12 QUESTIONS WITH RYAN SMITH

Can you give us a brief history of your playing career?
I started playing guitar in 8th grade and became obsessed immediately. Since the late 90’s, my main project has been writing, playing guitar, and singing for indie-rock group The Melismatics. I’ve played with many groups and musicians over the years including Mark Mallman, Phil Solem (of The Rembrandts), Grant Hart (of Husker Du), and All Star United amongst others. I also am a guitar teacher in St Paul/Minneapolis.

What inspired you to start playing guitar?
Listening to my dad’s classic rock albums like The Beatles and Bob Dylan really got me excited as a very young kid about playing guitar. As soon as I heard The album “Rubber Soul” I was mesmerized and infatuated. I pretty much lived right in front of my parents’ stereo speakers where I took in mind-altering sounds.

What was your first electric guitar?
My first electric guitar was a Fender Squire Bullet which I didn’t actually own. It was a rental that came with a crash course in guitar at Schmidt’s Music.

What are your top 5 favorite records?
This is too hard, so I’m going to cheat a little:

The Beatles “Revolver”/ “Let It Be”
The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”/ “Smile” (Brian Wilson’s finished version)
Radiohead “OK Computer”/”The Bends”
The Arcade Fire “Funerals”
Joy Division/New Order “Substance”
Husker Du “Zen Arcade”

What was the proudest moment and/or performance of your playing career?
Playing Lollapalooza in 2008 was up there with one of the coolest performances that comes to mind. The whole experience was surreal to say the least. As far as proud moments, having people I respect like Brian Setzer, John Fields (producer of Jimmy Eat World, Switchfoot, Rooney, The Jonas Brothers etc), Zachary Vex of ZVex Effects, Ed Ackerson (Polara, The Jayhawks, Golden Smog),and many other very kind-hearted and talented individuals all take notice of the band and get involved with helping us along.

How did you hear about Reverend?
I had heard of Reverend from people I know that work at and run guitar shops, but we connected with Reverend personally at a show in Toledo, OH. We played the guitars before the show, and we were instant fans.

What Reverend guitar(s) are you using?
I am playing a black Gil, and Pony (the Melismatics’ other guitarist/singer) plays the black Roundhouse. I used to have a black Jet HB which I loved, but it was unfortunately stolen. If anyone finds it, let me know.

What do you like about your Reverend guitar?
I absolutely love my Reverend, and I can’t emphasize that enough! I like the way it sounds, looks, and feels. The Gil is very versatile. They play in tune consistently, and that is a huge attribute. The whole band is excited about that. The tone is killer as well.

What amps and pedals do you currently use?
I play through a Marshall JMP, from the mid-70’s. I am a big fan of ZVex Effects as well. I use the Box of Rock and the Fuzz Probe. The Fuzz Probe creates some other-worldly sounds. I also like to use an old Digitech pedal called The Space Station in the studio.

Do you have any unusual hobbies, skills, or pastimes you’d like to share with us?
In junior high I was a robot hobbyist. I designed and built several robots, and someday when I have time to devote to a hobby again I’ll get back into it. I also love reading, running, and I have an infatuation with old radio programs. I love the idea of people coming together around sound alone.

Do you have any advice for up and coming players?
It sounds cliche, but play because you love it. Find your own sound; don’t try to emulate one guitarist or band. Learn about many different types of music, because new things come from different combinations of elements from the past.

Please tell us about any of your current projects, tours, cds, etc. we should know about:
The Melismatics are touring in support of our most recent release, “The Acid Test.” The music video for the track “Digging Deep” was just released, and we are very excited about that. We are also about to record our our 5th album. Our sound is always evolving with each project, and this next album will be no exception.

I’ve also recently begun writing music for media placements and companies, most recently for NASCAR with collaborator Mark Mallman. I am really enjoying that as well.