Thug Entrancer's Ryan McRyhew on Death After Life and his fondness for The Notorious B.I.G.
Thug Entrancer (due tonight at the Sidewinder Tavern) is the latest musical project of Ryan McRyhew. For years McRyhew has been involved in various experimental Denver bands, including The Devil Made the Dinosaurs, Thundercade and Hideous Men, the project he helms with his wife, Kristi Schaefer. Thug Entrancer is something McRyhew developed most fully while he and Schaefer were living in Chicago for graduate school.
Thug Entrancer reflects McRyhew's interest in experimental electronic music, hip-hop and Chicago house music. Daniel Lopatin and his cohorts in Software Recording Co. heard the Thug Entrancer debut release, Tropics Mind Vol. 1 and 2, and immediately wanted to work with McRyhew on his next record. The result was this year's Death After Life. We recently spoke with McRyhew about his collaboration with one of the founders of Rhinoceropolis and his affinity for The Notorious B.I.G.
Westword: The title of your new album is an indirect reference to Biggie Smalls. Why was he such an important artist for you?
Ryan McRyhew: Stylistically, it's like swagger, but it's deeper than that. The time signatures he raps in, the timbre of his voice. As soon as you hear him, you know exactly who it is. The storytelling behind his songs is so engaging. Unfortunately we didn't get to see a well-developed Biggie Smalls, where he could be rapping about broader subjects. I don't have a logical connection to his music. I remember the first time I saw him was on an MTV Raps! spring-break edition, and he was this big, beastly dude with such finesse and everyone loved him, and I just thought, "How cool is that guy?" That was my first reaction, and I think there's something to that, and you dig deeper and you get more into his talent.
Milton Melvin Croissant III did a video for "Death After Life I." You've worked with him in the past. Why did you want to do that video with him?
He's a great friend of mine, and we've always kind of reflected on each other's work. If you talk to him about it, he was influenced by the concepts of the record of isolation and homing in on your craft and being present. I think he's also influenced by these loose aes-thetics I was playing with, of dystopia and futurism.
After making the video, he told me it was his attempt to make what he thought it would be like to be in my brain, which is the biggest compliment I've ever had in my life -- and the most frightening. You know, like, "What the hell do you think of me, man? I'm pretty mel-low."
But at the same time, I think it embodied what it was like to make the record: lonely, dystopic landscapes with weird experiences and references. The original idea was that I wanted a video that was like Myst and those old CD-ROM games where you're moving around in space.
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