Interviews

Pandemic Profile: Keith Murray (Deathwish Inc.)

Since hardcore has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, many of us have turned to buying more records, merch, and supporting bands/labels since we cannot do it physically at a show.

I thought it would be interesting to chat with my buddy Keith Murray who works at Deathwish Inc. and is a strong supporter of independent music.

If anyone knows Keith, he’s always sharing music he’s listening to and enjoys and putting the word out for what’s happening in real time. I hope you enjoy it! 

Please introduce yourself to the readers and your affiliation to hardcore.

Hey there, my name’s Keith, and I live in the South Shore of Massachusetts. I’ve been going to hardcore shows in MA for about 9-10 years now.

How was your 2020 going prior to the pandemic hitting? Did you hit any cool shows or anything worth mentioning? 

It was going really well actually, I remember seeing Slow Crush and HarborLights at O’Brien’s in Allston. The Vantage Point record release at the Elks Lodge in January was legendary. There was also a show at Atomic Cafe right by my work, that Vantage Point also played. 

I saw Sanguisugabogg play Once, and my last show before the lockdown was Restraining Order, Magnitude, and Terror down in Providence. Thinking about these shows feels like a fever dream now.

I remember when cases were first starting to pop up in the US, I don't know if anyone thought it would sweep through as fast as it did, or maybe they did and no one wanted to admit it, either way, do you remember what you're thinking or feeling when everything went into lock down?

In particular, how was MA handling things when it started to pop off? 

One of my co-worker’s family members lives out of the country and they had said, “The United States has no idea what they’re in for.” It’s probably been said a thousand times, but I don’t think many people expected the pandemic to get to where it is now.

I remember Deathwish decided to have one person in the warehouse each day, to make sure the orders were picked up.

From an outside perspective, and from some of the convos I’ve heard/had, it seemed like when lockdown was in full swing, people were buying way more records and supporting artists more because shows weren’t happening, can you speak to this more since you work at Deathwish? Was there an upswing in records and merch sales?

I was laid off in March, a week into the pandemic, but luckily rehired in September. The DW store did very well throughout 2020. I think DW has built up a reputation to get orders shipped as fast as possible with great customer service. I was really worried the company was going to go under, but yeah I think since people were sitting at home and couldn’t go to shows, they were eager to buy merch one way or another.

Despite the inability for bands to tour, we still saw a ton of awesome records come out in 2020, what were some of your personal favorites and why? 

Code Orange, Underneath: I feel like people either love or hate this band, I understood what they were going for on this record and I think it's awesome. The production is incredible, it has this sharp as a knife feeling I’m sure the band was going for. There’s a few songs that don’t socially connect with me but I listened to this record the most during 2020.

Knuckle Puck: I feel like people write off current pop-punk bands, but I haven’t found this record to be corny, just honest and heartfelt pop rock songs. I reality love this music when done right and this one is no exception.

SPICE: This is a newer band from Ross and Jake of Ceremony, to me it’s a perfect summer record. I vividly remember listening to it while walking back to my car after some time spent at the beach. Feeling the ocean air and seeing the sunset while listening to the song “The Building Was Gone” is cemented in my mind. 

Personally, I used 2020 to rediscover or connect with older releases/bands that either hadn’t clicked for me before, or I just hadn’t had a chance to really sit with. Did you find yourself diving into older music/bands and finding a new appreciation or fondness for it? What band(s) or album(s)?

I’m utterly obsessed with new bands but yes! 

Chimera, Earth Loop (1996): an alternative band from Northern Ireland, similar to The Sundays

Ida: Their entire discography 

BOLD, Looking Back

2020 was a huge year in terms of human rights with the upswing in the Black Lives Matter movement, the election year, and the pandemic in general. A lot of the inequalities and problems that face the United States really came into focus for the general population it seemed in 2020.

Did you find yourself paying more attention or thinking more about these issues? Getting more involved? Anything you’d like to share?

For sure, I try to think about these things daily, and I think 2020 only pushed that further. I read So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo, which I highly recommend. I’m trying to read more books along with finding info online. 

I also saw some people I’ve known for years really fall short of grasping such simple concepts about human rights, so that’s a bummer but I can only move forward and keep learning, even if others don’t.

I know with hardcore, the live experience is vital and what really differentiates it for people from other styles of heavy music. Did you find yourself feeling less or more connected to hardcore in 2020 with the lack of live shows? Is there anything you did to keep yourself involved in hardcore? 

Hmm, I think I did feel disconnected in a way, but keeping up with posting / sharing new music like always has really helped. Talking with friends about new releases always cheered me up too.

I just accepted that shows were not going to happen for a long time, and I’m thankful to have attended so many for a decade. I definitely miss the whole Bhardcore crew, I don’t have any expectations of what could happen when shows return. Everything is so up in the air at this point.

I know I found myself consuming way more media than I was prior; movies, TV, comics, books, news articles etc. Anything worth mentioning that you found yourself enjoying?

I’ve picked up the issues of the Donny Cates' Thor series, which have been awesome. I also grabbed Strange Adventures, but I’ve yet to read them. My brother and I watched all of Hunter x Hunter, which was an experience.

I’ve kept up with some manga too, including One Piece, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Jojolion. I know I consumed a bunch of media but this is all that comes to mind at the moment.

