Meet pioneering South African producer Ryan Murgatroyd
South African artists has asserted its place in the international music scene. At the moment it’s with acts like Euphonik, Black Coffee, Culoe De Song and Shimza as front runners. Today, we’re adding Ryan Murgatroyd to that list. The South African caught our attention with his music that keeps us buzzing. His first release “Wicked Eyes,” was warmly received and widely supported by the likes of Solomun and Tale of Us. Ryan amazes us with his new release “Is That You.”
We caught up with Ryan Murgatroyd, as he shows us that he deserves all the attention he’s getting at the moment.
Ryan Murgatroyd, a very warm welcome to We Own The Nite! How are you sir?
I’m fantastic guys, appreciate you having me on here.
First off, congratulations on the launch of your label Swoon Recordings earlier this summer. Tell us more…
Well, the music game is a whole new animal now with Spotify and other streaming services. And it just felt like I was working hella hard on records and then kinda giving up creative control as soon as they were finished, instead of following through and managing the releases etc. I wanted to get serious about my content and about owning it, and all the rights, and really starting to put together a body of work i can be proud of. So we thought ‘let’s go all in and start this bad boy’, and here we are!
What’s your creative vision for the imprint?
I feel like every song on Swoon needs to be EPIC. That’s the first word I want to be synonymous with the label. I want to bring some serious emotion back into dance music. All my music is emotive and a bit more melodic and thoughtful than run of the mill house and techno, but with the new stuff on Swoon, it’s about taking that epicness to the next level. Every song has a kind of instant classic thing about it, either a great vocal hook mixed with really forward-thinking production or, where we do instrumental records, really intense melodic journey type stuff that has solid drops for the dancefloor but is also going to hit you in the feels when you hear it — get you thinking, get you contemplating, and maybe if we do a stellar job even get you to release some of those pesky suppressed emotions and surrender to the music. It sounds cheesy but I think the right music is a healing force, and make no mistake I want every record on this label to hit a spot for you and help you see the world in a new way. We don’t make fillers, every song is a journey and we want our records to be in your collection for 10 years, for 20, to be a placemarker for a time in your life.
And what was the motivation behind setting it up?
Its a cliché almost but we wanted to own our work, in its entirety, and be completely free of the proverbial shackles of traditional labels. There is always some A&R guy with an opinion on what you should do with your tracks to make them more like other people’s tracks, and I was finding that sometimes all the cooks in the kitchen were influencing the creative process. I wanted to be insanely free to just do whatever I wanted as an artist, and our first two releases illustrate that perfectly. We went from a 122 BPM club anthem that was played by Tale of Us and Solomun, to a really slow, melancholy piece of electronica for our second release. No normal label would let you do that but we just said ‘F&ck it’, we’ll find our audience and they will appreciate the level of production and nuance we’re putting into the records. The market is big enough for us to find our place, just doing what we do and without any compromise. So let’s see how what works for us, hahaha.
The first release ‘Wicked Eyes’ has seen critical acclaim from the media and widespread DJ support from the likes of Solomun and Tale of Us. How does it feel to get recognition from such influential tastemakers?
Its cool to have a record on the label that everyone is playing, and I love that Solomun has been supporting my work so much lately. It’s a huge compliment. Every day I was getting a video from someone at a festival in Europe with Solomun or Tale of Us, or even Adriatique, playing Wicked eyes. So it’s fantastic.
The second release, ‘Is That You’ has just been released and is a much more experimental affair. Can you talk to us about that?
The thing is, I’ve always felt a bit limited within that typical 4/4 house and techno music. I always wanted to make something more, ummm, intense and lean towards the harmonic and cinematic. Even take a bit of influence from Nils Frahm and that kind of neo classical music, but without losing that subversive edge that dance music has. And then I started this piece as a downtempo listening track, but amazingly as it developed, it seemed to be very versatile and ALSO work on the dancefloor. So it’s a 5 minute really thoughful electronica track, with a poppy element in the melodies, and then it kicks down into a really cool bassline that ALWAYS gets hands in the air, whenever I play it. I used to open my sets with it, and that worked really well, but lately I’ve been closing with it instead and that works an absolute charm!
