Ryan Dahle

Rising Above It All

Limblifter Singer/Guitarist Ryan Dahle

Interview by Michele Martin
Live photography by Rodney Gitzel

41-second excerpt from "Vicious" (320 Kb .au file)

Having seen locals Limblifter back in July at FoxFest, and having appreciated their playful sense of humour at that show, I was pleased to note that lead singer Ryan Dahle's wits were still about him as he deadpanned his replies to my questions in our recent conversation.

Limblifter have good reason to laugh these days, with their successful self-titled debut CD garnering much attention. Together now for some five years, Limblifter is Dahle on vocals and guitar, bass and keyboards, older brother Kurt on vocals and drums, and non-relative Ian Somers on bass. But the Saskatchewan born and bred Dahles are not content to play in just one band at a time: they're also hard-working members (together with another pair of brothers, the Kerns) of the equally hard-rocking Age of Electric.

Kurt Dahle The brothers of Age of Electric have been making music together for seven years, and their ability to improvise as a team is evident in their unique sounding covers played at their live shows. So just how do they go about making those covers their own? "AOE has played covers for years. That's kind of how we started... there's hundreds and hundreds of songs we can just play because we got used to following each other so if one guy knew part of the song, then you just kind of follow him and feel your way through it... it gets to the point where, because you don't know the song very well, it starts to take on its own life, so I think that's why we do covers that sound original."

That "original" feeling also applies to Dahle's songwriting talents: "I think the whole purpose to me is to sort of serve the listener, and the listener may be me. I think that you should be able to get something out of a song no matter what... I don't like songs that are stories as much, like blatant sort of 'this is the meaning and this is the lesson...' You can watch a bad TV movie if you want a lesson or something. I would rather it sort of be open for people to interpret and make reference to their own life and so that it's sort of user friendly. They can take their life and apply the song."

'Limblifter' CD cover Having heard the story of how the Limblifter CD came out of a simple four-track recording that was popular with the band's friends, I was curious how Dahle found the process of recording the CD. "Quick!" he replies succintly. "We did it in like four days, the basic bulk of it in Calgary over Christmas of 1994. We did it on four-track, recorded eleven songs... We made a four-track and that was it, and we got signed from that four-track... We tried to duplicate it in a real studio, because we thought, "We can't release this four-track!" That's probably what we would have done if we wouldn't have..." He pauses, "like, we never expected to get signed from this four-track..."

The boys have been busy lately mastering their latest AOE CD, due out in February, as well as touring both bands in Canada and the States. Any difference in the audiences? "Depends on where we play and with who[m] we play. We played with Stanford Prison Experiment and Local H all the way around the States, and that was kind of good in some areas where they have a following. It depended on whether one of the three bands had airplay in that particular market or not." In general, the U.S. audience response was positive, as was the touring experience. "Well, the cities are closer together, " quips Dahle. "You don't have to travel for like twelve hours, you just go two or three hours and there's another city... it's a lot easier that way."

Ryan Dahle With all that touring and playing in two bands, does Dahle ever forget for which band he's playing? "No. The difference is so... you know where you are just by the sound of it and just by the feeling of it. It's a completely different feeling."

Not so positive, however, is Dahle's perception of Vancouver audiences: "Lame! L-A-M-E. Probably about the lamest audience you can play to, to tell you the truth... Just to be honest, not to slag anybody or whatever, it's just the honest truth... There's so many artists in Vancouver that are not popular at all [in Vancouver] and they're huge other places, like Skinny Puppy, for instance," he laments. "It's kind of like there's a good atmosphere to create, but I don't necessarily think it's a good atmosphere to take in things, and I don't think that people take in things well here. I just don't think there's an audience. It's kind of like an elite club or something in Vancouver where everybody's an artist."

Does Dahle see the Vancouver music scene evolving? "Don't know, don't care. I just want to live here because it's a beautiful place and I have great friends here and I don't really care about the music scene because the music scene's never cared about me, so... There's a massive amount of things that I don't know about. Nothing bugs me more than hearing about some band or some artist from here that gets signed somewhere else, and you've never heard of them before... Why don't I know about these people so that they can play with us at a gig that we have?"

Um, well... at least a lot of those people now know about Limblifter and Age of Electric. So next time you're in Vancouver and want to jam, call Ryan Dahle, at least if you can manage to hang on to him for more than a minute or two between his various incarnations.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on December 26, 1996

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