We Chat to Ryan Murgatroyd About his Latest Track, His Transition in Style & Always Valuable Insight Into The South African Music Scene

Ryan Murgatroyd

All words: Lu Makoboka

Over the years it’s been thrilling to watch the career of Ryan Murgatroyd gradually evolve into something that vastly inspires. This evolution is also captured in his sound as he transcended the ‘club music’ box he was slotted into and veered towards an aesthetic that takes the listener on a cinematic journey whilst simultaneously invigorating the dance floor. Apart from being a producer, I can’t neglect to mention his role as the founder of Swoon – a record label that pushes the more Avante Garde side of electronica. 

In this interview, Murgs provides a synopsis about how his latest track “Wooma” featuring Sobantwana came to be, the reason he changes his style and some of his thoughts about the South African music scene. 

MCBN: A couple of years ago your music had a more dance-floor friendly appeal to it, although after a certain point we saw your craft take on more of an introspective and somewhat cinematic nature to it. What inspired this transition?

I think playing more boutique and high profile shows have given me the chance to be a bit more diverse and play a bit more authentically to my tastes. In the start of your career, I think there is more pressure to conform to the time of slot you’re playing, and try and please the mainstream club audience with your work, but as I’ve matured, I’ve felt enough confidence to headline a festival and start at 114 bpm, or put some more epic, electronica and breaks moments into my sets. So it’s a freedom thing. That being said I have always loved that cinematic sound from guys like Nils Frahm and I think the influence has always been there, but I just didn’t have the skill, or the balls, to put it into my releases, previously.

MCBN: It’s been a year since you’ve formed Swoon Recordings, and when you look back what are some of the things that you’re most proud of?

Phew, what a ride. We had one of our biggest records with our first release, which was played by everyone from Adriatique, Tale Of Us and Solomun. Then the incredible reception of tracks like ‘Is That You?’ and ‘Wooma’. So it’s the little victories!

MCBN: Why did your latest “Wooma” take three long years to complete?

I think just a lot of back and forth. I’d finish a version, think it was done, and then either it would sound too cinematic and not dance floor friendly enough, or it would be too aggressive and not delicate enough. We kept changing the voicing and the instrumentation until we could find something that slotted in perfectly in both contexts.

You know when you get to Wooma – final edit – last version 9 – save again – Ryans final -2 – mixdown 3, that you have had enough.

MCBN: How did you meet Sobantwana, and how would you describe the creative chemistry between you and two during the creative process of “Wooma”?

I met her through Blanka Mazimela, my protege, so to speak, and multiple time collaber and friend.. and he had just done a record with her for the Bantwanas alias. Which is an umbrella project pairing African traditional musicians with upcoming producers, and I heard her vocals there and was blown away. I love her! So much, in fact, that my next 2 records also feature her, firstly on Khuzeka – out on Get Physical Music on 28.08, and heading up Africa’s Gets Physical compilation being mixed, actually, by Blanka himself. And then again I use her vocals on a track called On My Mind, which is next on Swoon, a huge clubby dirty deep house number where her versatility as an English vocalist also shines, in addition to her stunning vernacular work.

MCBN: You mentioned that the track was tested out in a number of different environments before release. How was the track received in a large festival scene, compared to a smaller underground club?

Well yeah as I mentioned, I played it out so many times over the years. Firstly, the first edit I played in a 1000-year-old Bull ring in Barcelona during Sonar. That was epic,  and it solidified a sort of memory I had when listening to all the other edits. It was a magical moment even though it was only a sketch. And as usual, a lot of the complexity and challenges were in turning that sketch into a final product, but I had that memory from Barcelona which kept me going on the long nights.

I think the final version sounds great everywhere! But another sneaky remix is coming, which I did on the modular rack, which is really going to take it into a late-night dancefloor space!

MCBN: The one synth/VST you couldn’t live without and why

Omnisphere- by far the best VST ever made on planet earth – WHY? I think because the core oscillator design is so fundamentally different from all other synths. The STEAM engine and the core oscillator sounds are just better at everything than any other synth, period. But it’s not just modulation and the effects, the actual core tones are just superior. Also, the Arp, the granular synth, Sound lock, and the Orb, are some of the features I like the most.

MCBN: What do you do to put yourself into a state of flow when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or reach a creative block?

I train A LOT. Lots of boxing, lots of kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. I do a lot of cold and hot exposure therapy, active recovery, yoga and stretching and eat great food and eventually, the inspiration comes back. My medicine work with plants like San Pedro and Sacred tobacco has been absolutely central to my creative journey over the years

MCBN: Something that you like, and don’t like about the South African music scene?

Like: Hungry talent, a thriving network of upcoming producers, great ideas.

Don’t like: Poor execution, lazy kids who are more worried about Instagram likes and instant gratification than putting in the work to be a real, respected international artist who is making a contribution, not just taking from the scene. Cheap and nasty promoters trying to make a quick buck and silly drunk 18-year-old bros chanting ‘kylie fucking kylie’ or whatever it is over every DJs sets.

MCBN: So… 1) An artist/band you would have a D.M.C (Deep Meaningful Conversion), 2) An artist/band you’d love to party with. 3) Artist/band you would like to be within the studio for a week.

1 – The late great Arthur Russel
2 – One of those 28 hours after parties with Solomun sure does look like fun, also maybe vintage Sven Vath and definitely Villalobos but I’m not ready
3 – Nils Frahm, without a doubt. 

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