If you listen to Soca Music, then you’ve heard of DJ Private Ryan. His name has crossed generation gaps so its likely that a grandmother and her grandchild could be singing along together to his mixes on any given day.
Born in Trinidad, Ryan Alexander aka Private Ryan produces the most downloaded soca mixes on the internet. Always in time for the upcoming Carnival Seasons, be it Trinidad, Miami or Toronto, the mixes are just what you want when you need a seamless Soca fix.
At the age of eighteen Ryan began playing on Saturday mornings for the popular 96.1 WEFM. He graduated from college in 2009 with a degree in Business Administration and is certified in Marketing Accounting and Financial Analysis which could easily explain the huge marketing success of his brand Soca Brainwash.
His most well known Mixtape/Podcast dubbed Soca Brainwash has become a movement, and the Soca event that also carries the moniker doesn’t disappoint either. Sold out in minutes, crashing servers online in multiple cities, and countries, anyone paying attention to Private Ryan, has to respect his brand, his ambition and his talent.
It’s been a few years now that I have been in company with Private Ryan for multiple Soca events throughout the various Carnival seasons, and I took the opportunity to ask him for an interview after Soca Brainwash in NYC this Labor Day.
I joked with him, that I don’t think I’ve ever heard him speak so much at once, but I will share his words with you, because turns out he has great vision, resolve and ambition and is a great ambassador for the future of Soca.
Please note that the interview was done via voice notes so this is the transcribed version (snippets may be shared on Social Media)
CF: How long have you been DJ-ing? Did you always know this was what you wanted to do?
PR: I’ve been DJ-ing professionally since I was about 14 or 15 years old. I started off by playing in little night clubs and school parties, I was always involved in music. Since about 6 or 7 years old I was always fascinated with the vinyl. My father had a record collection that I used to play around with, I used to merge the music and try to come up with stuff which is what evolved into me being a DJ.
CF: What inspired the concept of Soca Brainwash?
PR: I wanted to create a Soca DJ festival, I didn’t want to create a fete, I wanted to create something that would be culturally iconic and that would become a movement around the world. This is why I want to take it globally and show that this music is something that can be taken seriously. Its been very successful so far. I started it off in Trinidad, on Carnival Saturday, which was very unorthodox since it was during the day. Usually there are no fetes that day because people are collecting their costumes and doing things. I always wanted to just do things different because that’s what I believe in, that’s my mantra, I just want to be different. So I created it, and now its doing pretty well around the world, I really want to take it to the festival levels in terms of Soca Brainwash and what it means to the culture.
CF: What was your most outrageous fan experience?
PR: I wouldn’t say I’ve had outrageous. I would say I have very enthusiastic fans sometimes they cry, sometimes they want me to sign all kinds of autographs, sometimes they want to try to find out where your staying. I won’t say I’ve had outrageous, but I have a wide range of very enthusiastic fans from old to very young to children who are able to sing the mixes by heart and stuff. I also was introduced to some parents who have children who are autistic and they seem to respond to the Private Ryan mixes which was very touching as well. I’ve had a lot of different experiences.
CF: What/Who has made the biggest impact on you in the Soca industry?
PR: I don’t think that one person has made an impact because I think that the collective movement of soca you cant isolate one individual. There are many influential people, whether it be in the forefront or in the background but in terms of artistes, you have to mention the likes of Machel Montano, Kees Dieffenthaller, Bunji Garlin, you have the new wave of artistes, you have people like Ricardo Drue, you have King Bubba doing very well, Peter Ram who is not exactly a young artiste, but he has a new wave of solid hits that are catching people. I think that holistically when these artistes tour the world, oh yes I have to mention Lyrikal as well, they tour the world and they bring the music to life with their performances. They have a significant impact on the soca industry as a whole so its not just about one person, but this music and this movement is bigger than all of us and that’s the most important thing.
CF:Who are your 3 favorite soca/Caribbean DJs? (State why if you like)
PR: There area a lot of DJs I work with around the world, a lot of them are very talented, I pride myself on being very versatile, so I can play a lot of different things, but in terms of Soca music, right now in the Caribbean I would say that DJ Puffy is doing extremely well in terms of his packaging, in terms of how he markets himself on social media and in terms of his talent, he’s a very talented individual. There are so many to name boy. Back to Basics, from NY, Riggo Suave from NY, DJ Stephen who also tours the world, there’s Barrie Hype who I also work alongside. There are a lot of different DJs , even in Trinidad, my peers like Nuphoric, Lord Hype there are a lot of people I can call that are making waves in their own circles and making everything grow.
CF: You always seem extremely focused and almost like an athlete in preparation for a race prior to getting on the set, what’s going through your mind?
PR: I am focused before I play because what I do before I play is I try to get in tune into the tone and the vibe of the party. I’m actually trying to put myself in the shoes of the patron and really try to think about what would make me move and the people around me move. I’m really just trying to get into that zone and then try to also be able to execute and do it. I mean you can never take it for granted, yes you know what you are doing you might have the talent and the knowledge of the music, but you really just want to put yourself in that space where you are ready to entertain people musically. Especially because I DJ more than I talk, so I have to be able to piece together the music in a way that can move people and that’s why I guess I look so focused.
CF: Where do you see soca music in 3 more years?
PR: Music is always evolving, it doesn’t matter what genre it is. In terms of Soca music you see that there’s a lot more interest in Soca music, I would even say to rival reggae right now. I think Soca because of the things that are going on in the world, Soca is very much a happy music and that people are receptive to it and its very infectious and uplifting. In three years, as you see the trend is that the artistes are experimenting with different sounds, and trying to find that unique flavor. You see how now Trinidad is more in a groovy zone, you see that Barbados has groovy, you see Grenada is still dominating with power soca, you know you have different pockets and styles of soca. Collectively in three years I would say that soca would have evolved and go with the experimental sound that we are trying to find, so I can’t pinpoint exactly where we would be, but I think that we are moving in a good direction.
CF: What is your advice to the younger DJS coming up as well as to your peers?
PR: I would say never let someone tell you that you can’t do something, if you believe in yourself, go after it, persue your dreams. Never think you are too good to practice. Never become complacent. There is always someone in the wings waiting to take your spot. Always strive for that excellence. I would say that right now the market is not just about being able to play music, I think it’s about brand, you have to create a brand and really create your own unique space. So it’s okay to be inspired by other people but it’s also important to create your own lane and own that lane so that people can readily identify what you stand for and then they follow you for that. That’s what you become known for. Its kinda like how I branded myself the most versatile DJ in the world and I put out the podcasts and I did Soca Brainwash, so I’m known for certain things, and you so you can create your own lane and your own destiny that could be something great that people will remember you for.
If you have never experienced DJ Private Ryan or Soca Brainwash look out for Soca Brainwash Neon Miami on Saturday, October 8, 2016. Online tickets are sold out, but check Private Ryan on his social media @djprivateryan for updates on physical tickets and cabana sales.