Hi Ryan, thanks for taking the time to talk to us!
I think it’s fair to say that you don’t focus on quantity of music, as you’ve steadily released up until now. You’ve released an EP and an LP all within a few months which will be your highest output within one duration! Your output would indicate that you don’t make a lot of music, is that actually the case?
It certainly does look that way, but I had been very busy working on the EPs and LP since probably late 2016. Every track I made was for BMTM so it never really went anywhere else… no tunes on mixes, nothing new up on soundcloud, but I had made 2 albums worth of tunes over that period and I now have enough for another LP. It was quite hard stashing the tunes away and not sharing them as I was really happy with them and was quite used to the instant gratification of sending them out or putting them on soundcloud or bandcamp. The relief when the first clips went up was great.
The EP and consequently then the album just came from out of nowhere to be honest! So for a fan it was a pleasant surprise! How was the initial feedback once the clips had gone up and word had spread that your album was due to drop?
The initial response has been really good. A lot of people, myself included, have a certain amount of ‘impostor syndrome’ and you can get filled with doubt about things and with such a long time between finishing the first tracks and the release I was questioning myself. To read the feedback from producers I respect was a great relief, that kind of validation gives you enough motivation to last a year.
For me personally it was the “Shimmer/Traces” release that put you on my radar, I still now regularly return to listening to both tracks, “Traces” especially is one of my fav tunes in the last 5 years. Did you find that release on BMTM got you a lot of coverage as an artist after not being that well recognised at that point in time?
For sure, BMTM do such a great job with promotion and support that it definitely was a different thing than previous releases. They get your tunes in the inboxes of people that I never could and that kind of exposure / networking alone is priceless.
So recently returning to Blu Mar Ten Music for an EP and then the LP I’m guessing there’s a good professional relationship between you and label?
That is correct, I have been in contact with Chris BMT for many years now – initially via various forums etc and email but most importantly Chris visited me in New Zealand whilst on tour and spent some time with myself and my young daughter. To have coffees and a proper chat like that was incredible for me as being on the other side of the planet you don’t often get a chance to get to know the people you work for or with. It should also be said that Chris is a fantastic guy, incredibly generous with his time and knowledge and also very honest about the industry.
How did the initial connection come about between you and BMTM prior to the 1st release in 2015?
The first professional contact came about with the ‘All or Nothing’ remix I entered in their remix competition in, wow, 2012-2013? It came in second which was amazing considering it was over 10 minutes with no real drums hahaha. From that point on I was regularly sending them tunes that I thought they might like, but I was going through a bit of a weird patch and was all over the place genre-wise and not really focused. It wasn’t until I really worked on D&B again that I caught their ear with Shimmer/Traces.
So let’s get into the album talk, “Solid Ground” is the title, can you explain why you chose to name it that?
Solid Ground is directly related to our move to a remote rural location where we have bought a home. Our family (myself, wife and 2 kids) had been moving about a lot between cities in New Zealand for many years, never really stopping long enough to settle properly, but now it feels like we have started putting down roots and that has been a great feeling. The new location and surrounds (beaches, hills, forests) and the new found feeling of stability directly influenced all of my output over the past couple of years.
I have quite a few friends from New Zealand and when I look at their pictures from back home it’s absolutely stunning, would you say living somewhere so nice helps with your creative flow when making music ?
Well, I have flip flopped on this point a few times over the years, from ‘it makes no difference’ to ‘it is very important’. At the moment I have to say where I live and the way of life has a big influence on the way I produce and also of course the way I feel when producing. It is very relaxed here in our valley and beautiful and that makes it perfect for the type of music I have been making. The weather here is volatile as well, very stormy and almost Scottish feeling at times, so it is still conducive to darker vibes when required.
So can you talk us through how and when the concept of the album came together?
I had sent Chris a nice little tune, a piano drenched – double bass stepper (that will be on the second EP) and he requested something to go with it for maybe a single. So I got to work and fired over another jazzy one and was told to maybe aim for an EP worth of tracks, so I kept on working away and had maybe 6-7 tunes that all fit together pretty well so we thought I should keep on trucking. It all really started to take it’s final form after I made a couple of ambient pieces to kind of link some of the tracks together and as intro / outros, those really sent me off on the direction that makes the LP what it is.