The pandemic has definitely taken its toll on folks' mental health and comfort beyond getting infected with covid. If you feel comfortable, did you find yourself picking up new hobbies or doing anything to help cope with the isolation and inability for the “normal?”

Like, for example, I found myself collecting more The Incredible Hulk collectibles, exploring Boise more and going on more walks/hikes in the area, playing video games for the first time in well over a decade, and trying way too many foods in our air fryer. 

All of those sounds awesome! So I got a bit into bird watching/researching more about wildlife in my area over the summer. Planning to continue that as soon as it gets warmer in Massachusetts. I also love playing Pokemon Go, so I was out and about playing that as much as possible, while keeping my distance from others.

Circling back to Deathwish, you mentioned you were laid off for a bit but returned in September, since then, how has been working at Deathwish during the pandemic? Different? The same? 

Honestly, different but the same as well. There’s still so much stuff that has to be done daily, and with customers ordering a lot more it's just go-go-go all day. We’re limiting the amount of people in the office as much as possible by keeping computer work at home.

The business is only growing and I’m thankful there’s demand, it’s just odd as hell working in a pandemic.

Do you think the pandemic has forced hardcore to not take itself for granted? I’ve seen many venues close and I imagine more will follow suit, and I can imagine whenever things come back, it’s going to be harder to get shows booked from a lack of venues as well as the uncertainty of turnouts and the ability to successfully route a tour.

Do you think this is going to force the community to become more collaborative than it already was? To go more DIY and put pressure on folks to support bands/shows/creative outlets etc? 

Yes, I feel less and less people are taking the hardcore community for granted. Going to shows was a routine for many so it’s easy to not think much of it while you’re going through the motions of everyday life. Yes, I have seen venues close, it was already difficult to book shows in Boston, especially branching out into the alternative music realm in general.

My heart says that people will put 100% into supporting live music when shows return, but my head says that maybe people will have moved on, and that’s okay, things change in life. 

I think things will have to be more collaborative if we want to keep a community going. I can see more big shows happening at venues owned by Live Nation, and DIY getting harder and harder to keep its head above water.

It seems like shows in 2021 are pretty unlikely; maybe I’m wrong, but at least not at a national level, maybe in some pockets regionally it could happen, but with the vax rollout and just in general how everything’s being handled, what do you see hardcore doing in 2021? 

In 2021, I can see hardcore still putting in love by labels releasing more music, people creating zines, or any other creative outlet. Still no shows in 2021, it’s too soon to tell how the vaccine rollout will go.

I wanna shout out New Morality Zine for releasing incredible music throughout 2020 and making genuine connections with passionate people in the music scene. I love seeing that a record/shirt/tape sold out, even when there’s no shows on the horizon.

Since it’s so up in the air with release schedules with pressing plants being pretty busy this year, what are some bands/records that you're HOPING to see released in 2021? 

The Worn record, C4 LP, Excide LP, Undeath LP2, Outer Heaven LP 2, New Hovvdy LP, and any new music from the local band Crescent Ridge. Deathwish has plans for the year and I hope as many of them can happen as possible. 

If folks want to become more involved in hardcore outside of being in a band; since you work at Deathwish, do you have any advice or bits of knowledge you’d like to pass on? 

Yes, for sure, I’d say to interview bands, draw band logos or t-shirt designs for fun, make playlists, ask for music recommendations from others, help a friend pack orders if they have a label/business, make a blog, share posts from bands on social media, watch and/or read about old and new bands.

Whenever things go back to “normal” or whatever sense of normalcy that it may be, what are some of the first things you plan on doing? 

Go to as many shows as I can, visit friends indoors, venture into Boston more, hang out at the beach at night with my friends, go to cookout/pool parties.

Alright, ima fire off a few quick things to end it:

Top 5 Fast Food Chains:

  • Taco Bell
  • Del Taco
  • Burger King
  • Wendys (that’s all I got!)

Top 5 Beverages:

  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Kombucha
  • Chocolate oat milk
  • Apple juice

Desert island meal:

  • A plate from NuVegan Cafe or Belmot Vegetarian

Breakdown or 2step/skank part?

Only Living Witness, "Slug," and the entire upcoming C4 record

Fav current hardcore bands?

  • Vantage Point
  • Vein.fm
  • Spring Tide
  • Wound Man
  • Seed of Pain

Thin or thick crust pizza? 

  • Thick crust, for sure

Hash browns or Tater Tots? 

  • Hash browns

Fav style venue for a hardcore show?

  • Very small w/ a stage like the Dorchester Art Project or a decent size floor show like the Hingham Sons of Italy
Dorchester Art Project

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me Keith, I know you’re a busy fella so definitely appreciate it. Any parting thoughts, shout outs, words of wisdom, anything worth mentioning? 

My pleasure, man! Thanks so much for involving me. 

Words of wisdom: Just focus on yourself, don’t worry what’s cool or what other people say about you. A lot of trivial things that make you upset won’t matter 6 months from now.

I wanna shout out Vantage Point, Pummel, C4, Mourned, and anyone who is passionate about music. Keeping buying and sharing music.

All black lives matter, trans lives matter, indigenous lives matter, asian lives matter. Anyone who won’t denounce facism is not worth having in your life. 

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Tagged: pandemic profile

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