The Bourne supremacy

After two years Ryan Bourne finally unleashes solo debut

Ryan Bourne fondly remembers mining the Calgary Public Library’s vinyl collection. The young guitarist bonded musically with his younger brother keyboardist Darren by playing along to ’60s classics “jamming on whatever we could figure out” he says. The brothers would later form Interstellar Root Cellar one of the dominant bands in Calgary’s ’90s bar scene. They had a good run at it before going their separate ways. Darren hooked up with local party favourites Mocking Shadows to make a living playing classic R&B and funk for corporate shindigs. Ryan followed his muse. “I just have too much music in me” he explains. “I’m really curious and I really love experimental music psychedelic music.”

Like many artists Bourne is a tad uncomfortable discussing this muse and his writing process although he admits that a lot of the songs on his long time-coming debut Supermodern World of Beauty were inspired by good old-fashioned pain and heartbreak. The time in which the album was written “was sort of a difficult period emotionally but there was also the positive side of countering the crushing defeat with a kind of defiant optimism” Bourne explains. “Even though it ripped my heart out I look back on it kind of fondly. There’s something about life teaching you that.”

After a long apprenticeship and incubation period Bourne set about turning a stack of great songs into a great album. Happily Supermodern World of Beauty is just that. Opener “Calling From Beyond” sets the mood with a serious ’60s vibe channelling Harry Nilsson and reinforcing the retro element with a classic horn section but from there the album quickly edges away into more cosmopolitan and more personal territory. There’s a delicate balancing of modern and retro sounds and styles with pop psychedelic and experimental elements rendered deliciously palatable by standout musicianship and seamless arrangements.

Bourne is not the least bit uncomfortable describing the recording process and offering effusive praise for Supermodern’s producer musical mad scientist Jay Crocker. Bourne and Crocker had been acquaintances since their teenage years. “Jay approached me at a show and said that he thought I needed to be recorded more raw and more psychedelic and that was exactly how I felt” Bourne says.

Somewhat surprisingly this was Crocker’s first full-on production and it came together in just two weeks of long days and intense work.

“He’s not the least bit pretentious or egotistical about his talent” Bourne says of Crocker. “If he’s really passionate about a project he will work his ass off and he will draw the best out of you. He kicked my ass sometimes just to get me to do the best I could do. It was like just descending into creative madness. It was beautiful and I really needed that. I realized I hadn’t experienced that since I was doing a lot of four-track recordings by myself.”

Crocker took some of the ideas sketched out in Bourne’s old demos and took them “way beyond that.” But even with the progress they were making money considerations forced Bourne to delay the finished product’s release by two years. Was it hard to sit on it that long? “Yes!” says Bourne with enormous emphasis.

It may have been worth the wait though. With help from Calgary’s Saved By Radio Supermodern is now available on disc download and yes glorious slabs of vinyl.

Perhaps one day in the future when CDs have gone the way of the dodo a couple of young siblings will discover the LP and begin their own musical apprenticeship playing along. In a way things have come full circle for Bourne with the new album bringing back the days of listening to records at his parents’ house: “The records are at my mom’s house actually because I don’t have room to store them.”