Peer to Peer with ANDREW RYCE

YOU have a lot to thank Resident Advisor for.

- Why, Tonka?

- Well, if it wasn't for Resident Advisor there'd be no Tonka, there'd be no Weekly Review of Dance Music and there'd certainly be no Peer to Peer with Andrew Ryce (the new North American editor of Resident Advisor): an interview that's EXCLUSIVE to your super soaraway WRDM, only in this week's Weekly Review of Dance Music, ONLY today on the WRDM website lovingly crafted each Tuesday by me, Tonka, for you and you and you and you this Tuesday, on the first Tuesday of the week, each week, every week. Forever.

For the few of you who've not yet read the unauthorised biography of me by Wolfgang Müller, Tonka: The Nicest Man In Dance?, I started writing about dance music on the RA message boards in the late noughties - coming to prominence on the forum where Fabric was almost going to shut its doors around 2010. Unfortunately, during the upgrade of their site last year, most of the threads I won were shredded so there's no longer a record of the time a bedroom DJ in Detroit said that I should start a blog.

I don't post much on their message boards anymore because I'm too important to get involved now. I still love Resident Advisor though. It's a website I frequent on a daily basis, still. I'll download their podcasts on a Monday morning until I'm dead and, although I never listen to the RA Exchanges, my ambition is to be the subject of one before the year 2020. Tonka and Resident Advisor share a potted - sometimes tumultuous (but not like the relationship I have with Mixmag - see WRDMs passim) - brotherly history, and I look forward to watching the business grow under their current management structure. RA is a modern company, an ethical one (I think) and a cool one. They have an ace new North American editor who has agreed to give his first interview since accepting the job to the Weekly Review of Dance Music.

Anyone who thinks that I'm only interviewing Andrew Ryce in order to gain a stronger foothold in the currently lucrative American dance writing circuit can think again. Anyone who thinks that I'm only interviewing Andrew Ryce in order to secure more appearances for WRDM on the RA Feed is BANG out of order. Anyone who thinks that I'm only interviewing Andrew Ryce for reasons other than to highlight his spot-on reviews, to shine a light on his illustrative and engaging features and to celebrate his promotion within the greatest online dance magazine in the world deserves a Function One monitor swung at them.

On Sunday afternoon, Nick Sabine chartered a Dassault Falcon 900B private jet for Andrew and I to conduct the interview on. It didn't fly anywhere, it just parked itself up at RAF Northolt and we hopped aboard for what turned out to be a terrifically in-depth chat about Andrew's life, career so far and ambitions. Here is the transcript:


Q. For anyone unfamiliar with the name Andrew Ryce, could you tell them who you are, what you do and why you do it?
A. For the past few years I've been a full-time Staff Writer at Resident Advisor, where I helped to spearhead our move into North America via editorial. I've just taken on the position North American Editor to have a bigger hand in managing the site, but for the most part my average day consists of planning and writing reviews, full-length features and editing the news section. I also do some freelance work, which these days mostly means the occasional review on Pitchfork.

Q. Was establishing yourself as a trusted voice in dance music journalism really hard or the opposite of really hard?
A. Aww, shucks at the implied compliment. I'm not sure if I'd say it was hard once I got my foot in the door, but I will say that I did work really fucking hard. When I first started writing I produced as much as I possibly could - not even for any strategic reasons, really, but just because I felt like I had a lot to say and there was a lot of interesting music about. But my high work rate seemed to get my name around and, over the course of two heavy years, I became established at some point, I guess.

Considering for a while I was working 20 hours a week at a coffee shop, going to university full time and contributing to about five different websites at once, I suppose it wasn't easy, no.

Q. How did you come up with the moniker, Andrew Ryce, as a writing name? Did you ever toy with prefixing your name with initials, like a proper writer, or suffixing it with something more exciting and futuristic like Word Worshiper (Andrew Word Worshiper) or Da Kanadian Komma King (Andrew Da Kanadian Komma King)?
A. My name seemed distinctive enough on its own thanks to that befuddling y in Ryce, which has never been explained to me and probably never will. My middle initial is M and "Andrew M. Ryce" just doesn't have much of a ring to it, now does it? Seeing as I was a young writer trying to make my name, I didn't see any point in disguising it or obscuring it, but now that I have seen the full spectrum of creepy hatred the internet has to offer, sometimes I wish I came up with a pseudonym.

Q. Talk me through your working process, from a practical level. How do you write? Are you an all-day note maker like me or do you dedicate blocks of time to whatever you're working on and plough through? Or are your methods secret?
A. Seeing as I work full time and from home, most of my day is spent at my desk (or in some coffee shop somewhere), thinking about music, processing music, listening to music and writing about it. My methods have shifted over the years, but right now I am definitely the all-day note-taker type, with a notebook to scribble my thoughts about whatever I'm listening to throughout the day. It's handy to both remember clever observations but also just remember anything about the volume of music I have to plow through every day.

