Behind the Beat: Ghosts on Tape

Categories: Q&A
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There are a ton of beat-producing DJs in San Francisco, but few really take the time and energy to hone their craft. Ryan Merry, who produces and DJs under the name Ghosts on Tape, creates "tropical-booty" tracks that have caught the attention of some of the biggest DJ names (including BBC Radio 1 tastemaker Mary Anne Hobbs). Merry's particular mixture of throbbing bass melodies, international rhythms, and hip-hop-tinged house beats--namely on his single for Scotland's Wireblock label, "Predator Mode"--also garnered him slots on a couple year-end best-of lists in 2009 

Merry's DJ sets and live shows have taken him throughout Europe, Canada, and the US. You can catch him this weekend in SF when he drops knowledge Friday night at a Noise Pop happy hour at Project One and Saturday night at his monthly club, Icee Hot, at 222 Hyde.

What's your routine the day of a DJ/live gig?
My routine the day of a show consists of waking up late (sort of like every other day), comsuming mass amounts of caffeine (also like most other days), and imagining a totally triumphant outcome to the event. I try to get some practice in, eat a nice meal, take a long shower, and pump some iron while looking at myself in the mirror (ok that's not true). If its a live show, I try not to forget to bring any important cables that I'll need, and go through my floppy disks to see what jams I wanna play.

How much of your playlist is planned versus thrown in off-the-cuff?
For my live sets, about 95 percent is planned out. I gotta know which buttons do what, which knob to turn when, and what's gonna come up next. I always make a set playlist, and then sometimes, in the heat of the moment, I'll deviate from it a bit. There's just so much that can go wrong in a live set using the janky gear I have, so I really need to stay focused. DJ sets are much looser affairs. Any time I DJ, I end up playing a different set than I originally planned. You just have more ability to be flexible and give the crowd what they need. Not 'want'. Need.

What's the worst request someone has ever made?
Oh boy, I've gotten some really dumb requests. Let me clear this up. If you see me on stage with two blue boxes, pressing buttons, turning knobs, and loading songs off of floppy disks, I CANNOT DO REQUESTS. Unless it's one of my own songs, I'm not playing it. If I'm not DJing, I'm performing all my own tracks live. Not to be a dick, but there is a major difference.

I was in Austin a couple weeks ago, and about 45 minutes into my set a young lady approached me and asked my to play some "Oriental music." WTF does that even mean, girl?? When I DJ I want to play the jams that may not be ultra-familiar, but still make you move. I guess it's my rave background that makes it so I don't really care if you know all my songs or not. It's just good music, and hopefully it sounds unique, so just enjoy it. If you're a party-goer, stop trying to control the situation. Just go with it.

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