Thursday, September 24, 2009

VAGABOND's Ryan Christopher Interviewed!

When I was a kid, the guy who lived next door to us was an old man named Mr. Gus. He would constantly refer to himself by saying “I’m one of these kind who digs into things. I dig deep! I find out.” Well, as you all know too well, I’m one of these kind who digs deep. And, as I’ve pointed out so repetitively lately, I especially love to do this when I’m in record/CD stores. The “local” sections are my friends and, as you’ll remember a couple months ago, I uncovered a gem in an Orlando, Florida store a few months ago by a band called VAGABOND. I reviewed this debut effort, “The Land Of Misfit Toys” back in August, singing the praises of this vibrant heavy rocker sharing influences from places as interesting as Living Colour, Janes Addiction & Alice In Chains. With a few deft keystrokes, I made the acquaintance of guitarist Ryan Christopher and found him to be quite the fascinating guy. After all, how many times are you going to discuss Disney’s “It’s A Small World” ride and spending the night with a stripper in a hotel bathtub in one conversation. It’s all here and more….

RAY - You guys are from Orlando, Florida, right? I guess there’s more music going on there than miniature figures dressed up in Disney costumes singing “It’s A Small World,” eh? For the record, have you ever been on that ride? What were your impressions?

RYAN - Yes I have, too many times....when I was younger I probably didn’t mind the ride. Now it’s not that interesting anymore, I appreciate the message behind it and I grew up going to Disney every October from Ft. Lauderdale, so I love the place. But now that I live here, I pretty much stay away, that ride is like a rehab scene from "A Clockwork Orange" the repetitive song driving u mad!!!! But my all time favorite is the " Haunted Mansion " I have an affinity to Halloween and the supernatural and I have always luved all the detail and the subject much so that I have a pattern from the wallpaper tattooed on my ribs ( u can check myspace photos to see it)...Pirates comes in a very close second. but Walt Disney is a genius and inspiration all around so I really do enjoy anything that the company puts out except for HANNAH MONTANA! My girlfriend luvs her ,,,,,but i would rather have a root canal than listen to her music, no lie.

RAY - What got you into music? How come you’re the guy writing and playing original rock, not the one pushing “FM” on the car radio and being happy with whatever comes on?

RYAN - Well I started playing music around the age of 5. My parents put me behind a drum kit and then I took piano lessons and then @ 13-14 picked up the guitar. My mom says I was always destined to play music,,,,it’s a scenario of music chose me. She always tells one of those embarrassing stories " when i was pregnant with Ryan he used to kick along to songs on the radio in perfect time"......she tells everyone this story........I just have always expressed myself through music, whether a song has held a moment for me or set the mood. I couldn't imagine a world without music. It means so much to me,,,,it is part of my soul and environment and reality.

RAY - Who influenced you as a player in the past? Who inspires you now?

RYAN - Growing up it was a lot of what my dad would play.....the Kinks, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Floyd, Stevie Ray, and also what was on the radio, Huey Lewis , Madonna, and lots of 80's a kid though I was into Michael Jackson , the Monkees, and lots of pop music at the time......I then moved into rap, then the 90's alternative thing. Siamese Dream till this day is still the album that "changed my life". Like most high school guitar players I went through a huge Jimmy Page " retro " phase as well as Sublime ,311 , and Janes Addiction. I was born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale so the whole beachy reggae vibe was very prevalent in my life I finally moved into a "Slash " movement. I was playing a show and this guy came up to me afterword and said " man I luv ur style ,,,,you play a lot like Slash".....I was confused because I never really listened to then I decided to listen and fell in luv. Then I found probably my favorite guitarist of all time John 5......and then the shred thing happened and I started learning crazy licks and just improving my technique a lot more. For the most part I believe that anything I have heard always stays with me and influences me today in some way whether it be a sunset , movie, smell, sound, whatever. We have so many stimuli around us all the time and I try to look at everything as art. Which helps to get through all the bullshit....but today I try to always keep an open ear and try to learn new things from all types of music. Specifically today I listen to a lot of John 5, Avenged Sevenfold, Escape the Fate , A Day To Remember, Katy Perry( yes i luv her voice, and she is also very easy on the eyes as well ) and of course my own music.

RAY - Where did the name VAGABOND come from? The first thing I think of when I hear it is Thin Lizzy’s 3rd album, “Vagabonds Of The Western World.”

RYAN - The name came from wanting something distinct and we didn’t want a "the something" type band name. We all loved pirates, which were also called vagabonds, and the term also means wanderer, which musicians also are. As a musician u really spend a lot of time just going from city to city and the term vagabond just seemed for us a cool way to incorporate that into the band.

RAY - Speaking of Lizzy, Philip Lynott really attracted the ladies. Say an absolutely gorgeous VAGABOND fan comes up to you after a show and says, “Here’s a Big Muff Pi autographed by Jimi Hendrix. You can either have that or I’ll come home with you.” What do you pick?

RYAN - Ok well if that fan is either Carmen Electra , Dita Von Teese , or Madonna from the 90s, I would have to take her home.....but otherwise I would have to take the Muff Pi. When I was first starting to play guitar I always wanted to solo like Hendrix,,,I loved his emotion and raw energy he put into the to have something personal of his would be the shizz.

RAY - “Land Of Misfit Toys” is the only thing I’ve heard by VAGABOND. Was there anything else recorded before this disc?

RYAN - No this was the first disc recorded by the band.

RAY - Over what period of time were the songs on “Land…” written?

RYAN - Some of the songs were honestly written when I was still in high school....some were carried over from the previous band I was in but the album was recorded in 2004. Then I went on tour as a hired guitar player for an artist named Lennon and then when I came home we finished the album in 2006 and then finally put it out in early 07....

