Inspiration with Ryan Clark


Mastering Metal Songwriting


Lesson Info

Inspiration with Ryan Clark

We have another guest with us in the studio this guy's from seattle from a famous band and a really talented musician and graphic designer actually I got to check out some of his graphic design work and it's pretty pretty amazing stuff he's he's really talented didn't we're excited to have him here his name's ryan how you doing? Ryan? Thanks for having me yeah, absolutely so I'd love to hear just a little bit about like you're back on maybe how you started give us like the elevator pitch of like how you started in music where you're at now as a working musician because I know there's a lot of people at home that are trying to figure out to make a living music um I'm thirty five years old this year I grew up in california for the most part oregon and california uh my parents were fairly musical, so there was you know, my dad played guitar my mom saying so there was always kind of music happening in the house. My brother and I were very interested in our visual art our whole lives grandf...

ather was an artist for nasa for twenty eight years and so a lot of that kind of just got passed down to us we're on the time I was thirteen fourteen got real into skateboarding skateboarding kind of segue wade into punk rock and hardcore like it usually does kind of left the skateboard for the guitar. Um, learn guitar for a while, both through my dad and through cem. You know, more regular guitar classes starting out like fourteen. You started playing about fourteen. Yeah, andi, about as good as I right now, as I was when I was, like, fifteen or sixteen that's, kind of where that where the action stopped and yeah, it just kind of dove head first into the music scene, you know, back pre internet. It was all about just like d I y finding out bands from friends or from the thanks list of albums that you buy or whatever, you know, word of mouth. So it was a really exciting time to be in the music on dh to be into a scene that kind of felt like it was in your pocket. So the hardcore scene is kind of like where we're born and bred. Um, I signed my first record contract at with my parents help when I was fifteen years old. First us tour was when I was seventeen. That was the focal point that band broke up shortly after that us two are I think none of us were really ready for what that world wass at the time I started a band shortly after with my brother who would started playing music a little after me? Who's actually is four years older than I am but he started little later than I did called training for utopia we put out two mps into full lengths over the course of about four years um that ended kind of gradually ended towards about nineteen, ninety nine two thousand when both of us moved up here from the sacramento area to here focus a little more on graphic design and our careers and that visual arts field which we still do to this day he and I worked together with a company called invisible creature which is just the two of us to do a lot of music packaging and um anything and everything really a lot of illustration toys you name it and ah rad stuff so it's invisible creature dot com invisible creature dot com we started in the music industry so we've done, you know, five, six hundred album packages over the course of the last twelve years and then branched off into mohr kind of corporate clients and some different kinds of projects. Um but I've been doing the band kind of all at the same time my brother was in the band with me the newest band demon hunter which we started about a year after we moved here he was in the band with me and we started together hey quit in two thousand eight he's got three kids and he kind of runs the business so just got to be a little too daunting for him I'm married but I don't have kids so it was a little easier for me to juggle the two things which I still do and we're about we are seven records in a tte this point and so yeah it's been going about twelve years just released our newest record there's just this past april so awesome so cool I'm always interested to hear how family members work together and continue to work together in a really professional like at a high level of look, I grew up in a family band too so you can't win their family members you can't just fire yeah, I mean it's not like you can fire him and hire a new guitar player or whatever so yeah, it was it was great, you know? It was like a very it wasn't weird when he left the band you know, it was kind of understood and he's, you know, our biggest fan on the sidelines at this point, but yeah, it's kind of gave me maura the reins in terms of the song writing and stuff like that which I didn't mind you know, I like kind of working in a bit of a vacuum and just kind of being in my head so um yeah works suite it's awesome or we're really glad you're here thanks for being here you're going to do some plan a little bit of talking mostly just talking honestly talking yeah, okay. Awesome now well let's uh let's get right into it. You ready? Yeah. Something interesting about demon hunter and I just wanted to throw in is, uh appropriate for this class but I think it's kind of odd these days to be able to tour that little and still like retain status and I think has to do with the fact that the band's really song oriented and songs you know, songs stick around so you know, someone get into songs you can on ly tour once a year and they still go see you like a lot of you know, the cooler european bands don't come around too often really great music people will still go see them and I realized that geography has something to do with that but it's also the fact that their music comes first and so people will stick around whereas you get a lot of ah a lot of trendy your bands that don't really pay attention of their songs and that to keep touring relentlessly to secure people's attention up so you know, somewhat relevant teo the whole seventy that this class is about ryan's a perfect example of what happens if you actually focus on writing good songs you know, it's a tourist much which is actually kind of cool we kind of figured out a different method right off the bat kind of out of necessity because none of us wanted it to her full time, which ended up working in our favor because we were you know, we would hit you know, whatever city you were in like maybe once every two years so it became more of an event and the people that were going to come out to the shows would make a point of coming out if we were you know, not going to be around for another two years, so it kind of worked in our favor that's incredibly rare it's almost unheard of a thank for eli's for american band see that well, actually you guys don't talk very much either yeah, which is really cool I think smart bands do it like that there's no reason the tour for nine months this's not in my blood I like it in short spurts I don't think I could ever swing it like some people do yeah, I don't like it either, so with that let's talk of ah songs and just give you guys quick intro and then we'll get right into it one of the main things that were going to talk about is something that we touched on earlier but we're going to take it even further how to take influence from other music without actually stealing I think plagiarizing is where the bad thing tune we're going to get into the difference it to end influence and actually straight up plagiarizing and there's a specific things you khun do teo not go down that road and one thing that's really cool about demon hunter are all the hooks is hooks for days and uh we'll talk about how to specifically identify those and try to create your own whether