There’s a quick story I want to tell of my friend Kyle Murphy.
It was summer in Lake Tahoe 2016. We were both newly acquainted with each other, having each signed on to work the 3,300 foot long Blue Streak Zipline at Heavenly Ski Resort. The job was mainly being a glorified amusement ride attendant but as team leads it required us to learn how to travel the line solo on a personal trolley and perform mid-line rescues. As someone who has been scared of heights their whole lives, I had no business being up there on cables 80 feet in the air, but I was also young enough to swallow the fear and learn what I needed too (and did it relatively competently I might add, at least in training) I never really expected to have to use this knowledge, at least I hoped.
Kyle was different. He was a swashbuckling climbing enthusiast, handy with ropes, heights, harnesses, carabiners, whatever. This blonde fireball was very inquisitive in trying to learn the process, always down to use the skills he was being taught and applying them with techniques he already knew from past climbing endeavors.
One day we were practicing using our trolleys in rescue situations on the behemoth zip line, which was definitely intimidating to all of us guides. Coincidentally, one of the guides got stuck on the line when her trolleys brake system jammed. She was about 70 yards from the top, 30 feet up in the air. The wind was whipping, she froze and started crying after a couple minutes and she wasn’t getting down without someone helping her. We had ourselves a very real rescue situation on our hands.
We heard the call down at the bottom of the zip station and Kyle and I took a lift up to the top to see how we might be able to help. Remember, we were still training at this point and no more than a week or two in. I knew I shouldn’t be out there yet, but Kyle was headstrong about the opportunity to put the exact skills we were using to the test, even if he was still a trainee. He and our management went back and forth on what to do, but ultimately it was decided he would go and get her down with a rope rescue.
I’m watching from underneath the two of them as Kyle straps into his harness, clicks his trolley on the line and starts to slide down towards her. Quickly it’s apparent that Kyle’s trolley isn’t really braking properly and he starts careening towards this guide below him at probably 15 to 20 miles per hour. She starts screaming watching him barreling towards her and we brace for impact. We’re gonna have to rescue two critically injured people off this line.
Kyle is cranking down as hard as he can on the brake to get some friction, swiveling underneath his trolley. Right as he’s about to hit her, he leans back in a Spiderman-like flip and wedges his foot in front of the trolley wheels and the zip line and his head pointing straight to the ground. He stops almost immediately on a dime about seven feet from her. She lets out a scream of relief and the whole line bounces them up and down from the sudden jerk. We had just avoided catastrophe.
It was still another 20 or 30 minutes of Kyle setting up a new line, attaching her to it, belaying her down and getting himself off before everyone was safe on the ground and the ordeal was over. It was a glaring example that bad things can happen to anyone and that it can turn dire pretty quickly. It wasn’t the smoothest rescue and I still question whether management made the right call with Kyle being out there in the first place due to his inexperience. But it’s still the most quick-thinking, impressive feat I’ve ever seen in a critical situation.
Since then, I’ve just always liked the way this guy operates. Kyle has only grown since that time as a wilderness guide and enthusiast. He’s a single-pitch climbing guide and class four and five white water guide, currently based in the American River region of northern California. His interest and expertise also flow into the musical realm. He’s been a drummer for 15 years who has played everything from death metal to live yoga gigs at festivals like California Spirit Festival and Wanderlust.
Additionally, he has his own podcast The Be Wilderness Podcast. It is a “blend of open discussion and narrative form that explores the lives and shares stories of individuals who seek out challenges and live their adventure.” There’s a wide spectrum of people that have been on the show including firefighters, rescue guides, conservationists adventure authors and yoga instructors. I was on it a couple weeks ago and it was great to field questions for the first time from someone who is as inquisitive and curious as I am.
That’s what I like about Kyle: his approach to engaging with the world around him. He always wants to find connections, to find a way to bridge two seemingly distant ideas, theories, subjects, etc. For him, any thread on a sweater can be teased at and followed continuously until you start to pull apart a completely different — yet connected — sweater.
