Perhaps the most fruitful and certainly one of the most resilient musical partnerships in Twin Cities music history, Soul Asylum’s Dan Murphy and Dave Pirner will no longer be working together, as Murphy has officially quit the band. The lead guitarist and sometimes-singer since the group formed in 1982, Murphy was already replaced at a gig in Spain by a fill-in player but said he harbors no ill will toward Pirner for carrying on without him.
“I have total respect for the band, but I don’t have any respect for the music industry anymore,” Murphy said in an interview Monday while awaiting the signing of his “exit papers.” Showing a light mood on the matter, he joked about the fact that his split after 30 years was held up by one day because of the Columbus Day holiday.
“Lawyers might be the only ones who celebrate it anymore,” he said, also laughing off other concerns as the news of his departure has slowly leaked out. “A few relatives have asked me: No, I’m not dying or anything like that. And there wasn’t any kind of big blowout.”
Soul Asylum’s faithful core of fans – the ones who know the wealth of their albums before and after early-‘90s radio hits like “Runaway Train” -- are way less likely to take the news lightly. YouTube clips of the gig in Spain without Murphy have already drawn 11 pages’ worth of comments on the band’s forum page, including this one: “Without Dan, Soul Asylum is just the Dave Pirner Band.”
Murphy issued a statement this morning via Soul Asylum's website, which reiterates his love for his longtime bandmate: "[I'm] leaving with great admiration and respect for David Pirner, whom I felt like I grew up with and who provided me and all of you with so many memorable musical moments."
Pirner is the only original member left, but former Prince drummer Michael Bland has become a full-fledged Soul Asylum player after a decade behind the kit (Murphy also praised him in his statement). The band recently hired a new bassist, New York’s Winston Roy, to replace former Replacement Tommy Stinson, who stepped in after the 2005 death of co-founder Karl Mueller. Stinson played all over the group’s new album, “Delayed Reaction.”
It sounds like Murphy’s decision is actually something of a delayed reaction to the album’s June release. With a new label for support, 429 Records, the band has gotten back into the thick of touring, which weighed heavily on Murphy. “It was getting to be too much for me,” he said. “Everybody in the band has varying degrees of how much they want to do, and it always seemed like I was the odd-man-out wanting us to do less.”
Although he showed off his own singer/songwriter chops in the all-star side band Golden Smog – in addition to helming “Cartoon” and other nuggets in the Soul Asylum catalog -- Murphy did not hint at any kind of musical plans in lieu of his former full-time gig. He has long run a successful business outside of his music career selling vintage pin-up art (Grapefruit Moon Gallery), and in recent years he and his wife have wintered in Florida. Staying away from the music business seems to be his m.o.
Murphy did not comment on the future of Soul Asylum without him. The rest of the band also issued a short statement on its website this morning:
"We would like to thank Dan for his many years of hard work, as well as his Soul Asylum defining guitar playing. We wish him and his family the best of luck. He will be missed. Soul Asylum will continue to write, record and perform music just as we have for the last 31 years. We'll see you on tour soon!"
Coincidentally or not, Pirner seemed to foreshadow his own continued commitment to the band in an interview he and Murphy did together with us shortly before “Delayed Reaction’s” release: “The notion of giving up at this point of Soul Asylum's career is just kind of ridiculous,” he said.