Shiny Joe Ryan's new single Ketamine is out now! We chat to the musician about the track, his forthcoming sophomore album and so much more
After seven years since the release of his debut album, The Cosmic Microwave Background, Shiny Joe Ryan is back with his superb new track, Ketamine. The Pond multi-instrumentalist has also treated fans with the announcement of his sophomore record, Shiny's Democracy, due out this July.
Initially written in 2014, Ketamine came to be after a few days out in Berlin with friends, where the group took their partying shoes off and collapsed around each other, singing the letters of 'ketamine'. The track arrives with an accompanying visual, directed by Shane Corry, marking the first music video from Shiny Joe Ryan. We follow the musician, frolicking around the Fremantle docks, bringing a slice of pure delight.
Shiny's Democracy is a welcomed return from the musician, with Ryan taking on mixing duties alongside his Pond bandmates, Jay Watson and James Ireland. Creating his own unique genre-bending soundscapes that traverse country, pop and rock, the album is describes as a record for 'for anyone and everyone and a sign of a musician who wants to try everything once (or twice) with no plans of slowing down.' Written and recorded at Tunafish Studios with his band The Sky Dolphins in Western Australia, the album was mastered by fellow WA musical alumni, Kevin Parker.
Ketamine is out now! Read our interview with Shiny Joe Ryan below.
Congratulations on your new single, Ketamine! Could you tell us a bit about the development of the track and how it came to be?
Thank you MILKY. Well I’ve had the majority of the song floating around my head now since 2014. It didn’t make my first album but I guess it stood the test of time in my mind to make it onto Shiny’s Democracy. It started off with the chords which are simple enough, they gave a campfire sing-a-long vibe. The chorus was written on the floor of a friends apartment in Berlin. We’d been out clubbing and enjoying the magic of Berlin for days and had finally flopped down on the floor exhausted. We all started singing the letters of ‘ketamine’ one by one in five part harmonies, and that was it. Chorus done haha. All I did then was write some lyrics for the verses and BLAMO. All done and dusted
The songs visual shows you frolicking with pure delight on the picturesque Fremantle docks. How did the idea for the visual develop over time and how involved are you when it comes to conceptualising all the visuals for your music?
Well this is actually my first video clip. Spinning Top asked me to do some videos for the last album but I guess I never found the time. My band mate Shane Corry has a great camera and a bit of know how, so he and I shot and edited it together over a few days. I’ve loved mucking around with visuals for a while now, making little fun clips and VJing live on the fly too, so we had a lot of fun. Initially I wanted to do a Twin Peaks kind of thing and film me walking, dancing and jumping off things backwards, which when reversed during editing would give this kinda weird disjointed look. But I nearly fell in the river a few times so I went for a big old freestyle dance instead haha. Shane had great ideas about the looks of shots and also went and scouted that small jetty which was great. Shane and I have two more to do so look out.
How important are the visuals to you when it comes to portraying the stories and themes present on the songs?
I find that visuals are a vehicle to occupy half your mind while the other half is free to absorb the music. This is very important I find not only for video clips, but for live video too. It’s like washing the dishes and listening to a record haha. I wasn’t really trying to convey or portray any themes or anything like that with this one. I only hope that people have as much fun watching it as I did making it. Again, this is only my first video clip but so we’ll see if that changes in the future
What was your most memorable moment on set during filming Ketamine?
There’s a few seconds where I come flying out of the water onto the jetty. I had to leap backwards into the water fully clothed which we then reversed. It was the last thing we filmed, so not only was I happy to be done, but just moments later three or four dolphins came over to investigate what that flailing silver thing had been. We’d seen a lot of wildlife during the two days of shooting so it was very cool.
You’ve also announced the release of your sophomore album, Shiny’s Democracy. The artwork for the single calls back to imagery of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s dismissal from parliament in 1975. How do you think that visual representation for the albums imagery represents the content and conceptual nature of the record?
I guess it didn’t have any effect on the song writing at all. But the idea for the album artwork and how we actually pulled it off left everyone very excited to hear it on wax and hold the album in our hands. That photo of Gough is so cool to look at. There’s so much going on you can look at it for hours. I basically got the whole band and as many of my friends as I could to meet at the Fremantle football oval clubhouse steps and had them dress as 70’s as possible. I also was able to borrow some vintage cameras and microphones and we recreated that photo. It was so much fun and I couldn’t be happier because now there’s about fifty of my friends on the front of my album. It means a lot to me. I’m a very lucky man
What new knowledge and experience are you bringing into the sessions working on the new record, that differs from creating your debut in 2014?
Well my song writing and recording skills have improved a lot since the last record. The band and I recorded the instrumentation live all together at Tunafish Recording Company and did overdubs and vocals at my home studio. That’s a big improvement from the first album which was recorded track by track with no outboard gear, and two mics in my room in Berlin and a rehearsal space a few train stops away. I used to sling the drum mics over the exposed pipes in the ceiling to record. That was fun, but it was so much more rewarding and better sounding with the full band this time. We also recorded to 1 inch tape which sounded pretty cool.
