Season 1 - Ep. 3 - Melting Faces with Some Serious Looping Skills with Ryan Nelson of Speedway Sleeper




In this episode, I am speaking with Ryan Nelson of Speedway Sleeper. This is an up and coming one-man musical act out of Bend, Oregon that uses a custom made rig to loop sounds and play beats through to build a song on the fly while composing music on guitar and synthesizers as well as sing in a live setting. It's truly a remarkable skill set to see.

We dig deeper on why this musical project evolved from past projects, the gear that is used to create such a unique sound and live experience, and also talk about some tips and techniques on how to improve your playing and production from home in a small recording space.

You are definitely going to want to catch this episode and also check out Speedway Sleeper.

Intro Music: "Colorado" by Birds Love Filters

Speedway Sleeper Website:

Speedway Sleeper on Instagram:

Speedway Sleeper on YouTube:


Isaac Kuhlman 0:00
Hello and welcome to the Powered By Rock podcast. We're gonna be speaking with a rock and roll musician from Bend, Oregon that I've personally known since he was about 18 or 19 years old. He's an incredible musician and his new project Speedway Sleeper is going to blow minds all over the Pacific Northwest and hopefully beyond. Ryan Nelson from Speedway Sleeper is coming up next.

You're listening to the Powered By Rock podcast with your host Isaac Kuhlman. The Powered By Rock podcast is created helps showcase some of the best rock musicians in the world. And to pass on to future generations, the rock music that has inspired rock fans around the world for decades. We want listeners to be able to hear great stories and life experiences directly from their favorite artists, as well as dig deeper into music theory and talk rock like no other show you've ever heard. This isn't about looking cool. It's about getting real and having a great time. Without further ado, let's start the show.

Hey, welcome to the podcast. In today's episode, I'm gonna be speaking with Ryan Nelson from Speedway Sleeper about some of the absolutely awesome things he's working on musically. He's gonna blow listeners away with his live shows on how he's working on becoming the next Skee-lo Welcome to the show.

Ryan Nelson 1:14
The next Skee-lo. Yeah, he's still making music. I looked him up the other day. He's still doing his thing. That's I would love to that would be awesome. Yeah, yeah. Before we get going, I should also say, you have the best Intro Music of any podcast out there.

Isaac Kuhlman 1:28
Yeah, I was gonna say it's a little awkward because I don't think I'll ever interview somebody who actually does the intro music again. So but yeah, that is actually Ryan, his previous band, Birds Love Filters. bunch of friends of ours. Well, you and other friends of ours were in a band and made an awesome album. And I said, this is probably the best Intro Music of all time. So I put it on for our intro music. So if you see in the credits, it says Intro Music Birds Loves Filters. The song "Colorado." It's actually Ryan singing and playing guitar.

Ryan Nelson 2:00
I'm flattered, flattered that you want to use it.

Isaac Kuhlman 2:02
Yep, is awesome. So before we get into some of the other great topics that I want to bring up today, I first want to ask you about your journey. Like what was the reason you first started playing music? What artists were some of your main influences and How and when did you decide that this was kind of the path you wanted to pursue in your life.

Ryan Nelson 2:18
I feel like like a lot of musicians. It started just because there was an acoustic guitar sitting around I have my dad's old acoustic guitar, I started 14, 15 years old probably. And started with an acoustic guitar and eventually got a little four track cassette recorder like most people around you know, late 90s, early 2000s, who were playing music, that's kind of the path that everyone took.

As far as influences go, obviously, when you're younger, a lot of what your parents are listening to what what records they're playing kind of seeps in there in the beginning and builds a foundation of what you like when you're older. So it was a lot of like, for me 80s sort of the bigger pop names Rod Stewart. Phil Collins, I there's a lot of Fleetwood Mac, a lot of blues music, my dad was listening to a lot of country music. Yeah, I started starting writing writing songs right away and never was super interested in covers. I've done a few of them over the years, but I was always interested in writing my own and recording my own music. And from just the acoustic guitar and the little cassette recorder, you know, started putting together a band a few years later, we my friend Mitch, who you know, obviously, and we played around four piece rock band for six years. During that time, I was always doing my own music that didn't necessarily fit with the four piece rock structure. I'm doing my own recording, I'm making my own songs. And the current project that I've got now just sort of feels like an extension of evolve those things together, the recording my own songs, the layering, the live performances, it sort of has all come together in this project that I'm doing now. I feel like

Isaac Kuhlman 4:11
Yeah, so I mean, the crazy thing that you're doing is and we'll get into this is essentially like a goddamn mad scientist. Now you got like all these contraptions and stuff and I'm like, yeah, we'll get into that. But, you know, the, the progression of the music, I mean, obviously you spend some time learning the production side of it the audio and engineering side of it. And you know, over the years you know, you just throw stuff out to us we hear and we like every single time was like something totally like different that I you know, you don't you're not used to hearing like, drum tracks and loops and all this other stuff and all sudden, like, this one I worked on I was like, how long did that take you man? This guy like, two years of my life if I try to do that.

