One of the most prolific and often underlooked songwriters of his generation, Matthew Ryan, adeptly captures the heartbreak, struggles and triumphs of the everyman, like few can. With a catalogue of work that goes back to 1997, Ryan has put out 11 LP's in just under 12 years, ranging from some of his solo work, Mayday, From a Late Night Highrise, and his most current disc, Matthew Ryan vs. The Silver State, to the side project, Strays Don't Sleep. In between currently recording his next solo LP, Ryan unveiled an impromptu side project he's been working on The Dead Satellites, with Rami Jaffee and Greg Richling. The trio recently threw up a myspace page, where they have two new songs streaming, one of which is the protest song, "Shook Down."
We had the opportunity recently to ask Matthew some questions about the new project and song, how his next solo album is shaping up, and his recent trip to Italy. Check it out below.
BTB- What can you tell us about your newest project, The Dead Satellites?
MR- It's hard to explain, we have no real goal other than to create outside of our own designs. It's a good thing cause it opens you up. Sometimes we create invisible borders within our own definitions of who we are and what we do. Creativity doesn't have to be gravity. The Dead Satellites are letting me explore some other characters.
BTB- The first song you guys posted, “Shook Down” is a bit of a protest song? Can you talk about it? And is the protest song a lost art form?
MR- Sadly, it seems that protest songs are viewed as passe, or even worse useless. I disagree. But I can't really guess what other people feel about them as an art form. In recent years there has been major efforts by some government interests to make artists with opinions seem goofy, misguided or sappy. But artists are citizens as well, we're humans that maybe see the world a little differently from others. I believe those of us that are for real have something important to offer the social/political dialogue. With Shook Down I wanted to imagine a growing coup. I believe the institutions that keep us educated, employed, healthy, hopeful and safe are important. They need to be re-imagined and re-designed to ensure equality of opportunity and welfare in a changed world. I suspect there is a culture of privilege for some of us, a culture where things that are complex to most, are simply available to a handful in contrast. We have to resist the development of a caste system. We already having an exploding service class that has virtually no upward mobility or rights. It's unforgivable. And selfishly, sooner or later it will head to a great ugliness. None of us want that. Corporations have got to value their employees, from the bottom up. I believe that the concept of companies to big to fail is wrong-headed because as is true in so many things, as something grows beyond reasonable management, the employees become less human in the management's eyes. It often becomes simply obsessed with the bottom line rather than what's the "right" thing to do. We have to remember and reconnect and re-intimate ourselves with the human dignity in all of us. So much of what I see right now, the things done to people's savings, retirement, future... Well, so much of it is bottom line driven crusades with no real respect for human dignity and hope.
BTB- How did you get hooked up with Greg Richling and Rami Jaffee?
MR- Greg reached out to me late last year. Originally it was gonna be kind of an "all star" cast of various artists that Greg and Rami knew and liked. Some more famous, some more underground. But I did my work on Shook Down and Greg got excited. We started to think maybe Dead Satellites could be a more streamlined collaboration.
BTB- Are there any thoughts of releasing an album at some point? or is it just posting some songs right now and seeing where it goes? How much material have you guys worked on?
MR- We're on a Kerouac trip. We don't really have a destination in mind. I don't know if we'll release an album. I don't know if we'll ever play a live show. We really have no expectations or needs from these songs. We just want to offer something to the ether that hopefully has meaning in people's lives. We just started working on our 3rd song.
BTB- I hear a lot of older people say that our generation and the younger generation of today are apathetic, that we don't take up social causes like they did? Do you think that's true after what just happened in the last election?
MR- I believe many in the younger generations are perplexed by our ability to divide and instigate trouble through personal views imposed on all. I believe that generations behind us take equality of opportunity and the beauty in diversity as understood rights. I don't think they're apathetic, I think they're confused and probably worried about what kind of mess we're gonna leave for them. That being said, I do feel a sense of entitlement from many of them that is troubling. Part of that is our own fault. These generations have been bombed like Baghdad with such thorough marketing from the time their vision sharpened. It's unprecedented, and I don't know what the repercussions of that will be. We should be ashamed of ourselves as far as I'm concerned. We should know the difference between want and need.
BTB- Switching gears a bit. You've released 11 albums in 11 years, it seems like you must always be writing? Can you take us through your song writing process? How does that work for you?
MR- I write when I need to. I don't think much about the process. I'm just glad when it happens.
BTB- What would you say is the greatest thing you've learned between the first album up until now?
MR- Only listen to your gut.
BTB- Would you have done anything differently, looking back?
MR- I would've listened to my gut sooner.
BTB- Do musicians now have it easier or much harder, with the way the industry/business is now?
MR- It's what it is. You either do it because you have to or you don't do it. You always had to have an almost delusional sense of faith to be an artist. We're dependent on invisible houses. People still value it, we're gonna be alright.
BTB- You wrapped up a tour across Italy recently, what was that like for you?
MR- It was absolutely beautiful. I can't wait to go back. Italians are wonderful people. Great lovers of music and amazing architects.
BTB- You've been known to be a bit of a movie critic on your myspace blogs, last movie you rented? And how was it?
MR- Nixon. I loved it. Much better than I expected. Really great. It's kind of like Britney Spears saved the world.
BTB- Lastly, your working on your next solo LP, what can you tell us about it so far? How far along in the process? And any tentative release date?
MR- I'm still writing. This record is the beginning of a new air for me. I can feel that kind of change coming. Like the difference between summer and autumn. The songs are pure. I've been recording at home, I'm getting better at engineering, so I may just keep doing it this way. I don't have a label right now (don't know if I need one), so, a release date is impossible to say. I don't even know how I'll release it. I may just drop it from a helicopter like candy for kids in a war zone.... In reality, I love the physical tradition of music. I don't like just being a tab on iTunes. I want to be held and considered beyond a moment of judgement. I don't know, I still want to reach people. That's the tough thing today, the flood is so massive, all the info, all the entertainment, all the "please love me" out there. You can't even see the rooftops some days. I want to be a rooftop.
Matthew Ryan on myspace.
The Dead Satellites on myspace.