Many people know Chris Ryan from, among other endeavors, The Energy and Black Congress. Yet, what caught my attention wasn’t those high profile bands but a small solo project Ryan released quietly via Bandcamp – Time. In a music scene where many bands seem to be treading similar territory, Time turns its compass around and aims for other worlds and does so with an unrelenting drive of pounding drums, a wash of echo drenched vocals, and chiming trippy guitars that drill right through your skull and out into another dimension. It’s music that you don’t need drugs to enjoy but they sure as hell don’t hurt when you hit play. In short, Time is simply modern Texas psych at its finest. We tracked down Ryan last month to ask him about the project.
FPH – You already play in The Energy and Black Congress, why the need to do a solo project?
Ryan - I’ve always had some sort of solo project going. Mostly it’s just ambient noise or drone type stuff that I record whenever I get the itch, but that stuff just stays on a 4 track tape in the closet. With Time, I felt like maybe there was a little more substance there, and the people I showed it to seemed to like it, so I figured I would put together an albums worth of stuff and throw it out there. Playing in bands with other people is great, but there’s something sort of therapeutic about taking all that noise that’s bouncing around in your head and putting it to tape.
FPH – I don’t think I’ve heard influences like Spacemen 3, Ride, and Krautrock come through before in your other bands. What gives?
Ryan - I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve been listening to Spacemen 3 since ’89 or whatever. Of course I’d heard Spacemen 3 and Spirtitualized before, and obviously stuff like Hawkwind and other Krautrock stuff, but really it wasn’t until after I recorded the first couple Time songs that someone said “Hey this reminds me of ______.” or “you must have been listening to a lot of ___________.” and I thought maybe I should give that kind of stuff more of a listen, so I did. That’s how the Spacemen 3 cover came about. Honestly, when I started recording this stuff I was mostly listening to stuff like Skullflower, Deep Purple and The Coloured Balls. People keep telling me all these bands that it reminds them of, and I’m so terrible at keeping up with music, that it’s bands that I hadn’t ever really listened to. So I have kind of made it a point more recently to listen to and read about more Psych or Krautrock stuff. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, as far as what will come out the other side, musically. I always have this fear of “Oh this sounds too much like that band, or this song.”, so maybe I shouldn’t be listening too hard?
FPH – Texas Psych has a pretty illustrious history. What made you throw your hat in that ring?
Ryan - (Laughing) I’m definitely not trying to throw my hat in anyone’s ring. I live in Texas, and I guess you would call the music psychedelic, but I don’t think it really has much to do with, or is even close to the level of something like the Elevators or Red Krayola. It probably just ended up sounding the way it does because I’m honestly not very proficient at the instruments I play, but psych music seems to be a little repetitive and blues based, and those are two things that I can do. I’m more concerned with the overall mood and atmosphere of the song than anything else. One day I hope to figure out some great songwriting secrets and cool chord changes, but there is something about just playing the same riff or chord over and over again that puts you in a kind of trance. That’s more of what I’m going for.
FPH – Is this totally solo or did you have a little help from other folks?
Ryan - Totally solo. I thought about having some other people play on it, but then I kind of made it a point to make it all me. Between however many bands I am in, I think I put out six actual records last year. I wanted to do something that was just me. I’m kind of a control freak like that.
FPH – How did you approach the songwriting and production and how was that different than writing and recording in your other bands?
Ryan – As far as songwriting goes, there really wasn’t any, in terms of getting things ready to record. I wrote the songs as I was recording them. Normally I would just mic up the bass and just start playing whatever was going on in my head, and if I thought it sounded cool, I would hit record. After that, I would just build on it from there and start layering stuff on one at a time. I record bands all the time, and normally it’s this whole involved thing with setting up a bunch of microphones and doing things a certain way, and I didn’t really feel like doing that for this. I kind of made a rule that I was going to keep a minimal approach to everything, just to keep things from getting boring. Everything was pretty much one take. If I totally fucked it up, then I would start over, but I didn’t really wanna spend all of my time running back and forth hitting the record button. Plus, that’s what delay and reverb is for, hiding your bad notes! I would throw 2 or 3 mics up to record the drums, and not really worry about if I was getting killer sounds or not. Mostly I just wanted to keep things creative. If there was a microphone that normally only gets used to record guitar, then I would use it to record the drums. The nice thing about recording things as they come, on a song by song basis, is that everything ends up sounding a little different.
FPH – What’s next for Time?
Ryan - I’m recording more songs now for another album. I’m not sure when that will be done. Right now it’s kind of Energy and Black Congress time. The Energy just recorded two songs for a 7 inch and just wrote 9 new songs for a couple other releases, so we’re gonna be working on those for a little bit. Black Congress is about to record six songs for an L.P. or that’s the plan at least, but we like sitting around talking shit to each other more than we like playing music together, so that L.P. might take awhile.
You can hear Time at: http://droneaircraft.bandcamp.com/