Name: Rival Consoles aka Ryan Lee West
Occupation: Producer, performer
Nationality: British    
Current Release: Rival Consoles' new album Overflow is out via Erased Tapes.
Recommendations: Book - the one that inspired the work Overflow - Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power by Byung-Chul Han
Music - Gustav Mahler - Adagietto movement (from symphony 5)

If you enjoyed this interview with Rival Consoles and would like to stay up to date on his music and creative activities, visit his Ryan's official homepage. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?  

I started playing the guitar when I was 12 and like most people spent years learning to play popular music such as Radiohead, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins etc with friends in various bands.

I do recall OK computer by Radiohead (which I had recorded onto tape) was the first record that I became obsessed with.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?  

For me it took a huge amount of time to make music that I felt represented me, probably 15 years of making. Full of bad, distasteful decisions and various approaches in different extremes.

I think it is a combination of learning tools over a long time and also learning who you are as a person over a long time.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?  

I feel I am a maker and interested in / obsessed with all kinds of making - be it music, film, graphic design, painting, sculpture, writing etc. From a young age I just seem to find comfort in making or thinking of making.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

I think developing patience and confidence with the smaller things, the details and the way things relate to each other. In the beginning I was in a rush to say a hundred things and most of them end up undermining each other, which I think is just part of being young.

With time learning to trust that I can sometimes achieve a lot with 3 sounds interacting or having a clearer balance between sounds / ideas came after years of dedication.  

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

Well first classical guitar and then electric guitar and pedals for years before I even thought about making music with a computer. Then I got a version of Cubase to help me record guitar parts and I started making very basic music in a computer because I am self taught. It took me a long time to understand things, as this was pre youtube era.

For the next 5 years I mainly made music with soft synths such as Nuendo’s A1, and Zebra by U-he - and over the years  I have acquired a lot of equipment, mainly hardware within Rival Consoles music. But also lots of plugins that help me mix the music inside the arrangement.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?  

Hmm, I mean when I first studied max/msp at university that changed my way of working and thinking about sound and possibility.

I often question what I am doing and try things, I think

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?  

For me I have gone a fairly secluded path. I have collaborated with choreographers and mainly directors for film, but actually rarely collaborated with other music artists.

I think this is partly because I spend a lot of time in my own imagination and it often doesn’t occur to me to change that.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

I tend to wake up around 9 -10am, make coffee and go and sit in my studio. The first few hours I will open projects I am working on and listen to things without doing anything often, maybe making little changes without much precision.

If something interesting happens that will dictate the next few hours. But if not, I will tend to have 1 of 2 tracks that are in my focus at the time which I will work on, usually resolving problems in the mix or experimenting with structure,  carving away at things to see what happens. Or I could have a melodic idea in my head for weeks that I then get round to playing on a synth and recording into the project.

Other times I am in a blank project - create something from scratch mood, where I might improvise for 30 minutes on a synth, maybe, experiment trying to create one good sound that can be used and saving that and making a note of it.

I don’t really expect to make something that excites me in the moment. I act more patiently and just make until something interests me.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

I’ve had a few moments that I felt things clicked such as "Recovery" - where such a specific rhythmic pattern, chord progression and synth sound came together to create a very considered idea.

For me, making music that I really like is often a battle between the idea and getting the best out of it. But with "Untravel" I found that it just made itself almost immediately, which is very rare but a break through moment for me, because it was one of the only times I have made something that sounds very complete with just 1 sound, in the same way that recording a piano sounds complete.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

I think other than being creative and a little bit obsessive with making and how things are made, a really crucial ingredient is discipline. Which sounds really boring and un artistic, but I think if you read art with lots of time devoted, which requires discipline, great things will emerge, versus randomly making here and there, you reduce chance encounters. I think if you make making a habit and playing the long game you are rewarded more.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?  

For me music is very healing and I probably make music frequently as a kind of therapy, as do many artists. I do find moments in my own music to have been healing for me as well as other music. I do feel that music moves me very strongly especially harmonic works in a way that other art forms don’t so deeply.

Perhaps this emotional quality is why music, though extremely abundant and even exhausted as a medium remains relevant and energised.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

I pay attention to cultural appropriation topic and agree with the problems that are present, because there is and always has been exploitation, especially where there is money to be made. So I think to move forward people need to be sensitive.

But also everyone is likely to have different opinions on what is and what is not right. For me I think if an artist shows care, love and deep consideration of any given culture/movement and then wants to make music/art within that aesthetic, then I think they should be judged on the merit of their care and appreciation towards it. But at the same time it’s complex because culture and people are very deep worlds.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?

Well for me I love it when sound has the ability to evoke nostalgia in the same way that scent does. Sometimes you can hear something and it creates a weird very distinctive memory that never happened or maybe is a confused memory.

I think that is one of the reasons Burial’s untrue is so deeply evocative because all the atmospheric noise and outdoor sounds create this sense of it was your memory.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

My way of making art is very habitual, it is a part of my every life almost like eating and sleeping is. There are days when I don’t make something, but almost always I am making, exploring in different levels, sometimes very casual, some times very focused, sometimes liking, sometimes not liking. I believe it’s helpful to spend a lot of time with something if you want to get better at it and notice new things about it.

Also by spending huge amounts of time with something like making music, you reduce the chance of missing a moment, missing an idea and you become more comfortable with it.

The negative side to this way of being is you end up with huge amounts of ideas, things which can be overwhelming sometimes

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?  

I think music is very powerful at communicating a romantic vision of death in a way which is still resonant.

For me music expresses serious things such as anger, trauma, depression, grief etc more powerfully than other art forms. I just think there is something about the way notes relate to each other which is similar to frequency of colour in say painting, but somehow in sound these relationships of notes can create such real vivid emotional response in me that I don’t get so strongly elsewhere. But it is of course a subjective personal world.