MEET RYAN: THE MAN WHO KEEPS US SANE
We want you all to meet Ryan Kunimura, who is effectively the glue that holds us all together over here at Colossal. Ryan is our Production Manager, a job that is no easy feat. His days typically start before anyone else’s (even before our painters, who are up before the crack of dawn), and he’s generally the last one to leave the shop. In the time he’s not handling the production of each and every one of our paint jobs down to the very last detail, he plays with his metal band Skullshitter. But Ryan’s also a trained jazz musician with a penchant for disco. The only secret we haven’t picked up on yet is how he keeps his head on straight when the rest of us lose ours.
What is the meaning of your last name?
It means “country village.”
You came to us from your last job managing a hotel. Naturally our dress code’s a little different around here.
I wore a tie [at my last job].
You come to work in your death metal band tees everyday. I imagine you hating the whole suit and tie shtick.
Nah, it was pretty chill. I really don’t mind wearing a suit everyday.
Speaking of death metal. What’s up with Skullshitter?
I play in a rock band. I play bass and sing. It’s a three-piece with drums and guitar, and everybody sings too. I actually met the people who I play with at the last job, which should tell you that place was pretty cool. We have a tape, and we have a 7” coming out.
And you play sax too, right?
But that’s traditionally a jazz instrument, so how do you go from one to the other?
Yeah, I studied jazz for 10 years before I moved here.
So what brought you into metal?
Actually, jazz did after I got into mid-60s era Coltrane. You have late-50s, early-60s era Coltrane where it’s a lot more straight ahead, post-bop style. Mid-60s, you can call it Impulse era – it’s the record label that changed from Atlantic to Impulse. On Impulse he got a different line-up. They had McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums, and started exploring different musical directions and started to get a little more experimental. It went from a lot of straight ahead fast swing, like Giant Steps. And then with the rhythm section that he had with Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones would bring in a lot of cross rhythms or polyrhythms, so you’re putting two time signatures over the same time signature. It sounds more like African drumming than a drum set. Harmonically it got a lot denser – there’re more notes in everything. At a glance it can be a little harder to listen to because there’s so much sound going on. A lot of it can sound like it’s going against each other, like notes are fighting for your attention. That can be an uncomfortable thing to listen to if you’re not used to it. But after I started to get into that sound, I started to listen to a lot of Slayer because death metal and slash metal have a lot of those same qualities. It’s a lot of information for your brain to process. It was like an impenetrable wall that my brain couldn’t figure out. But after I started digging Coltrane a whole bunch, it started sounding the same.
That’s a really interesting perspective, that those sounds are the same to you, whereas they’re probably uniquely different to someone who doesn’t play an instrument. While I realize this is a vast generalization, a lot of people associate metal with satanic rituals and demonism. What’s your whole take on that?
I don’t want to approach this as the end-all-be-all authority on this topic because I think people have different ideas about it. I certainly think with that type of music, not that many people are into it. But if you’re into it, you’re like really into it. It’s not music that’s going to make you a lot of money or gain you mass popularity, but it’s something that means a lot to the people who are involved in it. I think part of the whole visually shocking aspect of it possibly originated as a way to keep people out of it. It’s not a built in exclusivity, but it’s like graffiti. Graffiti writers make their shit impossible to read so that only graffiti writers can read it. If you want to get down with this, I want to make sure you’re really into it. I’m gonna make it that much harder for you. And then it just makes it a smaller scene where everyone who’s there gives a shit about it, for the sake of it. If you’re interested in this because you’re interested, cool. If you’re interested because you want to sell some shit to someone else, fuck off. I mean it’s funny that we also happen to work in advertising. I’m not against advertising, per se. I’m against someone using something that means something to me for a different purpose. I mean we’re selling stuff for the man, but we’re also upholding a skill.
I also heard a rumor that Tits [the shop cat] is yours. She’s your baby?
Yeah. I mean, I got her. My friend was somehow involved in this halfway house that was a scam. The people were getting money from the government to run a halfway house for when people got out of jail. They were just taking the money and these people were living without heat or running water in basically a slum. There’s some government agency that my friend was associated with that shut the place down. These people had pets and stuff, so all these pets needed to find homes.
How’d she get her name?
I don’t know. We didn’t really name her and everyone gave her different names and stuff. Tits just stuck, I guess.
Wonder why. So you DJ, too?
Yeah, not to the degree that my friends are professionals and shit like that. But I play records whenever I get the opportunity to. I’d like to do more, but I think it’s hard to find the right type of music that I want.
Whenever we have parties here [at the shop], my friends will bring turntables. It’ll pretty much be a mix of death metal and disco. It’s a bit much for people to handle.
I think we’ve done a campaign for your favorite tequila.
[Laughs] Oh, Espolón.
You’re a tequila man. Why Espolón?
I’ve tried a bunch of different ones… [Laughs] Fuck, I sound like I’m doing a marketing campaign right now. No but straight up, it’s just got a good price point and the Blanco’s flavor makes it a good daily drinker.
And you live in Bushwick. Do you have a favorite bar around your hood?
Probably The Acheron/Anchored Inn. Friends of ours run it. It’s across the street from my rehearsal studio and they have a lot of live shows. A lot of metal bands play there. They also have really good food. Even the salads are good. I don’t know what they put in there, but…
You’re not vegetarian, right? Is someone here vegetarian? I can’t remember.
I doubt it. I mean, the shop is pretty meat, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms as you can get.
Photos courtesy of Invisible Oranges