Meet the man making techno tracks with household items, Ryan Powderly
What do you get when you combine a can of beer, some power tools, corrugated iron, a high pressure hose and the Doors Plus ad? If you answered “A techno song,” you got it right! If you didn’t, let me enlighten you.
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Back in April, I came across a video that I have repeatedly said has increased my life expectancy by five years. That video was a high energy techno creation sampling household items and the aforementioned TV ad. It starts out simple enough with just some banging on a piece of iron and a beer, but as it builds over the course of just a minute (the length of an Instagram video), the samples quickly turn into a total heater that would go absolutely off at the parties we can’t enjoy at the moment. Some two weeks later, we were gifted another — this time, it was built around slapping on a bag of potting mix, chopping at a hedge, kicking a wheely bin, hammering in a nail, cracking an egg, and knocking over some beers among others. Equally as technical, equally as bonkers and equally as addictive.
Enter: Ryan Powderly. One of the legends behind cult underground community Pelvis and also producing and releasing music under the moniker Transit State, Powderly has been crafting these techno tunes for the last few months as a way to keep busy in lockdown, and has steadily built up a growing fanbase who all appreciate his creations. It’s not just us who have noticed either. He’s gone from sampling Centrelink hold music and mixing it with vacuuming or laundry to re-creating Hayden James‘ Icona Pop-featuring single, ‘Right Time’ — WITH Hayden James and Icona Pop! Not only that, he’s also evolved his process and has taken to producing live on Twitch as well as crowd-sourcing samples from those closely following on Instagram.
In a time when things seemed so uncertain, anxious and isolated, Ryan Powderly‘s “Household Techno” has been a source of joy for many over the last few months. So, with that in mind, we wanted to get to know him a little better and find out a whole lot more about his creations. Take a read of our quick chat with him below:
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How did the idea first come to you to start making these techno tracks?
I’d been foraging for samples to use in my music, recording stuff with this little Zoom mic for iPhone. Then we went into lockdown. Being forced to stay at home gave me the space to see how far I could take these sounds. Maybe too far?
When did it first hit you that, hang on – there might be something going on here?
There was just a big notch up in the instagram interaction. It made me realise this is actually very accessible and a lot of people can probably relate to the stir-craziness right now.
You’ve now moved from just sounds collected in your own home to not only collaborating with others but also crowd-sourcing and creating a track live on Twitch. How has this experience been for you and why did you want to start bringing others into the mix?
These platforms like Twitch and Instagram have become places to collaborate in ways I never would’ve imagined. Inviting everyone into this process felt like the best way to stay connected. Creating with new people, including those outside of the music scene, is a beautiful thing!
How long does it take to actually get from conception to the finished product?
I work as fast as I can, to keep it imperfect and energetic. During this I’ve realised this is what excites me in dance music. Also embracing the constraints of these new platforms has been a huge weight off. It takes away the usual pressure of my perfectionism. So the process is a bit more snappy, allowing me to be a little bit more prolific. That’s the part of this new form which I’m enjoying most. But to actually answer the question, anywhere between 3 hours to 3 days.
What makes for a good sample? Is it a case of the more random the better?
Definitely the more random and unexpected, the better. There’s always room for a household kick drum, a clap and a hi-hat. After that, the sounds coming from surprising places lead the way. I’ve found myself on this never-ending adventure of discovering new sounds in the everyday object.
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You also recently recreated Hayden James’ song with Icona Pop – did the experience differ at all from creating an original to recreating an existing song? Did the fact that ‘Right Time’ already exists make things easier or harder?
It was neither harder nor easier, just totally new! It was super exciting to create a remix in a completely fresh way. We were collaborating from other sides of the world, but in other ways working more closely than a face to face environment. At first I felt comfortably uncomfortable with this dynamic, but really enjoyed the whole process.
You’re also a busy man with your own music and Pelvis – what’s currently going on in Pelvis world at the moment, and for Transit State as well?
When Pelvis started we were all living in Sydney, now we’re also based in Melbourne and New York. What’s sick is that we still chat daily in our group message thread about the various forms of Pelvis, like the record label, the clothing and the parties. We hold the parties especially close to our heart, but obviously during Covid we haven’t been able to host any. Right now the Pelvis family is super excited about this next record we have coming out – an EP from Purient, on a co-release with Burning Rose Records. Following that, we just locked in a mini-album from Mousse. Both will be out over Spring/Summer. As for Transit State I have a raw live track coming out soon, on a compilation curated by the wonderful CC:Disco! on Soothsayer.
Interview by Emma Jones
Image: Screenshot via @ryan.powderly