That’s the type of outlook on life I like to experience here at Boogixote and the reason I sat down with him to discuss music, especially through the lens of our shared fandom of psych rock heavy hitters All Them Witches.
The following is a conversation with Kyle Murphy. It has been edited for length and clarity.
What kind of headspace do you approach music from?
There are people who say that all the music in the world and the combination of sounds have been made. That’s an abrasive idea to me, it drives me crazy. It’s like it’s impossible to be creative because it’s already been done and I think that is so narrow minded. It’s almost a mathematical way of looking at music where you are breaking down to its most simple combinations of these strings on this fretboard to a finite number. It does have an upper limit but it’s a big number and that’s also one only one set of sounds.
I think I experience music differently than some people. First I’m a musician and I can’t help but see music through that lens. I’d compare it to like a chef. I have never stuck to one genre and kind of like in the comedy world I think there are comedians that like to speak to a broad audience and others speak to more narrower audiences, the smallest being other comedians. I tend to gravitate towards music that I feel is made by musicians for musicians. I think All Them Witches is one of those bands.
We’ve talked about and geeked out over All Them Witches before. What do you think draws you to them?
I see All Them WItches and think they exemplify this creativeness and newness. It’s the same thing I am looking for outdoors. The reasons why I’m motivated to be in the outdoors is because the things that motivate me in life are things that push boundaries and seek to expand what is possible for people. For me, that’s really been focused on how do you combine these outdoor elements in different ways like a chemist? What’s the new amalgamation? That’s what’s there to be passionate about, to find and create. I I think in order to love music you have to learn how to love what’s uncomfortable and what’s unfamiliar.
I think what’s amazing about those types of endeavors is that it’s exactly what it means to be human. I see this paraglider Jeff Shapiro blending paragliding and backpacking with flying his single engine planes and it creates an adventure that hasn’t been done necessarily. It comes from a sense of passion for exploration. I wish I could have been a pirate in the Caribbean because it was so powerful and immersive, now we have to be kind of ethereal to do the undone. We have to find what is undone to do it.
What purpose do you think All Them Witches’ music has served for you in the past?
They have this dark creepy vibe to them that’s vey sludge metal influenced I think. I love Electric Wizard and Sleep and I think they have that style of big heavy chord drops and letting them ring out for a minute. I just can’t help but be in my car like, dun-nuh, dun duh-nuh (laughs)! It also has that influence of a folky vibe too.
I think metal has greatly influenced electronic music and a lot of this dubstep stuff is rooted there. In some of these songs they’ll build up this momentum to a drop that never comes and I hate it (laughs). That’s why I love All Them Witches, they give you exactly what you want. It’s fulfilling to listen to them.
I have very specific memories of listening to their Sleeping Through the War in my loft, laying on the carpet and just vibing out to that album on a bright sunny after under the canopy of pine trees. That’s one of my most memorable listening experiences I’ve ever had.
I feel like I do most of my listening in the car. I think that’s an important topic, how do you listen to your music? One of my heroes is Henry Rollins and I love him for his public speaking and the way he talks about music. He’s kind of the way I am about coffee, very pragmatic about it. He’ll use specific speakers with a specific vinyl player, people might say that’s the way he’s eccentric.
What you said kind of reminds me of set and setting. There’s definitely something about All Them Witches and the outdoors, though I don’t know why. Maybe that’s part of the reason it fits so well in the natural world because it works on that timescale. I think the way people in the United States and general society interact with time isn’t right. This immediacy about things happening on my schedule and that things are supposed to progress at this constant and exponential rate. If you think the way a tree grows it is not concerned about what the fuck you got going on at 5 P.M. today (laughs).
I love trying to figure out what thing in music is that makes me connect with my world. it doesn’t really exist elsewhere in nature. It’s so uniquely human but it must be a part of nature because we are a part of nature. it creates these very real sound waves that move through our bodies but it feels so intangible. Is it tangible or intangible?