So you mentioned the initial tunes for the EP being jazzy and mentioned you just kept on making tunes which then lead on to an album worth of music. Would you say your aim was to make an album worth of tunes with heavy elements of jazz to begin with? Or was that your main production vibe at that point in time and it just reflected in the music?
When I knew I was after tracks that fit together and reflected my current state of mind and taste it was always going to be Jazz based. When I first started trying to write music I was right in to Peshay and EZ Rollers etc but for some reason I neglected Jazz as an influence for yeeeeeears, until I started REALLY listening to Jazz properly. So to a degree it was actually going back to my roots, making the tunes I wish I could have made 18 years ago. Full circle!
So with it being said that you hold a good relationship with BMTM and it seemed like the whole album process came together in a very much organic sense, this must have made the album journey a lot less stressful than average right?
There was no pressure at all, so I just did what I could when I could and luckily pretty much every track I made was used either on the EPs or the LP. Knowing what tunes Chris liked of mine over the years also gave me a good idea of what he might want to hear more or less of too, so I knew for example that a totally ambient piece would be OK with him if done right.
And also… Enough tunes for a second album you mentioned ??? What’s going to happen with that material then!
Yes, I have been very busy. Not totally sure what to do with everything, I have sent a few out and had some nibbles, but nothing set in concrete. I am keen to keep the momentum going and get my profile up a bit. I’m just on another busy streak now too, so there will be 4-6 tracks over the next couple of months if previous spurts are anything to go by.
Let’s talk equipment! What kit are you working with mainly in the studio? (DAW/hardware)
Strictly laptop. Running Cubase 8 on a fairly grunty gaming laptop, something that can do music, graphics and video editing and this thing is a beast. I do have a very nice separate studio on the property with nice monitors, a keyboard, decks, my records and a decent PA system, but with 2 kids I don’t often have time to go out and fire everything up. So 99% of the time it is me on the couch with earphones on doing what I can between school drop offs / pick-ups and doing dishes and laundry and whatever design work I have on at the time.
Throughout the album you can hear plenty of other elements of different genres merged into your music. Can you give me some idea of the music you listen to outside of production of DnB and also, while you are at it, give me some of your musical influences too?!
I listen to a lot of Jazz currently, the usual suspects (Miles, Coltrane, Brubeck etc) and some further out stuff too. That combined with my ongoing love of 90’s Hip Hop and mid 90’s D&B /Jungle goes a long way to explaining most of the recent music I have been making. I am an older dude and I think that has a huge effect on what I hold dear musically, I reckon you grab on to the stuff you liked in your ‘prime’ quite a bit. Quite a lot of vinyl was listened to and sampled over the past 2 years and so there was a lot of breaks, crackles and 70’s gear going on outside of the production that has obviously seeped in to the LP. Any record crackle is not slapped on for effect but just what I was working with… a while ago I would have tried to clean that up with plug ins etc but it is what it is and it adds another layer of life to the whole thing.
It`s pretty refreshing to hear that there were aspects of the tunes you decided to leave i.e the vinyl crackle. Sort of gives the music an unclean and raw edge, quite like the roots of jazz that heavily influenced the album, which I think in this day and age with some electronic music being so clinical and clean it’s a good thing! Have you always been like that when using sampling or has that happened through growth as an artist?
When you try to hide artifacts like that you lose so much more along with it, even the best crackle removal tools do too much to a sample and it seems very unnatural. I’ve always stood by the motto of ‘ideas over execution’, that if the content and intent are good enough the delivery shouldn’t matter. There is nothing wrong with super clean, exceedingly well produced music, but it’s not for me. The amount of life in samples from vinyl is great… the signal chain from the original studio gear, mastering, pressing and then sitting about for decades then on to my turntable, mixer, soundcard, DAW… you can’t fake that provenance and you certainly don’t want to hide it.
The “Solid Ground” LP by RQ is fully available to buy EVERYWHERE!!
I suggest you check it!
Thank you to Ryan for taking the time to chat with me.