Local Current Blog

Dan Murphy leaving Soul Asylum after 31 years

Credit: Nate Ryan/MPR

Major local music news broke this morning when Dan Murphy, a founding member and guitarist for Soul Asylum, issued a statement that he would be parting ways with the band.

Fans of the band began speculating that something was awry when Murphy was conspicuously absent from a gig last month in Chicago. He told the Star Tribune today that he was waiting to sign his “exit papers” before breaking the news to the world.

“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,” Murphy said in a statement, expressing gratitude for the musicians he’s worked with throughout Soul Asylum’s career but offering little information about the rest of the band’s future. He also told the Star Tribune that there weren’t any major blowouts in the band, but that he wasn’t enthusiastic about the rigorous tour schedule they had planned to help promote their new album, Delayed Reaction.

Murphy began playing with frontman Dave Pirner and bassist Karl Mueller as Loud Fast Rules in 1981, morphing into Soul Asylum the following year. They performed with a few different drummers over the years, but Murphy, Pirner, and Mueller remained at the core of the group until Mueller’s passing in 2005. Since that time, Tommy Stinson has been recruited to play bass (though he didn’t join them on their most recent tour) and Michael Bland has logged a decade behind the drum kit; Murphy’s departure leaves Dave Pirner as the only founding member left in the group.

All of which raises the question: Will Soul Asylum continue under the same name as Pirner’s main songwriting outlet? The answer appears to be yes.

“We would like to thank Dan for his many years of hard work, as well as his Soul Asylum defining guitar playing,” the band said in their own statement today. “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!”

Here’s Murphy’s full farewell letter: 

After 31 years of relentless and fulfilling cycles of touring, recording, writing and living in Soul Asylum a band founded by Karl H. Mueller, David Pirner and myself in the late summer of 1982, I have decided that I will no longer be touring or recording with the band, effective immediately. 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. I have great love for Michael Bland who has a big heart, a big sound and an even bigger laugh that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my days. My deepest respect and love for Karl H. Mueller, and his widow and loving wife Mary Beth Mueller, and his mother Mary Mueller who provided us with a start in their family garage and supplied us with endless encouragement, engaged us and instilled in us all the prospect of “possible.”

I also want to say thanks and send boundless love to the countless managers, producers, engineers, tour managers, record exec’s, interns, video directors, radio station programmers, publicists, and other people of this not always noble business that have worked tirelessly for the band and have given Soul Asylum a chance to be heard. I was going to name a few here, but that list turned into sixty in a matter of minutes and then I thought of forty more… There are so many people that have done so much and were thanked so little at the time, and for that I would like to say thank you and tell you I noticed your hard work and passion for music.

Also of note are all of the musicians who have played on stage and in the studio as Soul Asylum, who have seized the opportunity and had the artistic vision of playing and creating music that is timeless and from the heart. This band would not have been able to continue without Tommy Stinson who gave us the courage to continue and soldier on upon the untimely and tragic death of my roommate on the road and the band’s taste maker extraordinaire, Karl Mueller. Also Sterling Campbell who took the band to a level that I did not know was possible. Perhaps my proudest moment ever in the band was going into the control room of our Manhattan studio and listening to the playback of the track New World on GDU and listening to Sterling’s drum fill before the first chorus, it gave me chills and a smile as wide as a New York City mile. It really opened up the band to what was attainable and made us all hear music in a different light and to get lost in the moment and not find our way out until something special had happened in that very same moment.

Lastly, a humble acknowledgement to the fans, to anyone and everyone that has waited in long lines and parked far away from venues, endured less then stellar sound and or performances, have gotten stepped on, stood in front of, or marginalized in any way, I am humbled by you. Not the ending I would have scripted, sorry for the lack of transparency. It is sad to not have gotten to officially say so long sooner and in a different forum. Many have opened up your hearts, your refrigerators ( stashed with icy cold barley pops), your homes and apartments and allowed us to flourish in a world that was predicated on the kindness of strangers. Touring and recording to me was more like Groundhog’s Day than the often cited Spinal Tap, the perfect day existed and was out there you just had to know where to find it and act accordingly. Having seen that film many times and knowing the ending – I certainly can envision a world with Soul Asylum on top and smiling and enjoying the ride once again. To survive in the game of music in this current incarnation of digital downloads, short attention spans, tabloid style press wrought with desperate headline grabbing antics, it occurs to me that one needs an unhealthy and combustive internal combination of two seemingly distant attributes – naivety and swagger. I no longer have either and am looking forward to a quieter life with family and friends and my adorable chiweenie Lily Belle.