At what point did you decide you were making your sophomore record? Had you already written most of the tracks before deciding to curate them into one succinct body of work or did you set out to write an album?
I’ve had the name Shiny’s Democracy for years and years. Probably had it back when I was doing the first record even. Anyway, Jay Watson was saying I couldn’t let it get to ten years between records, otherwise I’d be getting up there into Gun’s n’ Roses time periods. 2020 was looking to be a big year of work for me (pre pandemic) so I figured I’d better make this album or I wont have any time again for years. I had the bones of Ketamine and H2O already leftover from my first record and I had a lot of demos so I chose the songs I felt were the best at the time, developed them and taught them to the band. I booked in the recording time knowing it would force me to cop on and finish writing the songs.
Could you talk us through your creative process when writing and recording this collection of songs?
Usually I write the chords first and figure out a melody, which becomes the main vocals or a lead line for a guitar or synth. It takes me ages to write lyrics for some reason. I guess I don’t want to write lyrics that are too literal, where you’re writing ‘I feel like this’ or ‘I did that’. I maybe start with something like that and try make it more abstract over time. But sometimes you gotta let go, stop overgeneralising it and move on.
How do you find it differs writing and recording in a band environment with Pond vs solo where you’re completely in charge of the process and outcome?
It’s great writing in Pond because if you bring a song in you gotta let go and not be precious when the other guys start chopping, adding or changing parts around. It’s like we check each other and add to the songs so they become something bigger than just you. I’ll be honest and say I’m lucky because my new band are all good friends and amazing musicians. When I was teaching them the songs for the live recording they each brought their own inflections and styles to their instruments. So yes, while I have the final say in matters, I pretty much let em go wild and that kinda makes it easier because it’s not me playing every instrument. Been there done that, this sounds fresh and fun to me
Which song off the record are you most excited for fans to hear and why?
Probably the last song which is called I’m Singing A New Song Pt.2. It’s a good end of album song and starts off just piano, vocals and backup harmonies for a while. Then it’s like the sky opens up and George Harrison is there wailing some sweet slide guitar in space. Also it’s the bands favourite and we love to play it.
You’ll be playing some shows with POND next month, but will we be seeing any solo performances in the near future?
Yes it’s all very exciting. I don’t do many solo gigs anymore, I love playing with the band too much. We have two shows booked in Perth to launch the record, 22nd of July at Hidden Treasures in Freo and August 6th at The Bird in Northbridge. But hopefully as the boarders start to open up we’ll get over east.
And finally, which album is better: Shiny’s Democracy or 9? Hahaha
Oh hahaha. Well I’ve got a few songs on 9 and that’s a bloody good record which I’m very excited for people to hear. I’m happy to say they will both fill two very different places in peoples hearts so I’ll let y’all decide that. I don’t want to influence your listening experience.
The Flaming lips, The Pogues, Björk, George Harrison, Neil Young, My Bloody Valentine, Earth, Pink Floyd, Nick Cave, CAN, Planxty, Ween, Curtis Mayfield, Yes and the Beach Boys to name a few.
Well my first dream collaboration happened already when a loose lineup of Pond (minus Nick and Cam who were out of the country) were the backing band for Damo Suzuki, lead singer of German Krautrock juggernauts CAN. We played for two hours all improvised songs, it was unbelievable. Most of the performance is on YouTube FYI. So I guess the new dream collab would be with Baxter Dury. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KFNjxaMBC0
Album that has had the most impact on you?
There has been a lot and they change and jostle for top position over time but I’ll go with This Was by Jethro Tull
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Mmmm that’s hard. Maybe I’d redo Into the Wild. Sorry Eddie.
The most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
Aside form the one with Damo Suzuki, it might be Falls Festival a few years ago. MGMT and Neil Finn played Six Months In A Lwaky Boat together, I got to run around stage with a GoPro strapped to a drum stick being fed to the LED screen. All the while Nick and Jay were sent out on an inflatable boat over the huge crowd.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
That changes a lot to be honest but last one was Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus.
Best concert you have been to?
Three are tied for the top spot. The Hothouse Flowers here in Freo, The Flaming Lips in 2006 in Japan (I was dressed as a gecko on stage) and Radiohead in Spain, I had a great view of the stage.
First concert you went to?
Garth Brooks a few months after we’d immigrated to Perth from Ireland.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Old Spice, like the deodorant.
Guilty music pleasure?
Playing the drums at rehearsal while the rest of the band have a break.
First album you ever bought?
If you tour with any artist, who would it be?
We could open for Melvins. It’d be so opposite it might work.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Christ I dunno. Bowie maybe.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Stop buying guitars and synths and save up for a place to put them.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I got up at a few weddings when I was 5/6 and sang You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, so it’s been in there for a while.