"People are so detached from that..."

LA’s Ryat is just about as close to an actual artist as the Collins dictionary will allow these days.

Whilst the word gets thrown around pretty willy nilly for every junior that can just about pluck an A Major chord, its not every day that an art installation is the next entry in a musician’s diary.

Having signed to FlyLo’s seminal leftfield imprint, Brainfeeder, the New Jersey native has completed a record that is just about as glitch as even he would allow. Yet art is art, and most especially if it’s good art there’s no reason why people won’t appreciate it to its full extent.

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Brainfeeder usually focus a lot on experimental and leftfield hip-hop, but what do you think it was that made Flying Lotus pick up on you?
I think that he wants to go in a lot of different directions and he’s just one of those people that appreciates fine-tuned art. When he heard what I was working on he really liked it.

What’s life like over in LA?
I was actually born in New Jersey and just travelled around going from New York to Philly and then into the middle of nowhere. But I do that a lot; just go into the middle of nowhere to work on my art. That’s what I was doing out in Pennsylvania, just working out near the beach so I spent a lot of time out there. Then, it was only about a year ago that I decided to go somewhere else and I was signing to Brainfeeder and starting to make friends with loads of people on the label. At first, I didn’t really think it was home, but the more that I'm away from it, the more I'm realising that it could be home. The weather is amazing and you can garden there all year round, which I like to do. I love the weather in California and there’s all sorts of mountains and beaches. Although I'm very fast paced when it comes to making stuff, so that’s a big reason why I travel a lot. California is a little to laid back for me sometimes and ‘Totem’ is a much slower record in my eyes than I expected to make and that had a lot to do with the environment. It’s vibrating at a total different frequency there.

Now that the project is finished, what’s the next stage?
I'm touring a lot live and with the live show, I'm combining ‘Totem’ with my last record ‘Avant Gold’. It’s much more high energy which is how I got signed to Brainfeeder and then I did this whole other more compositional record so I'm combining them both. I really like the show because I feel that it’s really dynamic and there’s elements of improvisation so it’s never the same. I'm always taking the beats and messing about with them. Vocally, I love to do a lot of experimentation. That’s just fun for me.

I’m already writing the next record as well. I’m working on a really big project that is going to go with the next record so I know its gonna take a good year to do. Not musically, but visually its gonna be the live show and I'm doing an installation and travel show. The next record is gonna be the soundtrack to the whole thing.

So the arts as a whole play a big part?
I always liked to combine all the arts, like I just did a score to modern dance back in Philadelphia and I usually do one a year. I like to work with lots of mixed media stuff, for instance, with my good friend Annapurna Kumar who does a lot of the animation for my live shows. She does specific ones for each show and now I want to take it to the next level with more 3D work. I would tour with an orchestra if I could. Art for me is so much more layered than just sound. Obviously, there is sound but there’s so many pictures and stories to play with in art. It has to be very layered or I usually just get bored of it. That’s probably why I like jazz and classical music a lot because it’s so deep.

Was there a distinct concept behind the ‘Totem’ project?
There’s a whole theme throughout the album to do with spirit animals. I really got into the Native American culture and spirituality. As I was on tour and driving through America, I would stop at reservations and you’d just see how the US has bastardized the way of living and being. It's really sad and I started doing so much reading and got really inspired by the idea of living symbiotically with the earth. The way that the natives would take messages from the animals and the Earth in terms of functioning and in the same way that we do with religion, I guess. That was really inspiring for me and I felt that if we were to do that with our culture, we would create a lot less shit. People are so detached from that and I really got into that headspace and barely talked to people or went out. I just worked in my garden and read.

Words by Errol Anderson
Photo Credit: Theo Jemison

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Watch out for a full feature on Ryat in a future issue of Clash Magazine.

Catch Ryat performing live at London venue the Waiting Room on Thursday (July 5th) alongside Livin' Proof duo DJ Rags and The Last Skeptik. More information HERE.

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