Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ryan Allen Gets Real with Extra Arms and Releases a New Album this Saturday

Ryan Allen has been a staple of the Detroit music scene for the last 20 years. He has played every  venue, every big festival, and consistently put out new music with an assortment of bands, including Thunderbirds Are Now, Destroy This Place, and as a solo artist. He is always doing something different, trying something new, and challenging himself to be better. His latest project, Extra Arms, is taking his solo work to the next level by collaborating with a full band to write and record a new album that will be released this Saturday at Cellerman's in Hazel Park.

But before the big release, we wanted to check in with Ryan to find out more about the changes in the band, the new album, and his take on music after all these shows. Check that out and get details about the album release below! 
HID- What did you miss most about creating with others?
Ryan Allen- "I think I just kind of reached the tipping point with making records on my own as Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms and wanted to explore the idea of collaborating with the guys who I'd been playing with for a year. I enjoy making records where I steer the ship the entire time, but after awhile you feel kind of stuck in a vacuum and can easily start repeating yourself. Everybody in the band kind of agreed, without really saying it, that we should function as a full-fledged band would, with everybody contributing ideas, giving their opinion, etc. and I think it worked out really great. Keep in mind I've made a bunch of records with Destroy This Place in between Extra Arms albums, but since we've been on a break, and I felt the need to inject some new juice in the Extra Arms project, making an album as a collaborative unit seemed like the natural choice."

HID- How do you think having the full band work together effected the final product?
Ryan Allen- "Completely and totally. This record would have been much different had I just made it on my own. It would probably have been a little mellower or dialed back. There would be less guitar leads and drum fills, that's for sure. And it wouldn't be as good. I credit the positive feedback the album has been getting so far to Ryan, Sean and Michael breathing new life into this project and adding their own colors to the sketches that I would bring in."

HID- Whats your favorite track off the new album and why?
Ryan Allen- "It kind of rotates all the time. Right now I'm really feeling "Old Heads"... it's a super short song and pretty simple structure-wise, but there's something about how it kind of subtly builds that I really like. I love the piano stuff that my brother Scott added to it, and by the end of the song, we are just bashing away, and it gives me a shot of adrenaline every time I hear it."

HID- Do you still perform your solo stuff live with the new permanent full band?
Ryan Allen- "Yeah! We've got a whole bunch of tunes in the rotation, and we're constantly adding things and taking things away. It's really fun. The guys enjoy playing older songs on records they didn't play on, and we've been having fun changing things up every couple of shows. It keeps it fresh and does justice to the other albums. Sometimes I want to gravitate to playing only new songs, so it's nice that these guys dig playing older stuff...that way it doesn't feel stale." 

HID- How do you think your musical writing has changed as you've gotten older?
Ryan Allen- "I think I've always kind of had my "thing". I try to write songs with meaningful lyrics that are catchy, crunchy and energetic. If anything, I think I just keep getting better by default. If you keep chipping away at something, you're supposed to get better, right? I think that's how it's supposed to work, anyway. I feel more and more confident with my songs while at the same time trying not to get too attached to them in case not everybody in the band likes them. These guys really pushed me this time and there were a few tunes that they weren't into that we ended up dropping that I may have stuck with if not for their opinions being voiced. And it was always for the better. I also really enjoyed writing songs that I felt played to the strengths of the guys in the band. So yeah, I just try and keep evolving, trying new things while still being me. But again, I give a ton of credit to Ryan, Sean and Michael for really helping to steer the direction of the album."

HID- What's your favorite part about playing live?
Ryan Allen- "I feel like when people really appreciate that you are giving it your all and leaving everything on the stage, it's a great feeling. You can feed off the energy of the crowd and it makes you play better. I try hard to keep my body in decent shape to be able to still go up there and jam my ass off, even at 38 years old. I just want to give a good show and have as much fun as possible. I don't take it for granted that people still come to see us play from time to time, and every once in awhile really dig it. As long as it's still fun, I'll keep doing it."

HID- Whats the meaning behind Headacher?
Ryan Allen- "I guess it's just more of a state of mind; kind of how I felt after the last presidential election...just this constant throbbing in my head that things were so immediately fucked. People can also be "headachers" I guess...people who are just spewing garbage on the internet or on cable news that is clearly ill-informed propaganda. The overall idea is that despite this, we have to do everything we can to fight against it - protest, make art, take care of our families, donate to worthy causes, get educated about things going on in the world and let people who are maybe of an older generation know that their bigotry and hatred won't be tolerated. I've tried to do a lot of that in the last year and a half while also maintaining my sanity, though I will admit to not being the most overly political person on the planet. Writing songs about some of this stuff has been cathartic, though, and I like to think of this record as my personal aspirin to fight off the headachers of the world.

There's also sort of a separate meaning to the term as well, at least for me, regarding addiction. I stopped drinking about a year and a half ago, and while I don't consider that feat to be heroic or anything, it's been very profound for me. Having clarity and seeing the world through sober eyes has really changed everything for me, and it's made me a better person. Not to say that if you drink or do drugs you are bad; I don't mean to imply that at all...shit, drinking rules and can be really fun. I just came to the realization that I'm not a person who should drink anymore; that I've lost my privilege. And I'm 100% fine with that, thought it took awhile to get there. So in a way, I've kind of rid myself of the headache that comes with drinking - both literally and metaphorically."

HID- You are always writing recording and putting out new music with at least one of your projects. How do you stay so focused?
Ryan Allen- "It's just something I do. It would seem totally unnatural to stop. If I'm not physically working on a song, I'm thinking about one. If I'm listening to music, I'm studying it and trying to find inspiration. It all comes as naturally to me as walking and talking; it's just ingrained in me and I love it. So it's easy to stay focused on something you love. The only real challenge is finding the time for it, but having other priorities actually really helps make the time I can spend writing, practicing, playing shows or recording totally worth while. I try not to take any moment for granted, and put everything I have into making whatever I'm doing count."

HID- If you could tell 20 year old Ryan something what would it be?
Ryan Allen- "Don't drink."

HID- Is there anything else you would like our fans to know?
Ryan Allen- "The new album is available on 10/12. They can still pre-order it now (here Oh, and it rips."

You can see Ryan play with Extra Arms at Cellerman's this Saturday, October 13th. Reuther and Touch the Clouds will be opening the show and it's only $5 to get in the door! The show starts at 9 p.m.


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