Ryuko Interview

In February last year, I interviewed Chester based punk/grunge band Ryuko at Pentre Fest. Due to numerous unavoidable issues – not least this blasted pandemic – the piece was unfinished till recently. Not long ago, this post finally appeared on Ever Metal, and I thought I’d republish it here too. Enjoy!

“Grandpa, what’s a gig?”

“Well son, a gig was what we used to call a band playing live music, in front of an audience.”

“What, people watching musicians play their instruments?  Crazy!”

“I know it seems like a strange idea to you youngsters, but it used to be a fantastic experience.  Actually being able to gather with friends and strangers to enjoy hearing music.  It was another world.”

That’s what the situation seems like right now: no gigs, no gatherings for entertainment – the old days sometimes feel like a lifetime ago.  At least it seemed a whole different world back in February 2020, before the pandemic, when I caught up with Chester based band Ryuko at Pentre Fest.

The three piece – comprising The Bobfather (guitars/vocals), Captain Andy (bass) and MattMan (drums) were something of an anomaly at the metal-centric Pentre Fest.  Not that Ryuko don’t rock out, but their brand of punky, alternative rock was a little different from the other bands on show.  I found their style of honest, yet far from pretentious rock’n’roll refreshing and it added a vital tone to the proceedings.

Post gig, I caught up with the band to pose some questions and contemplate the meaning of life.

First off, the cliched yet crucial discussion on influences:

Bob: It’s weird, ‘cos we’ve got influences from all over.  If you listen to one of our sets, it has stages: it starts off punky, then it goes alternative rock.  Then it goes a little metal/grungy, then back to punk at the end.

Matt: Drop D then back to punk!  I’m a huge fan of Motorhead and Metallica, the list goes on, so me being the drummer, I was always doing these thrash beats.  To go from that to stepping into this, this was more fun to me.  I really enjoy myself when I’m behind the kit with these guys.

Bob: When I write the songs, I listen to quite a broad variety of music, so I think that becomes apparent in my songs.  I don’t like to write the same song twice.  As far as when I started out, I would say when I was a teenager, I first started listening to Nirvana, Carter USM.  I also drew influences from a lot of electro – The Prodigy and stuff like that – so sometimes I’d try and work out how to play dance songs on a guitar.  And then that would give me the influence to write more interesting songs.  I like to try and fuse a bunch of different genres together, make it more interesting.

Andy: I listen to a lot of Neil Young, I think he’s a very diverse artist.  He’s done folk, he’s also done electric stuff.

How do you promote yourselves?

Matt: I’m more into social media than these guys are.  We’re promoting ourselves on Facebook, we’re gonna make a new YouTube account.  That’s kind of going up and down at the moment…

Bob: We don’t know how to work it!

Where does the name Ryuko come from?

Bob: I’m really into anime and all things Japanese, Japanese music… At the time I was watching an anime called Kill la Kill.  The main character is called Ryuko Matoi and I just thought it was a really cool name.  Some really fun facts: Ryuko is one of the least popular names in Japan.  It basically means “rebirth”, start over.  So I thought, we’re starting again, it’s a really cool name.

Andy: Well it’s not a cool name in Japan, is it?

Bob: It’s cool to me!  I think it’s cool!

Andy: I do wish we’d chosen a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce.

Bob: People can never say it.

Your cover of the Madness classic “Baggy Trousers” tonight was a surprising choice, but great!

Matt: We decided to spruce that up to make it ours.  The original is completely different to how I play it, I add extra little bits just to make it more funky.

Do you feel you’ve got the right band dynamic between the three of you?

Bob: We’re pretty good as we are.  More people add more complications cos you’ve got to think – are they free; do they drive, are they going to be available…

Matt: I’ve got a son, he’s 9, we discuss upcoming gigs before we agree to it.  If I’ve got my son and he comes along with us, if he’s allowed in the venue we play – he’s got his little ear defenders, he just sits in the corner and watches us or plays his game.

Bob: I’ve got three jobs…

Sounds like a positive environment to work in.

It’s got to be positive, if it’s not it just doesn’t work.  If no-one’s happy, nothing gets done.

