Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Fiona Torre
“I’m Ryder The Eagle, and I don’t know who I am. But I’ll keep singing. I’ll keep singing. I’ll never stop.”
What path did you consider taking before devoting yourself to music? What have you learned from it?
Back when I was a kid I wanted to be a firefighter. Later on, I wanted to be a psychoanalyst.
I do have a savior complex when it comes to love; and music is the only thing that seems to tame the fire inside of me.
So I guess I’ll try and save myself first, so I can then help other people out. The one thing I’ve learned is trying to save yourself by rescuing other people’s bruised souls just doesn’t work and can be very harmful to everyone involved. There’s no risk of hurting anybody through music, and this makes me feel at peace whenever I’m writing a song or performing for an audience.
Do you have a moment in your life that you will recall until your death?
I tend to forget about “moments” of my life, my relationship with time it’s… weird. Though some images are here to stay forever: the smile of my grandpa in his wheelchair a few days before he passed away, the key to my car and its orange see-through plastic cap, my ex-wife’s hazelnut eyes (halfway between a squirrel and a marmot), the tear rolling down my cheek when this nurse inserted a 15 inches long plastic tube inside my penis to check if my urethra had been sectioned after I had landed on the tip of my skateboard, crouch first.
What have you learned through Ryder The Eagle on a personal and professional level?
My mom and a few friends sometimes warned me when I was getting real intimate in a song or a video. I’ve always thought honesty was sort of a holy thing that would necessarily lead me to personal fulfillment. While recording my album, I’ve tasted the darker side of it;
when digging deep into yourself, you might make a mess that’s then hard to make sense of on your own. Not drawing a line between your life and your art is (yes mom, you were right) dangerous.
I know I can’t do it differently, that’s who I am and that’s what my art is, but yeah, flirting with insanity was kinda scary.
On a professional level, I realised that success was definitely not something I was looking for, which is amazingly relieving. People’s interest toward my art will come and go, bumping into me by lucky accident and drifting away with trends, and vice versa, and I’m fine with it.
What is your definition of beauty and how do you integrate it into your life and work?
We’re all fishing for beauty and it’s actually the easiest fish to catch; it swims everywhere around us and will bite whenever you’re willing to sit still long enough. But that fish is so small and lively that it keeps on slipping out of our hands, straight back into the water. I feel like no one ever managed to bring it home, and artists can only take pictures of it or tell other people about their fishing stories.
Beauty is in both hope and despair, courage and fear, honor and shame. The kind of beauty I’m fascinated by resides in all the things we’re trying to hide: the thoughts we’re not allowed to have, the tears we’re not willing to shed, and the truth we’re not supposed to tell.
If you could travel in time, future or past, where would you go and why?
I would politely turn down the offer and stay in the precious present moment. People are so curious about what the world will be like in a hundred years from now; I personally feel like an old fashioned crooner dude from the fifties being amazed by Facetime – I already feel like a visitor in this weird world of ours and I like that. But if the wizard of time sticks a gun to my head, maybe I would travel to the year 2027 and ask 25-year-old Billie Eilish to marry me.
What was the last thing you’ve done or experienced for the very first time?
Getting divorced, a month ago. First time I get my heart broken, too. It’s also the first time I find myself in the middle of a global pandemic.
I’ve never been a huge fan of first times, it always brings me back to a no erection kinda situation.
What topics fascinate you outside of music?
People in general, and the ways they choose to navigate this world. I’m fascinated by how they try to connect with each other on a magnetic (art), spiritual (love) and physical (sex) level. I also have a strong fascination for war, being equally attracted to it and scared to death by it. I’ve spent most of my time on this planet exploring love, but hate remains a stranger to me. I guess some people feel the opposite way.
Tell us about someone who inspires you.
My twin brother inspires me a lot. As an artist, for sure, but more so as a human being. He always seems to make better decisions than me, and he’s the most positive person I’ve ever known, always moving forward, always on to the next thing.