Ryan Nelson 4:56
Yeah, I think like I said, since this one Sort of a natural progression out of the other projects I was working on, it didn't. The learning curve on it didn't feel that steep. You know, I started this project in late January of this year. And it came out of, I spent a lot of time in my home studio, tweaking tracks, you know, you'll spend half an hour working on an EQ or something just to get the sound right, weighing all the different tracks down. And after a while, especially during like COVID. And all that I was, I had the urge to make something that can only be performed live, I felt like I was losing a lot of time and creativity to just tweaking settings on my computer screen. It's rewarding in its own way, but I wanted to try something new.

So the current rig that I have designed for live performance is based around a looper pedal, drum machine, synthesizer, and then I do electric guitar and vocals live as well. And it really was just out of the urge of like, you know, sitting down and changing a setting on a plugin is great. And that's what you have to do to ultimately get the result you want. But it does feel like a waste of time, sometimes when you could just focus on the immediacy of a good riff or a good chorus or something and make that more of the focal point than just like, How good can I get each individual track to sound? Yeah. And that was sort of my, the overarching theme of this project was like, when you start writing a song, I don't know how it is when you write a song, but I assume it's similar. Usually starts with the spark of a really good idea, something that that resonates with you like just a really good guitar riff

Isaac Kuhlman 6:49
I never have any good ideas, but I still write the songs anyway.

Ryan Nelson 6:53
You got to start with something, right. And I think it's usually usually just that initial idea that you get that like, light something up in you and you, you recognize it, you go, that's awesome. Oh, and I want to build on that. And sometimes I think if you spend too long building and trying to flesh out a perfect song, you lose a little bit of that initial spark that was exciting to you. Yeah. So and

Isaac Kuhlman 7:14
sometimes you get sick of playing the damn song because you like keep tinkering with it so much. It's

Ryan Nelson 7:18
like, Yeah, exactly. Something that was amazing, when you started now is just sort of flat and dull. And you're going through the motions. That's what I want to avoid with this project is I want to take a riff that sounds good, and then turn that as quickly as possible into a performance and not spend, you know, a year trying to make it perfect. Just this is the riff. This is the, this is the melody, this is something that I enjoyed. You just focus on the, on the best aspects of the song, put that out there and then move on to the next thing.

Isaac Kuhlman 7:46
Yeah, I mean, I feel like I'll come up with like, a good riff. And then I'll destroy it by putting lyrics to it. Or let me put a bass line to this. Oh, that sounds bad. Let me try drums. That's terrible.

Ryan Nelson 7:56
But yeah, you have a 10 second five second riff. And then you have to try to make a three minute song out of it. Yeah. And you're just layering on extra stuff, extending things. And sometimes you lose a little bit of that. Exactly.

Isaac Kuhlman 8:08
So you are actually able to play live shows now. And you kind of have like you said, you have that massive kit behind you. They're built out. And yeah, you can play like 40 different instruments all at once, and then loop it, stop it, you give it more things on command, and even sing over the top of it and play guitar as you're doing it all live. So, you know, why are you trying so hard? Man, Bob Dylan just had a guitar.

Ryan Nelson 8:29
I don't have, you know, I gotta use a little smoke and mirrors to make it interesting. I can't just sit there with an acoustic guitar and sing. Yeah, I think it's, you know, I think that with this project, part of the appeal of it to me is that, since I'm not using anything pre recorded, there's no laptop. It's all just done with a looper pedal and analog instruments. There's something especially as I play more shows, I want to see the reaction that I get back but from the audience that I have had and the feedback I've got, they appreciate the fact that I'm building the song with them in the moment, you know, so it starts with just just a drumbeat. Then I'm going to add synthesizer and, and bass line and guitar and vocals, and in the beginning of it, you don't know what it's going to be at the end just have to layer everything on a little bit at a time. And that's sort of exciting. Because there's the immediacy of it, of like, we're doing this live right now together, you're watching me build this. And also, you get the kind of rush of like, I have to do this right in the moment. It's not pre recorded. If I screw up I screw up and I got to fix it. So

Isaac Kuhlman 9:43
That loop's gonna make everything sound really weird,

Ryan Nelson 9:45
isn't it? Yeah. And, and I've, I've practiced enough to figure out how to recover from those. But you know, all it takes is a 10th of a second of hitting that button at the wrong time. And everything is thrown off and I have to say out ways to fix it or just live with it and hope that nobody notices. Yeah.

