Ryan Davis is an artist that has been making waves in the electronic music scene now since 2006 when he released his debut “Transformer EP”. Since that first release Ryan has gone on to release tracks on labels such as Traum Schallplatten, Areal Records, Bedrock, Beachcoma and Anjunadeep. His tracks have also been featured on mix compilations by Ivan Smagghe, John Digweed and Jodi Whisternoff, and his followers include the likes of Stephan Bodzin, Sasha, Hernan Catteneo, Nick Warren and Max Cooper.
Since 2011 Ryan has become a constant artist on the Traum Schallplatten imprint with a number of high profile releases including his debut EP “Routes of Life”, his album “Particles Of Bliss” and his collaboration “A Walk” with Electric Rescue. His most recent release on the label was “State Of Mind” which was in November 2013. While working besides with Areal or Applescal for the “Creatures” collaboration, Ryan released a remix last year for Olafur Arnalds, who is one of the finest names in modern classical music at the moment.
In addition to the aforementioned Ryan has founded two of his own labels, Back Home and Klangwelt where he offers the platforms to new artists in order to promote themselves releasing alongside bigger names. While Back Home presents more the electronica side if things, Klangwelt goes more into the club oriented direction.
With a history in the scene like this you can understand why he has played across the globe at clubs such as Rex Club, Tresor, Fuse or the Loft. When an artist describes his sound as a “journey full of stories which describe feelings, dreams and desires” you know he is a person worth speaking to, and I feel very privileged to have grabbed a few minutes of his time for a chat about his work and what he has in the pipeline for 2015.
Hi Ryan. Many thanks for taking the time for a chat today. What have you been up to with your week so far?
My week has been good so far. The sun comes slowly back after the winter. Mainly I have my routine of doing music some part of the day as well as reading, taking, a walk, and cooking a good meal.
Who were some of your biggest musical influences whilst growing up?
I cant really name my biggest influences whilst I grew up, there always was a lot of music in any kind of direction when I think back. Sure there was some old vinyls of my dad like Mike Oldfield or Jean Michel Jarre which I still remember, so you can say since “forever” I felt for that trippy electronic stuff. But if you see the whole thing, I come from Hip Hop, any kind of electronic music, I am also a fan of rock or folk music, and I had 9 years of classical guitar training. So my influences are wide spread, I just like music in general, and I am about to find a good quality.
You were born in Magdeburg, Germany which is located between Berlin and Hannover. Can you tell us a little about your hometown, and what its music scene was like when you were growing up?
We had some bunker/fabric clubs in town with techno, where you definitely could find me, but also mainly I still was going to hip hop events. There existed a big clash between the Hip Hop and Techno people so I always had to be careful with my ambitions to electronic music. My hometown is “small” with a lot of green spots and not that many inhabitants. The culture and scene there was always ambitious but it stayed with a bunch of projects, some of them with more quality than others. That’s not changed until today. I guess this whole situation created the need to take a ride to Berlin and paying the clubs there some visits.
You are a trained classical guitar player which already implies you liked very different music when you were young. How did you come to get into electronic music, and has have the guitar skills helped you with your production skills?
I think I got so excited about electronic music because I followed it since I was very young, lets say by the age of 10. All those genres came up in the 90´s and so many people were just hungry about it, it was new, fresh, the concepts were colourful and there was a message of being united behind it. Today as it became an everyday genre in music, I sometimes feel this vibe of being hungry and open for all different kinds of electronic music is a bit lost, the trends have taken over a bit, but this movement is not called “mainstream” without a good reason.
After all those years of playing the guitar, I guess I can surely say it had a big impact on me, especially in what I want in music, and melodies became so important for me through this. Probably it also helped me with the harmonies I can find easily, my ears are well trained by all those compositions I learned to play from different genres and countries, that’s for sure.
I believe your first release came about via two tracks you uploaded to MySpace. How did the initial contact come about with the label, and what was your reaction when you discovered they wanted to sign your work?
Actually Myspace was completely new to me, and a friend in university said I should upload some tracks of mine there. So I found myself signing up, opening a page, uploading a profile pic and two tracks. I added about 3 labels that I knew were in reach, I had no Myspace friends at all at this moment. It took about a week that they came back to me and wanted to sign the tracks. I couldn’t believe it I have to say, you could believe it these days even less, but yes, that was the first step and sure I was very happy about it.
Since your first release have their been any particular releases or labels that you feel have influenced your sound today?
I could put up a whole list of releases and labels that influenced me over the years. It’s always a pleasure to listen to something that excites you and also sometimes even helps you back on track when you lost your focus. Honestly there is a lot of little pieces that shape the whole sound so I cant really name THE releases that influenced me.
You founded your own labels Back Home and Klangwelt. Why did you want to create your own platform for artists, and why did you decide to create two labels?
Actually I founded 3 labels in my life. One was Maripoza with Lanny May. It was a “heart project” , vinyl only and we had a lot of fun doing it. When the vinyl market started to become smaller and smaller we decided to leave Maripoza as a vinyl label and start over with a fresh digital label, Back Home was born. We released a lot of crazy electronic music there and used it for our own sketches as well. There was a time we got too many demos so I decided to open Klangwelt to separate club music and electronica a little bit and have another valve to get out what we liked. After a time Lanny left and I took over both of the labels. Since those days I got a little more picky in sound and quality and thats a big reason why I started to do less releases than before. Right now I worked out some new design for them and also we have some nice interesting projects coming up soon, including stuff of myself.
You are always looking to push new artists in amongst the big names on both your labels. Can you tell us about any of the new artists you have lined up for 2015?
Actually we got quite a lot of demos in the past but as I have a more defined vision lately, about what should go on on the labels, I´ll take it slow and will only go for the quality that I have in mind. I am in talks now with some old pals who released on the label back in the days to come back and show how they grew as well as I am in contact with new people who I think are capable of doing the right compositions. Planned is an electronica release of mine on Back Home featuring a friend with whom the vibe whilst producing just works out nicely. There will probably be another Klangwelt EP of mine too with a nice remix. I also want to show people out there that I care about the labels and not only focus on others. I am in talks with Mondkrater to present a collection of his works of the last years with some new mixes and some new tracks in the package as he is one of the most frequent artists on Klangwelt and always delivers his quality in the end.
As a label manager how do you go about scouting for new artists to feature on your record labels? Do you tend to find more artists by scouring the internet or do you find that good artist tend to come to you via email and posts?
I am browsing through a lot of soundcloud artists that start to follow me, and I also get messages via soundcloud then have a listen to their demo. I just noticed these days there are so many producers out there and that I can stop at one profile while listening and say this is it and it but it happens very rarely. So its a combination of what you want for the label, what people send you for the label and what you can find yourself. It also happens that people give me demo cds on gigs which is a still one of the nicest ways to present your demo, even in the end I might not choose those tracks, it shows some effort and that also got a bit rare these days.
When you walk into your studio and begin an original production or remix do you have a process you follow, and what do you feel is the most important element to a Ryan Davis track?
Back in the days I started with a kick and some percussions… really simple and then I concentrated on the melodies and synths. These days it can start in any possible way. I wasn’t too interested into spending a lot of time on percussions back in the days, I took what was there and modulated just a tiny bit. These days to modulate, layer, stereo spread percussions became one art itself when I produce, to choose the right element carefully. This you can say about all my processes when I produce my music. Every detail and element is chosen very carefully, that expanded my time to spend on one track massively, I hope at least some people out there can hear the difference. Still the most characteristic thing is the trippy atmosphere in my tracks, its there to catch you while listening… it’s mainly transported trough the melodies but also the mood of the track itself should be able to speak to the people that like my sound.
You recently worked with one of my favourite artists, Olafur Arnalds when you remixed his “only The Winds” track. How did you come to work with Olafur? Has he been an artist you have admired for some time?
Olafur is a very melodic artist so you can be sure I already followed him and was on some gigs of him, I really like his gentle way of very subtle classical moods. He actually did a remix competition for that track. I couldn’t resist to download the stems, but mainly I just work with them when I find the time and am curious, not because I want to compete. In this case I found myself on a couch in the netherlands just starting to mess with the samples in logic and the remix almost happened naturally. It took so less time till I had a clear vision how it should sound like. I finished it long after the competition was over but I had the feeling to share it with some people I know. Nick Warren and Jody Wisternoff directly have shown interest in using it for their upcoming compilations. Jody turned out to be the one that really took action. So they got in contact with Olafur and the Labels of him and everybody liked the remix and this is the way it happened.
If there was one track you could remix which track would it be, and why?
Remixes are always a nice thing to do, mirror the intentions of the other artists into your own context. But what I would be really interested in was to collaborate with different artists. If you would ask me that question I had a bunch of artists it would be really existing to work with. Anyway, every artists has his tracks that catch me and his tracks that don’t, would be a miracle if that would happen. Okay Tycho did a good job with their album “Dive”. In the end there is a lot of talents out there so there cant be the one track ever, not for me.
For the tech heads out there can you tell us a little about your studio, and some of your favourite tools when creating a Ryan Davis production?
My studio is very simple, I use Logic and Ableton, I have a 49 keys midi-piano, midi-controllers to assign parameters of the VSTs. I have a big sample library, mainly samples that I produced myself trough layering of other samples or field recordings. I use my iPad with a midi controller to record some apps which are very interesting and I have a Korg Kaoss Pad and a Korg Volca keys which I lately purchased. If you ask me about my favourite tools I’d not refer to synths because its what you do with the synth or the modulation that makes the difference in the end than the synth itself. So my favourite tools are the lfo, some sequencers and the granulator of max for live, then some sound tools in logic and some glitch programs like the db glitch for example. That gets in the movements in sound that you want to not have a “static filter cut off” track going on.
I remember first hearing your album “Particles Of Bliss” and I was blown away by its beauty. How did you go about creating the album? Did you have a vision of the end goal when you started?
I think I just wanted to do a good album in the first place. During the production of the album I switched from Logic 5 for Windows (yes, I still used that) to Logic 9 which caused a big break in my flow. First I had to get to know all the new features and it slowed me down heavily but after a while I found my way back in and it started to be fine. The idea of combining my vision of the past and the future for my music came together so you can see it as a retrospective of what I have done till that point and where I possibly might go from there. I love soundtracks, I like breaks, I like subtle bell and square synths, I even sang on the album. So yes I brought all in I was capable at that moment and I felt it was complete and how I wanted it when I sent it to Traum.
Over the years you have collaborated with a number of artists such as Sid Le Rock, Undo, Applescal, and Electric Rescue. What do you find works about a collaboration, and is it something you will look to do again in 2015?
Collaborations are always exciting. They mainly happen out of a circumstance, a meeting with that artist or just hanging out a while before that. I think its not something you can plan, you feel when you meet a person if its going to happen. As well a collaboration is always about how much can you hold yourself in the background and let the other person do his thing and where does it start to combine two minds. That can be quite complicated and kill the flow. Sometimes you are the leader and sometimes you have to feel to give a bit less than usual. I recently produced some stuff with a friend of mine who is quite new in music production. He mainly concentrated on rock before and just started out to do electronic music, with him I can feel a bit separated from my artist project when we jam and that gives me a lot of creativity. Also how he is seeing music or production from the point of a starter freshens up some ideas. There will be something to listen to of this very soon.
You recently had your remix of Problem Makers released on NoStyleIsStyle alongside Undo, and the track is a full on melodic techno workout. Can you tell us how the remix came about, and how you approached remixing the track?
Actually the Label contacted me after they got my mail of Cora Novoa. They told my how much they like my music and that the Artists would be really happy to have a remix of mine. So I went to check out the label and saw they do their best and try to create something with artworks, artists and also getting stuff out on vinyl. For me the most important thing these days becomes the quality of the complete product that is out in the end. I had a good feeling so I went for it. It took a long time till I found my feeling for the remix and I had about 4 versions. At one point I decided to do a total different middle part and used the volca keys… from that moment on it felt right and was done quickly. I’m very happy with it and look forward to have it on vinyl.
Finally, what solo releases/remixes do you have planned for 2015?
There is quite a lot of stuff planned for 2015 , I’m not even sure if I can make it. As I took a pause from the screens last year it doesn’t mean I didn’t do music, the opposite was the case. I just wanted to improve what I am doing and see where I want to go. This I had to find out without the rating of sales or labels.
I plan to release 3 new EPs with 2 to 3 new tracks and I also have two new remixes in the pipeline which will be released around summer. There is another project that seems very promising to become a new album, I will know about that very soon. It’s always about the workflow and inspiration you can collect on your way and of course, as I said, the product and the whole feeling with the release has to be right.
For gigs I still try to find what stuff is right to have a more analog live-set that not totally confuses me as a “one person band” but still frees me from the screen a bit more.
01. Saycet – Ayrton Senna
02. Leif – Until Dawn
03. Villanova – AR 2
04. Douglas Greed – To The Moon And Back
05. Ferdy & Daniel Van Der Zwaag – Emmy
06. Problem Makers – Lacerta – Ryan Davis Rework
08. Reid – Singapore
09. Martin Roth – Mel – Whomi Remix
10. Ryan Davis – Eyes Wide Open
11. Plastikman l Gaiser – EXpand l Way Out – Ryan Davis Rework
12. Olafur Arnalds – Epilogue