July Pin-Up Poet (part II): Max Ryan & Where Were You At Lunch

Let’s kick things back into overdrive with Max & Kishore Ryan! This time around we talk formalism and bringing new life to a poem through music…

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ALS: I am glad you mentioned how the title track, Before We Lose Each Other Again came together. For me, it is a stand out track. One of the things that really fascinates me about you choosing this track to record with WWYAL is that it is a poem that adheres to a formal structure, something that at first, seems a little at odds with WWYAL’s musical ethos and the project in general. But in the hands of WWYAL, the poem takes on a new life, almost as if the music and the vocal interplay has brought a greater depth to the words; particularly the image of the hunter… so quietly menacing. Listening to this track made me want to ask how you selected the poems to take to the band for this project. Can you shed some light on that for us? And from the band’s perspective, were there any poems that really surprised you in the way they took shape musically?

Kishore Ryan in the studio

Kishore: During the recording we all had our favourite Max Ryan poem that we wanted to turn into a song. Mine was “Kenny”. It is a poem that is less formal in its structure than some of Max’s other work. But what is uncanny is the fact that we, WWYAL, wrote our parts to completely different lyrics, namely a poem called “The Dancer, Burning Ghat, Varanasi”, that didn’t make it onto the album. But I wasn’t willing to throw the whole thing away. I had the idea that the instrumental parts might work with the unstructured prose of “Kenny”. Performance wise, I think Max locks into the rhythm that Peter and I are playing just enough. It’s loose. The way he recites it adds this distress that is perfect for the narrative. On this track (and others) Samaan plucks the strings with a 10-cent coin instead of a pick and the way he plays his melody gives beauty to what is otherwise a pretty dark track. “Kenny” is probably the song I’m most proud of on the album.

The first time we tried to record “Before We Lose Each Other Again” it didn’t work because the parts Peter, Samaan and I were playing were difficult for Max to lock into. So we recorded some other songs and just before we finished on the last night we had another go at it. The second time was a bit of a struggle too. It was really hot that day. Perhaps the simplicity of the song’s structure came from our desperation to get a good take and go home. I’m glad that everyone persisted with that one because it adds something special to the album. But the first version of “Before We Lose Each Other Again” wasn’t disregarded completely. We used a portion of the instrumental parts as an outro for “Kenny”. So “Kenny” recycles two different musical ideas. That’s not the reason I’m proud of it, but it’s strange how things come together sometimes.

Max in the studio

 

Max: Ha, notice Kishore’s fond of kenny track. Pretty sure that was one they went for other than me but I like the surging rhythm and Samaan’s great riff on that, also the way the voice keeps slipping out of the downbeat captures the sense of the boy narrator struggling not to be enmeshed in Kenny’s dark scenario somehow…

We all had pieces we favoured. I wanted to try leaving newcastle though, like I said before, the way it ended up being sung (rather than recited) happened quite spontaneously in the studio. The band were really keen to have a crack at leela (a rather acerbic dig at a certain kind of Byron Bay poet) but I thought it was a bit too nasty or something then on the last day (must have been the heat again) I thought ‘why not?’ and we nailed it in a couple of takes. The band are going full throttle here and my voice blows a gasket. All good clean fun and, spontaneously again, the band cut out at the end leaving the voice barking in the air: ‘don’t call it poetry!’

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And now for a real treat… here’s a preview from the album, the bristling, Kenny by Max Ryan & WWYAL.

 

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