JIMMY RYAN
21st Century Riffology
(Grooveyard Records)

 

Master riffologist and all-around American guitar hero Jimmy Ryan was the guiding light behind the underrated and overlooked American instrumental progressive / hard rock band The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers. Sadly, the band has been dormant, yet six years later, Jimmy returned in late 2017 with his new solo album called 21st Century Riffology. With 21 tracks clocking in around 50 minutes, the sonic bursts of electric guitar are short but sweet and totally hot. Jimmy could always be counted on for a solid riff and a melody to take it skywards in the Flyin' Ryan Brothers band and 21st Century Riffology is a stellar showcase for Jimmy Ryan’s patented electric guitar prowess, all the while accentuating the FRB’s patented instrumental hard rock and heavy metal guitar sound. 21st Century Riffology is even more on fire than the 2011 Flyin’ Ryan Brothers CD, Under The Influence, which is hard rock heavy metal but loaded with a kind of implied Progmetal rock style influence. As FRB fans will note, the sheer amount of styles and riffs on 21st Century Riffology is stunningly mind blowing. What’s even more incredible is that Jimmy has done the whole album on his own, with the drums handled by Dan Van Schindel. FRB fans may miss the interlocking band style and greatness of Under The Influence, yet it’s great to have Jimmy back on the recording scene again, especially with a new, sizzling sounding, self-produced solo album. The Hendrix influenced track “Stardust” is essential guitar 101. Highlighting 21 tracks with Ryan-esque titles like “Speedloader”, “Nailgun”, “Funkalicious” and “Zenology”, 21st Century Riffology will clear your cobwebs and clean your clocks. Play loud for maximum impact. www.ryanetics.com

 





21st Century Riffology: an interview with
Jimmy Ryan

mwe3
: Why did it take so long to get a new solo album from you?

Jimmy Ryan: Well, it wasn’t intended... ironically, I hadn’t really considered another solo album because of the work I was planning on doing with my brother once I retired from my day gig. I thought it was going to be a “golden age” for The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers and I really felt we had a few albums left in us. It wasn’t meant to be, so I had to get over it and get on with my own thing. As fate would have it, an opportunity presented itself in writing music for use in TV & film and that ended up being the body of work that we drew the tracks for 21st Century Riffology from.

mwe3: Where does 21st Century Riffology begin after the Flyin' Ryan Brothers legacy?

Jimmy Ryan: It’s sort of an unbroken chain… I’ve always been driven to create, whether on my own or with others; my mother was like that and I’m definitely following in her footsteps in that regard. As she always said, ‘You gotta have art.’

mwe3: What made you want to call it a day with the Flyin’ Ryan Brothers and what about the other members doing now?

Jimmy Ryan: That wasn’t intended, either…at least from my standpoint. My brother Johnny no longer wanted to write or record. He had “been there done that” so to speak and wanted to focus his energies on playing live. I was devastated, but it is what it is. So be it. He now plays in a cover band called Vertical Jam. They’re excellent. Bass player Bill Kopecky lives in France and is heavily involved in the progressive music scene over there. I work with drummer Dan Van Schindel on the TV & film work I do; he also plays drums with my brother in their band.

mwe3: What period of the Flyin' Ryan Brothers do you feel was the zenith?

Jimmy Ryan: For me, the last 3 albums… Blue Marble, Totality and Under The Influence really represent us hitting our stride. I’m sorry we weren’t able to do more.

mwe3: How many albums did you make with the Flyin' Ryan Brothers and how many solo albums have you done?

Jimmy Ryan: 7 with my brother - Sibling Revelry, Colorama, The Chaos Sampler, Legacy, Blue Marble, Totality and Under The Influence and 3 on my own - Finally, Truth Squad/Superkiller and 21st Century Riffology.

mwe3: How did you hook up with Grooveyard Records?

Jimmy Ryan: They’re an independent label dedicated to outstanding, top-shelf “Total Guitar” music from around the world and the work they do “keeping the rock alive with the riffage that matters” is incredible. I first met Joe “Groovedawg” Romagnola, the president and high priest of the Grooveyard, in 2003 when he contacted me about his interest in picking up my Truth Squad release. We hit it off in a big way and have been deep musical brothers and dear friends ever since. I love him and his wife Sami to death. The Grooveyard catalog is absolutely mind-boggling in depth and breadth, and it’s an honor and a privilege to work with them.

mwe3: How did you work together with drum Dan Van Schindel on the 21st Century Riffology CD.

Jimmy Ryan: We recorded everything at Dan’s home studio. We’ve partnered up for the TV tracks I do, and it’s a match made in heaven. He engineers everything and he’s got that down cold, which frees me up to be able to create and not worry about that part of it. It’s a blessing. We’ve been doing it for over 2 years now and have over 100 tracks under license. It’s joyful work, and we have a lot of fun doing it.

mwe3: Didn't Dan join the Flyin’ Ryan Brother when drummer Johnny Mrozek passed away?

