Currently, Ryan Crosson is the talk of the scene. A live act who is said to perform sound research like no other, is predestined to be known.
Berg Nixon Crossons alias, under which he releases his 12 inches at M_nus & Co isnt a regular live act.
Theres more to it than that: sound-innovation with a life of its own times improvisation as implicitness equals a live act to the second.
Ryan, you grew up in Metro-Detroit. Most people who know Detroit only from the media, have a rather naive and stereotype view of this city: abandoned buildings, high unemployment rates, no perspectives, crime and so on. And of course, the positive aspect of Detroit being the birthplace of Techno. What does Detroit mean for you? More than that?
Up until now I have lived in Detroit my whole life. Even though the downtown center is not like most major cities, I think it has it’s own charm that is recognized if you have grown up in Metro-Detroit. The music in Detroit is some of the best in North America in my opinion. Whether it be electronic, hip-hop, jazz, rock, the local scenes are full of talent.
You have a distinctive, genuine style which, in my opinion, other acts are lacking. Detroit is famous for low humming bass sounds, but thats just one part of your repertoire. Your rhythmics are focused on percussion and are very impulsive, very polyrhythmically. Plus: Your sounds seem to have a live of their own and do not follow rules of tact nor their own metrics. You might compare this style to a mixture of improvised jazz and contemporary music with minimalist techno sounds. How did you develop your style? Sitting at home, studying sounds?
I’ve never studied music composition or had any formal music training other that one year of saxophone, so most of my development has come through listening to records and other artist performances. I still haven’t figured out how to make all the sounds that are in my head but I am working on it everyday. It just takes time.
Speaking about you playing sax. May this be the reason, while you are using your sounds which such virtuosity when performing live? I mean, you are using your live-devices as if they were real instruments.
I don’t know if I would really say I use it as live instrument. But I like to be active when I play and change clips and samples on the fly when possible. MIDI mapping my controller to do different things is important because then it creates the possibility of altering things quicker making each performance a little different than the next.
One time, i was able to catch a look over your shoulder while you were performing live. Technically, your live show doesnt follow this typical, linear pattern used by most live acts. You are working with the ableton operator and your MIDI controller hardware rather like with a cube, a square entity of improvisation and virtuosity. Your set doesnt sound pre-programmed or sterilely planned. You rather choose the right sound for the moment, scroll up and down between the MIDIs and just improvise. Dont you think that other live acts take the easy (and less risky) route in their shows?
It comes down to preference and comfort. I like to bounce around and try different things because it keeps me entertained which means I am more interested in what is happening and therefore can hopefully play a better show for the people in attendance. My set uses a lot of loops that are not finished tracks, so scrolling around helps me use combinations that may work well together which I could combine for a track later on in the studio.
Isnt it wrong to call yourself a live act when all you do is pre-programming a live-set and executing it without any changes?
If you play everything in a preset order it might be. But just because 200 clips are loaded into ableton doesn’t mean you have to play them in order from top to bottom, bottom to top. It could just be how they’re loaded into the program. Some people may make changes to clips / samples, some may be using a lot of MIDI and playing the melodies differently, others may focus more on plug fx to alter what you’re hearing. In the end, the important thing is that good music is being played.
Lets now leave the live act Berg Nixon and turn towards the studio producer Ryan. Your last 12-inch releases were (except a few mixes of Miss Fitz and Troy Pierce) the Box Escape EP on M_nus and Gotham Road on Trapez, both of which came out in 2006. Whats going on at the moment? Right now, you are non-stop on the road, performing. Do you have any time to go to the studio? What will be your next project?
I’m working on finishing another Minus EP and I would also like to try and write an album this Fall. Coming this late Summer / early Fall I’m a part of 2 different EP with Lee Curtiss and Seth Troxler. The first is a V/A compilation called “Tesh Club” on Spectral Sound, the second is a remix EP we did for Dumb Unit. Beretta Music, Detroit first realized the potential you had. Shortly afterwards, in 2005, you signed with the Cologne label Trapez to release Say So.
Did Riley Reinhold regard your signing as an upgrade for Trapez or did you rather have hard times as a rookie?
No hard times at all. Riley is extremely helpful with young artists and I owe him a great deal of thanks for how generous he was with me.
Well, it was just two years before that, in 2003, when you started making music. You became professional quite quickly. Did you have anybody helping or supporting you when you started producing? Was there a real life mentor or rather different musical influences and Ryan, the autodidact?
As far as the structure of writing music I only had myself. But when it comes to equing, premastering, and creating a fullness in a track I owe a ton to my friend Brian Kage who runs Beretta Grey. He has taught me so much over the past few years and is always open to listen to new tracks with me and help me continue to improve my sound quality. Lets turn back the hands of time a little further. How did you come to spin, produce and play electronic music in the first place? A few friends had turntables at a house party when I was 18 or 19. It looked fun and I liked the music so decided to give it a shot. I had no clue what I was doing back then.
In a radio-interview on Detroit Sessions you claimed that Richie Hawtin and Stewart Walker had a large influence on you back then. Did you ever think, that one day you would be on Richies label M-nus?
Not a chance! It’s amazing what a difference a few years can make.
How did you finally get there? Was M_nus interested in you, since you had homecourt advantage or did you send a demo to Hawtin?
I helped out with a few of the Control parties in Detroit and began a relationship with Clark Warner and Richie’s old manager Tim Price. I don’t think they knew my music was being signed to Trapez at the time and I really was reluctant to talk about it because I didn’t want them to feel I was working with them for the wrong reasons. I think I gave a few tracks to Magda over instant messenger one day and got a CD to Rich soon there after.
Looking at your dates, anyone can see, that the deal with M_nus turned out really good. Youve been touring around Europe a lot: Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain. Are you going to be down under in Australia any time soon?
Currently I don’t have any bookings in the near future for Australia but would love to make a trip down there for a few shows perhaps in combination with some dates in Japan.
Interview by Leon Mabu