Interview: Ryan Hemsworth

With the current state of the EDM scene being a mash of newcomers uploading their ambitiously catchy tracks in the hopes of making their obscure monikers indelible, it seems virtually impossible for artists to make their mark without accidentally turning themselves into a viral trend. For 22-year-old Halifax native RYAN HEMSWORTH, emotions and experiences fuel his drive to produce, and it’s seemingly working to get his name out into the open.

Without getting stuck in a single genre, he finds himself flirting with both hip-hop, electronic music and every sub-genre in between, allowing him to team up with artists across the map. In the midst of his Magical Properties tour alongside producers Daedalus and Salva, we got Hemsworth to say a few words about his abundant collaborations, his attachments to trendsetters Clams Casino and Kitty Pryde, and how he has a fear of becoming a human meme.

You use a variety of artists from different genres for your remixes and samples, which is especially notable in your mix for The FADER. What draws you to make those choices?

I don’t really like to stick to straight genres. I think I’m more informed by mood and emotion and melodies, which is probably why it seems weird compared to a lot of mixes which people strictly stick to, like a quiet mix or a trap mix, you know? I think I decide more through what I feel like the day of.

Do you go into your remixes with a certain idea of how to make them stand out?

Yeah, like when there’s a remix I want to do on my own and it’s not one that’s brought to me through a label or whatever, then there’s definitely an element of how can I change this to make it better for a club or just for headphones. I’m always trying put remixes to a different setting.

How has that helped you change or progress since Last Words?

I think my stuff is always changing, which I’m grateful for. I think right now, as I’m just finishing up my album, I’ve brought back a lot of elements I grew up on – like a more guitar parts and relying more on different structures than the usual dynamics you find in a trap song.

Do you feel your personal experiences affect the music you produce?

I’d say a lot. I’m trying to first and foremost put across some kind of emotion and I think that always affects what I’m making. Hopefully not too directly, cause it seems like a lot of stuff I’ve made is pretty sad or whatever, but yeah it’s always trying to get across a feeling.

Going off that, do you find emotion to be easily conveyed through electronic music, or is it more difficult than a genre like what we call indie?

It’s definitely a challenge compared to writing a song on an acoustic guitar and making cheesy lyrics. It’s hard because you’re working with a program that has everything made for you, and you have to really change it and build off synthesizers and drum sounds that sound cold and not emotive because they’re preset. That’s the stuff that I enjoy; you have to try to milk emotion out of those cold things.

You studied journalism in school before taking on music, so what was that transition like, going from being a critic to the one being critiqued?

It’s weird to go from one side to the other, but I think studying journalism has definitely prepared me for the social/PR side of it, and has really set me up for knowing how to approach people. For a long time I was more or less managing myself, setting up interviews and trying to get people to post things. That entire world is kind of hard to jump into without having any experience, so the things that I’ve studied have definitely helped me learn how to not annoy others while trying to get them to do things for me.

A lot of writers find the need to instantly compare you to artists like Clams Casino. Is it tough to embrace comparisons like that when there’s so much more to your sound?

I totally get it when people say that, and Clams and I talk a bit and are somewhat like-minded people, but at the same time, I think I have a fairly different sound from him. I think the similarities mainly draw from the samples we like to choose and from the way we like to contort them. We’ve both talked about how we both like Donkey Kong soundtrack and stuff with really warm textures and things like that. At the same time I like to create a lot of material that’s faster and “dancier”, so I think there’s enough difference between us… hopefully.

How has using programs like Logic and Ableton shaped or supplemented the sounds that you’re constantly looking for?

Well that’s the crazy thing; as a producer, the equipment and the programs you use is really your voice when you’re not using your own voice. I think that really shapes everything – from all the noises you use to how you cue and master everything – and what you do is how people really recognize you. If I was using different programs, I’d probably have a totally different sound. Also, once you get comfortable with one thing, it’s definitely hard to jump over and try a different program or whatever. It takes a long time to really get comfortable with your equipment.

Are you open at all to using different software?

I’m really comfortable where I’m at right now. There’s also the scariness of getting used to all the tiny little things that come with new programs, so I probably won’t change over to anything until my computer crashes (laughs).

Do you have a preference when it comes to collaborations and solo projects?

There’s different rewarding feelings to both of them. It’s exciting to make something and give it to another artist and not know what you’re going to get back, or obviously to collaborate in-person and have them do these things you never would have thought of. That’s a nice surprise compared to sitting in your room by yourself and making something from beginning to end. But I mean, if you’re doing that at the same time, there’s a real sense of accomplishment just to create a project from the ground up all by yourself and put it out to the world, and have people enjoy it in some way or another. I like doing both and that’s why I try to find a balance.

How does that affect being referred to as an IDM producer?

I mean, yeah, it’s weird. All the stuff with IDM and EDM, I don’t fully even know how to give a definition of either of those things. I think it’s just a way for people to really classify a lot of music that’s going on and the similarities between sounds of the same worlds. When people ask what kind of music I make, I just say that I make electronic music or that I make hip hop, which I know is kind of vague because we’re in a world where everybody is making something different. I think it’s better going that route than to really be pinpointed to what you make because you don’t have any flexibility once you’re established as a specific type of artist.

I agree. I like that you’re open to more than just one genre and even now, that mindset has allowed a lot of producers to have an elaborate stage set-up that’s not confined to their equipment. Even though you’re still relatively new to performing, have you ever thought about following suit or have you found your niche in the simplicity of a live performance?

I definitely want to keep adding stuff to my show, like more elements and ways to get people engaged maybe, but I’m also really happy with where I’m at right now. I’m able to walk into a venue with everything I need in my backpack, and that way it’s more stripped down and it becomes more on you to engage with your audience and get going. There’s definitely benefits to both but I’ll eventually still want to bring more to my shows.

Would you be open to performing with artists you’ve remixed for?

Totally. I did that for the first time during CMJ down in New York. I played with Deniro Farrar, the rapper I was working with for awhile, and I DJ-ed for Main Attrakionz and Kitty Pryde and a few others, so that was really exciting to be in that live element with them. I think I’ll probably be doing more of that because I’ve been working on a lot of features lately and they’re going to give me opportunities to bring out a couple surprise guests in the future.

With Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” and the viral videos that have gone along with it, what are your thoughts on the accessibility of electronic music and the future its creating for itself?

It’s really hard, I mean Baauer’s such a good dude and I’m really excited that he’s getting a ton of success now because he deserves it more than anybody. But at the same time, it scares me because you could make one thing and then become an Internet meme, which naturally goes overboard and fades away as people get sick of it. I don’t worry too much about that type of success because I don’t think I’ll ever really make anything that catchy (laughs). I’m really excited for electronic music in general, with more artists invading the pop world and having the chance to work with people like Hudson Mohawke and G.O.O.D. Music. The genre’s becoming a great thing this year and it’s really making pop music more accessible for everybody.

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