steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

20 questions
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with brian ruryk

From his early days as part of Toronto's eighties experimental scene, Brian Ruryk has been challenging ears with his heavily manipulated, highly unconventional guitar sound for decades. As the noise scene has become increasingly digitalized in recent years, Ruryk has continued to work with his instrument as well as his nebulous collection of junk. Records have been released on Trackshun Industries, Stomach Ache Records, as well as dear friends Gastric Female Reflex's own label, Beniffer Editions. To describe Ruryk's noise would be an exercise in futility; however, the title of his 2003 three-inch CDR on Ultra Eczema phrases it nicely: "Guitar Stuck in Blades of Fan." I'll defer to that.

Brian's Smeared Gravity And Guitars Lippin' Off, on Bennifer Editions


1. You aren't an easy man to track down. Is mystery something you embrace?

No it really isn't. I don't think mystery is cool or anything.

2. When and how did you become interested in unconventional music?

When I was 10 or 11 I lived near the 427 highway, right under a flight path for the Pearson airport. I got used to hearing the low din of traffic interrupted by blasting aircraft. It had a stronger effect on me than Elton John and Grand Funk Railroad put together. My earliest memories of being confused by music were the "freakout" parts, like in Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love or Jimi Hendrix at The Monterey Pop Festival. I was sure there was something wrong with my record player. My first noise album was a Led Zeppelin bootleg where John Bonham's cymbals were way too loud and drowned everything else out. Unconventional? I dunno.

3. How did you develop your guitar technique?

I don't really think I possess much guitar technique or many techniques.

As a guitarist I consider myself useless. In my mind, I am a musical midget; guitar idiot; or a primitive plain and simple. I continue to play and have been doing so for over 30 years. It has gone through many phases; for example there was a time when I didn't own an amp, so I'd go to phone booths break the phones and steal the mics. I taped them to the body of my electric to amplify the strings, but I found if I played in my normal way some of the notes were way too quiet and didn't sound right, so I had to re-learn to play only using the notes that sounded right. Those telephone booth mics determined what I could or couldn't play.

Recently I've been recording myself on awful sounding cassette machines, playing it back, re-recording and then re-recording it again, playing that back and re-recording with new guitar parts, then applying typical cassette player manipulations, then editing, then re-recording etc etc etc. I'll travel any distance to hide that stupid shit sound of an acoustic guitar.

4. Toronto has never been a hotbed for experimental music, but back in the eighties when you were just starting out, what was the scene like? What was the response to your music? Did you disperse your releases primarily through mail?

I was mostly pelted with coins at my shows but that didn't stop me from leaving random cassettes of my recordings on buses and subway trains. I mailed out a lot of tapes, and I received a lot of tapes in return. I always encouraged trading rather than exchanging for money, still do.

As far as the 80's scene goes, I wasn't really paying attention, though I was kind of aware of the old Music Gallery people; and "Art" bands like the Everglades and the Biffs. I was mainly aware of the stuff that my friends and I were doing. I'm not sure if we were really experimental, we were making mistakes plugging our instruments into the wrong inputs and so on. Probably ending up with things that had already been discovered and done way better by older more academic types…ha ha.

Back then, Toronto had these amazing promoters called The Garys who booked a club called The Edge, and I used to go there a lot. I saw a lot amazing music there; Post Punk, AACM types, Rock, weird electronic stuff… I remember them booking Z'ev as the opening act for the English Beat. I went to a friend's party in the suburbs and heard No New York, it made me want to start a band. So I did. We played at the Turning Point, the Beverly Tavern, the Cabana Room. You tend to make a lot of friends when you are in a band and it seemed like everyone I knew was in a weird band or made some kind of disturbing sounds. There was definitely a healthy un-professionalism in the air.

Outside of that I remember people walking around with Bryan Ferry haircuts and in general worshipping Brian Eno.

