About this Artist
RY X was born into the wild. Into a tiny island community off Australia’s east coast, he spent his formative years in the sea, exploring the coasts, and surfing. He could go days without seeing a car and would be flooded in for weeks at a time when the river rose. In some way RY has been striving to find that same purity ever since he left home as a grunge-obsessed kid aged 17.
“It’s been a real journey…” begins RY, whose path to his current home in Los Angeles’ ethereal Topanga Canyon has taken in Costa Rica, Indonesia, Stockholm, London, and Berlin. Fueled by his deep love of the sea and want to travel, he left Australia, carrying all of the music from his dads record collection in heart. He had been dabbling in song writing since he was 13 – and at 16 Jeff Buckley consolidated a known feeling for him of the gravity that music could carry. Under these travels he met a film producer while out in Costa Rica. After seeing RY play, he invited him to visit Los Angeles to explore the ideas of pursuing music in a more serious way.
It was a strange experience for him. a whirlwind of experiences, and eventually a record was recorded and released, but so much influence was taken from others telling RY what to do, and how it should be done. It was a brief skirmish with ‘the machine’, and one he has no interest in repeating.
He then left to Indonesia to find kinship with the sea once again and to lean into a strong practice of yoga and self reflection in his mother’s footsteps, who has been teaching yoga for 40 years. RY gradually returned to making music, only this time with zero industry influence. He reckons he’d be “a gypsy surfing the world” if it weren’t for music, and he applied that mindset to his art. Time spent in Europe led him to explore the concrete hues of techno, which resulted firstly in ‘Howling’, a 2012 collaboration with Frank Wiedemann of German electronic duo Ame, and then The Acid, a minimal project with UK DJ Adam Freeland, Seattle-born singer/songwriter Jens Kuross, and Californian producer Steve Nalepa.
When he wasn’t sweating in warehouse clubs in the small hours, RY conceived RY X and wrote fragile songs built on reverb drenched guitar and his searching vocal. Recording to tape and enjoying the hiss it left on his demos, he made the ‘Berlin’ EP in 2013. Its release – initially via Swedish label Dumont Dumont and subsequently on Infectious in the UK – would change everything. A two-minute tearjerker twisted around wispy guitar and his cracked vocal, the title track drifted out of his insular bubble and onto mainstream radio.
Somehow, a song recorded in a shack found itself nestled next to Rihanna on radio playlists. A track that doesn’t even have a proper chorus has now amassed 70 million Spotify plays and counting. “It’s an anti-single,” Ry sums up matter-of-factly. “There’s something beautiful about a song like that being on the radio – it’s like a breath [of air]. It hurts my heart to hear it and I couldn’t record it like that again. There’s magic there.”
To stand any chance of getting anywhere near conjuring something similar for the self-produced ‘Dawn’, RY had to reconnect with his quiet wild side once again. Recreating the dark, Burial-style atmospheres of The Acid’s 2014 album ‘Liminal’ on tour and pin-balling between the city and the sea in attempt to satisfy his cravings for both had taken its toll. His usual quick fixes – yoga and surfing – weren’t going to cut it, so he retreated to Topanga Canyon in the hills above Los Angeles. “RY X is really honest, it’s so much about what feels right”, he explains, “The EP’s success was an accident, so I had to get back to that space of all heart no mind. There’s an expectation now in a way, but the music has always led and as soon as you step away from that you’re fucked. I had to make sure each song was a beautiful thing.”
Recorded live with only RY and his guitar, every song on ‘Dawn’ has a threadbare power – the arrangements are stripped back so there’s nothing separating the listener from the songs’ content. “These are live takes, sitting there like Neil Young or Nick Drake used to. It’s about holding tension – any fuck ups got left on the tape in an honest way. You’re really getting the feeling of someone sitting in a room playing the song.”
It’s that feeling – that of isolation, yet solidarity, and the pairing of hearts and minds – that has haunted RY X’s work in the years following the release of ‘Dawn’. Whether he’s recording the soundtrack to an anti-nuclear weaponry film (2017’s the bomb) and performing it live at the Nobel Peace Prize, with The Acid, or embarking on an orchestral tour of beautiful European concert halls and theatres, the fruits of RY X’s creative output have consistently followed a feeling that most musicians spend their entire careers aspiring to experience: the feeling of being creatively free, and true to oneself, yet all the while being able to connect with their audience on a raw, emotional, and profoundly human level.
For RY X, making music is not about fulfilling industry expectations, or striving for commercial success. It’s not about money, or fame, or external opinions. It’s about purity, and honesty, and creativity: about art, and freedom. More than anything, it’s about the feeling of your heart, mind and soul being free, and open, and pure. It’s this feeling that RY X has spent his career thus far attempting to emulate in his music, and it’s this feeling that he felt was unreachable when he washed up in Indonesia. He thought he’d never know it again – but, after nearly eight years of searching, he’s found it.