So, what’s next?  What are your plans?

Bob: World domination!  One step at a time…

Andy: We’ve been working on re-doing our EP, we’ve been recording on and off.  Recording, playing as many gigs as we can.

And there you have it: an enjoyable chat with the gentlemen of Ryuko.  Make sure you check them out live, as and when we can return to the experience of live music.  If grungy, punky alt rock with some metallic crunch is your thing, then Ryuko will be just the antidote you need in these dreary times.

With apologies to Ryuko, who have waited months for this interview to see the light of day.

Check out Ryuko on Bandcamp and Facebook. Plus you can follow this link to listen to the interview on YouTube – yes, you can admire my fantastic interviewing skills for real!

And don’t forget to pay a visit to Ever Metal!

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #2

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 29th May 2015

OK, you know the drill – it’s Bring Your Own Vinyl Night at the Queen’s Head pub in Mold.  It’s the same great deal as last time – everyone gets a fifteen minute slot to play whatever they want, as long as it’s vinyl.  Old or new, obvious or strange – any genre you like, bring along those wax platters and give them a spin.

As previous, it was a welcoming atmosphere in the pub, and it was great to hear the music played.  There’s always some old favourites, as well as a few that make you scratch your head, then go away determined to explore that sound more.

We missed the last Vinyl Night, the gang and me, but this time we came fully stocked and prepared.  So after a few beers, here’s what my set-list looked like:

Nirvana – Do You Love Me

This is a cover by the Seattle Grunge mega lords of a KISS tune, found on the Hard to Believe tribute album.  This record featured several then-underground, independent punk rock groups covering KISS songs.  Also on this disc you’ll hear such bands as the Melvins, All and the Hard-Ons (I love ’em all) – but it’s Kurt Cobain’s crew that are the novelty factor here.  Pre-dating Nevermind, this isn’t the best Nirvana song (not by a long way) but it’s kinda cool to hear them cover some classic glam rock.  I picked this up fairly recently at a Manchester jumble sale; I played it ‘cos it’s rare (apparently) and unexpected (very).

Butthole Surfers – The Wooden Song

No, I didn’t play this song because of the shock/comedy nature of the band’s name.  I played because the album Independent Worm Saloon, which birthed this tune, is a work of under-appreciated genius.  The album roams from full-on punk noise; to psychedelic eruptions; to folky, melodious charm.  The Wooden Song   fits in the last category, with a nice added dose of weird.

Jimi Hendrix Experience – The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice

Taken from the Smash Hits album which I picked up on reissue around 1990.  This song was always a favourite, I chose to play it as it’s a different (and better) mix than the one found on the South Saturn Delta CD.  I love how the song’s funky little riff rolls on, as Jimi’s voice and a wall of guitar noise threaten to throw the whole thing overboard.  Beautiful chaos.

Black Sabbath – Planet Caravan

This is one of my late at night, chill-out jams.  You can find this track on Paranoid.  I chose it to showcase just how great Black Sabbath were, the variety and depth of composition going far beyond what the trendy elite give them credit for.  A mellow jazz trip into outer space, this song elegantly portrays the grandeur of the mighty Sabbath.  ALL HAIL SABBATH.

So that was it from me.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, hope others liked it too.  I was more confident this time with the turntables and felt that the whole experience was a step up from my previous effort.

Next up was Adam, with some gems from his ever expanding vinyl collection.  It was Adam’s first tenure on the decks, he mastered it like a pro:

  • Guns’n’Roses – Bad Obsession
  • Prodigy – Poison
  • Beach Boys – God Only Knows

The final member of our crew was Ben the Swede, who travelled from far off Chester with his lady Janice to play some vinyl.  Ben went for a Ritchie Blackmore theme with his choices, and damn fine they were:

  • Rainbow – Jealous Lover
  • Glen Hughes and Chad Smith – Maybe I’m a Leo
  • Deep Purple – You Can’t Do It Right By The One You Love

Thank you and good night – till the next Bring Your Own Vinyl Night!

The Halcyon Dreams blog is here, where you can find listed (very helpfully) all the songs played on the night.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is herevinyl3