Ryan James Ford is currently one of the most exciting producers in techno. I know this claim gets thrown around quite regularly, but in the case of the Canadian producer and DJ, it’s valid. His sonic is something truly unique and sits on a level high above other productions.
He first came to my personal attention with his MDR 17 EP on Marcel Dettmann Records. To be released on the Berlin Don’s record label is truly saying something about your production skills. Ryan has the ability to blending hard, pumping techno music with soft and emotional ambient in a way I’ve haven’t heard before. I highly recommend listening to the tracks embedded throughout this interview.
Ryan has his own record label titled SHUT, which in a way suits his style as I couldn’t think of any other appropriate space for his music apart from MDR. Once again, I implore you to just listen to the music, it’s sensational.
Ahead of Ryan’s debut Australia DJ sets in Sydney and Melbourne, I had the chance to ask some questions.
FS: I believe that most DJ’s and producers have a ‘eureka moment’ when they heard a song or certain DJ and techno music suddenly clicks for them (mine was a Marcel Dettmann DJ set). Do you remember yours or has electronic music always been a part of your life?
RJF: Pretty hard to pick a specific moment. I started with local raves in the ’90s in my hometown when I was in high school. I remember this guy Trevor gave me a tape that he received (who knows who from). It was a recording of an early UK hardcore/ Jungle radio show, maybe from Kool FM. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I first heard that tape, so magical. I wore that tape out in my yellow Sony Sports Walkman.
FS: Explain your ideal techno experience. How would you best enjoy a session out listening and dancing to electronic/techno music?
RJF: I’m a big fan of the end of the night, the sun rising in a warehouse (hockey rink, community centre, rugby hall, all ok), in my hometown back in the mid-nineties. The diversity of the crowd, the sense of discovery, and the community were pretty amazing. Basically, this is the feeling that comes out when I make a song, even if I try not to. End of rave (night) comedown music… also, don’t forget the after party.
FS: For you personally, what has been the craziest or most bizarre realization you’ve had about your progression through your career in electronic music?
RJF: I love pizza as much now as I did before! Haha.
FS: You’ve been running your own recording imprint, SHUT, for 2 years now. What made you decide you would start a label just as a home for your own music? Have there been some challenges you’ve faced along the way in regards to running SHUT?
RJF: I just figured that I wanted to do something that I was in control of from beginning to end. Artwork, tracks, finishing, etc. I had the opportunity to do the label and have it distributed so I decided to give it a go.
It’s definitely hard for me to pick the tracks that should be on an EP. One of the most interesting parts of doing a record with someone else is to see which tracks they pick and put together. It’s always a different combination than what I expected, which is fun.
FS: The artwork on SHUT has a distinct ‘comic book’ theme. Can you explain where the inspiration for this comes from?
RJF: It’s not comics, it’s skateboarding! I grew up being into skateboarding, the ideas and aesthetics involved from it. There have been so many amazing artists that have come from skateboarding. The Gonz, Ed Templeton, Sean Cliver, Neil Blender, Alex Olson, too many to name… Skateboarding totally rules everything else totally sucks! Haha! Just kidding. 😉
FS: Your productions are very uniquely produced and do by no means follow any trend in techno music. Tracks like Lidya Birkett are infused with ambience and emotion. What do you draw on within yourself when writing your music?
RJF: I don’t try for any specific sound. I just start somewhere and see where it goes from there. If I try to make a ‘type’ of song it never works or feels right. I try to maintain some sort or spontaneity when producing as it would be boring otherwise.
FS: I’m always curious about producers track naming process. You’ve said in the past that you’ve got a system for naming tracks that suits you. Could you expand on that system for us? What language are these names in?
RJF: There is always some sort of mystery with names in general. I think people always put their own meanings into them and that is fine by me! That’s what’s most important, the listeners perspective.
FS: Do you think that people’s productions say something about themselves? If so, what does your music reflect about you as a person?
RJF: It must say something, but how to decipher it would be complicated…
FS: You’re coming down to Australia from Berlin to play a show with Bunker in Melbourne. Have you been to ‘the land down under’ before? If not what are you looking forward to about your trip? What are some stereotypes that you hear about Australians in Europe?
RJF: Never been before and am super excited to come to Australia as it seems like such an amazing place. I always love to explore new places and meet the locals. It really opens you up to a new perspective on life which is important.
I’m from the edge of the Canadian Rockies, I knew many Australians in the ski town’s and ski resorts, surprisingly they love snow!
FS: What is your go-to music that you listen to when you need cheering up?
RJF: Radiohead – Idioteque, Bjork – Joga, Fever Ray – When I Grow Up, Bad Brains – P.M.A., Outkast – Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac), Nirvana – Dumb, Autechre – Vletrmx, Gang Starr – Moment of Truth, Tricky – Overcome, Portishead – Strangers,
FS: Random question: You win the lottery. What are you going to do with all that money?
RJF: Buy the following records:
- Prince – The Black Album Warner Bros. Records – 92 56771 – Canada Pressing
- Caustic Window – Caustic Window LP Rephlex – CAT 023
- AFX* – Analogue Bubblebath 5 Rephlex – CAT 034
- Polygon Window – Portreath Harbour Warp Records – WAP146
- Aphex Twin – Syro Warp Records – WARPLP247X
Ryan James Ford’s Australia shows are as follows: