A Chat with Olde Sake (09.11.13)

Taking some time out of his busy day, the talented James Ryan (a.k.a. Olde Sake) sat down to answer a few questions for The Other Side Reviews writer Steph Clifton.  This is what he had to say:

old sakeOSR: How long have you been playing music?  When did you start writing?

OS: I have been playing music in some form or another my entire life.  My older sister and I used to make “song parts” while we were playing with toys as little kids.  If she went to sing a verse after my show-stopping verse, I would promptly inform her that the song is actually over and we are back to just playing with the toys.  She did that to me too.  Disney sing-along movies were in full swing at our house growing up.

OSR: What made you decide to write/perform under the name Olde Sake, rather than your own name?

OS:  I write/perform under Olde Sake because that’s really why I put out the music: for olde time sake.  I had been working on various other audio projects as well as writing the beginnings of Gloomfeather, a music project that I am about to release with my good friend Fresh Mike Leary.  Olde Sake music had been around for a while, and I generally threw in the towel at one point, with regards to The Ocean and Your Eyes Wide Open.  Something clicked one day as I was working on other music and I realized I had to complete it and put it out, that the music meant so much to me.

OSR: As a musician and producer, what angle did you take while creating the album? (That of the producer being very technical and with ultimate precision or that of the musician, more emotional and heartfelt)

OS:  There was a huge blend of interests when it came to my role as being the only person in the room for 95% of the album.  In that regard, it allowed the album to have that cut up Frankenstein-y type feel, as so much of the music was written on the spot in order for me to see what a part or song could feel like if it were more than just a stripped-down type of deal.  Or I would walk away from the music for weeks at a time and come back feeling like, “oh, okay, I’m totally going this direction now.”  I’ve always been a huge lover of seamless albums, so that was a cool dynamic being able to write and record the material, knowing where track transitions would occur and the like.

OSR: What were your main musical influences when growing up and do you think this affected the way you write music now?

OS:  Growing up went from the Disney movies and singalongs at home, to David Bowie and E.L.O. in the car rides with my mom and dad.  In elementary school a kid on the bus gave me the Dangerous Minds soundtrack cassette tape.  My mom wouldn’t let hip hop in our home and I wasn’t really allowed to watch MTV early on, and I remember getting butterflies when I would stop on the MTV channel for a few seconds when nobody was around.  Biggie’s ‘Hypnotize’ music video rings a bell for that anxiety.   I used to sneak outside to our little playhouse swing set and sneak a few listens to Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ on a big fat cassette Walkman. She eventually found the tape hidden in a closet in the garage and she yelled at my older brother for it because he was in high school around ’96 and was in full effect with hip-hop and beepers – who else could’ve brought it home?  Certainly not 7-year-old Jamesy.

Later on I found out about bands like At The Drive-In and Converge, among a bunch of others, but these two bands were able to keep me inspired for many years and counting.  Putting everything you have actively into your live show is something I have utmost respect for.  I hold the DIY values of Hardcore very closely to me – cut as many middle men out as possible including those CD pressing companies online, if you can help it!

OSR: What was the process in creating the album? How long did it take from start to completion?

OS:  The album was written in several different places: my dorm and practice room at SUNY Purchase, bedroom at home, basement of my first apartment in Crown Heights, a very small amount was even recorded in a parking lot in Nebraska while I was on tour playing with Porches.  As I said, I almost didn’t put the album out, so it could’ve been out much sooner; but there are songs on that album that were already almost 2 years old by the time it was released in March 2012.  Writing and recording at the same time was a theme on the album, as I said it really helps me to allow things to unfold.  I’m a firm believer that every instrument will have something to say in a given song, so the idea, for me, is to find which instruments are speaking in similar fashion and perhaps cut the other ones that were close, but don’t quite fit or otherwise.  Then, continue on and let the music unfold.

DJing had entered my life a bit more than a year or so before the release of the first Olde Sake record, and I really took a liking to breaks records for DJ battling.  I began writing to that stuff in the absence of a drummer at the time, cutting up drum samples on the MPC and the like.  When Kevin Otto came along to fill out the drums for the record it was so sweet to
 hear the blends of percussion.
OSR: Would you say the album is a good musical representation of yourself? Why?
OS:  The album is a pretty good rep as to who I am, kinda here and there.  A bit of romance and some anger coming through at times.  I think the album has many flavors.  I, too, have many flavors.
OSR: How did you come to the style you portray musically?

OS:  Having all my arsenal of musical instruments available helped shape the sound of this, definitely.  In a large way though, it was those bands I looked up to, Converge, the works of ATDI and later The Mars Volta, The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity, First Aid Kit (of Connecticut not the two girls), etc. that gave me this energy to pursue all music.  The bands I played with and alongside at Purchase like Zona Mexicana, SIRS, Space Ghost Cowboys, We Are Not Bears, Kiss Kiss, Elemeno, I could go on.  These bands continued feeding this need I have for high energy music, and I learned so much having all those guys as my peers.

OSR: How often do you play live?

OS:  Olde Sake doesn’t play live very often at the moment.

OSR: What is the best and worst part of playing live?

OS:  Getting Olde Sake to where it needs to be live is the hardest part, I think; lots of looping, triggering.  This is where it gets tough, because some of the music calls for the energy of 4 members thrashing.  I enjoy being able to recreate portions of the music in a live atmosphere, but it can quickly turn into me literally “driving” this huge machine of loops and such – nudging here and there to keep this little bit in time with that little bit.  DJing mentalities help here because it is very much beat matching with only audio, no visual cues.

Kevin is just a gnarly drummer I’m so happy any time he can come out and play.  He is a full-time pilot for a commercial airline, has a beautiful wife, and just had his little baby girl AND just bought a house!  He’s got his hands full and has this crazy beast drummer inside himself.  We are talking now about when our schedules can open in order to record more…about 3 projects on radar for recording with Kev in general, one of them being Olde Sake.

OSR: What is your favorite aspect of being a musician? Why?

OS:  Being a musician is something I need in order to be satisfied in this life.  I want to speak and be spoken to.  I want content and want to provide content.  It’s a dialog, this music.

OSR: Any future plans? (Touring/new music?)

OS:  At the moment I am getting all my ducks in a row, I’m about to go officially live with Cloudman Laboratories, my audio release platform.  There will be all sorts of great stuff on the site including bands/releases, and I’m excited to offer audio stems for various releases in order to encourage sampling and remixing that is to be embraced, not shunned or regarded as ‘lazy’.  It is a conversation, feel free to reference/cite/reinforce/destroy what I have said.

Gloomfeather will be the next release, it is a music project between Mike Leary and myself.  A live band is being assembled now to get the live show in order, lots to tackle once again.  After that, I have lots of raw material for the next Olde Sake, and lots of raw material for a DJ based release called Mr. Pockets.  The Mayor will be seeing a long overdue full-length album soon too.  I am extremely excited for the entire 2014 year.
Many thanks to James for chatting to us, and check out his music on Olde Sake’s bandcamp.

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