Dinosaur Jr.'s Murph Is in This Rock 'N' Roll Thing for the Long Haul

"I remember, it was early afternoon, and the car was so hot I couldn’t get in it. I couldn’t touch the steering wheel in the car. I had to start it and run the air conditioner for about 15 minutes,” says Emmett “Murph” Murphy III, Dinosaur Jr.’s original drummer.

Murphy understands the heat Phoenicians deal with on a daily basis during the summer time, but he’s glad to be getting back to Phoenix to play on September 19 at the Crescent Ballroom as the band tours for their new record, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, which came out on August 5. We assured Murphy that the air conditioning at the Crescent will be sufficient to keep the Amherst, Massachusetts, band comfortable as they return to town for the first time in a couple of years.

The band, which has featured the reunited original lineup of Lou Barlow on bass/vocals, J. Mascis on guitar/lead vocals, and Murphy for the past 11 years now, has been very active on the road, but Murphy states they don’t go out for nearly as long as they used to in their youth.

“It’s definitely harder now that we’re older,” says the 51-year-old Murphy, without a complaint in his voice. “These guys bring their families sometimes. It definitely can get trying and makes things a little more intense, but as adults, you just kind of learn to deal with it. It’s such an uprooted lifestyle. I think for a kid, it could be really confusing. If I had a family, I wouldn’t bring them. You’re literally in a different city every day. It’s disorienting.”

For Murphy, more so than bandmates Barlow and Mascis, it is important to tour, as it is the main source of income for musicians like himself who have seen enough success in the music industry to not need a day job, but still like to eat and enjoy some semblance of creature comfort when at home. Mascis has always been the primary songwriter for Dinosaur Jr., so any publishing revenue goes mostly to him.

“I like working. That’s really the way Lou and I make money, is when we’re touring. I like being busy. I have some side projects and do session work, but unlike Lou and J, I don’t have another band I can tour with and make money. Lou’s got Sebadoh. I don’t have an alternate band I can go on the road with,” says Murphy, who did play drums for the Lemonheads for a few years during his hiatus from Dinosaur Jr.

It’s also important to tour on a record as good as Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. The new album is truly a return to the power and glory of early albums like 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me and 1988’s Bug, which are two of the standout records from Dinosaur Jr’s prolific recording history. Opening track “Goin’ Down” features some of the more restrained Mascis guitar you’ll ever hear until some compact soloing happens toward the end of the song, but it’s tight and rockin’ all the way through.
In addition to being supremely creative, Mascis also is a bit prescient. In 1991, Dinosaur Jr. took an up-and-coming Sub Pop Records band on tour with them for a run through the West Coast.

“I remember it was right before Nirvana broke. There was a sound check in Tijuana, and those guys just had this look on their face. I was like, ‘What’s that look about?’ J saw it. He was like, ‘This is the band that is going to change everything. They’re going to blow the doors open,’” Murphy remembers.

Dinosaur Jr. is scheduled to play Crescent Ballroom on Monday, September 19.
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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon