THE BLACK RYDER
“Baby’s in Black (Ryder) and I’m Feeling Blue”
We live in a world where The Black Ryder need no introduction – simply mentioning the band by name results in an acquiescent nod coupled with eyes rolling back into the skull, under heavy lids and the trigger of smiling sonic memory.
But as you well know, we do not live in the same world as everyone else.
In our world, Galactus is alive, peace is a possibility and The Black Ryder rule the earth. The first two items may never be achieved in the “real” world, but we have hope for the third – hope heightened each and every time we spend time with the band’s tremendously satisfying debut album, “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride.”
We live in the world that we create – take a ride into the world of The Black Ryder, courtesy of Scott Von Ryper.
It’s approaching two years since the recording and release of “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride” – and yet The Black Ryder still seems to be gaining new fans each and every day. The album seems to be the equivalent of some of the best cinema from the early 1970’s – a work of art that subtle enough to avoid large scale explosion, but gripping enough to slowly burn a pathway into many people’s consciousness. Your thoughts? What expectations (if any) did you have upon the album’s initial release? What has been most surprising to you in regard to reaction to the album?
Firstly, I very much appreciate the eloquent and flattering way that you have stated that, and that you feel that way about the evolution of this album and us as a group. It’s true and we are very blessed that new people keep discovering this album every day. It’s always nice to receive messages from those people too.
It IS a slow burn thing and we don’t mind that at all. It’s interesting that the discovery of the album is at the same pace that the album was created – slow and steady. It comes down to this hope: “If you make good music, people will find it or hear about it … eventually”. I wish that were true all the time in general, but it is a hope I have for what we do.
To be honest, the other good thing about being slowly discovered is that there is no rush placed upon you to make a rushed second album because your 15 minutes is running out after having being the “hot thing” of the month.
I guess our expectations were that people would dig this album, because we did and our friends did. We were both wise enough not to expect too much but we were, and still remain pleasantly appreciative that people continue to discover and appreciate it.
Despite our desire to feel cultured and adult and generally nonplussed about these type of things, we can’t help but still feel giddy about it when a band from Australia actually, y’know, strays so far from home. What are the benefits of forming your initial musical mindsets in Australia? The disadvantages? What Australian bands do you think deserve a bit more attention than they are receiving currently?
When you talk about “straying so far from home”, I wonder if you mean geographically or culturally from an outsiders perception of Australian music. I guess it doesn’t hurt us when people find out that we are Australian, as it’s a little different from the crowd. The U.S. (our current home) has so many bands it makes your head spin if you were to pay close attention to it all, so anything different is generally a good thing. Most folks outside of Australia also don’t really know many Australian bands outside of any BIG commercial success bands, and less of them know any current ones, so I guess there’s a little curiosity there that this music was created by a band from Australia.
It’s very hard to know how our early environment may have or may not have influenced our music. Aimee and I do have a love for open spaces, which we think is something that links to our music, and that could very well be environmental.
In terms of other Australian bands, I must admit that I don’t know many current Australian bands, and by current, I mean new(ish). There are some older bands that I think deserved a lot more attention than they got. One of those is The Underground Lovers. They made a number of very good albums which easy deserved for more people to hear them, but that’s how it goes isn’t it. They impacted myself, and some of my friends that I respect musically, which is more than you can say about most bands. In my eyes, that’s a success.
What are your memories of performing at Austin Psych Fest this year? What’s the strangest or most incongruous festival line-up you’ve ever been a part of?
My first thought is to the conditions on the day we played. We hadn’t really slept for a few days due to a tough lead up schedule, and it was extremely humid inside the venue that day which is tough for the bands and the audience. We had a late night show the night before a few hours away, an early morning live taping in Austin that morning, and then the actual festival show all within 24 hours. On shows like that, your body summons energy from god knows where and then 5 minutes after you finish, it takes it all back and then some, and leaves you struggling to stand up.
As part of The Black Ryder, Aimee and I have only played maybe two festivals that I recall so don’t have much in the “bank” for the second half of that question.
Is it fair to assume that the title of the album is a wink and a nod toward that most magnificent of Americans, Hunter S. Thompson? What was it about this particular statement that lead you to utilize it for the album title? I can’t help but think of the gone-too-soon comedian Bill Hicks’ statement “It’s just a ride” whenever listening to the album, so I have to ask … was there a “plan B” when it came to the album title?
Firstly, yes the title is a quote from HST. Aimee and I love Hunter’s writing and we love that quote. Like any great quote or lyric, we personalized it. We saw how it applied to us, and our situation. The creation of The Black Ryder and the album was a tough one for many reasons. Doing it very much on our own with a lot to learn, and getting that carrot dangled out in front of you and pulled away all the time by record companies etc. … It’s fucking draining emotionally AND financially. We’ve invested a shit load of tears, sweat and money into this thing and we still keep doing it. We walked away from a very big record deal early on which would have made everything so much easier, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to agree to the terms as it wasn’t a fair deal. That’s hard. Instead we invested a lot of our own money and made a smaller deal .We did buy our ticket and we’re still taking the ride … all of it … not just the nice bits. For every great part of doing this, there’s a 100 times that in tough shit to get through. For every win, there’s a bunch of things that didn’t happen.
What are the elements to The Black Ryder’s live performance that are most critical to you – volume, visuals, metric tons of stage smoke? What do you personally try to bring to the live performance that may not be represented as fully when related to the recorded experience?
Well volume is important. On occasion when we have stupidly agreed with the sound guy to turn down to below what feels good on stage, it fucks your perception of the show and your ability to enjoy it. No volume for band or audience = bad show. No exceptions.
The visuals are something that Aimee spends a lot of time on creating and I believe that they are a very important part to the show. A little smoke and good lighting doesn’t hurt either. Whatever it takes to help us and the audience detach from reality for an hour. We want to create a visual sense to match the music that we’re playing.
What do I personally bring? Personally, I like to use all my energy on stage. Not just from volume, but from the physical movement of playing . I DO like to hit my guitar and thrash around when I feel like it. When everything is right, I can get quite lost in it. Sometimes the songs do that for me. I don’t like to stand still looking at my shoes just thinking about what pedal changes I need to make next. If it was all technical, I’d be kinda bored. That’s just me though. I cant speak for anyone else. I like to feel totally exhausted in a good way when I leave the stage.
What is the most moving live performance you’ve seen from another band or artist over the course of the past year and why?
I honestly cant think if one in the past year. To be really moved requires something extraordinary; something very emotional and intense. I’ve seen bands play well and put on a great show, but to be moved? That’s a rare thing and very special when it happens.
What bands have you been listening to lately? Push comes to shove, what is your favorite Radio Birdman song of all time?
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not a big Birdman fan. I’m just not a big fan of that type of music. I probably could have appreciated a live show, but I don’t own any records like that.
I’ve been listening to a lot of old blues and country records, and have been for quite a while. I really like to listen to vinyl only at home now as much as possible so nothing new ever tends to get on my turntable.
Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that I am attempting to start right now) that The Black Ryder, The Black Angels, Black Mountain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and possibly the actor Jack Black are all part of a super-secret Gnostic cabal, meeting in secret underground locales to worship beneath giant, hand-painted images of Black Sabbath?
Well, Scientology wasn’t really working out for us all … one has to pass the time somehow.
In the excellent book “Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and art” by Lewis Hyde, the author quotes the philosopher Richard Rorty as saying, “A poeticized culture … would not insist that we find the real world behind the painted one, the real touchstones of truth as opposed to touchstones which are merely cultural artifacts. It would be a culture which, precisely by appreciating that all touchstones are such artifacts, would take as its goal the creation of ever more various and multicolored artifacts.” Your thoughts? Do you feel that being a musician allows you to – either in a small or large way – help “poeticize” the world we live in?
Absolutely. It does for us at least, and hopefully for those who are moved by our music. Certain music is designed to help one escape from reality, the boring life, the bad relationship, the crappy job, the mundane (modern life). It should be a trip into the subconscious, and create imagery outside of your current four walls (physical and perceived). It can make you forget about your “real world” responsibilities and worries and move you into just living in the moment. It can help you find beauty. Cinema does this as well. If you have ever walked back out onto the street after seeing a film that has genuinely moved you and sucked you in, sometime the real world seems like the strange one. Not real. You can feel like you are walking around in a strange dream for a while.
What’s next for The Black Ryder?
We’re writing and recording new music. We have been working on a soundtrack for a film by Michael Spiccia, who directed our “Sweet Come Down” clip, and are enjoying this quite a bit. I think we would like to do more of this type of work in the future. At the same time, we are also writing tracks for another album and doing the occasional show when we feel like it. We have been very lucky in meeting some very talented visual artists recently who are interested on doing something, so we’re working on projects there too. We would love to tour a little more later in the year as well.
Original Black Ryder photo by Michael Passman