Life of Ryan
On beats, off beat.
Words Andriana Albert Photos Chris Woods
The story of Ryan Hemsworth — the Halifax bedroom producer-turned international producer and DJ — began with Twitter in 2012. Hemsworth’s name was popping up on tastemaker/indie blogs in response to the few singles and edits he’d done like “Cold & Tempted,” and reworks of Lil B and Future tracks; his production work for cloud rap pioneers Main Attrakionz also opened some eyes and ears. He was just about to release his debut EP, Last Words on LA-based producer incubator Wedidit. To keep things in perspective, Ryan had around 1,000 devoted Twitter fans back then. He’d only played a handful of live DJ sets and had yet to visit the United States. But to quote the late great Notorious BIG, “Things done changed.”
Mass Appeal: I want to talk about this idea of you as a bedroom producer and paving the way for others. People have taken their bedroom productions and made it into a career.
Ryan Hemsworth: I’m not trying to be a bedroom producer. The way I used to make music was not working. You have to figure out what works best for you, which I guess for me, was my technology. In the beginning — when I was 13 or 14 — I was starting to record myself and I used such shitty programs, like GoldWave on PC. You couldn’t have multiple tracks, so basically if you recorded something and you recorded something on top of it, that was how it was going to sound. You couldn’t undo that. It was a really shitty, basic introduction to effects.
In the last few years, the idea of a producer becoming a celebrity has become tangible. I know producers like Diplo have been doing it forever, but with acts like Disclosure, and even you, it’s attainable.
Producers and DJs, they’re like the sex symbols now. It’s insane to me ‘cause it’s a world that is so not sexy, but it’s been totally glamorized. I find that funny, and I try not to play that up at all; I try to play up the opposite. Yet in the end, it still makes people more attracted to me for whatever reason.
Do you feel like a celebrity?
Not really, but sometimes it’s weird when people recognize me. I don’t know, it’s like a small, tiny, little level of celebrity, it’s not like I’m a superstar or anything.
Where do you see computer-based music heading as far as innovation and technology are concerned?
Everything is rapidly accelerating. I feel like it’s going to once again turn on it’s head. I’m already starting to try and find a way that I can work a post-rock sound into my music; stuff I grew up on, before I got into electronic and dance music. It’s just one of those things where like now, it’s not really dubstep in the clubs, it’s trap and whatever else is big right now. I think it’s going to start going back to — not necessarily rock, but back to instruments. The people I talk to, like Jacques Greene — we’re slightly nostalgic. We’re always thinking about acts like Explosions in the Sky. I think we all have a soft spot in our hearts for that kind of music and I think it can translate really well to clubs, it just hasn’t really been tapped into —
But that’s what I’m gonna try to do.
I’m curious to hear your album live.
That’s kind of the fun part now that Guilt Trips is out. To play tracks that are not built for the club, but people know them so they can enjoy them in the club. It’s something I’m still figuring out, ‘cause if you just bring in a guitar and play over your music, people don’t give a shit. I think it’s just the mentality, sometimes people get tired of dudes standing in front of laptops. I would too.
When I met you, you hadn’t put many originals out. In the underground you were blowing up, but you were still relatively unknown. Now, you’re a huge deal.
I only got my manager less than a year ago. It’s still fairly new to me. Before I was doing it all myself. And from a creative standpoint, I still am. Producing, mixing, mastering, sharing, promoting…but now I have people to help me with it. In high school, I put out shitty rock albums and I burnt them on CDs and sold them to my friends. I guess I’ve always tried to hustle. I like the networking side, sharing with friends and seeing your music on a site you like. Finding new people to make stuff with, and do projects with, and then finding people to write about it. It’s fun to me. It’s like a video game. My life is like a video game.
So how do you win the game?
Win the game? I’ll take a Blackberry endorsement and a chance to become the next Diplo.
Is it possible for someone like you to sell out?
I actually just did a song for a women’s clothing commercial in the UK, and people are constantly asking me when I’m putting it out. It’s just like, “Fuck, why don’t you care about my actual music?” [Laughs]
This article appears in Mass Appeal Issue 54. Subscribe to the magazine here.