The Ryan Hurtgen Interview via The West Coast
Perfect Beings [My Sonic Temple]brings together elements that are well reminiscent of Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway / Yes – Going For The One era Prog Rock with a new twist to a new era of sound with the spontaneous yet well thought out instrumentation recorded almost completely live with strong vocals plotting out a rock opera for the modern chip ready times.
While Perfect Beings played it safe at first by posting the more ballad oriented “Walkabout” to YouTube, this only eludes to the multi-textured beast of greatness that goes from “Helicopter” with its “Going For The One” modern arena prog rock that could touch a lot of fans of the genre in the sweet spot of the ears that has been missing in music for thirty plus years to the 2112/Neil Peart style of ideas within the mammoth “Removal of The Identity Chip” which could be a modern take on “Watcher Of The Skies”.
Founded upon the nucleus of guitarist, Johannes Luley [Moth Vellum] and vocalist / songwriter, Ryan Hurtgen [Rene Breton], Perfect Beings does not disappoint on their freshmen release with like minded musicians, Dicki Fliszar [Bruce Dickinson] on drums, Jesse Nason on keys while Chris Tristram [Slash, Marjorie Fair] manages some Chris Squire – Rickenbacker Bass squawk on some lines.
Although it is easy to reference some of the original prog era giants, Perfect Beings manages to hit some touchstones without sounding retro. It sounds fresh in 2014 and has been reviewed all over the web with very favorable quotes and every review, so far, on Amazon has given the album five stars.
To be honest, this will be the greatest prog album this year not only because they will make happy ears among die hard adherents, but, in fact, this is a great performance album that can sit on the top shelf with the above mentioned works as well as maybe Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here and it’s “Welcome To The Machine” motif.
Vocalist, Ryan Hurtgen is well known in East Nashville circles from a couple of years ago with his Rene Breton project. He made the move to California and in the end it has proven to be a really productive time. Maybe it’s because he gets to surf quite often, or maybe it’s the So Cal attitude that works well. In any case, Ryan caught up with The Nashville Bridge to talk about this latest project and the meaning of music in these tumultuous unknown times in the music business.
Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: How did you get involved in this project?
Ryan Hurtgen / Perfect Beings: Johannes had two others guys that he had on a prog rock project that he wanted me to come in and sing on. I said yes but, I never even met those two other guys. They dropped out. The other two guys that he was going to start the band with dropped out and they couldn’t do it anymore. They had kids so, Johannes was like, “why don’t you and I start our own project?”
TNB: So, you were in from the beginning of this project?
RH: Yeah, we found the other band members through the web and started the band.
TNB: Was the prerequisite that they had to have a feel for doing the prog thing?
RH: Oh yeah. It just happened to be that the drummer, Dicki, who has played with Bruce Dickinson, has a daughter that goes to school with Johannes’s son here in L.A. and they met at a school function and they were talking about it. Johannes said, “why don’t you come jam with us?” Dicki came and we got the concept and so then there were three of us and then he knew Jesse from when he was in another band and he was totally into Prog keyboard things and decided to join the band too. So, we needed a bass player.We tried probably ten bass players and we found Chris Tristram on YouTube playing along to a Yes song and he had like a 100,000 views and it was just sick! Johannes was like this is the guy that replied to one of our craigslist adds and that is how we found him.
TNB: I noticed that Chris sounds like, right off the bat, half way through the first song “Canyon Hill” like a little bit of Chris Squire.
RH: Exactly. That was exactly the style we were going for and he uses a Rickenbacker bass. So, we were going to go with this other guy just because we had to get the project going and then he contacted us and we were like, sure. Automatically
TNB: A lot of the ideas are like sci-fi but they are real like “Removal of The Indentity Chip.” That is physically something that could happen ten years from now. Did you guys kind of look at it that way?
RH: It’s based off the 2013 book by Suhail Rafidi, TJ and Tosc that was based on the future and it is fairly possible you know? In twenty years. We understand what is going to happen, you know how globally with the international concern how they use the tool for future ideas. Asia kind of understands this so, things are based on darkness and light and the idea would make it easy for us to communicate through.
TNB: Tell me about some of the other ideas, like “Program Kid” and things like that.
RH: Well, it’s an Opera that revolves around TJ and Tosc. So, it’s a story from the beginning and I wanted to keep the idea of maybe dying like the portal from life to death.
TNB: Have you guys been gigging out in LA yet or?
RH: We have been opening shows out here.
TNB: Are some of the established bands aware of what you are doing?
RH: Well, we are number one on the Prog Archives. We are definitely getting a lot of really good recognition.
TNB: The thing is it fits that style but it is not a regression to the 70’s, it’s like a modern take on it really.
RH: I think it’s pretty unique, I think there are melodies with production skills, I can break it apart and then build it back up. We didn’t want to make Pop songs. We wanted to make an operatic piece of music. I almost think that the Rock community needs to get out of the past a little bit and kind of see what is happening in the future and see places in the future. I feel like they’re really stuck in the 70’s like nothing is ever going to get as good as the golden age. You know what I’m saying? Progressive has a lot to offer like Dream Theater
TNB: I think of what like King Crimson did. Twenty years later, they sounded totally different then when they started, in other words, they are always looking at a new approach.
RH: It’s kind of funny because, we are like mining the past in order to tell a story about the future, but it’s time to be in the present.
TNB: You are one of the most interesting people I have met. I thoroughly enjoy your progression of what you are doing and the different things that you are trying to do.
RH: In this day and age, as far as a label, it’s like everything I’ve done is just like because I was interested in going in a certain direction. Johannes and I have encouraged them to do a drum solo and play just as hard and as fast as you can in a certain section and we are going to embrace the feeling of the day. We are just trying to have fun with it so then let’s make it as complicated as we can, you know. We are not thinking like “we need to have a radio single”. We are thinking, no, we don’t need to have to have a radio single.
TNB: It was the same thing as with Rush on 2112 when they were told by the label that they need something commercial and they went totally the opposite.
RH: I remember that. It was a different culture back then. It would have been interesting to be a part of, you know. You’d have to dog your manager. I don’t know if that’s smart but, you know, artists really know what they are doing. I mean, the music industry had these old cigar smoking guys trying to figure out what was going, so they just trusted the artist to know what was popular and what was good so you know, they got a lot of good music out at the time. Nowadays, it’s like the A&R people and the label think they know what people like and they have taken it away from artistic integrity, you know.
TNB: Yes. I think it is even more so with Engineers and Producers because of what you can do with Pro Tools.
TNB: Imagine if they had “quantized” Exile On Main Street or if they had pitch-corrected Billy Holiday?
RH: Right, yeah totally.
TNB: I saw the clip on you tube about how you guys recorded and I assume you recorded live.
RH: It was a live recording, right. There is no manipulation. We did overdub but…
TNB: I know you have excellent pitch and I don’t know if you tweeked it a little but, if you did, it was a minor change because there is no metallic sheen on your voice other than a special effect on your voice on the one song.
RH: We wanted the effect of a machine so you can hear that effect but, those other songs, I sang those.
TNB: Any ideas about touring or doing any gigs around California?
RH: We have to get some people involved first. We don’t have any kind of management or booking so everything has just been done by us. All of the recording process. We are doing all of our own booking. We all have jobs. Some of us have jobs that would make it pretty hard to be out on the road right now.
TNB: That can be difficult.
RH: Yeah. I don’t know what is going to happen. It is going to take some time to make it happen. If it does, it will be mainly in Europe. We are getting a publicist.
TNB: Europe, that would be cool.
RH: I want to play but there are a lot of things that we need to do before we are out there touring.
TNB: All you need is money.
RH: Why isn’t creativity, why aren’t real artists honored with money now? Why can’t artists make money now with the internet? Information is free and there is a plethora of noise you know.
