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

With Max and Kishore Ryan, you feel like you could talk endlessly about the possibility of music and language. These guys are the real deal! So let’s keep talking…

ALS: As I mentioned Rilen’s X in the last question, and Max, you hint at the possibility of throwing some Modern Lovers or Velvets into the live set, let’s talk influences… I know they tend to change through the years, but who’s currently creating a stir in your respective world’s? And where do you see yourselves fitting into the artistic landscape?

Max: I listen to a lot of things, often on my little analogue radio in the middle of the night. Currently I’m enamoured of Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas, I think it’s some of the best work he’s done. I can’t recognise any immediate influences on our album. Way back in India days I studied classical vocals (all Indian music is based on the voice); one of the features of this music is that it’s all improvised from the basic melody and probably this has sunk into the vocals on our pieces.

Don’t really see myself as part of any artistic landscape; I’m just delighted to be part of this venture with WWYAL. I’m down in Melbourne just back from a rehearsal with the band as I write this it’s more than warmed up my night.

Kishore: This is a hard question to answer. One of the only albums I haven’t grown tired of since hearing it as a teenager is Tabula Rasa by Estonian composer Arvo Part. It gets me every time.

Earlier in the year I listened to Toward the Low Sun by Dirty Three while driving and it sounded so good I had to pull over so I could concentrate on it properly. Now that I’m writing this I am reminded of an interview I saw on TV as a child. The interview was with Eric Clapton about some blues guitar hero – Stevie Ray Vaughan, or someone like that – and he said he heard a song on the radio (by whichever guitar hero he was talking about) and had to pull over because it sounded so good. At the time I thought to myself, “As if he actually pulled over. What a dickhead.” But now the same thing has happened to me. (I really hope that people don’t speed-read this and just see “influences … Eric Clapton … Stevie Ray Vaughan…” That kind of music really doesn’t do it for me. ) But anyway, returning to Dirty Three’s latest album, the first three tracks, Furnace Skies, Sometimes I Forget You’ve Gone and Moon On The Land, are my favourites.  Stupidly good.

Prior to recording Before We Lose Each Other Again, I tried to imagine what this collaboration might sound like and Velvet Underground, among others, were a point of reference. Lou Reed is someone with a background in poetry, and his voice, it could be said, is somewhat similar to Max’s.  But of course in reality the connection between our album and Velvet Underground is murky. They are a legendary band and we’re making music in Australia 40 years later. They were a rock and roll band – a somewhat experimental one, but a rock and roll band nonetheless. Musically, a lot has happened since then. For example, Harry Pussy, Merzbow and 7 Year Rabbit Cycle have happened and we’ve absorbed that to some extent. Max grew up listening to very different music to us, the Stones and Dylan, for example, so it’s great that he’s brave enough to make an album with us. A lot of people his age can’t dig what we do.

I’m not sure if this is evident on Before We Lose Each Other Again, but I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Smog, Blonde Redhead and Deerhoof, and although these artists are very different to each other, what they have in common is a certain amount of experimentalism in their early recordings and a progression to what could very loosely be called “pop” in more recent years. But even the later, more “accessible” albums are unconventional in various ways.  All good music is an experiment to some extent. If it wasn’t an experiment, then it would sound cliched. But I’ve started using too many inverted commas so I’m going to stop talking about influences very soon. Some other bands that I’m fond of at the moment are Drunk Elk, Tren Brothers, The Balky Mule, Alastair Galbraith, xNoBBQx, The Dead C, Akiko Igaki, Pumice, Armpit, John Fahey, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Silk Ears, Townes Van Zandt, Roy Orbison, Beyonce and Leonard Cohen. Samaan, Peter, Max and I have been listening to and studying music in quite an intense way for most of our lives so it’s slightly weird for me to write a list of influences on the internet.

A running joke during the recording session was that we were the Australian version of the Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration. But to answer the second part of your question, maybe that’s not for the artist to decide where they fit in. Or maybe we don’t fit in anywhere. We sent the first WWYAL album to a lot of labels and no one wanted to put it out. That’s why we started our own label Obei Gong. If you don’t fit into a scene you have to start your own scene. Before We Lose Each Other Again is Obei Gong 002.

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