or not you'll be successful not really within the scope of this class but well at least identify what what makes a hook and we will talk some more about transitions because that's what you guys in the world of the internet said you suck it the most so because they're you know who ryan is and let's talk of a demon hunter song writing philosophy you were kind of saying to me earlier that it's all about basically walking a line between going way too far into nickelback territory or ah way too far the other way into being just inaccessible that this is something that kind of is like in the back of my mind almost as a subconscious thing when I write whether it's the music or the lyrics and it's really nothing to do with my my taste and what I like to listen to because I listen to a weird abstract stuff and I listen to really well people would consider corny cheesy pop music but where I find demon hunter is somewhere in the middle and so I'm always trying to kind of find that gray area of um definitely has a hook definitely is catchy but also has some kind of like dark melancholy sound to it doesn't go too far into the kind of um poppy uplifting sounding chords and structures and things like that but it also doesn't dive too far into kind of the the atmospheric kind of ethereal sounding kind of art more artistic sending stuff and I just know that's not where we fit in well, I guess uh every song is different obviously and unique but uh just basically if I'm just wondering just as a matter of like sorry in philosophy if you find that you have a song just in general I realize this doesn't apply every time that you have a song that happens to fall too far to one side and in the album right process what's your go to move, ditch it or refine it or does it just visually a specific I would say usually ditch it and the reason why is because it usually feels I don't realize how and it's usually because it goes too far that way the corny side because I feel like that way is that more deliberate decision going to weird abstract is a little more of a deliberate decision where is too corny can sometimes be an accidental decision and usually I don't realize that's something came off a little more corny than I thought it would and tell this song's almost done so instead of going back and revamping the song at that point, it's it's kind of a lost cause that's what I find anyway, there's something that we actually talked about earlier, and I think you can't hammer it home enough, which is some songs just don't work out and it's better to just let him go. I think a lot of amateur writers don't do that, and so we mentioned earlier, you get that local band that will come men with the same five songs that had for ten years and when they could have written one hundred songs and been way better, I think it's uh it's a definite flaw of writers that are not as good as being way too attached to the material. Yeah, and that's a figure you would have ditched it? Yeah, and that's something you learn after years and years of doing it, and sometimes releasing stuff that you don't feel great about sometimes if you don't stop it before it even reaches that point, there's plenty of things on every record I put out that I would, I would take off if I were to redo it, you know, the songs that I feel like kind of we're a little bit left field that felt like maybe I felt like it the time fit, but in hindsight I don't think they really do and do you uh just out of curiosity do you find that like those songs that you tend teo, regret or whatever you want to say the word is do they tend to be songs at the crowd likes or are usually in line with what they like? Um that's a good question uh, they're usually kind of deep cuts or like beach besides, they're not usually songs that fans really have had much of input on or at least that I've in a hotel so you don't like him and they don't like either pretty much probably or it's just like, you know, there's kind of buried tracks that don't really talks about and I guess it's good that they're buried in there not like featured prominent songs um but still I would replace him good yeah, that seems to me like the way to go. Um, so I guess one of the things that people that at least from what I know, people that have lots of ideas so they tend to write a lot I call it preceding uh other people call it like pre pre pro or whatever, but I find that the more you right obviously the less you're attached two ideas and therefore the less you're attached the bad ideas and the easier it is tio just cut the fat and come out with something that's all around much better but I feel like in order to do that you kind of need to set up your life in order teo be able to capture ideas when you get them just wanted teo I guess pick your brain about what you do to make sure you don't lose anything cool well, I mean the good thing about one of the good things about everyone kind of having a smartphone or something similar these days is that you kind of have it's likely that you have a recorder like in your pocket on so what I usually find myself doing is whether it's something I'm deliberately working on it's kind of in the forefront of my mind or if it's just like just a melody that strikes me at a random time and uh oddly enough usually happens when I'm driving I think it's just because I can't really be doing anything else but like maybe thinking about songs and parts and ideas and things it's either driving or flying where I feel like I get the most done but yeah I just voice record into my phone it could be little riff ideas that I just kind of hum with my voice it could be lyrics it could be vocal harmonies uh it could be how several of those ideas work with one another usually all kind of hum a, uh vocal harmony and then on the same tracks you know, on the same recording I'll just hum what I think the guitars to do and, you know, just just kind of a basis to go by and I'll just gather these, like throughout the year, two years or whatever between records and as we get closer to actually recording a record when I that's when it's kind of in the forefront of my mind and I'm almost deliberately do being more often and trying teo be in the mindset where I'm taking my phone out on recording ideas more often so that way, when I sit down to start doing demos, I have, like, you know, fifty sixty of these little starts, yeah, and if one of them, you know, sit down and start playing one of them on a guitar and it just doesn't sound like what I was thinking in my head and what my voice was kind of doing, I could just go to the next one, you know, or sit there and tinker with that one until it sounds right, you know, change a few parts or whatever, um, but having like, a big kind of library of these little sparks for me has been, um has made the the demo ing in the writing process like, way less arduous than I think it would be if I wouldn't have done that, have you ever said to yourself that's such a good idea? I'll definitely remember it and then totally lost it. Yeah, usually that happens later, right, and, uh, and my wife's a really light sleeper, but sometimes all roll out of bed and, like, go in the other room and with my phone is tapped, you know, whatever. Like, I've gotten to the point where I I have to, because I know that I'll forget it. I have to record it. So yeah, yeah, I think that if you don't get it immediately is gone. Yeah, I'll do it on airplanes like I'll talk my head into things like boom, you know, whatever it takes to get it to get it down, like go to the airplane, bathroom or whatever, just, you know, recorded. Yeah, I guess the moral of the story is, tio. Just make sure that you get it when it's, they're totally risk losing it.

Class Description

It’s easy for musicians to get so caught up in the latest gear, plugins, and presets, and forget that ultimately, it’s all about the music. Join Eyal Levi and special guests Ryan Clark (Demon Hunter), Todd Jones (Nails, Terror), and John Browne (Monuments) for an in-depth exploration of what it takes to craft great songs.

Eyal will share the tricks of the songwriting trade he’s learned over years of experience as a producer at Audiohammer Studios (The Black Dahlia Murder, August Burns Red, Whitechapel) and guitarist for Century Media/Roadrunner artists Daath. Throughout this two-day course, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the three core components of metal/rock songwriting. You’ll learn about basic song structure and riff-writing; melodies, leads, and vocals; and fine-tuning the arrangement to take your song from good to great. Eyal will be joined by special guests -- from musicians to producers and more -- who will empower you to take your songwriting to new heights.


Mike Lamb

This was a massively inspirational and incredibly helpful course. By the end of it I had a notebook full of incredibly useful tips and tricks, and I definitely plan a rewatch as soon as possible. I've been in bands writing songs for the better part of 15 years, but this has put a lot of focus on some of the corners I've cut or the areas where I've been lazy with the smaller details. No matter where you are in your songwriting you'll definitely benefit from this, and Eyal articulates everything in an engaging way and positive way. Even if you think you're a good songwriter, there's a tonne here you can benefit from. 10/10 - Thanks Eyal!