Jimmy Ryan: Yes, he did step into that void after Johnny died, although Dan was a Flyin’ Ryan Brother going all the way back to the mid-1970s in the very first iteration of TFRB. He’s actually got the best of both worlds: he works with me in the studio and he plays drums in my brother’s band. He’s the only person who actually plays with TFRB now…just not at the same time.

mwe3: And why was the new album mastered in Greece by Stavros?

Jimmy Ryan: Joe at the Grooveyard recommended him, and after hearing some of the work he’s done, particularly his “Universal Hippies” release, also on Grooveyard Records, I was all in with his mastering mojo!

mwe3: What do you make of all this time gone by? So many artists are dying so it's amazing that some are still able to get a record out.

Jimmy Ryan: So many artists are dying so it's amazing that some are still able to get a record out. It is amazing. One thing I believe is that nothing happens by accident, so we have to make things happen. We’re still here, so we better make the most of the time we’ve got left. That’s all I’m trying to do. Keep on moving. On to the next thing…

mwe3: What do you miss most compared with say 10 or even 25 years ago?

Jimmy Ryan: Some random thoughts on now vs. then: tech has turned us all into addicts. Everything is all style and no substance. Art is now commerce, and everything is based on its utility. It’s profits before people or planet. We confuse things that are popular with things that are really good. Innovation is great only if it makes money. I could go on and on. That said, the only thing permanent is change, so we better roll with it or get rolled over by it. The past is gone. Embrace what works and discard the rest.

mwe3: You wrote a pretty scathing indictment of the music business in the liner notes. I guess the internet is the new music business.

Jimmy Ryan: I guess the internet is the new music business. It most certainly has turned out that way; I don’t like it, but its way bigger than me.

mwe3: How long before the smart phone eliminates the hi-fi industry?

Jimmy Ryan: In a certain sense it already has. Just look around…everybody’s got their nose buried in their iPhone at all times. Music? Streaming through earbuds is just the way it is today. Like everything else, music has been commodified. It’s just a sign of the times. I do love the ability to find stuff out instantly on the web, but I hate other aspects of tech. I don’t text. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or any of that shit. You can email me, but I’d rather you call me. You can call me, but I’d rather see you in person. I need the human touch. I’m a dinosaur, man.

mwe3: Why do you call the album 21st Century Riffology and do you consider yourself to be a master riffologist?

Jimmy Ryan: Well, the title was Joe’s idea…he’s got a way with words and really digs in deep to every project he releases. Within the context of the release, I think the title 21st Century Riffology is the perfect metaphor for the paradigm shift represented by the content: 21 songs in about 50 minutes. A “master riffologist”? Probably not…if anything, I’ve developed a process that works for me and honed a skill set that enables me to continually get it all out in an organized and consistent fashion. I’m pretty good on the fly and a lot of what I do with Dan is on the fly.

mwe3: Which are the newer tracks on the CD?

Jimmy Ryan: All of them started out as submissions for the TV work I do. I submitted all the tracks I had to Joe and he chose the ones he felt were the right fit. He had me extend the solo sections on a few of those tracks - "Stompbox", "Untamed", "Superchunk", "Injector" and asked me to write 4 new songs to complete his vision for the release: the opener & closer "Event Horizon" and Zenology", "X Factor" and "Stardust".

mwe3: Is "Stardust" a modern day Hendrix tribute?

Jimmy Ryan: I guess you could look at it that way. To say Jimi was an influence is an understatement. It does have a very ethereal Hendrixian vibe and the reverse solo at the end is very reminiscent of something he might’ve done. The main solo section leans a bit more toward the Gilmouresque but resonates the overall direction and vibe.

mwe3: What do you think Jimi Hendrix would make of the world in 2017?

Jimmy Ryan: I think he’d be outraged and disillusioned at the state of the world today. My favorite quote by him is “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” He was so right. We have a long way to go.

mwe3: Tell us some bit about the guitars you used on 21st Century Riffology and what bass did you use?

Jimmy Ryan: I relied on a bunch of instruments. On the rhythm tracks, for the standard tuning and drop D stuff I used a Fano RB-6, a Peavey Wolfgang, my ’74 Strat and a Birdsong 4 string bass. I used an ESP 7 string and a vintage ‘70s Alembic 5 string for the low B stuff. On the leads I used several old Strats, a ‘70s BC Rich Bich, an ’82 Epiphone Spirit with a Bill Harden pickup and a Nik Huber Krautster, depending on the track. I used a Fractal Audio Axe-FX Ultra direct for most of the tracks along with some pedals through the front end to grease it up a bit where it was needed.

mwe3: Any big news in the guitar world for you?

