Coffee with Ryan James Ford
It is cold in Berlin. As i'm rolling down from Kottbusser Tor to Paul-Lincke-Ufer, my fingers are freezing and i almost regret taking the bike. Fancy hipster restaurant, Hardwax, fancy hipster restaurant. Ah, there it is! A tiny little café called Concierge, his favourite place. I get a hot coffee and a warm welcome. With the barista, Ryan and me this place already feels crowded.
It is only five years ago since the Canadian moved to Berlin and since he finally found the courage to discover and develop his own talent after decades of raving in deep affection for so many different kinds of music.
His first techno release on Marcel Dettmann's MDR in 2014 was soon followed by an EP and another one on Answer Code Request's ACR, a straight road to the forefront of the scene. Pulsating techno, deep and melodic sounds, propulsive rhythm patterns, a graceful ambience. Recently he put out his first record on his own label “SHUT” and whispers tell us we can expect the next one coming very soon.
He's one of the strongest newcomers, an incredibly gifted producer with premium class labels backing his music, at a point where playing top-notch clubs is not a surprising rarity anymore. Ryan seems like a nice person, humble. We get lost in silly jokes and a lot of laughter. Now I look forward even more to introduce this exceptional artist to Lärm and Budapest on Friday.
What’s your most special skill? It doesn’t have to be music related.
Bullshitting. In Deutsch i would say ‘Quatschen’. I don’t know what else there is.
David (the barista): People skills! He’s a generator. He gives a lot of energy. After talking to you, i feel like i can go out and just run.
Ryan: In a good and a bad way. (laughing)
Are you good at drawing?
You know, that’s the one thing that really pisses me off about art. People are saying “I’m bad at it.” But they might actually be great. Everybody can draw! Some people are technically the ugliest drawers and they are making the best stuff. I went to art school and have and art degree, i did painting and sculpture. But i spend a lot of time making music now. It’s actually good to talk about this stuff, because i never talk about it. It’s even interesting to see what i think. Right now i’m making musically some of the best stuff i ever made, so i don’t want to disrupt that. But I do the artwork for my own label. If i could figure out a way to tie my art back into my own music, that would be amazing.
What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear ‘Budapest’?
Unknown, but excited! I have my own personal image of it in my head, i’m interested to see.
Have you looked up Lärm?
Yes, i’ve seen the shows and i know a lot of people who played there, like Pablo Mateo who played there last year. The lineups look good!
How is the club experience shaped by cultural differences? Do you, when DJing, take this into consideration?
Musically it’s quite hard to take that into consideration. You notice it, but it’s hard because you’re there for such a short period of time. You see what people are into you and try to go with that and put your own voice into it.
In this regard, have you already got an impression of the eastern part of Europe?
It’s quite big. I know Poland well because of my girlfriend, but i think the countries are all different. I’ve never gone far in that area, so i really have no idea. In a good way, you know? Eastern Europe is amazing i think.
How do you prepare for a set?
It’s impossible to prepare for the unknown. I have an idea and usually it’s wrong, so i just go where the night goes. When you’re there, you see in which direction it’s going and you follow that. It’s not that inspired, it’s basically inspired by the night.
What is that certain magical something, which makes up the difference between a good DJ set and a memorable experience?
The crowd. For sure.
What would you change about the music industry?
Politics. That’s all i will say. There’s so many politics in the music industry. It would be nice if it was reduced. But it’s impossible, i think. All the exclusivity and people getting left out... Can’t we just all do drugs and dance? (laughing)
What’s your connection with Marcel Dettmann and Hardwax?
The two are separate in a way. Marcel - I sent him tunes and we do a bit of stuff musically, as far as releasing. Hardwax - One of my best friends is working there, so i go and hang out there every day. So they must be annoyed with me being there all the time. (laughs) But through that i became friends with some of the guys there. Not all of them, some of them. I mean, it’s a cool place. They’re interested in the stuff i’m interested in.
Why do you prefer playing digitally?
For me it’s basically the fact that i’m old. When i was young i was buying records and 12-inches. I went to raves in the 90’s and this is how i got into dance music, but i was way too nervous to try DJing, because i didn’t understand how you can stand in front of all the people. But i was still buying and collecting records, but taking them everywhere doesn’t make sense. I’ve already been at that stage where i played records. Of course there are advantages to vinyl, but for me CDJs are just the newer thing. It’s more interesting and i can do stuff differently than i did it in the past. Now you have people who bring 10 records with them, playing mainly digitally, but bringing the records just so they say they’re playing vinyl. What’s the difference?
Name one track! Not your all-time favourite track, just a track.
I would just say Tim Hecker. Anything that this guy does is amazing. If you have never heard of him, you should listen, it’s so beautiful.
Locked Groove, Clockwork & Avatism, Zenker Brothers, Somne, Antigone, ... How to continue this list?
I’m trying to think of the perfect fit. Answer Code Request and ... Function. I don’t know if this necessarily makes sense, but he’s one of my favourite producers of all time.