Monday, June 28, 2010

No One: Today Chicago, Tomorrow the World (2001)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

It’s a pleasant afternoon in early May, and from a location somewhere between two East Coast stops on his band’s tour with Slaves on Dope and Hinge A.D., Murk--the lead vocalist of the Chicago-based metal band No One--is musing into about the competitive nature of the Windy City music scene.

“There’s, like, a hundred bands in Chicago trying to get noticed,” he says in a calm voice that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the hysterical, jugular-shredding one he uses to perform. “But I think the competition is healthy, definitely. A lot of the bands share the same following, there’s a lot of good local support, and everyone’s working hard to get a record deal or whatever.”

How No One avoided settling for “whatever” and ended up signing with Immortal Records (Korn, Incubus, Too Much Stereo) is a story Murk enjoys telling. “We were actually aiming for February to start shopping for a record deal, but what happened is we recorded a demo in September, sent a bunch of stuff out, and immediately there were three labels that wanted to sign us. We were shocked.”

By the time the shock had worn off, No One was a member of the Immortal Records team. Unfortunately, with fewer than ten compositions to their names, Murk, B-Larz (guitars), Flare (bass), and Billy K (drums) were now faced with the challenge of composing part of their debut album in the studio--either that or else risk being known as No Can Do.

It was a challenge to which they swiftly rose, coming up with not only nourishing filler but also potential hits. “‘Shedding’ was written in the studio,” Murk recalls, “and it will probably be our second single. So was ‘Down on Me,’ and it ended up being the album opener. I guess we came through in the clutch.”

Fans of the band will get to make up their own minds on June 19, the day No One’s eponymously titled disc hits the streets. Meanwhile, they can begin gathering evidence by attending a No One show and grabbing the official three-song teaser the band is giving away to whet the appetites of its audience. Consisting of “Mindless,” “Cut,” and the long-player's first single “Chemical,” the sampler achieves in miniature what the long-player achieves at length, namely the establishment of No One as a “modern metal” monster.

Murk credits the album’s producer Jimmy K (Disturbed, Loudmouth) for a good deal of the album’s razor-sharp sonic definition. When it comes to the bigger picture, though, Murk credits No One’s manager Steve Richards, an industry insider previously best known for managing the nine-piece metal band Slipknot. “He really understood our music,” Murk explains. “The songs, the lyrics and all that, touched him personally.” So much so, in fact, that Richards wouldn’t rest until he’d secured the group a second-stage spot on this summer’s very prestigious Ozzfest tour. “It wasn’t easy getting that,” says Murk. “They worked on that for, like, a solid month.”

There is, however, an even bigger picture, one that becomes fully visible only at those moments when the glow of the fiery blast furnace at the quartet’s core approaches critical mass. In the picture’s background is Chicago itself; in the foreground is the role it has played in making No One the Someone’s they are today. “Chicago’s a blue-collar kind of town, and we all came from blue-collar backgrounds.”

There’s something, he says, in the daily grind--“struggling with life, paying your bills, getting fired from your job, dealing with crap at work”--that can foster in a group of young, aggressive musicians the sort of No-Nonsense approach reflected in No One’s songs. “On the other hand,” he continues, “I also think that what the songs are about is pretty universal. I think someone in Germany could relate to the same exact situations.”

Given No One’s abrasive, pummeling sound, of course, it would help for that German Someone to be a Rammstein fan. “Yeah,” laughs Murk, who in addition to Polish plasma (he was born Mark Murawski) also has German and Irish blood. “Irish, German, Polish--that’s pretty much what everyone in the band is,” he says, adding that its many decades of assimilating Europeans has made Chicago particularly hospitable to those possessed by the Catholic Work Ethic. There are, he notes, “a lot of pubs around.”

“Seriously, though, I know that Chicago is filled with a lot of hard-working musicians, people who will do whatever it takes to be successful. I don’t really know if it has something to do with the area--I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country.

"But in Chicago people take their music very seriously.”

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