TNB: It’s a scary thought. One guy is releasing his album on a satellite and Wu Tang Clan is doing only one vinyl pressing and they are going to take it around on tour and then they are going to sell it for a million dollars to recoup their cost. It’s just bizarre. In a perfect world you guys would be on Atlantic Records working with some A&R guy who is into Yes who would be calling every FM radio station to get you guys on the air. There would be stacks of records at Tower Records when the release comes out.
RH: Yeah, totally. You are right. It feels really strange to me because we just released it and like we have just gotten incredible five star reviews around the board. I think it’s a masterpiece of music.
TNB: I think it’s sits with the best symphonic rock albums.
RH: I haven’t gotten any call from any labels. I can’t get people to call me back in the industry. People who have got it and listen to it, have given us incredible praise. I have been doing this music thing for a while now. I haven’t really asked for much, I have recorded on my own, I have toured on my own, I have put out records thinking that at some point I will make something really good and I am going to get better and better and then eventually it is going to be recognized and I am going to have a career.
TNB: The only real way now to make money is selling your music to commercials or like ESPN like this local band MODOC did.
RH: Yeah, this record is a Progressive Science Fiction Rock Opera, like let’s go out and sell a Pepsi.
TNB: It’s right in there with masterpieces like The Wall.
RH: Yeah, our culture needs stuff like that.
TNB: It’s like you have to find satisfaction in what you do for yourself.
RH: All I can say is as an artist I am going to continue making more music that is more challenging and that is why I wanted to do a Prog Rock project, because it was challenging. I don’t want to play into that mainstream system based around commercialism.
TNB: Hopefully it pays off. There should be a double gatefold copy of Perfect Beings around.
RH: I guess at this point in life I can say whatever I want and just say who cares. It’s not like I’m mad anymore. It’s almost a shame because of what’s happening with the internet and illegal down loading, record companies have shut down, but, it’s not just record companies, a bunch of artists have lost money. A lot of studios have closed down. Not only that, but it is people in hometowns in record stores. There’s no Blockbuster video anymore. There is no local record store. You know, those were jobs for local kids. Those businesses employed local kids in small towns all across America. They worked at a record store and not only did they work at a record store but they perpetuated good music to other kids in that community. There was a place in that community for people to hang out and I think it is interesting that we wrote this record and that is has all of these dystopian concepts in it and yet you see it happening now even with art itself.
TNB: It’s almost like half of the people that buy records now are musicians themselves.
RH: Musicians have become the commodity. Now, photographers and everything, it’s like, now I have a licensing company, pay me so many dollars a month and I’ll pitch your song, but there is no guarantee you’ll get anything. So, it’s like you have predatory music companies that have popped up all around and for good reason because everybody has Garage Band [software] and everybody can make their own record now in their own room with beats and whatever. It’s like, “I made a record and I’m going to be on a TV show.” They will never get a placement but they are paying a $100 per month and these guys are making money off of them. I don’t mean to be all negative. I am happy that we were able to make this record and there are people into this and there is absolutely a lot of beauty in the world.
TNB: We really need a product that is going to save the music business whether it is music or whatever.
RH: Well, Neil Young is coming out with PONO now. The PONO thing is a cool thing and how cool is it that we are getting away from MP3’s? I mean, talk about saving the music industry. It really makes music sound good again. The listening experience is really important to people now and people are really excited about listening to vinyl with really good speakers and having listening parties and shit. Until people change the concept of, “I can listen to this on my iphone!” and just plug it in and have MP3’s then it won’t improve.
TNB: It’s like, I have been collecting a lot of vinyl over the last couple of years. I will pull out Bob Marley and people say it sounds like “full spectrum”. I will do a side-by-side of “Is This Love” on a CD remaster and the original vinyl and you can see the bits of Bob Marley’s voice that are missing on the digital copy.
RH: That’s vinyl, man.
– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN thenashvillebridgeathotmaildotcom