With the upcoming release of the brand new Liberty N Justice album, Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, I thought it was a great time to deliver the first Glitter2Gutter interview! So, here to talk some trash is one of my favorite guys to talk to (mostly because he always wants to talk...), Justin Murr, the driving force behind Liberty N Justice:
G2G: Justin, first, thanks for taking the time to talk with me again. It's been a while since we've had chance to chat. What's been going on in Justin Murr's world?
Justin: Hey Arttie thanks for taking the time to chat! I think this is my third conversation with you, either here or on the Christian Metal Realm. Let's see musically we have Hell Is Coming To Breakfast being released in April, and our Before The Revolution: LNJ Best of the Early Years being released later this year both through Roxx Productions. Then, finally, we have finished recording my double cd The Cigar Chronicles which is just an incredible project!
Personally, since we last chatted my personal life was out of control.
But, God is just and has begun a restoration process in my life! By the way, congrats on your new baby, sir!!!
G2G: Thanks! My family has been blessed, and I am glad to hear things are getting better for you, as well. About the new record, Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, as I have told you, I am completely floored by the new acoustic version of "Sin", featuring the last recording made by Jani Lane. What made you think, "hey...let's tinker with an already great song?"
Justin: I love the full band version of "Sin", but JK Northrup and I thought how much more the words that Jani sang would stand out if we stripped the track down. It becomes almost haunting to hear Jani sing these words - almost confessional. Only a few people even know that when we wrote "Sin" we wrote it for Michael Sweet of Stryper. Michael, because of timing, turned it down and Keri Kelli emailed me and asked if I wanted Jani on any new songs! Looking back it really shows God is truly in control. Five weeks after recording his vocals Jani passed away and he left us some great music including the last thing he ever 100% finished recording, that being "Sin".
G2G: It is amazing how things like that find a way to happen. Now, before we get into any song specifics, I wanted to ask how Hell is Coming to Breakfast came about. I know many of the songs on Hell... were supposed to be on The Cigar Chronicles.
Justin: Yes, that's correct. We now have 36 songs recorded for Cigar. The project really changed, and to be 100% honest, two bigger record labels loved the project they just asked we remove six songs and replace them . You've heard the songs we replaced, so you know first hand how this project has changed, and I'm really excited for people to hear Cigar. It's my opus. I'm also excited for people to hear Hell, because these songs were in limbo and they are good songs, even if they are on the goofy side lyrically.
G2G: Was it frustrating for you to be told, "We don't like this song," or "we don't like that song" when you had put so much work into them? I mean, I know some of these songs that were cut were pretty much completely done and in the can, weren't they? Were you worried all that work was for naught?
Justin: The record was done. JK Northrup (King Kobra), CJ Snare (Firehouse) and I were shopping the project. It is what it is, but as an artist it allowed me to release two records. Plus, people hearing the four-tracks absolutely loved them, so that's a bonus.
G2G: Well, that is a positive way to look at it! So, let's talk about the music and performers a bit. I've heard TONS of demos now, so forgive me if I get the records confused a bit. Ron Keel makes another appearance on an LnJ record on "Cut Me, Mick", which may be the coolest track title EVER and is a great song! Which album will that be on and where does that song come from?
Justin: (Laughing) That song is going to be on The Cigar Chronicles. JK and I wrote the song. It is based on "Rocky", and the premise is "life is tough, but through faith, no matter how bad it looks, we have hope as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus!" And you are correct, this Ron's second appearance. He and Paul Shortino did a duet called "Say Uncle" on Chasing A Cure.
G2G: Another new track is "Stretch Armstrong", which is more modern sounding than most of your previous music. Was this a conscious musical decision on your part, to go a bit more modern?
Justin: When we started writing for Cigars..., I partnered up with JK Northrup and this is just how the songs came out. After coming off Chasing A Cure, I wanted a more aggressive, fun album and with the songs on Hell..., you get that. Also, Arttie, the last couple of demos I sent ya, "Broken Bones" and "Daddy Long Legs" both have a Van Halen vibe to them.....I guess what ever I'm listening to at that time is the style of my songs.
G2G: I definitely agree about the Van Halen vibe, which I thought was awesome! Tell us about the cover songs that you have chosen for these two projects. Was there any particular rhyme or reason for the songs you chose?
Justin: The cover side is really incredible; it's the reason "major" labels are interested in The Cigar Chronicles! Having CJ Snare sing an 80's or early 90's hit song just did not sound fun or interesting to me. But, taking Kip Winger and giving him "Staying Alive", but redoing it and making it this song where you know the lyrics, but we retooled the song....now the sounded fun! We took pop classics and JK redid them in a way to make them more "now", you know what I mean!! You heard most of them in one form or another what do you think?
G2G: Personally, I love them. What I love the most is the fact that you didn't do the usual hair band material despite using hair band artists. I mean, you cover Hanson's "Mmm Bop ", after all! Who does that? (Laughing)
Justin: We did...and we got Jamie Rowe of Guardian to do the song!!!
G2G: Well, while we are dropping names, let's talk artists a little. Who are some names we can expect on Hell? Anyone new or unexpected?
