There is a special and pleasant aura surrounding the Australian artist RY X. Not only the music, but also the person behind is unique, frank and honest – characteristics you just rarely find in the quite superficial music scene these days. For that reason NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION is really glad of having had the pleasure to talk with the multi-layered musician about photography, festivals and of course music.
How are you doing?
I’m good although a little bit tired. We recently had a lot of traveling but I’m feeling really good today.
Why so tired?
We just got here today from Berlin.I played at Panorama Bar, Berghain with FRANK WIEDEMANN. One of my collaborative projects. It was a really special show.
Where did you get to know FRANK?
I met him through another friend and a girl that I was seeing that was living in Berlin. There was a really nice brothership that we shared. We loved the same music, we’ve been talking a lot about modern, minimalist composers. Things you wouldn’t think you could talk about with a writer that does techno and deep house.
Is there a certain connection between you and the German capital? You’ve got the ‘Berlin EP’ and the song by the same name, of course…
My first introduction to Berlin was this relationship I had. Through her it was actually very sad and quite destructive in a way. That was how I wrote that song Berlin. And my first trip to Berlin was quite tough, I didn’t really connect to the essence of the city. But then, towards the end, I started to understand. It was the middle of winter, it was cold and very introverted.
And then the relationship with FRANK was born in terms of making music together. We put out the song Howling together; it was like getting injected into the center point of the Berlin Music Community with Innervisions. The next time I came back it was a very different experience for me: I really fell in love with the city in terms of it being a place of sharing art and creativity and open it.
What does the X in your name stand for?
Originally it was a combination of things. One for anonymity – to not have to be belonging to a last name. It is this interesting letter, a symbol like anonymity and universality as well. Like everyone could time with an X and everyone is an X. And then secondly it was about collaboration. I wanted to do projects like RY X/Frank Wiedemann, or RY X/something, RY X/Museum Of Contemporary Art. So it was me collaborating with people that I loved. It was really a title born for collaboration and stripping of names. Now it has become a name on it’s own which is a little ironic.
So,when you’ve started making music you already thought about collaborating.
When I first started there was nobody to collaborate with. I grew up on an island in Australia and there is not many people playing music. It was a very introverted, alone experience. I walked down to the beach every night – it was across the road from my house – sat down and made music. And there was really no one around, just emptiness. In the beginning I wanted to collaborate but there wasn’t many people to collaborate with. I was also in a lot of different groups when I was in my teens, like grunge bands, rock, metal, rap. And that was always with different people, so I think maybe the collaboration aspect started there. It’s the magic of synergy and playing music with people. That’s very special. When you find the right connection it’s very intense, it’s obvious.
Which of your own songs means the most to you?
It changes. Usually it’s something I’m currently writing. It’s the most powerful and I have a visual connection with it, because I’m creating it. My energy is very kind and present. What I’m experiencing is being born into that piece of music. When I recorded Berlin or Howling and listened to them back they were very special and I knew that in those moments. It wasn’t about having a claim or other people listen to them, I just thought that it was special. And it’s been beautiful for me to see that other people think what I love is special as well. Obviously I have a very strong connection to Berlin and Howling, these ares two songs that people are really resonated with. Playing them live I have a special connection because the community creates that.
And which song from another artist or band means the most to you?
The most… There is some different songs that I love, that I just put on and they melt me. There is a song by ARTHUR RUSSELL called Soon To Be Innocent. And a track called The Dharma At Big Sure by JOHN ADAMS, he’s a modern composer. Lately, in the last couple of years, probably songs like this. And Indian Ragas like Ravi Shankar. Long Indian Ragas, music that was made for their god or spirit or something where there is more of a connection.
You also got a new project called THE ACID. How did this happen?
THE ACID was kind of originally born of my connection to FRANK and my introduction to the core of electronic music. And then coming up and having met ADAM FREELAND again after I came back from Berlin. He’s an old friend of mine, who’s been electronic DJing for a long time. He’s been doing some spiritual work, so he had a connection to the way I grew up in terms of mediation and yoga. We just pulled these two worlds together a bit and found a place where we were creating music we really wanted. We combined the elements we really love: drones and heavier electronica with fragility and spirit. It’s a really beautiful, organic collaboration and it’s exiting.