Isaac Kuhlman 10:05
So for those that are going to ask, you know, how did you come up with a name Speedway Sleeper, we actually had this conversation via text. But I know people would be like, well, what's that have to do with you? And obviously, it's the project name, right? It's not like you don't have a band. It's

Ryan Nelson 10:18
Right? Yeah.

Isaac Kuhlman 10:19
I mean, there's a million Ryan Nelson's out there.

Ryan Nelson 10:21
Yeah. And that was, you know, most of my music right now is just out there under my name, Ryan Nelson, which is great. It's a it's a good name, it served me well. But, you know,

Isaac Kuhlman 10:34
To this point.

Ryan Nelson 10:35
For better or worse, if you're trying to make something and have it be available to people on the internet, and to have them easily find it and get your name out there. Sometimes you do have to consider like, what a domain name, what domain name is available, what sounds good, what's gonna stick in people's minds. And using just my name, it became, it seemed like a little bit of a challenge to differentiate myself from other music that's available out there. So I wanted something that to me, sounded good, came off the tongue nicely, was evocative of some sort of image and Speedway Sleeper seemed, seemed to fit what I was looking for. It wasn't so specific that I felt like I was trying to put an image into someone's mind, but it's it's vague enough to where people were like, well, what's interesting was, think about that. What does he mean by Speedway Sleeper? Yeah.

Isaac Kuhlman 11:33
And you're like, Nothing? Nothing at all?

Ryan Nelson 11:34
Nothing. No, it's whatever you want it to mean. Just Just find me there.

Isaac Kuhlman 11:38
Yeah, I think there's, I mean, you know, I personally would have really liked to see Rygar the Terrible be the band name, but I

Ryan Nelson 11:46
consider doing something with Rygar I definitely did.

Isaac Kuhlman 11:50
So that's like the, for some reason, way back in the day, like, because Rygar was like a really cheesy arcade game that I for some reason, I was a kid I loved. And for whatever reason, we were drunk and you started calling your Rygar back in your college days. So yeah, I think I would have been funny.

Ryan Nelson 12:07
I tried. I tried. But you know, I don't want to get sued by NES.

Isaac Kuhlman 12:10
Yeah. Like, no, we still got patents and trademarks. And

Ryan Nelson 12:16
you can't just use that.

Isaac Kuhlman 12:18
Like, oh, I'm not Mickey Mouse Man, I can just call myself. Alright, so I kind of want to get a little technical here, because, you know, part of this podcast isn't just talking about music and everything. But it's also like, you know, digging into the pains and the challenges and what grows and how you have to deal with stuff. So, you know, as far as the production side, you still record this stuff, and you actually have a pretty sweet recording area. So kind of when you're producing this, though, you know, put it out for everybody else, what kind of things are you still getting challenges from or what did you have to overcome and you know, because you know, there's always going to be somebody listening, going, you know, I'd like to get some more insights about how I can do this more myself, and how I can actually sound more professional. So like, maybe you've had some issues or challenges that kind of, you can talk about and how you solve those, or how you try to solve them. That way, somebody else might get some, you know, tips out of that.

Ryan Nelson 13:09
So I think on the production side, we can maybe set this current project right now aside a little bit just because it is more designed for live, like you said, I am still sort of doing putting some videos out, I have a YouTube channel that has a bunch of videos on it. And the recording for this has been fairly easy. Because I run everything through a mixer that's kind of like the brains of my operation here. And from a mixer, I can just run a USB out, it's already mixed down to two channels, you hit record, run it into my software, maybe throw some compression or a limiter or something on it, keep it super simple. And then I'm good. As far as what what I'm looking for out of it. I'm good there.

But as far as my other other musical projects have gone, where I have spent more time on the production side of it. I think the most important thing is to figure out what you're trying to accomplish with a project. Now, if you're trying to, you know, mix songs and master songs and produce something that is like radio caliber, of what you're hearing out there from the big name producers, I think that's going to be a little bit different of a road that you're going to follow than if you're making music that you want it to sound good, but mostly you you want it to just convey whatever message you're trying to put out there. You're not necessarily trying to make it sound like someone else you just like, this is what I have to offer. And this is what it sounds like. And these are my skills that I have, most importantly, you know, you want to work towards getting better and better all the time. But I think it's important not to get lost in like I was saying tweaking the EQ for 45 minutes, because you it's just not sounding exactly right. Yeah, there's no place for that. But I do think it robs from your creative flow quite a bit if you if you don't keep that in. Check. Some of the stuff that I've some of the stuff that I have incorporated into all my music, I think is you obviously want the, you want a balance between volume and dynamics in music. And you hear that a lot like with no sort of over now, but like the loudness wars where everything was super squashed and compressed.