Justin: (Laughing) No, not a lot of new artists on Hell... though CMR veteran, Chris "Alldat" Dickens from Mission Of One appears on "Madhatter".
G2G: Very cool. I love Chris...a great guy and a very good artist as well. Who have been some of your favorites to work with...and don't go for the easy Vic Rivera, CJ Snare, JK Northrup answers. No Jamie Rowe, either! Those don't require any effort or squirming on your part!
Justin: (Laughing) If I work with someone more then once then it was cool and not too painful! Ok, ok, ok...besides the ones you mentioned, Gunnar Nelson was a cool guy and went way beyond to deliver. Steve Brown, from Trixter, always gets great results and he's a good salesman. Tony Harnell's vocals are always insane.
G2G: Any big names that you still want or are close to pulling off?
Justin: (Laughing) Always prying for info, huh? I'm working on a huge guitar player and bass player, the drummer from Disturbed...lots of guys. The Cigar Chronicles is gonna have over 60 guest musicians! A bit off the subject, Arttie, I don't think LnJ gets the credit or respect we deserve...that we are just the guest musicians and not serious artists in our own right. That part's frustrating.
G2G: I honestly was getting there next, so I will go ahead and jump in here. I was going to ask if there is TOO MUCH focus on the guests and not enough on the project that brings the "names" on?
Justin: You know this is a delicate subject about something that makes me have a wide range of emotions. I never resented the attention the "names" bring to my project. Thanks to the "names" LnJ has sold over 100,000 units. I think what makes me mad or sad ow whatever, is the way LnJ is pigeon-holed and somewhat dismissed by a lot of people because they think it's not a real band or we are some sort of novelty. I think if you take the singers and other guest musicians off any LnJ project, I mean really strip it down, and you will find, in my opinion (and maybe I'm biased) some great songs! You've heard them. Anyone can think what they want, but in the last eight years I think the quality of our project is as good as, or outshines, my peers and we are only getting better! Light It Up was a great rock record it deserved alot more attention then what it got.
You know, Arttie, we've spoken several times and through the other interviews, most of the time I crack a joke or I tend to be light-hearted, but this is something else that really makes me mad...the way we are neglected by some. Some in the rock world say things about us because we are a Christian band, and then some people in the "Christian world" say we are not a Christian band, we just write positive songs! Give me a break. Listen to an LnJ CD and you tell me what we are...but at least listen first!
Justin: Thanks Arttie and I agree...I never minded if some1 listened to LnJ and did not like us for whatever reason...it's the ones that judge before even listening!
G2G: So, while we are on some sensitive ground, I will go ahead and ask...do you find yourself faced with closed-minded individuals who say, using Jani as an example, "how do you claim to be doing the Lord's work using a sinner like Jani Lane?" I would think that would get really old...
Justin: That gets really old, people don't get it. Who are they to say what God can and can't use?! These are the same people that think there so self righteous...they do nothing wrong and are the first to say and tell you when they think you are in the wrong! I have a test: fill the bathtub up with water and see if you can walk across it ...if you can't I'll leave my judgement and salvation to my Maker! By the way, God willing, if I do another LnJ record after Cigars... I'd like to do a praise and worship album.
G2G: Let's switch gears a bit. How has the industry changed in the years since LnJ really started to get noticed? Have you been able to benefit from the current, independent direction things seem to be permanently headed in or do you think LnJ would be better off in the world of big labels?
Justin: As an artist, however you can reach the people with your message is the best way to go! I'm all about integrity, and long as I'm not watering down or being told what not to write about, I am open to all deals that come our way! The Cigar Chronicles, which will be on a big label, will be LnJ's finest hour!
G2G: Justin, before we go, I want to address a couple of the GREAT tracks and titles on this album. "Nakatomi Plaza" comes to mind first. I love the way you work all the "Die Hard" movie references into this song...where did it come from? Are you THAT big of a John McClain fan?
Justin: After recording Chasing A Cure, I wanted to make a lyrically light-hearted record that rocked!
I'm a huge "Die Hard" and "Rocky" movie fan, so I wrote some fun songs with references to those movies and added a spiritual perspective. I like "Nakatomi Plaza". JK did a great job vocally and its one of my faves!
G2G: What about "Stretch Armstrong" and "Whack A Mole"? Again, great titles, great songs, and surprisingly powerful lyrics that are put forth in a fun way. What's the story here?
Justin: "Stretch Armstrong" is about knowing what's right, but doing what you know is wrong, stretching yourself to the point where regret fills your thoughts. "Whack-A-Mole" was inspired at Chuck-E-Cheese (laughing). It's about false religions and teachings that there is more than one way to Heaven besides asking Jesus for repentance.
G2G: Justin, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me again...I'm sure we will do it again before The Cigar Chronicles as well. For now, the big record is Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, which will be out on April 24 on Roxx Productions. If folks want to order the album, which can be purchased in a couple different packages, they can go to Roxx Productions Store Envy page.
Justin: Thanks, Arttie. It's been fun, as always...
To check out the Glitter2Gutter review of Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, just click here...