Jimmy Ryan: I think the boutique guitar and amp builder revolution is really encouraging. People like Cliff & Patty Cultreri at Destroy All Guitars represent the future of what’s possible to me. I won’t go anywhere else for guitars or amplification. They’re incredible. If you can imagine it, they can procure it. Cliff is a tone guru of the highest order.

mwe3: With the internet I guess the print world has also been impacted by and large.

Jimmy Ryan: No doubt about it. Look at what happened with 20th Century Guitar magazine and what you’re doing now with mwe3.com! I’m doing this interview with you here now and I really appreciate the opportunity. The web, through people like you, gives me a voice that I otherwise wouldn’t have. In today’s world, you won’t find me or TFRB in the print mags. Why? We’re not a name brand. We may be good, but we’re not that popular. We don’t sell enough product. We don’t have corporate endorsements or sponsorships. We don’t have an advertising budget. We don’t “pay to play”. In other words, we don’t sell magazines, and publishers need to sell magazines to survive. Again, everything is based on its utility. I get it. I recently let all my guitar magazine subscriptions lapse with the exception of Vintage Guitar, but not because of the web. They’ve all turned into guitar-centric versions of “Cosmopolitan”... pages and pages of ads and endorsements sprinkled with interviews with the same people most of the time and dozens of “we love everything” reviews. Gimme a break.

mwe3: What was the recording process on 21st Century Riffology like?

Jimmy Ryan: Dan and I have it down to a science from our TV work together. We have a standing session once a week. I record the rhythm guitar & bass tracks to a click, generally 3 at a time. Then he lays down the drums. Then the next week I track the melodies, harmonies and leads. That’s the way we do it.

mwe3: So were the tracks done over a long period?

Jimmy Ryan: Actually, all the tracks for the album were culled from the tracks we’ve done together over the last couple of years for the TV work we do. It’s a volume thing and we complete 6 tracks per month on average.

mwe3: Did you use a computer to make the tracks?

Jimmy Ryan: Yes… that’s the way it is now. Everyone uses them… welcome to the machine. It’s so much easier, if you know how to use them, and the platforms are universally accepted, plus you don’t need a lot of space to work in.

mwe3: Do you miss the days of the big studio with different acoustics or is that all being programmed on your computer programs?

Jimmy Ryan: Yes and no... I’m conflicted there a bit… There’s nothing like true analog warmth and Neumann mics and Neve preamps and big rooms and the like. That said, ever try to tune up a Studer 24 track machine, much less get parts for it? They’re still out there, but they’re few & far between and very costly to maintain. Would I like use gear like that? Hell yeah…but using the facilities that still trip on high-end analog is way beyond my pay grade. The computer-based platforms are cheaper, very efficient, really robust and getting better all the time. Is it the same? No, but close enough for rock & roll.

mwe3: What will become of the human race and better yet, what are your plans for the ungodly year of 2018?

Jimmy Ryan: When we live at a time in human history when a temper tantrum can…and indeed might, precipitate World War III, the implications for human survival are chilling. Social media platforms are ripping apart our social fabric. Authoritarian tribalism, distilled and amplified by these platforms, is now the new normal. The echo chambers created by the algorithms used in social media exploit a vulnerability in human cognition by creating dopamine-driven social-validation feedback loops and they are destroying how society works. This is not hyperbole. Human conflict is spreading planet-wide, and the platforms that dominate global online discourse are fanning the flames. Economic inequality in the US exceeds that of some third world countries. It’s shameful. Needless to say, as far as the future of human species goes, I’m not optimistic.

For me personally, in 2018 and beyond I’ll continue to create the music that matters to me as long as I possibly can and devote myself to being the best husband to my wife, the best father to my children, the most nurturing papa to my grandkids, the best friend to those I care about, to be kind to everyone I meet and to be content with what I have. That’s the best I can ever hope to do and be in this life.

mwe3: Are you continuing on or will it be another 5 years till a new album?

Jimmy Ryan: I need to create and will continue to do so. I hope it won’t take another 5 years, but as I said before, the economic realities that artists living and working in America face are daunting at best. Dug Pinnick from King’s X said they can’t even make a living touring. If that’s what a band of their stature is facing today, what about guys like me? I’ve always joked that Ryanetics Music is a not-for-profit company; that’s not the way it was planned, but that’s the way it turned out.

That said, the TV & film work I do keeps me busy, and incredible people like you at mwe3.com and Joe at the Grooveyard give priceless opportunities to artists like me to get their music out there. I know I have a lot more music in me and I’m going to keep cranking it out as long as I can. One day at a time.



 

 
   
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