Isaac Kuhlman 15:28
Yeah, for people that don't know what you're talking about, it's essentially like, you take the take the file, and basically just raise the volume in mastering or, you know, in the mix down. And it's like, well, that's not the volume I recorded that. But now it's going to be the volume that it's played back at. Right.

Right. And, and a lot of the sad fact of any audio is that louder sounds better. It just does. It always does even at the cost of dynamics where you want quiet parts, and you want subtlety, and you want layers that are real nuanced, but you lose that when you try to get that volume, because everything has to get squashed down into a tiny space. So for me, since Obviously, I'm not I'm not trying to record Radio Artists, I'm not, you know, I'm just doing everything in a bedroom here. I wanted to preserve as much of the dynamics as I could and have those subtle layers. So from a technical technical standpoint, I just feel like trying to convey what it is that your songs, the message of your songs and not get too lost in the the final polished product. It's pretty important.

And see, that's what everybody who talks about production, mixing and mastering says, and I'm like, but I just want it to be fucking loud.

Ryan Nelson 16:38
Louder sounds better. I mean, it really does.

Isaac Kuhlman 16:42
It's like, when I'm going through my playlist, and all of a sudden, I hear my music. And it's like, I have to turn it up my pain in the ass right now. Yeah, it sounds better. It's just like, Oh, God, I have to turn the volume up now.

Ryan Nelson 16:53
Yeah. And I think some of that is changing, too, with streaming services. Because as I started to put stuff up on Spotify, and even YouTube, or to a certain degree, they have their own, like, loudness, algorithms. So I think that's sort of even the playing field a little bit too. Like I threw a bunch of music up on Spotify and it. And listening to it next to other commercially produced albums, the volume is pretty close. It does, like it does help the small time guy a lot get on the level with the big producers.

Isaac Kuhlman 17:26
So I'm assuming that Spotify probably thought about that and said, you know, we want everything to kind of sound professional. So yeah, help them out

Ryan Nelson 17:34
Yeah, yeah. So I think it's a little less important than it used to be. Obviously, it's still important, but not like it was before. Before the digital streaming times.

Isaac Kuhlman 17:43
So let's talk about some other stuff that you kind of do as far as the production but live and in general, just with like, you know, you don't, you're not a drummer. I play drums. But I'm not exactly the world's greatest drummer. I have some skills, but I would say it's serviceable at best. Yeah. So when you use drums, drum tracks, like, how do you? How did you start doing that? You know, what were you using? How did you actually decide like this is, you know, just the way that I want to go? Because obviously keeps time better than a human?

Ryan Nelson 18:12
Yeah. Yeah, not a drummer at all, can't really hold my own on a drum kit. But I think some of the, probably the main artists that got me into doing my style of songwriting, and using a drum machine was the, the earlier John Frusciante solo albums. Because I feel like he had a pretty big influence on a lot of the stuff that I was doing for a long time. And I liked his use of drum machines that weren't. They weren't trying to apologize for being drum machines, which I think is a trap that some people fall into when they're not drummers and they use drum machines as just a replacement, or like a placeholder.

Yeah, for a drummer, when they can totally be their own thing. And you don't have to apologize for using a drum machine, especially now it doesn't have like, the stigma that maybe it did at other times. But I think as far as the the rhythm tracks go, I do spend a lot of time listening to drumming styles, even though I'm not a drummer myself, and just trying to hear how the different elements interact. I think that's something that when you are multi instrumentalist, you're trying to do all these things that may or may not be in your skill set. The least you can do is listen to somebody that knows what they're doing and try to pick out the individual elements of it. So like hit listen to how they hit the high hat interacts with the snare, how the snare the kick, interact together. You know, just really basic stuff that even if you're not, that you can't play that instrument, you can at least understand musically, what is happening and recreate that In another way,

Isaac Kuhlman 20:01
And a lot of times when you're dealing with like a drum drum track, it's a lot of math, right? So it's like, okay, on the one here, hit this on the two here, 3, 3, 4, or whatever. Like, it's, it's really like building a formula out from sound.

