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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
conducted by Michael Tau
published June 2009
BRIAN RURYK ONLINE