Obscenery
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Obscenery

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"Cool videos! very very nice work" - Alan Cross of the Ongoing History of New Music


How would you best describe your style?

The best term to describe my style would be Progressive Alternative, a term I created. To the person who would want a description which would relate my style to that of other more popular artists I’d say I’m a blend of Pink Floyd, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Smiths, David Bowie, Tool, and the Cure among others. But to somebody who would prefer a more technical description here how I would describe my style: It starts with a desire to create unique rhythms and melodies which is mostly done through the use of various time signatures. Then I try to make the music widely accessible to listeners who don’t care about odd meters by using strong vocal and guitar hooks, rich chord progressions, and finally, with insightful lyrics examining common experiences and emotions from uncommon perspectives.


What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on my second claymation music video. The first one for my song “I Wish I Knew” is up on youtube, and took about three months to make. This one is taking longer because I haven’t been able to allocate as much time to it as I’d like since I’m also working on promoting the first video, promoting my band, and the four song EP I recently finished which is available for download off the myspace page. I’m also co-writing and playing drums in a duo called the Lovely Killbots with a girl who plays piano and sings. We’ve recently had our first show under our belt and are working on more material and getting recordings done. And of course, as always, I’m studying with you to work on improving my voice.

What is your Practice and Performance Routines?

After I work my 9-5 office job I try to come right home and practice singing to the cd of that weeks lesson, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve been spreading myself out really thin with all I’m trying to do so lately I’d say I get to practice my singing at least 3 times a week, usually 4. Ideally I aim for 6 days a week but that hasn’t been happening for a couple months. Guitar? I practice when I practice. If I have a show on the horizon I practice as many days as I can leading up to that gig, at which point I’m also practicing my singing more. Usually I can find time most days a week for the 2 weeks prior to a gig. I don’t have a routine I always do while performing. I might give myself football coach-esque pep talks in the mirror about staying calm, focused, and confident, but that’s about it. My performance adapts and changes in order to improve. I guess after I’m done on stage I go grab a beer, and try to keep my opinions of my performance to myself, but that last part is a recent change. Previously I’d always be hard on myself after a show because I’d always feel I could have played better. Now I let people make up their own minds since I want them to feel better about my performances than I do, and they’ll make up their own minds regardless of my opinions.

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

I assume you don’t want to hear about the ritual of trying to force myself to eat and stay calm which lasts the whole day, so I’ll skip right to the vocal ritual part. After I get all my gear packed up and ready to go I sing along with that weeks tape for as long as I can focus on it. Then as I tune my guitar during soundcheck I do a couple more lip rolls. Finally, about 20 minutes before I go on stage I find a place (usually the mens room) where I can be alone and I sing a couple scales on “mum”, “ney”, and more lip rolls. A couple more little things; I don’t drink alcohol until I’m done singing. Sometimes while waiting for the cab to pick me up for the show I watch scenes from Star Wars, Superman, or anything with a powerful John Williams score cause those always make me feel strong.

What is your most helpful vocal tip?

Confidence. You are what you believe yourself to be. If you believe yourself to be a weak singer then you’ll sound weak. If you truly believe yourself to be a great singer then you’ll impress the room. If you expect to miss notes at certain places in songs those are the notes you’ll miss. Convincing yourself you are great so that you believe it is the best thing you can do. A big part of convincing yourself of your greatness is practicing until you believe you’ve nailed what you’re trying to do. Then you have to take knowing you can nail it as easily on stage as in practice is the next step. But remember, it’s important to know that you can still nail a performance if you think you’ve made mistakes because your audience might not hear what you perceive to be a mistake as such. I have some “mistakes” in my recordings, because in editing with an open mind I realized my “mistakes” worked better than what I was trying to do. Know you are great and you will be great no matter what you do on stage.
- Tammy Fredericks


After listening to your music, your obvious influences include The Smiths and The Cure, seems you’re a big 80’s fan? Seems your music would fit in the Pretty in Pink Soundtrack.