Tell us a funny or awkward story from your career, maybe about some fucked up situations that happened while touring.
There’s a few… The aborted threesome in Aylesbury, the guy pulling out a gun in Ljubljana, the 46-year-old dom mistress of San Diego, and the hillbilly girl on the greyhound bus in Texas asking me to protect her from her husband who was allegedly trying to kill her… Here’s one that happened right after: I spent a week in Austin at SXSW festival and didn’t manage to get officially booked there, so I was performing on the street every day. I was basically homeless and had to spend three nights sleeping on the street. One night was pretty chilly, so I started looking for a better spot than the usual park bench. I noticed an open fence leading to a construction site: I stumbled upon this half-finished luxury hotel. The beautiful (already filled up) pool was surrounded by a four stories “U” shaped/motel-like building straight out of the movies that move me. My luggage (a karaoke PA and my bag piled up on a hand-truck) and I started exploring this cinematic yet creepy place. The rooms were all open, all of them almost done: bathroom, carpet, TV – but no bed. I put my stuff in the corner, relieved and excited to be spending a night in a warm room – though I really needed to document it through an Instagram story. I went out of the room to start shooting my masterpiece. The door shut behind me in a distinct “klock” that resonated in the night and could translate to “you’re fucked” or as Jim used to say, “this is the end, my only friend, the end”. Remember when a bully used to flank your skinny ass in the playground at lunch time? That’s how doomed I was. So let me sum it up for you: I’m now standing by the pool – looking like a fool – losing my cool – and all my stuff (bag, PA, passport, money, water, winter coat) is locked up inside of this stupid room with no bed, and the cold Texas breeze lewdly caresses my neck. My two options were either break the window (and get charged with “breaking and entering” on top of the “trespassing” charge I was already guilty of) or wait until someone gets here tomorrow morning and open the door for me. I moved to the next room, leaving the door wide open and used carpet tiles as a (fairly itchy) mattress and a cement bag as a (fairly stiff) pillow. I was kinda stressed out cause I knew going to jail was now a very likely thing to happen to me, and started jerking off (seriously??) to relieve the tension. I had to freeze at some point cause this black silhouette was staring at me, twenty meters away, standing still in the dark corridor leading to the room. Security? Homeless dude? Police? I had no fucking clue but this guy was the scariest thing ever cause “it” just wouldn’t MOVE. I don’t know if he didn’t properly see me or maybe didn’t like my performance but he finally left. I got back at it, came in a muffled grunt and managed to get a couple of (fairly agitated) hours of sleep. Woke up to the sound of Mexican workers discussing an electricity matter in a lovely Spanish (love that Mexican accent) two meters away from me, acting as if this french cowboy in a white suit sleeping on the floor was a less urgent matter to deal with than these naked and boring (they all look the same!) cables hanging from the ceiling. I got up in a hurry and mumbled, “excuse me”. They barely looked at me. “Guys, do you happen to have the keys to this door please?” “Nah dude, you need to wait for the boss to get here”. Damn I really didn’t want to wait for that guy. But I did (as if I had a choice). I was now waiting outside the hotel, next to the closed “office” (a shitty plastic trailer also straight out of a movie), standing there in silence with two other Mexican workers holding their yummy lunch bags in their right hands. The sun suddenly rose and a 2006 maroon Ford Ranger truck highlighted our three drowsy faces, waking the heck out of us for good. A bald, massive, and intimidating man stepped out of the car that suddenly looked like a little toy. He headed for the trailer without acknowledging our presence (he would definitely have stepped on our faces with his giant feet if we hadn’t scooted over) and stuffed one of his billion keys inside the lock. “Hi sir” (no reply) “Hum, so here’s the thing” (he’s not looking at me) “I was kinda homeless yesterday night, saw the open fence, thought I would sleep in one of these warm rooms, but I locked myself out of the room, and my stuff’s still inside. Could you please open the door for me?”
