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Intelligent dance music to... listen to
Rival Consoles is the creation of Ryan Lee West: a 24-year-old based in north London who creates “intelligent dance music”. His motivation began as a reaction to the four-four dance floor beat that currently storms the chart; and now this pioneer is fast establishing himself as both a sound designer and programmer. Having repeatedly performed at the Tate Britain Museum in London, where he drew more than 2,000 visitors into his unpredictable, yet detailed sound drawings.
In his debut album, IO he attempts to humanise entirely computerised sounds; which defy categorisation in modern electronic music.
Rival Consoles is at Islington Metal Works with Papercutz Formula on July 2. Visit www.myspace.com/rivalconsoles.com
We caught up with Ryan Lee West ahead of his London gig and he spent some time to answer our questions.
What is your motivation behind Rival Consoles’ sound – and what do you hope the audience will experience?
My motivation is to make music that interests me. Anything I'm saying in music is purely on a musical level. I hope that people enjoy my music for its ideas mainly. Although I strive to improve production, I really focus on the ideas.
What would you say is your true sound?
It's important for me not to have complete control over my music. I half play and half write blindly, so I get a result, which neither I, nor the computer would have come up with alone. This is anything but original, but I really enjoy working this way.
Why do you use the pseudonym Rival Consoles?
Band names are weird really. I just wanted one that wouldn't repulse me. This one's doing ok so far, plus I am really into computer game music. I will never fall out of love with the music and sound design to all Mario games.
Who inspired you to become a musician?
When I was at school I started playing instruments with friends. I wasn't inspired by any musicians really. That came later.
How do you write your songs… does it start from sound or an emotion?
I gave up having an idea to begin with a long time ago. It works much better for me to improvise until something interests me, then the next stage is to find something that works well with other ideas. I keep repeating this process until I’ve got a body of music, which has various different sections but still sounds like it develops. It's just a probability. The skill is having good judgment to organise and utilise the right approach for the right idea.
Tell me about your performances with other acts such as Venetian, Luke Vibert, Wisp and Javelin. How did you meet and how have their music complimented yours in a live
I guess I have a lot in common with all of the above mentioned, apart from Venetian Snares, who contrasts my music with his brutal onslaught. I really liked seeing Javelin because they succeed in making music, which I think is extremely hard, if not close to impossible.
Wisp is amazingly nice and I like his music a lot. His production is shiny and incredibly transparent.
Vibert is masterful at sampling.
I think what compliments my music is that the above belong more to dance music, in terms of structure, I still do things in an odd way, in particular my lack of repetition. But I have learnt a lot from the above.
What’s your current favourite Rival Console song you like to perform?
Do you have an album coming out soon; can you tell me about it?
I've pretty much finished album two, which will be out late this year. It's my best work so far and has a lot more emphasis on melody. To me it feels like a natural evolution from IO.
What direction do you think your music is going now?
I'm splitting into further extremes, one part of me wants to go very pop and outlandish, and the other part of me wants to create very conceptual electronic music. I think with Rival Consoles I will move further towards pop music, because the sort of rules in pop music make you discard anything that is weak, which you don't find in other genres. Plus I love the idea that certain music can appeal to everyone.
What criterion for you makes a good tune?
I generally like music that has strong melody and harmony. On top of that I'm obsessed with different production techniques. I get excited if I hear production styles that are either new to me or done with perfection.
What do you think about the electronic music industry at the moment?
There is something exciting about the way people are now making electronic music. The bridge between the user and the computer has gotten much better and I think this has caused people to start making music in a new refreshing way.
What have you learnt most about being a musician?
How to use melody.
Can you tell me about any difficulties you have had in realising your dream as a musician and how you have overcome them?
I think it took about five years to understand how melody and harmony work properly. I've understood this simply through making hundreds of pieces of music in different styles.
Has your career achieved what you hoped - or how has it evolved for you?
When I started making music that I liked, I just wanted to put it out there for other people to hear. There is a lot of politics in any industry and I try not to get too involved, because a lot of it is meaningless.
What was the first electronic kit you bought and how has this changed to what you use now?
The first synth I used was a DX7, which is iconic and sounds great. However I now mainly use a synth that is a modular environment in which you build your own synths in a flow chart. I love it because I understand the process, yet I am forever creating new unexpected synths. I think although software has a stigma attached to it as not sounding as good, the important thing with software is the amount of control you have and the speed at which you can work.
Is music your full time profession or do you have to work another job to make ends meet?
I teach the guitar and compose for contemporary dance.
Being stretched professionally there must be a lot of pressure on you, how do you deal with stress?
The main source of stress for me is trying to make music that interests me. That and my health, which sometimes takes unexpected turns.
Do you have any bizarre fan moments you can share?
Nothing out of the ordinary. I do late night sets and loads of people on drugs keep wandering up to me on stage like zombies, which is always pretty funny.
What’s planned for your solo performances?
My live set is pretty classic. I just mix, layer and chop up my music. I think the important thing is to use a simple approach.
How do you deal with nerves before a performance? Do you have a routine that gets you psyched up?
I have a few pints and sing a Journey song.
Any embarrassing moments on stage you wish to share with our readers?
I once did a Q & A session after a gig and all I can remember is saying I was a "cat enthusiast".
Can you tell me some background information about yourself – what’s the town like that you grew up in?
I grew up in Leicester, which back then didn't really have an exciting music scene. Having said that that, it's got much better now.
LEE RYAN WEST ON THE SPOT
How would you describe Rival Console’s music in three words?
Sensual, apocalyptic, jazz.
What’s on Ryan Lee West’s rider?
50 swans painted gold.
What’s the best ever gig you’ve ever attended – apart from your own?
Probably Nine Inch Nails or Moondog.
Who’s the most famous person on your phone?
What was the first album you ever bought?
I didn't buy it, but somebody lent me OK Computer on tape. That's is the first album that I remember actually listening to over and over again.
What’s on your iPod at the moment?
I don't have an iPod and I don't listen to music when I'm out and about. Buy if I did I'd probably be listening to the new Ital Tek album.
What electrical item could you not live without?
Who’s your favourite author or painter?
Favourite painter is probably Paul Wright.
Where are you most happy?
What was your favourite lesson at school?
What did you learn at school outside the classroom?
What song do you like to sing in the shower?
The Impossible Dream.
Describe a perfect day for you?
Great food, beer, sunshine, friends and great music.
What’s next for Ryan Lee West?
Releasing album two and concentrating on live performances.