INTERVIEW: Bill Ryder-Jones | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Images by Rachel King

The transition from band member to solo artist is one of uncertainty and self-doubt, and one that Bill Ryder-Jones knows well. The former Coral guitarist’s path has been plagued by problems but his contemplative and honest approach to song writing has transformed him into a captivating solo artist. His latest record, West Kirby County Primary, the follow-up to 2013’s A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart, once again demonstrates his innate ability to craft serene love songs, but this time around he’s turned up the volume.

The record is much heavier than its predecessor, with lead single Two To Birkenhead immediately demonstrating Ryder-Jones’ sonic shift. The track fizzes with energy and vigour, sounding like Stephen Malkmus if he was to emigrate to the Wirral Peninsula. However, Ryder-Jones believes this change in sound was a natural progression that wasn’t necessarily driven by new found influences. “I don’t think it was necessarily a considered departure. The heavy aspects stem from when we were playing the previous record live and tracks naturally evolved, so I guess it’s just a continuation of that.” It is certainly a marked difference, as unlike the previous album which seemed to be a collection of stories amassed over the years, the new record seems to be solely rooted in the present. “It was recorded in a three week spell in January of this year so it is really concerned with my immediate.”

The album plays a definite homage to Ryder-Jones’ home town of West Kirby, and the majority of the album was written and recorded in his childhood bedroom. “The records are personal, the songs are always personal. The place where I record is just a part of that, they are all written in and around West Kirby so naturally that is what is at the centre.” Although the title seems to suggest otherwise, stand-out track Let’s Get Away From Here, with its ocean metaphors is also rooted in Ryder-Jones’ setting and is perhaps the most interesting track on the album. It firstly appears to fit the mellow mould of Ryder-Jones’ previous work but curtails into a closing 30 seconds of fuzzed out guitars, a dynamic shift that will catch unsuspecting fans off guard.

Ryder-Jones is perhaps best known for playing alongside The Coral through his formative years, however it’s clear he is now content in his position as a solo artist far away from the often fractious nature of the band dynamic. “It’s only when you are working in the studio that playing in a band can become awkward.” His new found freedom has allowed him to work independently in the studio something, he hopes to maintain for the foreseeable future, “I don’t ever see myself letting other people get too involved in the making of my records,” he admits.

Bill Ryder-Jones by Rachel King 2 LAND

Having left The Coral in 2008, Ryder-Jones was cast into the musical wilderness and started suffering from long, debilitating bouts of depression and anxiety; something which, until recently, he hadn’t spoken about so openly and freely. Indeed, it is now an issue Ryder-Jones confronts head on in his music, with album closer Satellites ruminating on the lines ‘You saved me with the thought, that something somewhere must be happening’. The line refers to a remark an ex-girlfriend would reiterate in order to help him come to terms with the prolonged periods of suffering brought on by his depersonalization disorder. “I was completely convinced that the world wasn’t real and I was in some simulation, but something in me knew that deep, deep down, if I let go I would lose control.” The song is a poignant and frank first person perspective on the day to day struggles which affect those suffering from a mental illness. “It is about the particular thought that life wasn’t real for me and that no matter what it is that I felt I was experiencing, the fact that I’m experiencing something means that somewhere there must be something to experience.”
He credits his ongoing recovery to the support shown to him by Domino Records, particularly its original founder Laurence Bell. “They have always shown me a hell of a lot of faith. They have done a lot to nurture me so I am now in a place where I am comfortable releasing records, playing gigs and being critiqued, whereas when they signed me in 2009 I was barely capable of doing anything.”

These positive steps forward have allowed him to give others their voice, whether he’s producing for the likes of The Wytches and Stockton’s own Saint Saviour, to offering his guitar playing services to Arctic Monkeys and playing at various concerts on their AM Tour. Ryder-Jones has also turned his hand to film scoring, a process which he feels is for the most part the same as his other albums. “The only major difference for me is with the film stuff you are handed your inspiration, you are actually given a source material to work with, which makes things a lot easier.” However, he certainly doesn’t consider himself to be a composer. “I don’t know anyone who writes music who thinks in those terms in all honesty. If I do see myself as anything it’s as a musician.”

Bill Ryder-Jones releases  West Kirby County Primary on 6th November, he plays The Cluny, Newcastle on Monday 9th November.

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