“Well, I’m calling the cops on you and you’ll tell them your story” (still not looking at me)
“Wait sir, I don’t want any trouble. Please open the door for me and I’ll just fuck off. Please.” (I had this tone – the one you use to show a MAN you’re not bullshitting him – that you too are a TOUGH MAN of HONOR and PRIDE and whatnot). I guess it worked because he finally acknowledged my presence (is that frenchie fuckhead for real???). We walked to the room in silence (his silence was an angry one, mine was trying to come across humble but not shameful – damn that’s hard!) and he opened the door for me and only added a, “now get the fuck outa here” that sounded like a sweet Leonard Cohen’s lullaby to my ears (with a hint of a Texan twang). I found myself a nice bench next to Hotel Vegas on 6th street, instagramed a picture of my pillow made out of my dirty underwear stuffed in a plastic bag and slept like a baby.
Who is or was your biggest teacher?
My parents. My mom taught me how to think things through, express my sensitivity and made me feel like I was worth something, while my dad taught me to chill the fuck out and keep my feet on the ground. Thanks to both of them I now kinda believe in myself while remembering that, at the end of the day, I’m really nothing special.
What was your first musical memory?
The one I really remember is a late one (I was 11 years old) when I heard the first Strokes’ album. Made me feel like I had never listened to music before, and I ran to my parents in the living room screaming, ‘Dad, mum, I wanna play you something!’ I played them Last Nite saying, ‘You know that song, right? This moment when the chord changes on ‘oh baby I feel so down’? They said no, it didn’t ring a bell.
So I just realized I was connecting with music for the first time ever, and this feeling (goose bumps, and feeling like you’ve always known the song) will be the one I’ll be seeking for the rest of my life.
If you had to choose between sex and music, what would you choose? Why?
A lot of people think I’m a sex addict, because I talk about it all the time, in real life, in my songs, etc. I just like talking about things that are usually kept silent, especially when the reasons behind this silence are religious heritage or PC culture.
I do think sex is not to be overlooked when one is trying to get back in touch with his (her) inner self; it is one of the most primitive instinct we all share and its power (energy wise) is mind blowing.
All my friends would like me to choose sex, but I’m happy to finally prove them wrong. The thing is I can understand sex, why I like it and how I like it. Music still remains a mystery to me, and anytime I finish up a song and perform it for the first time, I can’t help but feel some kind of magic about it. So yeah, music, definitely.
Do you have any favorite music videos?
I love Beck’s Devils Haircut – it’s so nonchalantly cool! Also The White Stripes’ We’re Going To Be Friends – simply timelessly beautiful. And Nick Cave and PJ Harvey’s Henry Lee – a raw, “wildlife documentary-like” grasp of unbearable romantic tension.
What do you think the next stage of your life will be like?
The only thing I know for sure is that music will be a huge part of it. On a more personal level, I honestly don’t have a clue. I could either fall madly in love with a girl in three days from now or stay single until the day I die. I just wanna go with the flow and stop trying to control what’s going on in my life;
unexpected and random encounters are the most magical thing in this world, and being too much of a control freak can sometimes deprive you from tasting the beauty of it.
What was the wisest thing you`ve ever heard in your life?
“Baby I swear I’ll drive all night again, just to buy you some shoes” (Bruce Springsteen) It’s so unwise that it became the wisest thing I’ve ever heard.
I truly think that nourishing your wisdom with some mild folly can sometimes make the world a most fascinating place for all of us.
What was the most memorable question you were ever asked?
Maybe that one, for I’ve been sitting here in silence for half an hour not being able to answer it.
What question would you want to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
I guess any question that you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking, or that you think I wouldn’t be comfortable answering. For instance: how many times in a day do you masturbate? At least one, usually two, and three if i’m either deeply bored, abnormally depressed or confined at home because of a pandemic.