Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Interview with Ryan Rousseau of Gila Man & Destruction Unit

I actually took this picture of Gila Man
Ryan Rousseau has played every single Goner Fest. He's played as Ryan Rousseau & His Desert Children, the Reatards, Destruction Unit, Earthmen & Strangers, Yuma Territorial Prison Guard, and Gila Man. Gila Man is Ryan's newest electronic-based project, though the man is no stranger to the siren call of a synthesizer. Though most clearly known for his roles as a figure in punk/rock with bands like The Reatards and The Wongs, Ryan has been making synth-oriented sounds since 2000. Destruction Unit has an interesting cross-section. Let's be clear, Destruction Unit makes psychedelic music, but each release does "psychedelic" differently. The early four-tracks are like sumfuck psychedelic. Sonoran is basically a krautrock album. And Deep Trip is the equivalent of watching The Running Man while drinking liquid DMT. So psychedelic comes with variety. And thank G*d it does because each Ryan doesn't seem to run out of ideas.

So let's get to Gila Man, Ryan's new techno project. I had the chance to catch Gila Man (and a slew of other Ascetic House favorites) at the Babylawn in Chicago. Ryan opened the night, playing his version of dance music, which is "supposed to [make you] feel as if you are dancing in an alien reptilian world." Hit the check mark for that reptile boogie box. But while the image is at once absurd, it also points to the idea that beyond the allure of electronic music is the allure of the unknowable & the unseen, which is inherently what drives psychedelia and exploration. You know this even if you've never thought of it that way. Expanding consciousness on one level can come from a chemical change in the brain, but it can also just as radically come from a new idea or an outside presence.

Dig. So growing up in a Christian household, I was told that the purpose of life is to conquer death - to be reborn once and never have to go through the transition again. When I learned about the Buddhist belief that we've been born countless of times and a final death/release from "reality" or consciousness is the reward, well, that was a bit of a mind-blower, and absolutely as game-changing as any chemically-driven experience I've had. Scientific fact and speculative fiction promote this idea, as does Ryan's work in all capacities, this uncannily permanent and pertinent and persistent "what if."

Where do we go from here? Stay tuned, sportsfans.

Jordan Reyes: Let's begin with something a bit unexpected. I know that you're a bit of a horror movie fan (maybe just a fan of the weird) and collect memorabilia. Are there any items in your collection that you're particularly proud of?

Ryan Rousseau: I'd say I'm a fan of science fact/fiction and not so much horror. I have acquired a lot of collectible junk through out the years, but nothing I wouldn't trade or sell.

JR: What are some of your favorite horror movies? Is there a certain style you prefer to others?
Stone God, the first GM release

RR: The Coffin Joe films, Basket Case & Blood are some of my favorite horror films. I don't like slasher/gore flicks.

JR: Tell me a little bit about your recent project Gila Man, one of your most overtly techno projects. When and why did you start making music as Gila Man?

RR: I started the Gila Man project to get more involved in dance parties. I've been recording synth-oriented music since 2000. Gila Man is based more on beats, ambient textures & the love of 90's Memphis gangsta rap.

JR: The only Gila I know is a lizard. Do you feel any sort of affinity with reptiles? Or even at a more basic level, do you like reptile life?

RR: I chose the name Gila Man because I do feel a strong connection with certain reptile species, like the gila monster & the sounds are very reptilian visually. You are supposed to feel as if you are dancing in an alien reptilian world.

JR: Prior to Gila Man, though, you've worked with a lot of electronics, like Dismal Light and even some of the releases under your own name. When did you begin getting into electronics? Do you enjoy electronic music more than rock-based music at this point?

RR: I love to record with synths and other electronics. I don't feel so limited to just the guitar frets and what I can do with the guitar. I pretty much always use a synth on anything i record that has guitar tracks and not vice versa.

JR: The last question is a bit of an oversimplification. Obviously, a lot of people have woven rock instrumentation with electronic music, especially in the psych rock realm, from many early Krautrockers to Lost Sounds to Moon Duo to your band Destruction Unit. Do you think that electronic instruments make music more "psychedelic" automatically?

RR: The so-called "psychedelic sounds" one can achieve with synths are pretty much endless.

JR: If someone stopped you, put a gun to your head, and demanded that you answer where the psychedelic elements of your music come from and you had less than 30 seconds to answer, what would you say?

RR: The "psychedelic" elements  come from within my brain and are channeled through the machines.

JR: You guys are also set to go into the studio to record the next Destruction Unit LP. When you go into the studio are you guys pretty much all set with the writing of the record or are there improvisation elements to the recording too?

RR: There will always be improvisation in our music, both live and in the studio. There is no fun without improvisation.

Destruction Unit
JR: Can you say anything about what the new record is like?

RR: The new Destruction Unit tracks are coming along just fine. The new album should have a bigger, tighter sound with more focus on the studio production. We'll have to wait n see what goes down in the studio next week. We're very excited to get this album under way.

JR: What all is in the future for Ryan Rousseau?

RR: Keep your eyes peeled for more Gila Man, Dismal Light & R.Rousseau releases on Cactus Man & Ascetic House in 2015.

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