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Interview: RY X

It’s perhaps a little odd to think that RY X has only just released his debut solo album.

With the haunting debut single ‘Berlin’ out back in 2013 (which you might remember was used for a Sony TV ad), you might wonder what has taken the LA based, Australian singer songwriter so long to release an LP?

Well you need to cut Ry X (real name Ry Cuming) a bit of slack. He’s been busy galavanting across the world connecting with nature, collaborating with electronic trio The Acid and electronic duo Howling.

Anyway, Ry finally followed up on the commercial success of ‘Berlin’ with the hotly anticipated LP Dawn. The album features Ry’s distinct, ethereal vocal delivery over a reverb soaked electric guitar. The result is makes for intense and raw listen, over the twelve tracks Ry transforms inner misery into something darkly majestic.

So upon anticipating my phone interview with Ry as he currently tours the UK, I was expecting a rather miserable and pessimistic character. Thankfully, my expectations were proven wrong, as Ry was a warm individual, passionate about life and his connection with nature.

So you’re currently on tour in the UK at the moment and playing Manchester tonight. How do you find UK shows?

I’ve just started this round. It was a packed show in St Ives in Cornwall last night, and I’m in Manchester tonight. The UK always feels a bit like home, in a way culturally being Australian and with the language. I feel really understood here!

I’ve played some of my biggest shows in the UK. I’m playing Shepherds Bush (London) on this run of shows and Union Chapel on my last run. I feel love on the ground here, and it feels beautiful to have that.

How does it feel playing such large and prestigious venues despite the lack of radio play?

It’s great to be doing it outside the mainstream media in a way, without commercial radio and stuff. It’s a hard path to walk but I’m glad that I’m walking it. I’m honoured and humbled that people are walking that path with me!

Nice metaphor! You seem to be always on the road, extensively touring all over the world. Do you still enjoy this lifestyle or do you think of it more of a chore?

It’s not a chore, but I don’t enjoy it completely! To be honest, now I see it as a giving exercise, I see it as a way to be present and give back. With any art, if you’re going to move any art around the world and installing a gallery piece in a different city every night. There’s a certain amount of stress and energy. That’s what we do, we create this shows, we go and set up something special every night.

So does it feel quite emotionally draining performing songs every night?

You just need to balance it. You need a day off here and there. You need to connect with nature, see friends and drink wine. You need to fit it in!

So is all that now catered into your touring schedule then?

Sometimes (laughs) but not as much as I’d like!

Growing up in Australia, I heard you were a keen surfer. Was this another route that you considered taking?

Once you’ve started surfing as a life, you’re never gonna leave it. It becomes part of who you are. But in terms of competing I’m not much of a surfer, although I guess I have a lot of drive. I did a lot of surfing  when I was younger but it was never something that I thought would be in the competitive realm of. Surfing to me is much more spiritual, connecting with nature and a solitude sort of thing.

Talking of Australia, I read that you grew up in a small coastal village in Australia. In light of this, how does it feel to connect with your music to so many people? 

It’s awesome! I dreamed of playing music when I was younger, I was in a lot of grungey/ punk bands in early teens. Then I started to write more of my own music, and I dreamed of being able to share my music. Then to move from LA from that tiny place was a massive shift, from 200 people to 20 million was a pretty drastic shift and took a lot of adjustment.

Would you say LA is a good place to base yourself creatively?

I need a balance, it’s an amazing city and at the same time I need to get out. I try to get out to nature regularly, up or down the coast surface. It’s great in LA that you can do that. In London you can’t do that, it’s hard to get to untreaded nature- so I need that balance. I don’t know if LA will be home forever, but it will be for a while.

It’s clear being close to nature is important to you. Going on your instagram I see that you have lots of scenic pictures of nature from your travels. How important is social media to you to present a personality as an artist?

It’s something not that important to me to be honest. I don’t see social media as important, but I see the community on the other side as important. I think some people think that social media is important rather than the people on the other side of it. If you see people as the focus, you’re going to want to connect with them in a way that is natural for you. I’ve always loved photography, and the pictures have a human appreciation, so I share where I am. Rather than “here’s a ticket link, here’s a link about how great I am” – I don’t resonate with that.

It’s also powerful as you don’t have to have record labels. You can share directly with people, and there’s something beautiful in that.

Unfortunately in rainy England the phone signal cut out so I missed the end of Ry’s article. We resumed the interview below anyway…

Changing subjects on to the music now! You recently release your first solo LP as Ry X called Dawn. How would you describe the sound and what you were you hoping to achieve on the record?

I tried to originate it, in an explorative, soundscape kind of world. However, it’s all based around the songs from human emotion. So those are the core themes. I just wanted to be true to the artistic process. Being true to myself and nature. Going into the studio with songs that are really human and are connect to who I am as a person. Then to explore this on a sonic level. Pushing myself to strip back and be as raw as possible and explore aspects of production in a way that other people haven’t. I think it’s much more subconscious for me, I don’t really plan it all out!

Personally I think the approach played off, Dawn to me is a stunning album. Which song on the album do you think resonates with your approach?

Oh man, that’s a hard one! To me there’s certain moments like in ‘Beacon’ and ‘Sweat’ that are so personal and stripped back. It’s all done in one take and there’s something really powerful about that, and exploring other aspects. I suppose that’s why we have twelve songs on an album, creating an experience.

You’ve collaborated extensively being in The Acid and Howling. Do you prefer collaborating as a music or a solo artist?

I think it’s just different exploration. I think I am retaining an honesty in a way that I express personally, it’s just mirrored against how someone else expresses themselves personally. Collaborating is a special thing, you get to be who you are while they get to be who they are, a blend of different worlds in an emotional and a sonic way.

I’ve realised that expressing myself in Ry X in a raw way. Whereas in another projects I get to explore a more meta concept.  

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

If Björk called me up I’d be over the moon. Obviously Radiohead, people like Sigur Rós. Or more composers like Steve Reich or Ravi Shanker when he was alive. There’s a lot of different people that I respect in the music world, so I think my answer is constantly changing.

Finally, you’ve recently remixed ‘Love on the Brain’ for Rihanna. How did that come about?

I suppose it was a bit random. So I also have some of my efforts in the house and techno world. When Rihanna’s people ask you to do a remix, you do a remix – it’s Rihanna! If Rihanna asked you to write an article, you’d write an article – it’s Rihanna! I really respect her as an artist, people like Drake, Kendrick, Kanye. They are all making good art most of the time, and they’re making it their way and being true to themselves. You have to have a respect for that. A lot of the time others are following what they do, like everyone wants to a visual album or a secret album. It’s great these artists are taking the power back and doing it their way! I was a bit honoured when Rihanna’s crew reached out to my crew, can you try a remix for Rihanna, and I’m honoured they put it out as I’m sure they got a lot of remixes from a lot of people.

Ry X’s debut album Dawn is out now.