5. What was the first tape/record you put out? How did it come to be?

The first tape I put out was a compilation tape called "Portable Compilation", which included about 10 Toronto artists. That was back in 1982. There were a couple of other cassette compilations released by that time, Urban Scorch and Smash It Up. I thought I'd document my circle.

Brian performing live

6. What was your pet peeve in high school?

Long lunch lines; anyone into Supertramp; guys who wore sweaters around their necks; stoners who misspelled Led Zeppelin on the backs of their corduroy jackets; people in general.

7. I read somewhere that cassette is your preferred medium. Is this still the case? How come?

That was probably back a few years, but these days I prefer CDRs. It all depends on what's most readily available at dollar stores. I can do all my work on legacy computer equipment now, which can be purchased way more cheaply than good working cassette machines.

8. Which of your releases are you especially proud of, and why?

Pride is an emotion I rarely frequent, it's tough to be proud these days…

9. Who is Fletcher Munson?

My dad. He invented the human auditory system.

10. What is the setting for your ideal music? Be creative.

A diamond setting; the sun setting or a table setting ?? Driving home from work in a 1990 Toyota Corolla at 5:30 AM with it blasting on the stock Blauplast (?)…hmm?

11. What is your relationship with Beniffer Editions?

Last time I checked they were releasing my next album but who knows…

12. What's your favourite record store in Toronto? Do you miss Record Peddler?

I haven't bought a record in Toronto in about 25 years. I usually have to mail away for things. I only went to the Record Peddler when it was located at Queen and Church. I'd go there every Saturday afternoon, then walk west to the Beverly Tavern and drink 40 cent drafts until I couldn't stand up.

13. You've contributed to several compilations in your time. In fact, I own "Music For the Psych-Eye." How many compilations have you contributed to? Do you keep a tally? By that token, how many releases have you been a part of?

I don't keep count, do other people keep count of their compilation appearances?

I just received a comp that I'm on put out by Hockey Rawk from Sweden, haven't checked it out yet. It comes with a book of collages. I hardly recall sending them a master.

14. I remember seeing your name pop up in the credits to Vincenzo Natali's "Elevated," for which you composed the end credits music. How did you become involved with Elevated? Are you friends with Natali?

I was contacted by his music supervisor. Our relationship was very professional, he seemed very sensible. They asked me if I could do a Swans knock off and I honestly tried; however, in my opinion I failed miserably, not sure why they contacted me. I also contributed music to a Nick Zedd film called "War Is Menstrual Envy".

15. What sorts of films do you like?

Late 60's, early 70's low budget B films that lack coherence due to their being hacked to bits by unsympathetic film distributors. Preferably with a bluegrass or country soundtrack, I like hearing some banjo…

Bryan's junk, live

16. What are some of the most cherished items in your record collection?

Torture Time by Bradfield\Chadbourne

Edith Bunkers Demonized Vomit Insurance CDR on bennifer

everything by Xenakis.

17. What is your strangest story?

In 1985, standing by the railroad tracks at Old Weston Road and Junction at 3:00 AM, trying to explain to a police officer why I was reciting poems to my ghetto blaster.

18. How has the experimental scene changed since you first got involved?

Music is just easier to hear and easier to get now. There are zillions of cassette labels now. I can't even keep track. I don't notice a huge difference in the people doing the music and it seems like the best work receives the least amount of recognition, which is the same as always…

19. What is your favourite colour? Justify your selection.

I'm not happy with any of the colours I've seen yet. I am looking forward to seeing some new ones soon.

20. What's next for Brian Ruryk?

Cycle of Fords is my current project. When it's finished it will be approx. 150 minutes in duration and spread out over 6 discs. It's heavily influenced by the Ford Corporation, it even features field recordings of experts discussing Ford cars and other things, the amount of research I've done for it has been back breaking. Beniffer claim to be interested in releasing it, but first it will have to be buried in the ground for a period, so that will take awhile. I'm playing at the The Deleon White gallery on june13 then I may not play another until 2010 or 2011, we'll see.

interview conducted by Michael Tau
May 2009
published June 2009



all content copyright 2009