Ryan Nelson 20:13
Yeah, there's different different styles too. I mean, I've been listening to really late to the party, but I've listened to a lot of Squarepusher recently, that if you're familiar with him, electronic artists, but the main thing that he does, which I find it really interesting that like, try myself is, instead of the drum machine being the background instrument that supports the other instruments, it's actually the primary instrument. So it's like a lot of weird poly rhythms, and is actually the lead instrument like, basically, you're hearing drum machine solo for five minutes with other instruments supporting it, not quite ready to try something like that. But having the drum machine like you're saying, it keeps, it takes one other thing off your plate in terms of what you have to worry about, especially in a live looping scenario where you don't have to worry about the time slipping at all. Yeah. In my case, the drum machine that I use, if you want to talk technically, in my rig, I wish that I could kind of show you what I got going on here. But the drum machine is connected to everything else and controls the MIDI clock of everything else. So it controls the tempo of the looper and the tempo of synthesizer any sort of arpeggios or anything I have on the synthesizer. So if I have, let's say my drum machine is playing 80 BPM, that simple clock is going to every other device I have to keep it locked in place, which you know, now I know I have, I can take that off my plate and I can focus on not screwing up the guitar line that I inevitably will screw up.

Isaac Kuhlman 21:49
Human fingers suck. Just need, robot robot hands and arms and yes, legs and brains. Yeah.

Ryan Nelson 21:57
Then I can just stand there and hit play. Yeah.

Isaac Kuhlman 22:00
So let's talk about the rig. I mean, obviously, you got it behind you there. What kind of gear are you using? I mean, a lot of people. Like there's a lot of gearheads that might listen to this show and be like, Oh, you know, what kind of pedals were kind of looping station you might have and it's it's pretty intense, while obviously have some links to the videos and stuff so people can see it, which is, it's a marvel. I'm just like, what the hell am I looking at? Like, I can't believe you could actually pack that thing up. But I mean, it looks like it's portable. It just looks intense compared to like, oh, here's my guitar. Let me go.

Ryan Nelson 22:28
Right. Yeah. And that was kind of from the beginning of this. I was like, well, I need to make this portable. This is going to be designed for live and it needs to be quickly put up and tore down if I'm gigging you know, so everything essentially fits into two big like plastic. They're, they're like a, like a road case. But they're just a plastic clamshell sort of case of foam in it that holds everything. So like I said, the the, the heart of everything is the drum machine, which is a Arturia Drumbrute Impact, just a cheap, like 300 bucks. Analog drum machine doesn't use any samples or anything. So that sets the tempo for everything. And I have all my patterns pre programmed, because obviously, if I was building a drum machine live, we're talking 30 minutes for one song. So what I'm not going to do that but patterns, the patterns,

Isaac Kuhlman 23:24
There is some pre recording, but yeah,

Ryan Nelson 23:26
Drum patterns. Yes. So the drum machine is the only thing that doesn't run well. I guess the vocals don't run through the looper either. But the drum machine runs straight into a mixer, but controls the tempo of everything else. I have. The looper pedal, which has my guitar and synthesizer running through it is a What is that? It's a it's a Boss RC 500 basically two, excuse me, two independent looper loop tracks that I can use. Instead of just having one track where you're building all your layers, just on one thing, and you have no alternative to go to this has two. So I can essentially build like a chorus and a verse independently. And by hitting the solo and mute buttons on the mixer. I can switch between them. So they're always playing together, but they're running into separate channels on the mixer.

Isaac Kuhlman 24:24
And obviously they play even when you're not hearing it, but right it's going in the background. Yeah, yes. In the mute, right.

Ryan Nelson 24:31
Yeah. And so I have my electric guitar running through a stereo delay pedal, and my cord monolog mono synthesizer also running through the same delay pedal. So a lot of the sound that you're hearing on this project is it's, it's just it's delay. That's really the only effect that I use that in a little bit of guitar tone, because I don't use an amp. I run everything. live to the mixer. So I have a preamp pedal from Tech 21 great little guitar pedal that I use, but delay and that preamp pedal was really the only thing for my guitar tone. And then a couple effects that are in the mixer for the vocals. In terms of the vocals, I do have a I have a TC Helicon Duplicator pedal that has good reverb, and it does a little bit of real time pitch shifting in it because I'm not the world's greatest singer. So it kind of helps you.

Isaac Kuhlman 25:28
I was gonna say what kind of what kind of auto tune you got? Because,

Ryan Nelson 25:31
Yeah, it's true. I do. Yeah, everything packs down into a couple cases. I played a show last weekend. And that was the first time playing out of the house with this project. And I was curious to see how long it was gonna take me to set everything up and tear it down. Because it is a lot of wires. I mean, like you said, you post some videos and you'll see it's a lot of stuff running everywhere. But I have everything labeled. It's pretty efficient. took me about 25 minutes to set up that about that to tear it out. Which is I mean, that's what it would take a three piece band. Yeah, exactly.

Isaac Kuhlman 26:06
I mean, drums alone take I mean, then you got to soundcheck it all at least. Right? You don't really have to soundcheck right, you just got to get the volumes. Like Yeah, out of the PA right, basically.

Ryan Nelson 26:15
Yep. Yeah, everything is running through mixer. So I'm doing my own sound essentially, if have any issues. There's the knobs right there.

Isaac Kuhlman 26:21
Yeah. Cool. So I kind of am curious, because we've known each other for a long time. Obviously, we've had, you know, totally different musical paths in the sense that like, I kind of stopped playing for like, eight years, just because I was like, nobody down here in Las Vegas wants to play, poor me. But, you know, you kept going and I kept doing stuff. But it wasn't a such a slow speed. So like, I was curious, like, you know, over the course of the last 20 years or so, literally like 20 years, since we've known each other? What what kind of, you know, what's kind of kept you going and, you know, when you get everybody all, you know, hobby musicians, or even semi professional musicians are going to have periods where they like, just kind of stop or don't do it as actively. So what kind of got you back into it? And what kind of pushes you through those times?

Ryan Nelson 27:14
I feel like, I mean, it's more than anything, it's probably a it is a fear on my part of, of having the day to day. You know, just work responsibilities, things like that. I don't want to ever let that be all that I have, you know, I do feel like there's a lot of people that if they don't have some sort of creative outlet, they stop growing, in a sense. I think for me, during the periods where I have, you know, really slacked on making music and I'm not writing I'm not doing anything musically, I, I feel worse, I feel like I'm not accomplishing what I should be, even though I'm like, I'm super small time no one, ultimately, you know, is depending on me to make any music, I could easily stop, and that would be fine.

But for me, I say it gives me a little more meaning to life than just like, you know, the normal, get up pay bills, go to work, do that sort of stuff, it makes me feel like I'm actually accomplishing something that's a little bit greater than just the day to day. So trying to keep engaged in putting out music. Even if it's just, you know, record a song that I feel like, is good and put it out on a YouTube channel just to make it available for for people I've always wanted, like, people like when I've talked about making music with people, and they've asked me like, you know, what is it that you get out of it? Or what is it that you enjoy most about it? I think kind of the answer that I've I've settled on is I remember listening to those bands. Like when you're, let's say 15 to 25. Let's say that, that's when you really find in those bands and resonate with you and probably are going to stick with you for the rest of your life. Right. That's a real formative time. I remember listening to those songs, some of those bands that I heard the song for the first time. And if I could, even if it only happens once, even if I can write one song that someone out there finds it and they get that same feeling that I got when I was, let's say 18 listening to like the first Modest Mouse record or something like that, like just something that really resonates with you. I can do that just once just a little bit. And that's totally worth it to me. Just

Isaac Kuhlman 29:38
Well, mission accomplished, because I freaking love the Birds Love Filters album.

Ryan Nelson 29:41
That's awesome. I put it on once in a while too.

Isaac Kuhlman 29:47
Yeah, I mean, I listened to the other stuff that you have to but it's not like in like a like a playlist that I have yet because I don't know from like other software like you know, go to YouTube and listen to it. But yeah, yeah, well and then obviously The Joe rap song that we

Ryan Nelson 30:03
we got a lot of like a lot of bloopers and outtakes from those days haven't like, we had practice studios over the years and the different houses we lived in with little recorder. So hard disk recorders and stuff set up. And there's so many so many songs that are somewhere on a hard drive that probably should stay on a hard drive. But there's a lot of stuff out there that we've recorded.

Isaac Kuhlman 30:26
Yeah, exactly. And and yeah, I mean, I always tell people like, Oh, you got your musician, you got music thing. Listen to my guy. You can but you're probably not gonna like it because I seem to be the only one.

Ryan Nelson 30:38
That's okay. That's great.

Isaac Kuhlman 30:41
Like, sometimes the production's the issue, sometimes Yeah, I just, I just, it doesn't sound whatever. But I still like it. I still listen to it.

Ryan Nelson 30:49
Yeah. I mean, that's ultimately all it really matters, right? Yeah. If you like feel a sense of accomplishment, because you created something just like painting or drawing or anything like that.

Isaac Kuhlman 31:02
Cool. So some techniques. Now, this could be guitar playing, vocal melody, whatever. You know, whatever you want to talk about, even the fact that you can now play, you know, a little bit of the piano and synthesizer stuff, because, I mean, we can all probably figure it out when we do it. It's just like, it takes time to get it to where you can play it and do it the same way. Right. I mean, be consistent. But like, were there any techniques in playing that you like? You just couldn't get over until you like something unlocked that for you? I know. For me, it was like, you know, just figuring out like, a pentatonic scale on the guitar is like, Oh, I can play lead on practically every frickin song. Like, yeah, what the heck, like that just blew my mind. And I was like, I stopped remember the lead, but at least I can now play a lead solo on something, right? Yeah.

Ryan Nelson 31:48
I think, for me in terms of like building, building songs that are close to what my concept of them was when I started, like, you always start with an idea. And you're like, this is what I wanted to sound like when it's done. And then here's what it sounds like. Actually, when it's done, it's not usually the same thing. Yeah. In terms of trying to get close to that vision, just learning. Learning to play different instruments has been probably the most helpful thing for me because I started out just playing guitar. And then once we started getting going with the band and playing shows, obviously, I'm singing or writing songs at that point, too. But since then, since I've kind of stepped back in and started to build songs from scratch myself, I've had to learn is that out of necessity, how to write a bass line how a drum machine works. You know how to do production and how to make things sound the way you want. And like, just getting my hands on a lot of different things, instead of being narrowly focused on guitars really helped me to like, accomplish what I want. And for me, pretty limited. Music Theory now is like pretty limited. I, I really need to like step up my game, but

Isaac Kuhlman 33:04
This sounds good. What is it? Oh, this is an A Oh, yeah.

Ryan Nelson 33:08
But for me, like repetition is super key in making it sound like I know what I'm doing. Because I can figure out a guitar line with enough time repetition and make it sound like I came up with it on the fly. But getting ready for playing out with this project. I've been running my set, probably on average, at least once a day. Sometimes twice a day running through the entire set just that muscle memory, I think is like don't ever discount muscle memory. I think that's key.

Isaac Kuhlman 33:48
And people don't want to do is practice. Yeah, just want to be good. On the

Ryan Nelson 33:52
Right. I started why I don't have a choice though. I have to practice. Yeah, I think I think expanding whatever your palette is that you work with, if you're a guitar player, learn how to play bass a little bit. Try to sit behind a drum kit, try to play with a synthesizer and a drum machine, or, you know, a banjo, just anything, try to try to expand your knowledge a little bit. You want to be great at anything, but it'll help you like in all aspects of production and making so I think that's super important.

Isaac Kuhlman 34:19
Yeah, and I think you know, obviously, understanding guitar helps you with the bass, but you have to learn bass in separate concepts as guitar because there's there's different kinds of ways to play the bass guitar, obviously. But if you can add something, like elevating to your music by having a bass line in there, which it usually does, it could even be a simple baseline as long as it plays how you want it to sound. It changes the dynamic of the song from like this kind of, you know, singer songwriter thing to professional sounding In my opinion, a lot of ways.

Ryan Nelson 34:53
Yeah, I think that what bass playing for me at least teaches you about guitar playing music in general, I guess, it teaches you the importance of the space between notes. Because a lot of times with a guitar playing, especially rhythm playing, you try to fill a lot of space, you know, just non stop sound, but bass to make a good bass line, you need a lot of space and you need texture, and you need something that's going to grab your ear here, but maybe that only happens once or twice during the song. Yeah, yeah. So you have to really learn to interplay between different instruments and not just play all the time. So, you know

Isaac Kuhlman 35:29
And the really good thing I think about understanding a good baseline is like, you know, the bass line comes in there, like what I've actually done a lot of times isn't, you know, I'll write the guitar, play the whole song, I'll record it. And like, that sounds pretty good. I go in and and play the bass. And I'll start fiddling around, get a bass line in there. And I'm like, I'll do some starts and stops. And then I'm like, hold on, I can actually change the rhythm of guitar now, to make it actually kind of fill with this better. Yeah, changes the song completely and makes it sound awesome. And I'm like, Yes, I should have thought about in the first place on a guitar, but you don't do it until you get to the other instrument.

Ryan Nelson 35:59
Yep, exactly. Yep. It teaches you It teaches you different ways to compose a song like the more I, for a while there, I was writing music just, I was composing it first on the bass, which is interesting for me, because obviously, being guitar player, that's how I wrote everything was just chords. Yeah. And then learning how to start a song on the bass taught me to be a better guitar player. And actually, with this project that I'm doing now, it's something that you know, is that I've almost always played rhythm guitar, not really playing any rhythm guitar in this at all, this is all just texture and sort of hooks and lead lines and stuff. Yeah, that's, that's been, it's been a nice change for me to be able to just like, say, I need a little guitar here. And that's it, and not try to fill a bunch of space with with strumming.

Isaac Kuhlman 36:48
Yeah. So I was gonna ask you, we were talking about obviously, you playing like the arpeggios and stuff like that, you know, live. And you practice that, you know, obviously, I think practice is the only way to actually get good at an instrument. I think anybody who thinks that they, there's people that have natural ability, I don't think natural ability is a thing with music, like, you have a natural inclination to want to play it around to practice more like that is the natural inclination. It's not, hey, I'm just naturally good at this. You it's not I've never seen that happen with anybody I've ever met.