My average day as a whole, however, consists of keeping an eye out for breaking news throughout the day (and writing that up whenever necessary), managing the news section in a more general sense and manning the social media accounts during my workday. I usually allot the afternoon (which is slower in terms of news and emails) for writing longer form stuff like reviews and features, though in an ideal situation I can hack away at them gradually all day.

Q. What equipment do you use for your work? E.g. I use an Apple iPad2 and my Nokia 100 mobile phone for making notes before transferring them to my black Samsung laptop for completion in Microsoft Word. All artwork is done using Google Images, YouTube, Snipping Tool and Microsoft Paint.
A. I have an iMac desktop in my home office, and a MacBook Air for when I'm out and about or traveling. Sometimes I wish that I didn't have the tiniest laptop possible, but I think my back and shoulders are grateful. I used to make notes on my phone but I found that process frustrating and fruitless, and only do that as a last resort—I much prefer paper and pen for notes, not to be a hipstery asshole about it. I write most of my editorial in Evernote and then export it to a Word Document to file. I use Photoshop to crop images for the news section, and that's about it.

Q. I was on a panel of speakers at this year’s LEME discussing the future of music journalism. I embarrassed myself by not being a proper music journalist and not being able to articulate myself in any way compared to Terry Farley, Naomi Williams and Ian McQuaid, and by drinking too much to combat nerves. What is the future of music journalism?
A. The future of music journalism is uncertain and hazy. Democratization has done a lot to essentially pull the bottom out from under everything, but as someone who only really emerged to 'the scene' as this was already well underway, it seems more exciting than anything. Yes, there are a million shitty blogs out there with badly written editorial, but easy and instant access to everything, including what the writer is covering, probably means that if you're going to write something about a piece of music, it better be fucking good, observant, sharp and enlightening.

For most people, there's no point in reading lengthy descriptions of music when they can just listen to it at the click of a mouse, which is something I've been trying to keep in mind lately, even if, as a certified muso, I can enjoy the occasional belaboured metaphor. But yes, the future is pithy, intelligent and informative discourse that reveals something about the music the listener might not catch on the surface level.

Q. Do you make enough money to live well from what you do or do you have to subsidise from side jobs? Where does your most regular income come from – if there is one revenue stream you can call regular?
A. Well that's none of your business, Tonka, but I am extremely lucky to say that I can live quite comfortably. I know many people would kill for this sort of situation so I try to remind myself of that every once in a while when I might be feeling down or frustrated about something.

Q. Are the media demands for moody looking DJs appropriate given that the DJs and the people who actually go to clubs get high, play/listen to their favourite music and have some of the happiest times of their lives? Every DJ/producer I've met through WRDM has been fucking sound and full of life.
A. Sounds like you've met a better group of DJs than I have - because I know plenty of miserable old dudes - but you're right. Across the board from the most underground of techno producers to the shittiest of EDM sellouts, press pictures are almost always moody and sullen, even the big name DJs who plaster their faces all over their ugly gig posters. Nothing says "let's get fucking mashed and dance for six hours" like a dude staring off in the distance while looking like he's trying to remember whether or not he left the stove on.

It's exactly this silly preoccupation with image and looking cool or aloof that really bugs me about "underground" music and how it's often compared to more image-conscious, purposefully-marketed music; it's all the fucking same, really. But that's a rant for another time, I suppose.

Q. Stone cold sober or absolutely fucking terminated?
A. As my colleagues will tell you, there have been some wild times. Stuff I can't even print here - not even because it's inappropriate, but I wouldn't want to shake anyone's perceptions of reality or what partying really means. Over time, tens of festivals and countless hangovers later, however, I lean more towards the sober situation. It's tricky when you're meant to cover a dance music event, though: it's not really fair to what you're covering to approach it like the bored old dude in the corner not dancing or enjoying himself. So maybe I can just say somewhere comfortably in between.

Q. Growing up in Vancouver, what local nights/DJs/promoters inspired you to get into dance music and then start writing about it? Or did your inspiration come from further afield?
A. My inspiration came mostly from the internet, when I was around 12 or 13, the usual path of discovering IDM and then working backwards (and forwards) from there. I didn't have much experience with going out when I first started writing, and to be honest with you, by the time I was meeting people in Vancouver and going out regularly I was already well under way with my amateur and soon-to-be-professional writing career. Going to small-scale raves and seeing people so hungry and grateful for good dance music definitely gave me a good perspective of how this stuff functions internationally, and what it means to people, and my first events were generally bigger, dirtier raves, which has given me a distaste for antiseptic nightclub settings.

Q. Is there much of a scene in Canada to get excited about at the moment? If so, who's leading it (please don't say Turbo)?
A. Canada has a fantastic scene. Each city has its ups and downs, and almost nowhere in the entire country has good, reliable venues, for all sorts of reasons (but this is a larger problem in North America). You've got the Hifi Club in Calgary, Open Studios in Vancouver, a handful of venues in Montreal and well, nothing in Toronto at the moment.

But the artists are there: Vancouver has a healthy crew of bass lovers who have been doing their thing for well over a decade, and the new breed of house lovers who operate in the Mood Hut sphere. Calgary and Edmonton both have growing scenes with killer DJs (Dane, Lorne B) and rising producers (Khotin, Sergio Levels), and sometimes land better international DJ gigs than Vancouver. Toronto is in transition but there's some interesting folks there: Gingy, Bwana, Kevin motherfucking McPhee and a handful of others are some of the more exciting young'uns, and there's a raft of cool parties like Mansion and Box Of Kittens, even if they don't have permanent homes.

I feel like I don't know Montreal's local scene well enough, but it's given birth to enough amazing artists to speak for itself.

Q. Me aside, what other writers are you into at the moment?
A. I've always held Philip Sherburne in high regard: he's easily the biggest influence on my writing, with the perfect balance of occasional florid prose and matter-of-fact, clever observations (this is a balance I think my colleague Jordan Rothlein has a very good grasp of too). He also has a wide-ranging, on-the-nose taste, which is something I've tried to establish on my own: Sherbs always knows what's cool, regardless of genre. Hiring him as an editor is one of the best decisions Pitchfork has made lately. Craig Jenkins is probably my current favourite hip-hop writer and Meaghan Garvey is up there too, especially when it comes to picking apart local scenes and presenting them in an easy-to-follow, intriguing way (she's also just a badass person all around, really).

My editor at Pitchfork, Mark Richardson, has a fantastic way of making music writing feel emotional and personal, while pretty much everything Jess Hopper touches is fire. In terms of writing about techno, Brian Kolada and Angus Finlayson are two of my favourites for different reasons: Kolada is wonderfully matter-of-fact which suits what he often reviews, among the most repetitive and unfriendly music we cover on RA. Angus Finlayson, meanwhile, is fantastic at contextualizing music and making even a simple 12-inch review feel holistic and educational. I have to shout-out my Associate Editor at RA, Will Lynch, who is obsessed with The New Yorker and The Economist and writes with the unpretentious breeziness you would expect from that pedigree, and then there's my former RA editor Todd L. Burns, whose terse, no-bullshit analytical skills are probably the biggest force in my ongoing development as a writer (along with current Editor Ryan Keeling's similar approach). Even if I don't work with him anymore, his influence tends to hang on my every thought (and he has that elusive, killer middle initial that I just can't match up to).

Q. What is your ultimate ambition in journalism?
A. My ultimate ambition...I'm not sure, really. I'd love to be the editor-in-chief of something someday, but I'd also want to be in a position where I can still write regularly, because writing is really what makes me happy. Sometimes, even when I'm off work, sitting down to organize my thoughts into words is just a comforting exercise, and I would hate to lose the opportunity to do that. I'm focusing more on longer-form writing and I'd love to have something that becomes canonical (whatever that means these days) or at least influential.

Maybe one day I'll coin a stupid sub-genre and then there'll be a Wikipedia article about me.

Q. What advice would you give to any young readers of WRDM who are looking to get into music journalism?
A. The common answer when people get asked this question is "don't bother," which is horrible and cynical and honestly, fuck you Mr. Gatekeeper. I have no time for gatekeepers. The world always needs new talent to keep the old guard on their toes, but my advice would be just don't count on it. It's not an easy world and it's less favourable than ever. I never planned to be a music journalist, I was set to be a teacher and was just writing on the side - never thinking I'd even make a little bit of money off of it. After a few years I accidentally ended up with two full-time job offers while I was still in school, but I'm not going to pretend like that's a normal thing you should expect.

So, really, work hard; make sure everything you submit is your very best, because people won't always give you second chances; don't let anyone take advantage of you (if anyone tries to make you work an unpaid internship, run the fuck away), learn to take criticism and accept it as a valid critique of your work and not your personality. But most importantly of all, don't lose sight of the fact that getting paid for writing about music is extremely fun, privileged and ridiculous when you really think about it. The minute it stops being fun, you should probably just quit, because we don't need any more of that shit.


What a lovely young man! He don't half rattle, but what he's got to say is worth listening to. Please join me in wishing Andrew all the very best in his new job and let's all look forward to a time when he's interviewing me on one of those RA Exchanges.

I'll be back next week with the following:

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...I don't know yet because I've not got anything planned. I'll probably do some Hilarious Lookalikes or review some records. I've not done a Remix of the Week for almost a year so maybe I'll do one of them.

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FYI - I bought a pair of Adidas Campus the other day.

I'm still the coolest fucker in Northolt.