Exclusive! Interview with Mudvayne Bassist, Ryan Martinie

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Tuesday, May 24, 2005 @ 10:44 AM

From Slamming the Stage to Han

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By the numbers above it would seem that there are Mudvayne devotees out there. Lots of them. Lost and Found debuted at #2 on the Billboard chart and is by far the most successful release for the band, from a commercial standpoint, yet something fleeting like gold, platinum, or fame may not be –“The end of all things to come” for a band like Mudvayne. The motivation for their artistry is somewhat transparent, even through the make up. The foursome will always exude a mystique, however, that set them apart from other bands in the illusion show.

Just what are they going to do now?


Bassist Ryan Martinie talks about Mudvayne, the outer limits, and hang gliding …For starters.

RYAN: Hey, Charlie. How ya doin'?

KNAC.COM: Good. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN: Just to warn you - I'm driving up the side of a mountain right now out of Stinson Beach. If it's choppy let me know, and if it gets too bad I'll just have to pull over, I guess.

KNAC.COM: So, you're enjoying your down time? I imagine you're still working even though you're “off tour.” You just came off the European tour, right?
RYAN: Absolutely. Yeah, we just did the Euro tour. It was great, actually. We had a great time. Matt and I went to Warsaw for the first time, which was just great. Everybody there was really awesome, our label is really great.

KNAC.COM: I understand that you wrote all the lyrics to the new album up north. And you recorded at The Plant up in San Francisco; Sausalito to be specific. That's obviously a place that is real beautiful and where I would want to write a song or retire. Do you find that being up there gave you guys a creative boost and inspiration?
RYAN: I think we were ready to go, regardless of where we were at. The main point, I think-- always for us, is to sequester us away from the daily toils and the regular world that's out there. We take ourselves out of our element and really put ourselves in a position where we have to focus on the task at hand, which is to pay attention to each other and write songs. So, we always choose somewhere out of the way. The last record we chose to write in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. So, we actually did the pre-production in Minneapolis. So, it’s kind of full circle-- we’re here in St. Paul right now, but in any case, we try to choose the out of the way place where we’re not going to be bothered, and we’re just going to be able to work and really focus.

KNAC.COM: Even on your “off days”, while touring, you’re still doing videos and promotion stuff, right?
RYAN: Yeah, quite a bit. When the work is there you gotta strike while the iron’s hot, as the saying goes, and it’ll be a sad day when we don’t have people beating down our door, wanting to ask us questions about the upcoming records and what’s happening with our career, and when we’re coming to their town. That’s the worst possible scenario, so the best possible scenario is for us to do as much work as we possibly can while we’re out here. What else are you going to do, sit and stare at the TV on your off days?

KNAC.COM: Playstation? (laughs)
RYAN: I’m little more of a reader, so I’ll just read a book. Other than that we’re out here to do the work, and to talk to people like you and just trying to spread the word.

KNAC.COM: Good. Well you know you have a good following, here in Los Angeles. I think I already asked you … looks like you’ve got the people in Europe—a lot of Mudvayne fans out there. Now, you said you’re an avid reader, right?
RYAN: Yeah, I go through phases. I probably read 1,500 pages in the last five or six days, something like that.

KNAC.COM: Well, lyrically for the band, are you the wordsmith, or do you guys collaborate on everything?
RYAN: Everybody makes their own personal contributions, and historically speaking we’ve never really wished to put it out there as separate entities –as each one of doing one thing. The band is Mudvayne, and it takes four of us to be what Mudvayne is. With having said that, I think that the lyrics come from our interactions from each other and the conversations we have. Yes, I can say that everything is filtered through Chad, and he is literally the writer of the lyrics. He pens them down, but at the same time the concepts and how they come about – the catalyst is usually other than one specific person.

KNAC.COM: “Mercy, Severity”, from the previous album, The End of All Things to Come, that’s one of my favorite Mudvayne songs, with its intensity. To me it’s a real romantic song – not to squeeze the Charmin or anything – but, I just love the lyrics to that thing.
RYAN: Oh, thank you. It’s funny to look at a textbook definition of what romantic is. I think that if you really looked and delved what romantic can mean, that it’s kind of a fairly broad, coverage word, and I think that our music can be romantic in the sense that we romanticize about the world around us. You could also say fantasize, or we dream about the world around us, so hopefully those dreams and us romancing does show up in the songs that we write together. I think that we do have a romantic idea of the world around us, that there can be something good to come out of what we do and what the rest of the world does. I think that’s a fairly romantic idea, considering the pessimism that many people have.