The Cure and the Smiths are definitely favourites of mine, but it’s actually the 90s stuff by bands made popular in the 80s that have more of an impact on my music. My lead guitar tone is directly inspired by The Cure’s Disintegration (1989) and Bloodflowers (2000). Moz’s solo cds have also been a big influence on my lyrics and phrasing. Of course I love the Smiths, “There’s a Light That Never Goes Out” is one of my favorite songs ever, and I think Johnny Marr was fantastic; but it’s about the way Moz phrases things, and his dark lyrics that are full of imagery and social commentary at the same time. “Lifeguard Sleeping Girl Drowning” and “Late Night Maudlin Street” were huge influences on my overall style. Other 80s people whose 90s music had a huge hand in directing my style are Bowie and Peter Gabriel. And yeah, I love 80s movies! Actually, one of my biggest musical influences is John Williams. That’s definitely not obvious at first, but when I was out of music in my early teens I got back on the piano to learn some of his themes, which I still play to this day. For me there is no piece of music cooler than the Imperial March. I’d love to score a movie one day.

You mentioned in a previous conversation that you feel your music goes against the grain. Can you explain this?

Well of all the grains to speak of, talking rock based music I see the grain as more an Amy Winehouse or Chromeo really enjoyable music with great references to past musical styles. Another band doing a similar thing I’m digging with a great throw back sound and good song writing is called Lucky Soul. The grain is also very danceable, mostly up beat music.

My music isn’t upbeat, and it isn’t very danceable because of the odd time signatures. That allows me to be really creative with my beats, but it makes my music little harder to reference on first listen. The music that has the most longevity in my heart isn’t the instant gratification stuff; it’s the stuff that’s a little off-putting at first but reveals its brilliance in time with repeat listenings—usually after what set it apart as unique becomes more comfortable to the ear. I think in a couple of years people will be more comfortable dancing over odd time signatures.

If the grain today is more iPod commercial/dancey indie rock, I’m more movie soundtrack stuff. I love happy, danceable music, but right now I’m not interested in performing it.

Right now you’re working on a Claymation-type video and you’ve been the sole proprietor in a sense—you wrote the music, recorded it and are now are working on the video. Can you tell us about this process?

It’s all done out of my apartment. I sequence the beats using software, and do the same for the bass guitar, and keyboards. Then I record the guitars on top of that, then the vocals. “I Wish I Knew,” the song I’m making the video for, started out with the drum beat first, which is how I write a lot of material. I’m really, really excited about the Claymation-style video.

I used to make a lot of videos as a kid. In fact, after I quit piano lessons at eight or nine years old, I acted a lot and had dreams of being the next George Lucas behind the camera. I made a bunch of stop-motion videos with my Lego. For a high school project I even made a video for an English class to depict a new creation myth for an Inherit the Wind unit that was pretty much composed of my model Star Destroyer having a space battle with my toaster to create the universe.

This video is by far the most elaborate thing I’ve ever attempted to make. It’s a lot trips to the dollar store to find materials for the stage and scenery, and Canadian Tire for light bulbs, extension cords and duct tape. Oh, and lots of trips to art supply stores for construction paper for the backgrounds and plasticine for the characters. Then I set up the digital camera my parents lent me, and the lights I collected from various places. Getting the lighting right is one of the toughest parts, but that’s also when the fun begins. I get 47 shots on a card, throw the shots into the editing software to watch it back and make sure it works. Chances are I didn’t see something in the small LCD display and I’ll redo that shot. Sometimes if the mistake is small enough I’ll open up all the shots in Photoshop and correct it in each frame—not fun.

It’s a very tedious project, but it’s also a lot of fun despite how many times I repeat the same steps over and over. The fun comes mostly in watching it back, but that’s extremely rewarding.

Right now I’ve got 1:35 of the 4:03 seconds of song done and edited for the most part. I can’t wait to share it with people.

What is it that appeals to you most as being a solo artist? Just being able to have full control?

Yeah, that. But it’s more about knowing my fate - torontoindie.com


Discography

Obscenery EP

"I Wish I Knew" is to be aired on K-Rock in the coming weeks, and the claymation music video is up on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZebTaXR2so

the "Hello My Dear" claymation music video can be seen on youtube at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu56m6eSRGY

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Bio

Obscenery is far from your typical band. For starters it's one guy, Ryan Beattie, who writes and records all the music, and even makes the music videos himself. Experimenting with timings, catchy guitar hooks, and claymation Obscenery sets out to expand the music scene with innovative, uncompromising ideas, not to mention attention to detail, and hard work. The focus is firmly on creating, and performing for the love of it, so there is much more to come.

Starting out on the piano at 4, Ryan later took guitar lessons from Steve Briggs, singing lessons from Mia Sheard and Tammy Frederick, and graduated from the Harris Institute for the Arts with honors. Ryan is also in the indie jazz rock duo The Lovely Killbots on drums.