Guitarist Spotlight: Ryan (Deus Ex Machina)

This week we talk to Ryan, guitarist of Deus Ex Machina, known not only for their extremely technical form of death metal and also for his stage antics which have drawn both ire and praise from those who have witnessed them live. Read on to know more about what goes on behind this crazy mastermind of Deus Ex Machina…

Photo by Shai

HMT: Hi Ryan! Thanks for being a part of this column! Before we start off the interview, would it be possible to tell us more about your musical history? Besides DEM, what are the bands that you have played with before?

Hi guys. Musical history is a funny term, but here goes. I started playing in sec 3 or sec 4. Before that was all air guitar. But I really took off in Poly after meeting these two shredders Glen and Keith. They introduced me to loads of guitar players on cd’s etc. Thats when I began to develop.

I’ve played in several bands in poly, but the first serious one was Azra-el, followed by Bhelliom , Fen-rir and sessioned for Dante’s Theory as well as Jana Cova.

What was it that made you decide to pick up the guitar initially? Who were some of your inspirations, and how have they influenced the songwriting of DEM’s music?

I started listening to rock n metal in late primary school, and my interest in guitars began with GnR and Iron Maiden. Then it was the early death and power metal bands that influenced speed and technique.

With a lot of the music written with DEM, you can hear the influences. Not only in playing style but also in structure. Everyone can tell my bbiggest influence is Chuck Schuldiner, but other factors such as mood, books, movies also play apart in writing. The band is heavily involved when riff are mapped out.

In addition to guitar, do you play any other instruments?

Bass. Empty Bottles and cans.

Spaceman @ Black Revelations 2010

Comparing the music between I, Human and The War Inside, it is obvious that the riffs have gotten more complex and more technical, such as the playing of the whammy bar and also the inclusion of play on sound effects such as on the track, I on I, Human. What was the reason behind the decision to include more progressive/technical elements in later music of DEM?

Its a step forward. Progression. Line up changes. New music that we stumble upon. Mood swings. Thats what brought the change. And my being away for almost a year in the States helped as well. Cleared my head, and gave me a new perspective on things. But the inclusion of Shai and Rory back then, gave a new dimension to playing and writing.

Everyone who knows Shai, knows how he plays . Gene’s drumming got exactly what I wanted from War Inside, as Shai’s on I Human. Mithun’s vocals also gave me ideas for riffs, and more technical riffing too.

The fact that I also got an RP12 for a bargain price also helped! The effects gave me loads of ideas and I began to experiment on sound and different structures as well as progressions.

On DEM’s music, how do you come up with the riffs and guitar solos? On average, how long does it take to come up with the riffs and solos for a DEM song?

The magic question. Someone asked me this before as well. The riffs just come. ¾ of the time while practicing actually or in the studio. Sometimes I hum it out, and try it out at home or in the studio. Visions Blind was composed entirely in the studio.

As for solos, I’ll admit I’m very lazy when it comes to composing them before recording. Ah Boy [TNT Studios] has kicked my ass on occassion as have the guys, but to me a guitar solo needs passion. Unless you’re doing an instrumental like Satch, Vai or Malmsteen where it needs to be planned, I just go with the flow and the mood.

When you write the music for DEM, do you necessarily compose on the guitar?

I do. It gives me the freedom to work out riffs and merge them as I go along. It also helps with testing out different effects to generate atmosphere for the songs. I’ve tried Guitar Pro etc, but its never the same.

On DEM live performances, in addition to the role of guitarist you often take the role of the frontman as well, with insane stage antics. How did this habit start off? What are some of the feedback that people have given about DEM performances?

Well, its not really being the frontman. I’m just myself doing crazy things. Enjoying the music and performing. I remember this interview I read years ago, where the band essentially said, “If out of 1000 people, I see one person really enjoying themselves, then we should still perform as if 1000 people were really enjoying themselves”. I mean seriously, would you rather watch a band that stands there or one that seriously looks like they are enjoying themselves.

Some people like what I do, some hate it. But hey, its just me. I’ve seen others do worse like trying to “smash” a guitar then checking to make sure it never cracked or scratched.

Some person I think was not really happy and started saying stuff on, but hey, its their opinion. Mithun is essntially our frontman. He is dramatic when he performs, and he can really hold a crowd! I just back him up as I see it. I have gone on stage once with the silver paint, but if you do not try, you never know 🙂

Let’s talk a bit more about your personal views as a guitarist. Do you have any practice routine?

With work, I just noodle at least half an hour every night. I normally do the usual warm ups, chord changes, practice the DEM songs, new scales or modes, speed, etc. On some days, I write and do not practice. Do one or the other.Mixing it up sucks sometimes.

Are there any personal preferred setups when performing live and for recording in studio?

Oh yeah. For sure! In the studio I prefer to use Peavey heads such as the XXX or the 6505 through a Marshall or Peavey cabinet. Other than that I could use a Peavey combo like the old Scorpion models. I run effects through the main line, not using a send / return.

As for Live situations, well, if Peavey’s are available great, but any stack or combo except Smarvo’s will do. My monitor is set to drums and 2 guitars when possible. And stage space for me to bang my head.. Hahahahaha

6, 7 or 8 strings? Why?

Each has its own use I suppose. I use 6 with DEM and 7 when jamming with Kkrakatoa due to the down tuning to B or a dropped A.

Again, its all up to the individual , style etc. Some players like 9-10 strings as well on a Chapman Stick or Warr Guitar.

How do you think your playing has evolved since your time in Azra-el to DEM?

Its evolved tremendously I have to say. Playing over the years, and in different styles, with different musicians has defintely contributed to my playing. ALso listening to various styles and genres and also opening up to playing different things has helped.

I had to, and still have to play in a slightly different manner. I broke my middle and ring finger on my left hand and fractured my right wrist years ago, and then my ligament in my little finger and a tendon in my picking hand got damaged. So there are some styles or chords that I can’t play conventionally, but I try to find a work around. Aka cheating! Hahaha…

Finally, do you have any advices for our readers of the guitarists spotlight?

Advise? I don’t know what else to say but have a sense of humour, practice and believe in yourself. Play what you think you can or should play and don’t let anyone else tell you that you cannot do it! Exploration is a key as well, and when you can, put some fun into it when practicing in your bedroom 😉

Related articles:
Interview with Deus Ex Machina (2010)
Album Review: Deus Ex Machina – I, Human

Deus Ex Machina on the internet:

©2010 Heavy Metal Tribune | Hong Rui

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