Ryan Davis: “Messages and feelings”
From humble beginnings drawing and dabbling in graffiti, and a musical background that was heavily influenced by hip-hop, Ryan Davis makes for an unlikely melodic techno producer and DJ. Speaking to us fresh from his first-time arrival into Australia, Davis not only paints a picture of a musical path that could’ve turned out very different, but offers a view on life that is hugely refreshing.
As a youngster, his first musical experiences were listening to his father’s vinyl collection, which included the likes of Jean Michael Jarre, Miles Davis, English band-leader and composer John McLaughlin and for a touch of the classical, Beethoven. He eventually progressed to hip-hop, but says that “when R&B came along more and more, it lost the original hip-hop vibe, and with it, me.”
While this may have been bad news for the hip-hop scene, it shifted Davis closer and closer to electronic music. “I got more and more into electronic stuff and went to as many parties as I could,” he said. “As a result, I was influenced by all of it.” In 2000 he decided he wanted to be a DJ and bought himself turntables. Two years later he’d developed a nice little record collection for himself and as he puts it, “When I played this or that track, I’d love to chance a few things.” The producer in him had seemingly been born.
Remarking to him that the beautiful and often emotional melodies were never far away in his music, his response is one that underscores the true passion that is all too evident in the music that he plays and produces. “Melodies are essential for me. Sure, rhythm and drum elements transport the message, but it is the melody – embedded in the rhythm – that makes you dance or relax,” he says. “When it comes to the point that makes you really remember a track, a track that can either make you happy or sad, it is about a voice or a melody that you just don’t forget. I can’t live without that.”
Currently based in Berlin, Davis says that it actually isn’t the city itself that is his greatest source of inspiration, and he admits that he won’t be there for the rest of his life. While he agrees that Berlin is a good start into the scene and a really nice city, describing it as a melting pot for its food, its art, and of course its people, for Davis, the inspiration comes from somewhere else. “Inspiration is everywhere. It is in a sunset, it is in a nice afternoon. Meeting a fox in the streets, chilling in a park, having a nice conversation, or just enjoying a good party,” he says. “You just have to open your eyes for those things which exist both in a small village and equally in a big city.”
Davis is a rising star of the much acclaimed production family of Traum Schallplatten, which features well respected names like Extrawelt, Minilogue, Nathan Fake and Max Cooper keeping him company. He is full of praise for Traum, which he says is always looking for techy, melodic sounds that are detailed, and have compositions dotted with subtle changes and warm modulations. It is a description of the production house that is, in this writer’s opinion, absolutely spot on. And his connection with his label stable mates is obvious, all of whom he describes as really nice and down to earth. For all of them it would seem though, it isn’t about the music, or the ability to entertain. Rather “it’s to transport a message, and feelings.”
He’s currently working with the likes of Max Cooper, Electric Rescue, Pan/Tone (aka Gringo Grinder) and says that it has been interesting to become part of their workflow and see how they start things, providing him with a different perspective of combining ideas that is a little different to his own. He is massively excited about it and advises us to look out for a few EPs that are coming out early in 2013.
Last, but not least, on his first trip to Australia, for Davis, it is not about expectation, for he would rather just “crash into things” which happen in his life, and let the situation surprise him. It is consistent with what is a hugely refreshing take on life. He is however looking forward to getting to know us Aussies, and what our method of partying is.
As for what lay ahead for Ryan Davis: “Wherever it takes me, I’m sure it will be interesting and the music will always be with me. Best to enjoy the nice things in life as much as you can, as the rest you can’t predict…”
Ryan Davis plays:
23 November – Strawberry Fields, VIC
24 November – Shrug presents Subsonic Festival pre-Party at One22, Sydney
7 December – Subsonic Festival, Barrington Tops, NSW