INTERVIEW: Ryan Rosoff

Thank you for your time today Ryan. You have been in the music industry for some time now. What are some of the ways you have seen it change and evolve over the years? Do you feel the evolution has been for the better?

You’re so welcome…it’s a pleasure to be with you.

There are SO MANY ways things have changed since 1996!  We used to paper flyer cards in the neighborhoods of El Paso to try and scare up fans to go to our shows…a far cry from social media, to be sure.

There were no digital mediums back in the day.  Never mind that you couldn’t stream, send, or access music on the internet when our first album (Transmountain, 1997) was released…we didn’t even bother sending photos and things bu email, as dial-up took FOREVER to connect.  Didn’t even have a web site, I don’t think, until 2001 or so.

If you wanted to book a tour, find a record deal, get on the radio, etc, it was good old-fashioned snail mail or driving and crying and praying you had gas money to get to where you needed to go.  I hustled hard to get the word out. It also really made you hone your live show, bigtime. IF you were lucky enough to play a show in front of a lot of people, you had one chance to blow their doors off in a live setting.  If you blew it, well…word traveled fast.

We played a show one time with At The Drive In at a club called The Attic in El Paso, Texas, where we both kind of came up in the scene.  ATDI, of course, splintered and ended up becoming the Mars Volta and Sparta. I thought that Little King had our game together…and we played just OK. Then ATDI came on and absolutely dominated.  I was like, ummm…Check Please!?!  But they spent so much time on the road back then that their live show was beyond amazing. That’s how they did it….how all indie bands did it back in the 90’s. We just didn’t have the “benefit” of social media to propagate our music.

Is it “Better”?  That’s pretty subjective. I love the fact that digital distribution through ITunes and Spotify and the like have sort of leveled the playing field a bit.  Our new album, Occam’s Foil, is available to any music fan around the world the same as Taylor Swift or Justin Beemer (sic).  The downside, though, is that I don’t think there is quite as much emphasis on honing the live show.  If you can just press buttons and get your music to the world, why tour and grind? Of course I can answer that…because it’s FUN!  And Hard.

What do you feel has been your most memorable concert that you have ever attended and why?

I took my son to see David Byrne a couple summers ago in Camden, New Jersey, when he was on his “American Utopia Tour.” I am a huge fan of his solo work as well as the Talking Heads, but somehow I had never seen him live.

The stage setup was so sparse – truly striking in its minimalism – as there were no amps/drums/speakers.  Just an empty stage surrounded by silver curtains. It looked like the inside of a metal box, and when the front curtain came up, I was like, “What the hell is going on here?”

But OH MY GOODNESS what a show. The players were all completely wireless and in matching silver suits and bare feet. It’s a choreographed experience, and instead of one drummer behind a kit, he had several percussionists (snare, tom toms, cymbals, and more) in addition to dancers and wireless instrumentalists.  They all had light sensors built into their suits, too, so the choreography was spotlit on different groups of performers at different points throughout the set.

I walked away thinking that it was the best show I’d ever seen, and I told my son that right away. Soon after, I started reading reviews and talking to fellow musicians who were saying the EXACT SAME THING!  So innovative, imaginative, and unique. It has been so successful that it is now running as a Broadway show…high praise for high art.  You don’t even have to be a fan or familiar with his music.  It’s truly a performance that transcends genre and even music itself. Breathtaking!

If you could only be remembered by one song what would it be?

That’s such a difficult question, because I have written and recorded about 50 songs so far, and I think I am probably gonna wrote and record another 50 in my lifetime!  So perhaps it hasn’t been written yet…

But, if I had to choose one, I think “Happy Home” from OD1 in 2014 probably captures the mood I was in better than anything else I have recorded. It’s somber, and I was going through a really painful divorce at the time. My whole life was turned upside down, and that song reflects the feeling of abject failure, a knowledge of how tough the next few months and years would be as a single dad (for the second time in my life, actually…I had been through a similar experience 12 years prior.)  I love that song, but it’s still painful as hell to listen to. I BLED into that one.

“The Skin That I’m In” is the followup to “Happy Home,” and it was released on the new album, Occam’s Foil.  It is really my personal triumph and a tale of redemption. I found my Happy Home, but it took a lot of trial and tribulation and self-reflection to get there. I sing, “Now I am in your head, right where I want to be/And I wanted you to know, I’m at one with the skin that I’m in.”

Yeah…that one felt gooooooood.  Guitar solo shreds, too!

Every artists has a why. What is your why when it comes to creating music?

That’s easy…Legacy!  I actually released an album called Legacy of Fools in 2008 (You can guess who the fool is; you should only need one guess. I crack myself up all the time.)  The promo sheet at the time mentions that the album is about “all that we are willfully leaving behind.” I am still on that tip to this day.

As I sit here talking to you, I am surrounded by a ton of photos of my family.  Some of them (see attached, use it if you want!) are over 140 years old. I am referencing a wedding photo of my great-great grandparents on their wedding day in Berlin from 1880.  His name was Asher, and my son is named after him…his 3x Great Grandfather!

What was he like? What did he leave behind? We are all mortal, and perhaps I’m more obsessed with mortality and what my legacy will be than most. It is a thrill and an imperative in my life to leave behind a legacy of music and lyrics for my ancestors. Why? I don’t know…maybe it’s my piece of immortality.  But when my great-great grand kids wonder what that crazy bald relative named Ryan Rosoff was all about, they will be able to listen to the words and music that came from the heart.

This focus makes me TRY really hard, too. I’m not about to put in half-hearted efforts that don’t reflect a work ethic, level of creativity, and instrumental/lyrical proficiency that I would be proud to be remembered by.

Have you had any favorite new releases from major artists this year so far?

Wait…people are still making music? Ha ha! I’m actually only partly kidding.  Been so focused on rehearsing for our upcoming shows as well as writing for a new record that I’ve really spent very little time listening to my contemporaries.

I listened to a bit of Eminem’s new album and he always entertains me. Late last year, Beck’s album Hyperspace was cool, and I certainly appreciated Tool’s last effort.  They are an influence, although maybe less than people might think. But Danny Carey is a beast of a drummer and Maynard is always brooding and interesting.

What social media platform is your favorite to connect with fans and why?

Because of my age, perhaps, I am still a Facebook guy.  We are very active with it (@littlekingtunes if you need it) and I try and update it every time a new interview, song, or show pops up.  We have really had some success and traction with Facebook, and although I know we should be chasing all of the trends like Tic Toc and Snapchat, I just don’t have time or care too much to do it. My publicist will probably yell at me when she reads this.

We do also update Instagram and have a YouTube page as well.  I do my best. Hey…at least I didn’t say MySpace!

Tell us where we can stream your latest release.

All of the last 5 albums can be streamed from the music section at www.littlekingtunes.com as we have uploaded all of the songs from YouTube.  You can also find us at Apple Music here: https://music.apple.com/bz/artist/little-king/41725504 and on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/3sAdbgDENz4dY5pbgJcQ4I

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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