Ryan Martinie has been at the forefront of the innovation of the bass guitar as it exists in rock music since the late 1990’s.
His stunning technical abilities and unique style demonstrated with rock heavyweights MuDvAyNe continues to influence bassists all over the world. For this sublime achievement, Ryan has chosen Warwick basses as the only instrument that can truly reflect his playing.
Having just returned from a two day backpacking trip in the hills in North Carolina where he currently resides, Ryan was kind enough to answer some of the questions posed by the loyal members of the Warwick Forum.
1) When did you get your first Warwick? Apart from thumb NT models, do you have any other Warwicks?
I got my first Warwick in '99 I believe. It was a 5 string Thumb NT, that’s the bass that did it for me. I wasn’t really aware of Warwick at the time. I saw this cool bass in this little music store somewhere in Illinois and when I put my hands on it I realized it didn’t feel, sound, or look like anything else. It was really serendipitous. I have the Vampyre which is another really cool Warwick, the sound of that bass is really unique. It’s got an extremely growly midrange. That particular bass is numbered and signed by Hans-Peter WIlfer, and I love the fact that it was a gift from the company that I’ll have forever.
2) How do you approach writing a song or specifically writing a bass line for a song? Because of your unique style do you sit down and think, ok I'll do this here, or is it more of a natural approach and you just start playing and see what happens?
Most of the time I just let myself play, I’m usually not worrying about anything specific. There is an idea of I want to come out of my hands, generally speaking, and I listen to what exists already and I just play and see what comes out of me. I have no really specific practice regimen or way to go about coming up with a part. What comes out in the song in the end is a mix of things that I have to work on and things that work perfectly right off the bat.
Something reacts to the music based on all of your experiences playing and listening to music so I always try to remain open and often times reacting to other people’s artistry is the best way of finding yours.
3) When you were developing you playing style and techniques, was this something that evolved naturally as you were playing or did you think about and plan out your approaches?
I guess that a lot of what for me I ended up being molded by the band itself. I developed this technique of striking the bass in order to emulate the kick drum. I thought that that would be cool to meld the bass and drums together. It was influenced in a lot of ways by old upright players slapping the bass or plucking hard and utilizing the bass as a percussion instrument, not just a melody instrument. That kind of way of looking at the instrument is a fun and fascinating part of bass playing.
4) You've been seen with a Vampyre in Warwick Ads in magazines in the past, but have you ever used it in the studio or live? What were your thoughts of it compared to your Thumb models?
I’ve never really used it in the studio. The neck is really sweet, I love to play it, and as I said before it’s really a treasured item. Speaking of which, that ad was banned in UK! Awesome! Someone said that the ad threatened devil worship or some crap like that, which is totally untrue. It actually got the ad a lot more attention than it would have otherwise. I actually wrote a thank you letter to the guy that tried to ban it. Warwick really stepped up to the plate and supported me on that. But in terms of the Vampyre bass compared to the thumb they are really two completely different instruments, it would require me to have a different rig or make my tech make major adjustments whenever I would use it live.
5) Can you name some of your bass influences as well as some bass players you admire for their playing &/or contribution to bass playing?
It’s always hard to name influences, I grab from absolutely everyone I hear, including somebody who plays the guitar or brass players or drummers. Your style is made up of everything you ever hear, even though your conscious mind might not remember that you heard it. It’s amazing to think that our conscious and unconscious mind working together really makes up who we are as people.
But in terms of bassists, I’m all about Steve Bailey right now, he put out record called So Low that’s really beautiful and quite daring with some of the stuff he does on the fretless bass. He lives not far from here and he was kind enough to drop by for a chat and I got to make the master lunch!
As far everyone I’ve heard, I like many of the legends that influence folks like Jaco, Geddy, Les Claypool, etc. But I try to sound like myself even though I draw from these influences. I think everyone should sound like themselves and explore as much music as they can, including less obvious stuff like the role of the bass in more recent pop music.
6) What's your warm up routine/ritual before every show?
Before every show I read a long, long passage out of Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’m kidding, I really don’t have one. I stretch a little bit a few minutes prior to stepping onstage, and work through some simple patterns. I see it as more of a sprinter mentality, you don’t sprint your hardest going right out of the gate. I don’t have the Pavarotti method where I practice for 6 hours the day of a show. I really just give my tech a smile and go on out there.
7) How do you feel about Mudvayne's latest album, why did you make such a drastic change in your bass tone?
I helped make the record, so I’m proud of it. As far as a change, we changed some of our gear for one thing which made a difference sonically. As well it was produced by us and Jeremy Parker, who hadn’t done any of our other records. It wasn’t a conscious choice, a lot of people don’t realize in recording situations how difficult it is to find and make space, and things are often shaped like that. It’s whether something works with anything else or not. I just try to find the best way to be heard and at the same time remain musical with those songs.
8) There are lots of rumors of you having a side project, what musical direction will this be going in? Do you intend to share it soon with the world? Which musicians do you target to work with you?
I’m not going to comment specifically on that, because nothing is really solidified in terms of who I’m working with. But yes of course I will share it with the world when the time comes and it’s something relevant that I’m happy with. I’m always messing around with ideas but I don’t necessarily record them. If they are important enough and strong enough ideas then I’ll remember it, I’m not about forcing things. I don’t like to have to make music. It’s good to be able to let go of music after experiencing it. A melody can have an aspect to it that’s like nature, has a life cycle, and it can come and go.
9) What is your opinion on the direction that MuDvAyNe has taken since you guys first began, not just specifically your opinion on the last record?
I think that what we did is valuable. It’s become a cog in the wheel of music in some sort of way. We are a piece of musical history now, I’m not trying to sound pretentious when I say that, it’s there whether I like it or not. I don’t know that we had the foresight to look ahead, and see where the band would take us and what level we would reach. We were always just responding to our environment. I always saw the band to be important as an aspect of my life, as something that was supposed to take us places that are positive, and in that sense everything that happened with the band has happened for a reason.
10) Concerning your relationship with your fans. Do you try to make yourself available to hang out a little and talk with them or do you find that you have to maintain a little distance from them for security reasons or possibly other reasons?
Man, I always try to talk to everybody, unless I’m just burnt, but even in those times I try my hardest. Having said that, in general you shouldn’t always expect musicians or performers to talk to you after the show, the performance is the show! You don’t go to the movies and ‘That was great. Now where’s Tom Cruise?’ But I usually just choose to go out and talk to everybody, I’ve always felt really safe around fans, even though there must be disgruntled people out there but generally people are very nice and sincerely want to meet me and talk with me.