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!

Pentre Fest 2020

Pentre Fest 2020

McLean’s Pub, Pentre Deeside

21st & 22nd February 2020

I’m sure everyone who was there will agree that this year’s Pentre Fest was the best yet.  The bands were fantastic; the were more people; the vibe was magnificent.

Held at McLean’s in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales, this festival features underground, unsigned rock and metal from near and far.

I attended the full two days this year, and saw most of the acts performing.  I only wrote up a few though, so if you want to read the full review, visit the Ever Metal website here.

There were many highlights.  Witchtripper had been on my “must see” list for a while – they didn’t disappoint.  Old favourites Impavidus and Lullaby for a Unicorn were superb as always.  Cry for Mercy, Stormrider and Womenowar were some of the newly viewed bands that I was very impressed by.

The whole weekend was unmissable and I was genuinely sad when it was all over.  A brilliant, positive experience – well done to Fozzy, Beany, Frank and all the McLean’s staff.

You have to be there next year!

Ryuko

Ryuko presented a couple of surprises on Friday night’s acoustic stage.  First off, they were fully plugged in and electric.  Second, they play more of an alternative rock sound, which was something of a contrast to the majority of other Pentre Fest bands.  Readers may not be aware, though, that I am in fact King of Grunge, with my 90’s credentials well proven.  Ryuko’s set included some melody and even jangly pop along with heavier riffs, which was an enjoyable diversion in a Dinosaur Jr/Nirvana style.  Well performed, Ryuko just need to test their audience further and throw in additional surprises in either a “Negative Creep” or “About a Girl” vein.

Rhiannon and Rachel

Sadly Pentre Fest suffered a few casualties this year.  One such example was on the acoustic stage, where half of duo Rhiannon and Rachel was hospitalised and (obviously) unable to perform.  But the show must go on: and Rhiannon performed a short but enjoyable set on the acoustic stage.  Admittedly out of her comfort zone, playing guitar as well as singing, she soldiered on and won plaudits for her effort.  Only a few minor mistakes were noticed – and easily forgiven.  A beautiful singing voice that even managed to add a ghostly, ethereal sheen to a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” – making it sound good for the first time ever.

Mike West

If the connection between metal and outlaw country isn’t obvious to any readers, I can only pity you.  I’ve never witnessed Mike West before, but his amalgamation of southern rock, dusty country and swampy blues was a delight to my old whiskey-soaked soul.  Mike delivers his songs with a hard rockin’ swagger, as if he’s just busted out of Tombstone jail and is riding across the plains, lamenting women and fortunes lost.  A great voice and an outstanding presence, Mike is one to catch when you can.  Has anyone done a “Wild West” gag yet?  If not, there’s a headline for us there!

OMV

On the main stage, OMV entered dressed like a bunch of West Coast gangsters in masks and bandanas.  Introduced as “hardcore street metal”, these guys definitely showed some great musical skills and energy.  Somewhere between Bodycount, Suicidal Tendencies and Biohazard is where I’d stack them.  Either way, OMV delivered some brutal songs and bounced around with massive crossover riffs.  OMV were very entertaining, although hugely confrontational onstage – I wasn’t sure if they actually were going to pistol whip the audience into submission.  The music has enough intensity and power to speak for itself.

Luke Appleton

A really fantastic set was delivered by Mr Luke Appleton on the acoustic stage.  In truth, this was a duo performance with Rishi Mehta (of Babylon Fire) playing too, and it was a genuine highlight of Pentre Fest 2020.  Dubbed “acoustic metal”, the songs were both suitably laidback, yet delivered with a metal edge.  Expertly performed, we had tunes from Luke’s solo “Snake Eyes” project, plus of course some Iced Earth and Absolva numbers.  Not to mention a bit of Dio and Tenacious D for good measure!  A real class act in every sense of the word, and both very talented and down-to-earth gentlemen.

Son of Boar

They have a cool name, and they looked pretty cool on stage in matching denim battle-vests.  And from the very first notes of the bass rumbling on the very first song, I had a feeling that Son of Boar would be something special.  I wasn’t wrong.  These Bradford bruisers have everything in spades: they’re unfeasibly heavy; they have slow, doomy riffs with a Sabbath-like infectiousness; they have a sludgy, swampy groove that can pack an aggressive punk punch.  The best band of Pentre Fest 2020 as far as I was concerned, Son of Boar were superb.  I even bought a t-shirt.

Pentre Fest on Facebook.

N.E.W Metal Productions on Facebook.

Goodfor Audio Entertainment on Facebook

Mcleans Pub Live on Facebook.