Ryan Nelson 37:19
That I agree with that. I've had people tell me like, Oh, I wish I like, I wish I had talent for playing an instrument or something like that. I like that. I don't think that's the thing. I think you you just do it, you want to do it. And then you sit down for hours and hours and hours, and then you eventually get okay at it. Now.

Isaac Kuhlman 37:36
Know how much you play Mario Kart? Yeah, you could have put that into a musical instrument instead.

Ryan Nelson 37:40
Exactly. That's just to me. Yeah, I think it's I think it's repetition, muscle memory. And the only part of talent I think that plays into it is like you said, you just that gives you the drive to want to do it in the first place. And the desire to get better at it. But yeah, naturally. I mean, who just picks up a guitar is naturally good at it. I've never seen it. I don't know.

Isaac Kuhlman 38:06
I will say that, you know, obviously, we're talking about practicing and, and you're like, you know, I have to practice these these guitar parts and stuff. So is it kind of like your biggest fear that like the crowd turns on us, like, playing a fucking solo?

Ryan Nelson 38:22
The amount of anxiety that I had, especially before like this last show, because I hadn't played out since back when Mitch, our friend Mitch and I were still playing together was almost a decade. So it had been almost no

Isaac Kuhlman 38:36
Alpine Empire?

Ryan Nelson 38:37
Yeah, that was the last show that I played back in Eugene. And, yeah, since I, I feel like the only failsafe thing is to just build every riff into muscle memory. And then I just have to, it is a fear of mine. Like, you know, it feels like when you're playing a show, and like things start to go off the rails. Yeah. It's a horrible feeling. So if you'd like equip yourself as good as best you can to be able to not let that happen. One and two, if it does happen, get back on track. And, you know, the less you have to think about things in a live setting, the better, right? I mean, if you're thinking like, Okay, well, this part comes next, I need to play this in play this like, that is energy that you could be used, that could be used on your performance, maybe I'm putting on a good show, unless you're thinking about the music, the more your hands are just doing what you've trained them to do, the better I think repetition is, is the only thing that gets me through a sort of live performance.

Isaac Kuhlman 39:35
Yeah. And it's funny because, like, mentioning, like, things going off the rails. I was drumming in a band for a couple years, called Two Eyed Cyclops, which clever name came up with that, but I was playing drums in that band, and we played a show. And I was using an electric drum kit and we were playing a little coffee shop. So like I couldn't fit a full drum set in there probably if I wanted to, but I didn't think in my head. I was like, Oh, well. Normally bring a drum rug so stuff doesn't slide and move around. But I think it's electric kit. It's not a big deal. Well, that was a fucking dumb idea because my, my actual kit started sliding away from me falling apart while playing the show. So I'm like having to stop and pull it back together and piece it back and then play it one hand and put

Ryan Nelson 40:18
Your kick drum is just getting further and further away he to

Isaac Kuhlman 40:22
Yeah, so anybody who plays electric drums live, definitely get a drum roll and don't let it move you move away from me.

Ryan Nelson 40:28
Yeah, that's, I mean, you see that like watching bands in bars, right? Like if they have that issue, you'll see all sorts of weird shit stacked in front of the kick drum. I've seen bricks guitar cases ampss get set in front of the kick drum.

Isaac Kuhlman 40:42
All the all the guitar cases and stuff. Yeah. Yeah. Cool. So I think that's pretty much it. You have anything else? I mean, we'll obviously add some links to the music and stuff in the show notes below the episode but you have anything you want to mention or anything you'd like to say to the fans that haven't heard you yet?

Ryan Nelson 40:58
Um, no. I mean, yeah, check out whatever links we've got here. Speedway Sleeper, Instagram, YouTube,, I'm building it out right now. There is a good amount of content out there, but there will be more. And yes, check it out. Find me drop me a line. And there'll be lots more music coming hopefully wherever we get back to normal times of bands performing live and there not being any weirdness. Hopefully I will be out live moving around the country

Isaac Kuhlman 41:26
Well, you got a place to stay in Las Vegas. So, you're good there.

Ryan Nelson: 41:30
Awesome. I love it. Thank you

Isaac Kuhlman 41:33
And yeah, I want to thank you Ryan from from Speedway sleeper for the awesome conversation today. And if you haven't checked out his music while it's never too late, check out the show notes below for the links. And if you're in the vicinity of Bend, Oregon, go see this dude live to see exactly what you're missing. If you liked what you heard on the show, please make sure to subscribe to the podcast and share it with your friends on social media. Also, if you want to check out some of our written content or any of the products or mmorts that we have available, go to to check out their absolutely free rocking blog, where we have album reviews, interviews, and other lists that keep you entertained as well as our gear that you can buy to play and look like a rock legend. That's our show for today. We'll see you for the next episode. Until then rock on.

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