Ryan Woods (Midnight Movies)
Ryan Wood, Guitar Player, Bass Player and Synthesist with the Midnight Movies about his experiences with Reason and how to play two instruments at the same time.
Ryan, it's a pleasure to meet you. Could you please introduce yourself and your band?
Hi, my name is Ryan Wood from the Midnight Movies. I play the keyboards, bass, and guitar in the band. Sometimes, I play two instruments at one time. So that's kind of my role in the band – the circus act.
The band's been around for about six years out of L.A. I joined the band about three years ago. They needed someone to kind of fill a unique position. The previous member that I filled in for played keys through Reason and played guitar. I happened to be experienced in both.
We're signed to New Line Records. Our latest album is called Lion The Girl. We just released a new EP called Nights in March.
It's interesting that the person who was in your position before was using Reason already. Were you introduced to Reason because of this gig or did you know it already before?
A friend of mine introduced me to Reason 2 long before I joined the band. We'd write our songs together and mess around and kind of like explore the new instruments. Reasons files are really convenient 'cos you know it's like a tiny text file – they are really easy to email. It was a pretty awesome experience because it was the first analog synth modeling software I had. And so I got to learn a lot of what I know from Reason. I've always been playing around with it and it's been a lot of fun.
Have you been using keyboards before? Are you trained as a piano player or keyboard player?
Yes. I've been playing since I was fifteen. I took a couple years of lessons but I am mainly self-taught. I started at the same time with guitar. The guy that I took lessons from taught me both. I stopped playing keyboards because all the keyboards I wanted were way too expensive for a teenager. I didn't really know about the deals you could get at pawn shops, so I focused on guitar. Reason was instrumental in me getting back into synthesis.
So how are you using Reason now in your current work with the band?
Reason provides 99% of what I play on the keyboard. We use it live and in the studio. I play a lot of key bass and weird noises. We try to create more atmospheric type sounds. We mainly use it as a live instrument. We only have one song that uses sequencing.
How does your system look like? Do you use a notebook, a MacBook and a controller keyboard or something bigger?
I use a PowerBook G4, the 12 inch just because it's smaller. You know, Reason is awesome because it so streamlined and processor friendly. I haven't had an issue at all. If there is an issue at all, it's been a user problem. But I've never had Reason crash or it do anything weird on me when we were playing live which is great. I also have two keyboard controllers – a Akai MPK-49 as my main keyboard and an Alesis Photon X25 to handle the audio out. I use the Photon for the weirder sounds. It has a light sensor that I mess around with.
I have so much stuff that I try to keep it down to the minimal elements.
But that's very convenient because usually it's a drag for the bands, the musicians, to carry big and heavy equipment around. Having smaller and lighter stuff increases the fun I guess.
Oh, it totally does! I mean, you know, I use two controllers and the G4. Having physical version of all the equipment in Reason would be ten times as heavy. Seems crazy!
Do you use the Reason soundbank a lot? Or do you sample a lot of your own stuff? How about refills? Where do you get your sounds from?
In the past I've often taken a soundbank sound and then adjusted it to my liking. I just use it for a reference and then I try to find something new - I just tweak the hell out of it until I find something that I like. Lately, I've been initializing Subtractor or Maelstrom - just starting from scratch. I just try, you know, to do something different. Now I'm more satisfied creating a new noise from scratch.
Do you build more complex Combinator patches to add effects and sounds and weird split cabling combinations to get to your stuff or do you stay pretty straightforward?
When we write a song I usually start with a straightforward instrument - like a sampler or the subtractor. Later. I'll use the Combinator to split it or whatever I need. I usually add Scream to add a little grit to it and sometimes I add the dark echo patch from the reverb module. Usually, it's fairly straight forward. I just run it through my amp. When we play live, though I have to organize a little differently. I have to prepare it so that it's easy to change. In the past I would've closed a session and opened a new file for the next song - that was the old way, just doing quick shortcuts with the laptop keyboard. But now I'm set up so that I can change the sounds by switch between the sequencer layers – this enables me to contain all of the songs in one file.
So you do it from the file browser that was introduced with Reason 3.0? Where you just click on the sound and in the background it loads the appropriate devices to play the sound.
Yeah, it's kind of funny watch me between songs. I'll hit the last notes of our song and I'd be taking off my bass guitar, closing a file and opening another file, and putting on my guitar at the same time.
So how do you handle playing two instruments at the same time? Are you tapping the bass with the left hand and with the right hand playing keyboards? Something like that?
I haven't really started doing that yet. But it's kind of similar. I play a bass note and then play a keyboard note. There's one song in particular on the Lion The Girl album that's called "Ribbons" where I'll be playing a normal straight forward bass line and then I reach up and play a string, this weird distorted feedbacking string sound. It's all just like (bass sound) da dada da dada and then hit the string sound. What else do I do? I'll be playing a single line on the guitar and then playing a lead on the keyboard with my left hand.
Just whatever works for the song. I'm probably going to end up, in the future, getting a foot controller so I can stomp out notes just to fill in the bass because I seem to be playing more the guitar these days.
So how would you describe the music of the band, the style of music?
It's kind of dark. It's psychedelic. There are a lot of influences. We don't really have this exact formula for what we do but it's definitely influenced by 60s and 70s rock. But we also really like the experimental synth albums that are from those times as well. We also like a lot of Krautrock. I'm actually really into a lot of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu, and Cluster. It's all little bits and pieces that kind of influence us that filter into our music unconsciously. We're a rock band but it's lead by a female singer which is great. She also plays drums sometimes as well. We all switch instruments. That's what's going on. It's like a rock band with a little electronic elements on top.
Ryan, I wish you great success with the Album and the upcoming tour. Thank you very much for your time!
No problem, my pleasure.
Published September 2008
Photos by Todd Zimmer
LA-based Midnight Movies was formed in 2002 and quickly rose to fame as a great live act on the LA music scene. Ryan Woods joined the band in time for their 2007 album Lion the Girl, out on New Line Records.
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