Interview: 2007 RBMA Participant David Ryshpan

David Ryshpan is a Montreal-based pianist, composer and arranger. His band, Indigone Trio, was formed in 2003 at McGill University, where he graduated from the Jazz Performance program. LOOKOUT interviewed Ryshpan, a former RBMA participant, on his experience in 2007 in Toronto, illuminating how Ryshpan himself bucks the misconception that RBMA is exclusively for electronic music. To apply for this year's Red Bull Music Academy (the new location will be announced April 11), or for more information, click here. The application deadline has been extended until April 26, 2011.

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LOOKOUT: How did you decide to apply to 2007's RBMA in Toronto? Did your decision have anything to do with Toronto as the place where you began to study music?

DR: I'm friends with Scott C (The Incubator), who served as one of Montreal's "Mr. X"s that year. He urged me to apply. It was the first year I had ever heard of RBMA, so I applied without really knowing that much about it. The decision didn't have anything to do with Toronto being my hometown; it was, however, a really different experience of the city for me. I moved to Montreal when I was 16 so I never went clubbing in Toronto, and I wasn't really ever immersed in Toronto's electronic or hip-hop scenes. It was like being a tourist at home, considering the majority of my musical experiences in Toronto happened at The Rex and the Top o' the Senator (which doesn't exist anymore).

Did all of the members of Indigone Trio apply for RBMA? How did you take your personal experience and translate it into something that the entire band could benefit from?

I was the only member of Indigone that applied to RBMA. Being able to work closely alongside engineers and producers, I got enough of the technical language of recording and mixing to make the recording of our album, Cycles, a much more fluid process. The awareness of music as sound, and how to deal with different kinds of sound, has definitely influenced my composition since RBMA.

How was RBMA different from other workshops you’ve participated in like the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop and the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music?

It's pretty remarkable how similar they all are, actually. I often refer to RBMA to my jazz-inclined friends as the "Banff Centre for electronic production." They're quite similar in the sense that they foster immense amounts of creativity in a short timespan. In all of the workshops, there's an expectation that you're in a creative, artistic headspace the whole time. That phenomenon of having the artistic impulse always turned "on" is really refreshing, something I still find hard to replicate in my daily life. The only major difference I can think of was that for BMI, there were concrete deadlines - we had a reading session with a real live big band every two months, and we were expected to bring in significant amounts of new material to the reading. At Banff, too, there were concerts and shows to prepare for. RBMA wasn't structured around deadlines but there was definitely an awareness of the fact that we only had two weeks to make the most amount of music possible.

Having studied jazz performance at McGill, did you learn anything unexpected from artists who had never gone to school for music?

I was blown away by the inherent musicality of people that had little or no formal training. Our ears are our guide, anyway. One thing I took away was this sense of being able to break the rules – if it sounds like it works, then it does, regardless if it's theoretically totally correct.

What kind of relationships – friendly or work-related – did you make during RBMA? Have you kept any of them?

Sarah Linhares and I have been working together since RBMA. We knew each other through radio and didn't actually know that the other had applied, or that the other played music, before RBMA! I'm still in touch with some of the RBMA alumni from our term. Heliponto, a house producer from Belo Horizonte, Brasil, produced a track with me during RBMA that came out on her record, Eletronia, and we have another project together on a back burner. I'm still in touch with Mara TK, Kez YM, and Camplaix, among others, and I hope to work with them all again soon.

Do you have any advice for this year’s RBMA applicants?

Take your time with the application and be honest. I know the 17-page questionnaire can be daunting, but the reality is that the answers given throughout the 17 pages is how RBMA creates an instant 30-person family.

I want to re-iterate something I said at the info session. It may appear that RBMA is geared strictly towards "electronic music." It's not. It's a balance of electronic music production, and music creation of all kinds. I encourage anyone who's remotely interested in learning any element of electronic music production – from improvising with Live or Max/MSP to recording their own albums to producing hip-hop, electro, or whatever – to apply.

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