000012670012 CREDIT Dan Monick

Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive or inspires you?

Keith Murray: I enjoy watching children interact with the world, the way they engage their environment without any filters, learned models, or cynicism. I often yearn to regress into a state that’s slightly more atavistic than my decades of conditioning generally allow, but it’s difficult to let go of those reigns. If you hand an adult a lump of clay, they’re likely to respond by fashioning something representative out of the raw material. For the most part, they’ll simply forge an object that signifies something “real” in the world, even if that something is as abstract as an emotion or an energy. A child, on the other hand, will just as often produce something totally without semiotic meaning, a shape or a mass that represents nothing that exists outside of their imagination. Or else, they’ll eat it or throw it or ignore it, wholesale. That sort of freedom represents real creation, I think, and it inspires me, immensely, and it’s why I tend to not go to actual museums these days.

MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?

KM: Seeing a photograph of myself is often pretty jarring. Why is it that the vision I see of myself in a photo is so different than the one I see in a mirror—not to mention the “self” that I see in my mind’s eye? Pondering it can pretty easily cast me into a vortex of self-doubt, wondering how the me that people experience—my voice, my personality, my creative expression—is regarded without my knowledge. It also makes me worry about photos of me that exist that I might not even know about. How do I appear in these unwitting photographs? Who is taking them, without my knowledge or consent, and from where?

MP: How do you handle emotional pain?

KM: I still haven’t found a terribly noble way to do it, to be honest, but I’ve evolved enough that I’ve learned to not subject others to the fallout of my own unhappiness. I think that’s a significant, hard-won behavioral leap that, sadly, a staggering percent of the population of folks I know haven’t quite mastered. But where do I go from there? If I’m not venting it or indulging in some sort of juvenile emotional transference, where does it go? Leibniz mapped the principles concerning the conservation of energy, but nobody has yet scientifically diagrammed the conservation of emotion—have they? How is this subsumed pain vented? Is it released in my art? I hope so, but I also suspect that it’s emitted in my sleep. My girlfriend says that I thrash throughout the night, for longer periods than are generally accepted as corresponding to REM sleep, and she often has to move to the couch to get any sort of rest before she goes to work in the morning.

MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?

KM: A very close friend of mine recommended that I try Muay Thai, to which I had an initial knee-jerk aversion. That sort of presumably aggressive activity seemed hyper-stressful to me despite my friend’s assurance that the practice is as much about mental discipline as it is physical exertion. Anyway, I went down to his dojo—I know “dojo” is a Japanese word and that Muay Thai is Thai, obviously, but I really like saying “dojo,” and my belief that this would be the terminology used to describe the gym is part of what attracted me initially—and signed up for the class, and you know what? I really enjoyed it! I really enjoyed signing up for the class—the sort of rote, menial work of filling out the paperwork, the contracts and the liability waivers and stuff; it really appeals to me.

It’s very centering. The person at the dojo suggested that maybe I’d be better off engaging in a practice that’s a little more meditative—maybe tai chi or yoga, or something like that. I haven’t pursued those at all—yet!—but I did dive into some
overdue tax returns the other day, and that was really good and cleared my mind.

MP: Tell me about your latest projects.

KM: We released an album called TV en Français in March, and it’s definitely the album in our catalog that best represents us at the peak of our powers and at our most incisive. Emotionally, it’s far less manic than we normally present as; it’s stripped of artifice and anxiety and really is a cogent distillation of who we are and why we – not just us, personally, but all artists, all people—make art. I was wondering aloud recently if this album revealed as much about the essence of this endeavor that we represent in the musical form for the listener as we, the band, believe it does, and our label manager said yes.



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