We’re absolutely loving the rather unique music video for ‘Is That You’ here at WOTN. What was the inspiration behind that and what was it like creating it?
Hahah thank you! Well firstly my grandmother has a multi-decade career in making costumes and puppets and even in Jim Henson type animatronics. I had it in the back of my head to have her design us a character for one of the music videos, but we never had the right track. And our first video was digital animation and as cool as it was, I kinda felt like in general, digital animation is just very oversaturated as a genre. So with this video we decided physical animation would be really cool. We wanted to build a cool character who embodied the song, and really made you feel the emotion in the song, but was also completely ridiculous. I wanted to make the movement very quirky and create a superposition of a legit piece of art with the completely ridiculous puppet moving in a way that is so unrealistic that it actually becomes believable. We took influence from shows like ‘The Muppets’ and even older puppet characters from the 1940s. The fascinating part of this is, the puppet has a fixed expression on his face and any emotion you think he is experiencing is being projected on him, by you. I mean not to get too deep about it, but it’s an interesting thing humans do where we anthropomorphize and project our emotions onto animals or inanimate objects and this story and character, in particular, seems to elicit alot of that, and it’s cool to watch from that perspective. The whole video was shot on a set that is 1m x 1m big, made entirely of paper mache, by my gran top to bottom. We shot it in one day, just being completely silly. I just love the little dude so much! He makes it so relatable. It feels nice to be putting out something that I actually consider to be some form of visual art.
Do you get particularly involved in the creative direction when it comes to music videos, artwork and content creation?
With SWOON, I’m involved at every level. The artwork, the fonts, the release strategies, even the visuals at the show. Of course I rely on experts to help me, I’m visually autistic and so I need all the help I can get, but I’m too deeply attached so I oversee everything.
Ryan Murgatroyd – Is That You?
You’re one of the most prominent electronic artists in South Africa right now. Can you talk to us about the music scene where you’re from and how it’s evolved over the years?
It’s funny because I don’t really consider myself an ‘African’ producer. Of course that’s not to say I haven’t been influenced by sounds, rhythms and other sonic and even cultural and other influences that have certainly added a bit of flavor to my work, but i think it’s dangerous to start riding that train where you identify your art through any kind of identity politics, which is what I see a lot of artists doing now, for better or worse. But yeah, business is good here, with Black Coffee and other African artists really taking off on the global stage, which is fantastic. The scene here is still VERY small for boutique electronic music. I’m one of a handful of artists making underground music that isn’t very strongly AFRO house tinged. That’s not to say I’ve never used African elements in my music but it’s not a strong feature of my current productions. But in answer to your question, yes its growing and of course I’m stealing all the best talent for SWOON.
Any artists we should be keeping our eyes on?
LEEU, Bruce LOKO, Kususa are acts im digging at the moment.
What do you have coming up between now and the end of the year? Any exciting projects or touring you can talk to us about?
Yeah look, I’m not taking any prisoners these next few months. First off Is that you? is out right now on all stores. Secondly, Get Physical music is releasing a very cool Deep house track I did with Mikhaela Faye on Sept 20, which is everything I like in a club record, with sultry vocals and a killer bassline. That’s up for pre-order already on Beatport. I’m in Berlin at the end of September for the 17 years of Get Physical Party wth Blondish, Sailor and I, MANDY and Cioz. And then 4 October we have a very nifty club record out on Swoon, satirically named ‘Tonald Drump’ , which is all about big synths and massive drops for late night club action. Basically the complete antithesis of ‘Is That You?’ but still with my sonic signature in it.
Any final words for our WOTN readers?
Please stream my records because its 2019 and my dog is on a grain-free Paleo diet to cure his autoimmune disease, and that shit is expensive!