KNAC.COM: Exactly. You know, when I hear “Determined” –by the way, great video.

RYAN: Thanks. We had fun making that.

KNAC.COM: It gets me really jacked up. It’s a good thing to go out before you surf or workout, or something.
RYAN: Right on.

KNAC.COM: It’s why we go to shows. Touching on “Mercy, Severity” again, it’s why we go to shows and listen to music. We wanna escape and when we listen to a good song, be it from this genre, or even something really “folky”, it’s a way to release and a chance to leave the world behind for a while.
RYAN: Absolutely. Hence, my being into fantasy. I’m reading Clive Barker right now. Yeah, we need that escape. Everybody needs that escape. That’s not singular, you know? Anybody who thinks they’re an anomaly just because they need to escape, I think, is not seeing the whole picture because everybody needs to escape. Whether it’s through their music or whether it’s through their friends, or whatever it is, everyone needs some kind of outlet. You know, we’re lucky enough to be able to express ourselves with the music that we make and have a lot of fans that can feel free to come to our shows and express themselves either through the way they dance to the music or being able to sit back and absorb. I think if they’re like me, and they love music, then going to see a show is the best possible thing that can happen to you to get that release.

KNAC.COM: It works. It does, and it’s better and cheaper than dope. I got to mention that “Poop Loser” gets me. I think someone in your band had a Dad who was a real dick (laughs), and I think that was released before you came in. It’s one of those songs that you want to thrash to, even though it has a much slower tempo than let’s say, “Determined”, for sure.
RYAN: Sure.

KNAC.COM: Your previous music is venomous lyrically and vicious sonically. Do you find you guys have mellowed at all?
RYAN: I wouldn’t say that, necessarily. I would say that we’re definitely trying to follow our hearts, and whatever comes. If that’s your interpretation, then that’s yours to have, and I would definitely say take that and run. If that’s what it makes you feel then you’re absolutely entitled to that and so is everyone else. Once again, to return to a statement I made earlier about history-- historically speaking, we have really tried to leave things very ambiguous and open ended, so that we don’t feel like we’re telling our fan base what to do, or how to think, or how to live their lives, or how to interpret our music, even. It’s for them. Art is about building a relationship to something, and I think we really wish and romanticize, maybe, about people building a relationship to the music and with the music that we make.

KNAC.COM: It’s like when you see a movie and you fall in love with the lead character, you know –being captivated. Like you said, your own interpretation is really what it all comes down to, because I don’t feel the same way about the color black as you do.
RYAN: Everyone should feel free to have that space, and I think that’s very, very important.

KNAC.COM: What can we expect from Mudvayne when they tour? What songs are you going to cover on your set list?
RYAN: Well, I think we’re going to play a lot of things the people want to hear, then some things that our fans have not seen as of yet. We’d like to mix it up a little bit. But, there’s going to be some new stuff that we’ll put out there, and obviously we’re going out in support of our new record. So, there’s going to be new material in the set list, as well as some good ‘ol oldies from L.D. 50 and The End of All Things to Come. There should be a pretty good mix of songs in there.

KNAC.COM: Alright. On the off time do you guys hang out together?
RYAN: Well, we all live in different areas. Our singer’s in Northern Cal, I’m about six hours south of him, in Central Coast. Our drummer’s somewhere in Wisconsin, and our guitar player is somewhere in Illinois, still. We live in very different regions. We spend so much time together on the road. It really becomes a time that’s needed for individual reflection and space that I think is integral to the process of feeling creative again, and feeling like you want to be together when you’re together so much. That time apart is necessary. You know, the saying goes – “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Me, personally, I miss playing with my brothers when we’re off, but at the same time I covet that time very much as well.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I think you get to compile experiences and stuff to share when you guys get together as artists, being a bit geographically separated. I think that’s cool.
RYAN: We come together to become Mudvayne, not just to be the four guys that we are. When we’re apart we’re no longer Mudvayne. We have our individual lives and we’re free to live those and seek out our friendships and our relationships with our families again. You know, like I said, have the time for reflection or reading, and getting away from what some people would consider this crazy life, I think for us it gets to be mundane after a while –different city everyday, in and out of hotels every day, and being in a very small enclosed area. Imagine inviting into your bedroom, to live with you, for eight weeks at a time or several months at a time, all of your friends. It gets to be a little oppressive and claustrophobic on your “people aquarium”, which is what we call it. So, that time away is definitely needed.

