In its truest form, life is shamelessly ironic. Regardless of whether one takes a pessimistic or optimistic attitude toward this truth, the nature of humanity is riddled with inconsistencies. Yet, it is these very inconsistencies that create space for change or better yet, growth.
In the past, we have dubbed Allan Rayman as “the most mysterious man in music,” partly because until recently having a dialogue with Rayman seemed nearly impossible. An introvert by nature and one that resents the innate self-indulgence of the entertainment industry, Rayman’s initial intent wasn’t necessarily to gain the cult following he’s amassed today. Yet, a chronological listen through of his catalog, starting with Hotel Allan, through to Roadhouse 01, Courtney, and finishing with Harry Hard-On, one quickly realizes his addictive appeal.
I mean that quite literally. The intricacies of the Allan Rayman story are as thought-provoking as they are treacherously enticing. Call it human tendency to lean toward the darker side of life, or perhaps it’s our cultural surroundings, manifesting for us hardships that are inevitable in the world’s current condition.
Regardless of who or what is to blame, the Allan Rayman story, though personal to him, shares a sort of universal narrative of struggle and triumph, with the ongoing pendulum swings that fill up the in-between. But just as pain is married to the human condition, so is change. As ironic as society’s dependence on stability is for its function, remaining personally static is arguably one of the greatest injustices we can serve to ourselves in this life.
I can’t speak toward the reasoning behind Rayman changing his approach from years past, but a shift is certainly present and he isn’t ignoring the paradoxical properties present in his own life, rather he’s laughing at them. Hence the release of “6am,” the second single from his upcoming album CHRISTIAN, and its visual companion directed by Rayman himself. Shot deep in Joshua Tree and featuring two Raymans, the visual represents the contrast and irony that is present in this particular part of this unfurling story.
We had the special and long-awaited opportunity of catching up with Rayman, on everything from the creation and narratives present on CHRISTIAN to his personal struggles of achieving balance and those precarious swings of the pendulum.
Ones To Watch: How were you first introduced to music? Were either of your parents musical?
Allan Rayman: Through my brothers. My mom’s an artist and my father is a vacuum cleaner salesman.
You grew up in the small town of Lost Springs, Wyoming, later moving to Toronto. What were the pros and cons of growing up in a rural town?
It was great. Lots of space to run around, any kid’s dream. Cons were moving from a small town to a big town. Different mentalities, different personalities in a big town. Kind of made for a challenging childhood. A lot of cool kids in Toronto.
Your discography, starting with Hotel Allan then moving on to Roadhouse 01, Courtney, and Harry Hard-On follows a narrative, both introspective and outward-looking, with different recurring characters and shorts interwoven throughout. Is the “Allan Rayman Story” entirely yours? What is fact and what is fiction? What elements are universal?
It’s my story. So yes, it’s entirely mine. What is fact and what is fiction is often blurred. I think that goes across anybody’s life, even just in reality. How we look back on our own memories can sometimes be fictionalized more than we’d like to admit. We champion things or we elaborate on things to make them more interesting. That’s the universality of it, we’re in our own heads. We expand a little bit on the truth to make it more universal because we think that things are so personal and we are so special and so unique but we’re all very much alike at the end of the day.
You’ve championed lyricism and an ongoing narrative as a focus when creating your previous albums. What inspired this conceptual style of writing? Are there any literary or philosophical inspirations that have led you on this path?
Yes, 100% there are. I mean, I’m specifically a songwriter in the sense of lyrics and melody. That’s just for me. I just care about words. I’m a word guy. I like Hemingway for that reason, in the sense of being concise and right to the point. Don’t beat around the bush just be straight up. Less is more. You don’t need to dress things up, just say it how it is.
Your lyrics often explore the struggle of maintaining a balance between music and your personal life. Has this gotten easier with time and as you’ve explored things artistically? Do you believe this will be a lifelong struggle?
No, it will only and ever get harder with time as this thing goes forward. It would get easier if I stopped doing music and could be a real person again. That would be easier. I don’t imagine it will ever get easier to do, to balance music and real life. If you’re a successful artist on your way to more success it will only get harder and hard, which should make for some really good music.
Throughout the albums, you’ve consistently paired your music with incredible visual companions. How involved are you in the curation of these films? Why do you think it is important for you to have a strong visual component to telling your story?
I’m extremely involved. It’s important to me because film comes first. I’m a film nut before music head, you know what I mean. I like film more than music. It’s a lot of fun for me to get hands-on and come up with ideas for short films and music videos and then to have someone like Steph help me bring them to life is extremely important. You need to find someone who knows how to take what’s in your head and help bring it to life.
Speaking of… can you share some insight on the inspiration behind your newest film and single “6am?”
In short, it’s making fun of myself for opening up to doing certain things that might seem like “selling out.” It’s the crazy me stalking the me who is doing a car commercial for money. Using your success for money. While also blatantly saying I’m insane, ya know, I’m losing my mind. It’s showing the world the duality that you have to be crazy to be doing this but people also take you serious enough to put you in a car commercial… and pay you for it.
You mentioned that Hotel Allan, Roadhouse 01, and Harry Hard-On were written with one other in mind, in order to stay true to the overarching narrative. Does CHRISTIAN continue these storylines?
Yes, it does.
How have you as Allan Rayman and your alter ego, Mr. Roadhouse progressed as human beings? Is the pendulum swing between the two mindsets still prevalent in your life today?
For CHRISTIAN, you’ve been working heavily with producer Alex da Kid. How has his involvement changed the project sonically?
I’d like to add that I still very much work with Moose and the producers who’ve helped me from the jump. But yeah, with Alex I think it’s more picking each other’s brains. Someone whose very established in the industry and successful and someone who’s just getting their toes wet with it. I think it’s a cool contrast. He’s stepped into my world and that’s what I’ve been looking for, I was looking for a producer who would step into my world and get weird and help me get back to some of the hip-hop elements that I loved so much in Hotel Allan.
As a natural introvert, how did you develop your live set? Is performing live a painful experience for you or is it freeing?
There is a certain aspect of performing that has to come to you naturally. If you are uncomfortable at all up there they’re gonna know. And if you’re being someone that isn’t true to yourself then they’re gonna know. That all comes under the umbrella of being natural. It needs to be second nature to you.
Who are your Ones To Watch?
A painter by the name of Stephen Dray.
Be on the lookout for CHRISTIAN, due for release come 2020, but in the meantime, watch Allan Rayman perform “Tennessee” below.