I’ve read in another interview that you like to photograph, but besides music you haven’t got enough the time for it. What are your favourite motives?
I shot a lot of analog photography. The things I always love, it’s a balance between stark, sullen nature – like open spaces – and these little moments, when the lights are almost gone or when it’s just poured with rain. And then the balance and that against – I guess- sensuality and sexuality, in terms of the human form. And my lover or partner in terms of the little personal moments you have – like waking up in the morning, lying there in the sheets – there is this intimacy and sensuality. So I guess it’s the sensuality of human context and the sensuality of nature.
Why analog and not digital photography?
I like the feeling of ‘not knowing.’ I’ve shot a lot on 5D’s – like all of the modern Nikons and stuff. They are really good and I’ve been really blessed to do a lot of work with high end cameras and directing as well. But there’s something magic about taking photographs and not knowing. It’s not even the purism of the shot, it’s more like you take it and you do not know. And you wonder if you should take another one but you don’t. It’s the energy we put onto the photograph which get’s back to us. We go: ‘This is the only photo I have that came out clear’ – and I don’t like clear photographs; I love blurry and messed up stuff. I do use a lot of things for album artwork. The artwork from the Berlin EP was from a 16 mm film and a lot of RY X shots are Polaroid shots from friends. Sometimes if you’ve only got an iPhone you use it, it doesn’t matter but having a camera and shooting is very special. Talking about this reminds me, that I should bring my cameras back on the road with me again. They are heavy and you don’t have much space in a little backpack. Still, I’m so blessed I get to travel the world and get to see so much stuff. I witness moments all the time. (turns over to the window) I see this window now, with these leaves and their colour against the frosted glass. I see that and go like: ‘Whoa I would wanna shoot through there right now.’ And then I don’t have a camera to do it. But I do still take a lot of photographs in different ways when I can, maybe mental photographs.
As we are at a festival right now, do you visit such events as a guest? Or are you just playing them?
I’m playing a lot of festivals and I would love to visit more festivals, I really would. We have to leave tonight; after we played we back up and leave and we just got here today.I have to play a festival tomorrow in Holland with THE ACID. And then we have to leave that straight away because I have a festival in Wales the next day. So it’s difficult because I wanna connect with the spirit of the place, I wanna connect with the community and the energy of context, the city, the town or just the empty field. But touring takes such constant movement and it’s very difficult for me. After I finish playing a lot of festivals I wish I’d stayed at one of them for three days but I played three in three days. After I get back to Berlin where I live now or I go back to California where I live for some time of the year someone might go like: ‘Oh there is a festival, let’s go’ and I’m like: ‘Nah, I need to heal and replenish.’ So it’s a little bit sad for me in some ways. I love what the idea of a festival is: this heightened state of everyone coming together. The open hearts of the people, they want to dance and experience the music. Image if people would walk around every day like they do at a festival. It would be a beautiful world.
How would you describe your music to a deaf person?
I would touch them really lightly on the arm. Really, really light. And run my fingers very slowly up their arm. And then maybe – when you’re doing that – you grab somewhere a bit harder at the same time. It’s this idea between fragility and maybe strength or certain moments of grasping… It’s a good question. I think maybe sensation. When someone’s deaf then it’s about sight and about touch. So you’re removing one of the senses and you have to show them with another sense.
One last question: what do hope and passion mean to you?
Another really good question. Passion is undeniable; it’s a source that you have, it’s what ever drives your intuition. Passion for me is the deep love I have for making art and the communities I make it with. And the deep love I have for nature, the ocean and being connected to that source. The passion I have to be with the sea, the passion I have to make music or to make art, films or photographs. This is driving me. And hope is the beautiful ability of anything to happen. It’s this feeling of complete freedom. Everything is possible and there is only happiness and joy moving towards that. Combining these two things, hope and passion is the beautiful experience of possibility in my life to make wonderful art and live in connection with people and the sea. And hopefully creating some positive change in the world.