KNAC.COM: When did you decide that you wanted to be a musician?
RYAN: I don’t think I made a conscious choice – I think that’s just always been part of my being. I’m lucky enough to have come from a family who was really supportive, and supported my interest in music from the time I was very, very young. So, for me, I can’t remember a time that music wasn’t a part of my life and wasn’t kind of the driving force. Fortunately, for me –some people search their whole lives, and maybe not feel like they find their purpose or their place in life, which I think there is a purpose and a place for each. I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to always feel that my direction was headed toward making music. In one way or the other – I was going to be, you know, performing, or in some way, entertaining. So, it’s really just a part of my being. If I look back on the times that were most depressing, or the times that I was the most down, is definitely when I was without music in my life –which is really what makes me feel complete and whole. You know, without it I kind of lose my way. I hope I answered your question. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Yeah, that pretty much nails it. Did you start on bass?
RYAN: No, I grew up in a very parochial setting; my family was very involved in the church in my younger years. That gave me the opportunity to be in plays and sing. I played trumpet and did orchestras. I played in the Rose Bowl Parade with a marching band, and I’ve done a few different things musically. I did some dinner theater after high school, professionally. So, like I said, I don’t think I had to make a choice as to what avenue I was going to go down. I think the choices –they happened. There’s a little bit of serendipity, and maybe a bit of synchronicity in my life, you know, that the guys in Mudvayne found me. I feel very fortunate to have them as my brothers and to be along for this ride.

KNAC.COM: Your guys’ script was already written, maybe.
RYAN: Yeah, could be. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Who were your influences early on? I had read somewhere that you used to like to hit on the Hemispheres album. Is Geddy Lee one of your all-time favorites, in terms of bass?
RYAN: Oh, I have so many all time favorites – you know, I wouldn’t just nail it down to bass players. There are so many musicians and artists in general that have influenced my life. I think the whole of my life experience has led up to where I’m at now. I don’t think I can separate myself to anything that I’ve been exposed to. Movies to paintings to books –it all has relevance with my life and the work that we do together as Mudvayne. Yeah, absolutely, Geddy Lee is a phenomenal musician and artist. And, absolutely –I was influenced by that record, in particular. That was the first Rush record that I was exposed to, and that really set me on fire -- just the possibilities, you know. Then, of course I go into all sorts of different other avenues, delving into such avant garde things like Chick Corea Elektric Band, and things that are even further out than that. So, all of those things have built my experience, and have come out to be flesh and blood to the music we create together.

KNAC.COM: What bass models are you going to be taking on this tour? Are you pretty much a four-string bass player? Not to endorse anybody, just out of curiosity people might want to know, particularly musicians.
RYAN: Well, for me it just depends on the songs. If the song calls for the five-string part, then I’ll play the five. Somehow a lot of times, the songs are just accentuated by some of the lower stuff that I do, and it becomes more of a percussive element and part of the true rhythm section element. But, if I can kind of sidestep that, and rewrite and play an octave up to save myself some of that wobble on the bottom end –some of that woofing that happens from having that big, fat open B-string, which, of course, we’re tuned down, so it’s a G –so you know, I try to replace that if I’m playing just a few notes on that B-string. I’ll go to the “four” instead, just to have a little more clarity in a live setting. In the studio your settings are much different and you can do whatever you wish, but live I like to keep it high and tight, clean and classic.

KNAC.COM: I like your fat bass line in the intro to “Happy.” Just going into the lyrics – “Peel me from the skin – Tear me from the rind – Does it make you happy now?” I mean, that’s real pain. I like that. (laughs) Whose personal experience sparked that one up? It’s a great song – it’s thrusting –it’s cool. It’s catchy. I like it.
RYAN: Once again to return to –like I said – the life experience, and not being able to separate your self from it. We’ve gone through change in the last few months, and over the last year, and in the course of our lives. I think that is a question at some point in time that we’ve all asked ourselves: Am I happy now? I think it’s a question to pose to the listener as well, in making choices that you can find your happiness, and also making choices that don’t pull you away from your own happiness. Following the path that is right for you. Yeah, it’s definitely a little bit of a militant stance, too. Questioning and really kind of speaking out against some of the feelings that we’ve had. It definitely is lamenting those.

