Q&A: Have You Met… Ryan Murgatroyd

Off the back of his July release, Wooma, featuring the wonderful vocals of Sobantwana to lift the single to another level! Ryan Murgatroyd, the founder of South African based record label, Swoon Recordings to some time to join our Q&A series:

Where are you from? Describe the kind of creative culture within the city you were raised in?

I grew up between Cape Town and Johannesburg, and when I started making electronic music it wasn’t really a thing, other than big old raves from time to time.. I was really influenced by the Black artists around me, merging the more soulful, percussion heavy and deeper styles of house with the more ravey, techno influences coming from abroad.

What made you get into music, who were the people around you which influenced you?

Yeah for me I’ve drawn influence from everywhere – my mum used to listen to the great 70s and 80s pop song writers, Tina Turner, Prince, even stuff like Eric Clapton. My gran was a classical music freak, and growing up I got into the big rave scene and was exposed to uplifting progressive music in my teens, and then onto deep and funky house in the smaller rooms,  and then as my taste developed and matured, I was exposed to European composers like Nils Frahm. Then of course a massive African influence, growing up on the streets of Johannesburg, organic and African instruments everywhere, polyrhythms being played on the street, maskandi guitars and Miriam Makeba playing on radio. So I think you hear every single one of those styles come through in my work. 

If you weren’t making music what would you be doing? 

Without a doubt something related to medical research, integrative medicine. I’m deeply passionate about research and big data equally, so about alternative healing practices like Shamanism and how we can study and learn from those in the Western allopathic system.`

Are there any producers/artists you work with really well, what makes your relationship work?

Well, of course Kostakis, who I’ve done a tonne of work with, our Wicked Eyes remix is a fav still! Just got another video of Solomun playing it still 2 years after release. But yeah I am so lucky in the collab department because I have an insane team of producers and engineers around me.. I think just a common vision is the most important factor, some folks want to come in and write music quickly and then kinda get back to, I dunno, being on instragram and whatever. I like to take my time. And if i have to go back 200 times and edit something, then it’s getting edited 200 times. So I always try to work with people that are patient enough to do whatever it takes to make truly world class electronic music.

What were early experiences in music, did you start with playing instruments or go straight into making beats? (It would be great to have a picture of your set up)

I started with sequencers and trackers and then out of necessity I had to learn some basics about music theory – which then became a huge passion of mine.. Still can’t read traditional music notation but have learnt A LOT about the mathematics and psycho-acoustic aspects of tonality, and it’s something that deeply intrigues me the more I work with it. My setup is a perfect balance between a dedicated music theorist (lots of weighted keyboards, tonnes of orchestral scoring plugins like Quantum leap for epic strings) and then the complete opposite: A modular rack, tonnes of analogue synths to keep things not too classical and a bit grungy.. But yeah, I like to think of myself as a proper modern composer/songwriter who also produces music, not the other way round.

Are there any other musicians, and DJs we should be paying attention to?

Man, so many! Blanka Mazimela, Kususa, De Capo on the South african scene. Corpino and Cioz are two internationals I also have my eye on, both from Italy. 

Why did you decide to start your record label? Is releasing music independently important to you?

Late in 2018 I decided that either I was gonna own the rights to my music or I wasn’t gonna put it out. I had so many experiences with record labels that were either really bad or just indifferent. So I thought it was better to take all the risk and all the reward. But creatively it’s been a blessing not having to change my work according to the opinions of an A&R manager.

How have you tried to change your approach from your recent release to your previous release ‘Wicked Eyes’

Well if anything I’m trying to change to approach less! I think I’ve been so versatile, going from Wicked Eyes to downtempo electronica, to full on melodic techno.. So I’m going to try to tone it down a bit and focus on 2 or three styles/sounds and really build momentum in those..I think my style goes in circles – I’ve just done 3 more African electronica records in a row.. and now I’m back to doing some more big vocal feel good stuff to play in summer, and then I’ll do some electronica/downtempo, and then begin again..hahah

How has Covid 19 impacted your record label? 

We’re alive!! It’s getting warmer in Africa now, the summer is starting, and I’ve had an insanely creative 6 months. So lots of good. Of course everyone is broke, wary, scrambling to find ways to get income in after 6 or 7 months of not working, but there is a sense of renewal and starting afresh, I wouldn’t take it back from a personal perspective but of course I’m empathetic to anyone who has really fell on hard times

Have you got any future shows planned?

We’re waiting for an update on restrictions to get the low down on physical shows,  but I have a new mix out for Deep House Amsterdam this week! It’s fire!

Have a listen to his single, Wooma, and let us know what you think:

Author: Kofi Yeboah

I'm a Music & Culture Journalist, and DJ from London. I worked in radio, events promotions, and content production. .

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