RAY - It’s a relatively short album in actual time, but there’s a lot going on both musically and lyrically, so it’s a very “filling” and complete listen. What comes first for you as a writer, generally, music or lyrics? Or does it differ?

RYAN - Well I generally write the songs as guitar pieces, since I can sing and also play the drums and piano. I always think about other parts but I usually leave that up to the other guys and just bring a fully structured guitar song. Sometimes I will push for a certain type of melody or drum beat but what makes a band a band is when everyone contributes and puts their artistic flavor in the soup. I’m the type to overwrite something. I luv to write a million guitar parts for a verse or chorus and then chop away the fat once other parts come into existence but I always have a general idea of how I want a song to sound. When I write sometimes I think of actions or colors to explain to the other guys how I see the song in my head and how the song came to be. Example “Guns n Vcrs” was written when I was day dreaming about a crazy hovercraft roller coaster that could take u anywhere. Sometimes my inspiration comes from other things than music but I agree. ,It is short but I feel as though from a listener’s standpoint there is a lot to take in for 10 songs. but I do wish it was me I have no shortage of songs and I am always continually writing.....

RAY - How long have you worked with the singer in VAGABOND? Do you find yourself, as a songwriter, thinking about the singer’s voice and how it’s going to work in the songs, as well as your guitar parts and the parts played by the rest of the band?

RYAN - Since 2002. Well sometimes yes ......honestly there will be days where I will write a blues jam and then go well this is not for VAGABOND but it is cool for me to just have in my life almost like a new toy or child that I can see where or how it may develop later on or watch it grow. But for the most part when I write a VAGABOND song , I just know that it is one. But I never think of how the other guys may interpret them. I really look to just let my art flow and come out naturally and not be something I wrote because I knew the drummer would luv it or my singer would fit in well with it..

RAY - To be honest, one of the things that made me put the CD in my purchase pile that night at Park Ave CD’s was the song titles. They are very unusual. I know some writers are reluctant to discuss their lyrics at length, but if you don’t mind, there are a couple I wonder if you wouldn’t mind talking about: “Autumn Lady,” “A-01” and “Right Lane Ends.”

RYAN - Honestly that is a Joe ( singer ) question,,,,,God knows what he is thinking when he writes some of his lyrics LOL.....You would have to tap into his head for that one.

RAY - Another thing that drew me to buying your disc “unheard” was the dramatic cover art. Tell me more about this, the artist who did it, etc.?

RYAN - The artist name is Toxic Toons. He used to work for Disney and we were looking for something that stood out and was creepy, that would catch the eye of a fan/consumer. We love horror and so that was the theme we went for and I have always been a fan of dramatic bright vivid covers. Nowadays it seems a lot of bands go for this as well but we didn’t want a boring cover and we stayed away from having photos because we wanted the music to speak with the artwork, not be about what we looked like.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Is the speed of a car in Florida inversely proportional to the amount of pastel clothing or golf caps worn by the driver? If not, give us an equation for this (or something else important to you) that works!

RYAN - Honestly Florida has the craziest drivers, they either can’t see above the steering wheel or are going way too fast. But it is hot so I would say that a lot of people wear pastel's due to the heat?

RAY - What is the gigging status of VAGABOND? Do you play out much? Mostly local shows or do you travel much? What is the farthest afield you’ve travelled in terms of touring?

RYAN - At the beginning of the year we played out here in Otown a lot and in Tampa as well. And after we are done with the CD we are planning to hit the southern part of the us.....Texas , California, Arizona...the furthest I personally traveled to play a show was to Hong Kong in 04 to play the Wild Day Out Festival when I was playing with Lennon. That was insane!

RAY - What’s up with recordings for the band? You mentioned to me new stuff on the agenda…how close are we to a new VAGABONDS release? Any ideas of what label, how it’ll be released? In a related question, what do you think of the trend toward bands releasing their stuff as merely downloads rather than a “physical” CD, LP, etc.?

RYAN - We are now recording a new label but definitely open to one. As far as downloads well, it is the trend and it saves u money but I think we still have a few hard copies printed up because the album is still a piece of art in itself. That is why we went with. a the art would forever be attached, almost like an old vinyl record where you could enjoy the music and art. I think that will eventually make it’s way back into the heart of fans.

RAY - How crazy has it ever gotten? Tell us a weird, insane, profane or simply downright filthy story from the history of VAGABOND, whether it be from the road, studio, etc.?

RYAN - Well in Jacksonville we played a show and two strippers showed up and then they came back to our hotel to party. The drummer and bass player were on shrooms and there were tons of other party favors going around. We all were parting at the pool drinking and smoking when we almost got kicked out for obvious reasons by security until one of the strippers gave the security guard a bj and then he was cool with us and all The insanity.....then the other stripper and I proceeded to have sex all night in the room with the other guys tripping out of their minds playing video games (very weird). We were in the tub for like hours and ended up flooding the room! As the stripper and I came out of the bathroom we noticed a curtain on fire. My bass player had fallen asleep with a cigarette in his hand and almost set the room on fire. We quickly put it out and needless to say we decided it was a good idea to leave!!!! That was pretty crazy but I have a million other stories as well......

RAY - Any final comments?

RYAN - Thank u so much taking the time to listen to "Land Of Misfit Toys" and VAGABOND. Take care and be contagious.

The only thing I love more than finding a band like VAGABOND is spreading the word of their heavy-riffing artwork to other people. “Land Of Misfit Toys” is a powerful opening statement and, from the sound of Ryan Christopher’s passion for what he does, I think it’s only the beginning. You know what to do.

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