive and enjoyable? I let them stretch out, but its not just a free-for-all jam session. Its more orchestrated and defined. With their combined history, they hardly need education. They simply needed to know their options.-
In the past year, Murphy has expanded his scope by starting his own company, Veneto West (venetowest.com), which handles his music production and mixing careers, in addition to general artist management, consulting and helping composers with film placement for their original material. -Whats exciting for me is not only to work on so many different kinds of projects, but also be literally all over the map geographically, he says. -I love sitting down with the artists and just finding out what makes them tick. If theyve got something unique to offer, chances are I will want to work with them.-