KNAC.COM: It’s for all of us. It’s something where I can almost see a troubled adolescent (laughs) dedicating that (“Happy”) to a broken love or something. I’m kind of going out there with that.
RYAN: No, hopefully you said that is for all of us, and I would like to think that that’s true. Its’ not for me to define for anyone, but I would like to think that is the case, because we want people to feel included. If there’s some kind of new direction, it’s our awareness. On our first record, maybe we alienated people a little bit with some of the lyrical content or even some of the musical content. You know, crazy time signatures, key changes, and changes in arrangements. I think that can be alienating for someone who is used to hearing 4/4 and three chords. We don’t want to do that anymore. I think we’ve covered that ground. I think this is an effort to reach out to people, and to be inclusive instead of exclusive –and not to alienate people. So, if you say that you feel like it’s something everybody could relate to –I think so, too. “World So Cold” is a song that to me really encompasses that attitude. That’s something that we feel everybody could relate to, whether your fifty years old, or eighty, or whether you’re twelve. I think that people can relate to lyrical content in that song, and the kind of very broad strokes that we’re making seem to fit with us, and seem to feel like we’re included in something that’s a part of you, not just you included in part of something that’s us. So, hopefully you’re right about that (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Yeah, and it transcends and age and gender. For me, when I go see an artist live, it draws me closer to them. It’s a better experience, and I’m sure it’s just an energy thing that you guys feel when you’re onstage when it’s “on.” It accentuates the mood, and for lack of a better term –you kick ass.
RYAN: Yeah, we definitely feed off the crowd. I’m happy that we did this tour that we just did, which was the very small shows because you get the live and intimate value of having people who are right there at your fingertips –people who can reach out and you can touch. There’s something very intimate about that, and there’s a lot of energy being exchanged, I think. And also, in the larger settings like what we’re getting to do –that reciprocal effect is evident; I think when you’re onstage –you said you can probably feel it, and yeah, you’re right, I can feel that. I still remember when we did the Ozzfest in Europe, the first Ozzfest show that we ever did. We played to somewhere around 50, 000 people, and that was, to date, that’s still one of the largest shows that we’ve played. With Metallica tours we were usually playing to around 30,000 for those. So, that 50,000 mark, 50-60,000 mark was a lot of people to play to, and you do feel a reciprocal effect and this energy that flows between you and the audience. That’s something very special.

KNAC.COM: I love “Death Blooms” on the Ozzfest 2001 album. Just the intro –“Kill, kill, kill, kill …Let’s fucking do this thing…”
RYAN: Kill, kill, kill …(laughs)

KNAC.COM: Will you always be warm to your name Ryknow?
RYAN: Absolutely. From uncles to my bandmates to whoever. I’m not picky. Call me Ryan, call me Ryknow, call me Rudy, call me Martinie, whatever you want to call me. I’ve been called a lot worse, let’s just say that. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: About the make-up: This is the first album, or tour that you’ve launched to be done without any sort of make-up or publicity image. Have you shed that temporarily or will there be more to come with the make-up?
RYAN: You know, I definitely wouldn’t say that anything has been shed. We approach everything individually. If the moment strikes us where we want to do something that we feel augments the live show, then I think that we’ll do it. One of the things that we hope we built with our fan base is knowledge of what not to expect and what to expect -- which is always change.

KNAC.COM: Beautiful.
RYAN: One thing that you can pin down about this band –the word ‘change’ is a fairly good description.

KNAC.COM: Spontaneity at the show. So, when I go out to see you guys, not knowing what to expect, I’ll be pleasantly surprised, I’m sure. When you come to Los Angeles, it’s going to be fun.
RYAN: Absolutely. I’m looking forward to it, man.

KNAC.COM: What do you do for fun on the off time?
RYAN: I’m just taking up hang gliding. For me, hang gliding is my new love. My love has become my job and vice versa. So, now I have to find something else that makes me feel free, and hang gliding has done that for me. As soon as this tour is over I’m going to get my Hang One Rating. I’ve already been a couple of times, and it’s just the most free, amazing feeling that I could possibly imagine, so I’m going to be flying soon. I like the hang gliding slogan – “Get High, Go Far.” So, I think that slogan’s always been in my mind, in some way, shape or another.

KNAC.COM: And get maximum hang time.
RYAN: You got it, man.

KNAC.COM: It was good talking to you. Have fun out there on tour. I’ll be seeing ya. Good luck. God Bless.
RYAN: Thank you so much. I’ll talk to you soon, eh? Come and say Hi when we’re in L.A.

KNAC.COM: Maybe I’ll get one of those “backstage” things.
RYAN: Perfect. That sounds great, man. Take care, Charlie.

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