A Ripple Conversation With Ryan Garney Of High Desert Queen

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.


What have been your musical epiphany moments?


I was raised in a house where my dad listened to nothing but John Coltrane, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, and Tom Waits. I can remember blasting James Brown on my cassette player and I would try to sing and dance just like him. As I got into my teens I didn’t really listen to much music other than my dads cassettes and records, but my brother came home from college and showed me Tool “Undertow.” That changed everything about me musically. All of a sudden I was searching for everything that was dark, heavy, and also melodic. Through that I found Kyuss, Sasquatch, Lowrider and bands that have directly influenced what I play now.


Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?


I’m very lucky with the group of guys I’m playing with now. They are incredibly talented and make the writing process easy. On our debut record Rusty (guitar) usually would send me a riff and we would mess around with it and I’d put some lyrics on in to see if we like how it’s sounding. Then we take it to the jam room. We had about 3-4 songs close to done before we brought them to rehearsal but then when Phil (drums) and Matt (bass) jam on it with us the songs take on a life of their own, and are not much like how they started. We wrote about 8 more songs in their entirety in only about 5 or 6 rehearsals. We’ve already begun writing the second album and it’s been so fun to write as things just come so naturally and easily. Sometimes Phil starts playing a beat and we just go. Other times one of us plays a riff and we just jam on it. We’ve even started doing that in our live show so we never know how each song is going to be played any given night. With all that being said, lyrics definitely come last. I usually start with a song title based on what the song makes me feel and then just go with it. I find that I write more easily when I just have a concept and start writing. I used to be too concerned with everything making grammatical sense. That’s the English teacher in me, but I’ve been able to let that go.


Who has influenced you the most?


In life, my dad and my brother. Musically, it’s always been people who do things differently and aren’t concerned with how their music is perceived. People like Tom Waits, Tricky, Buzz Osborne from the Melvins and Mike Patton. Those guys really just do what they feel is right and push themselves to not follow a formula. I really admire that.


Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?


Music will always be a constant inspiration. I’m always looking to improve myself spiritually, physically and mentally and whenever I fall off, music seems to get me back on track. Writing music is quite possibly the most cathartic and healthy thing I do. It gives me a chance to share growth in my life musically and my hope is that it can somehow help someone else too. The ultimate win win.


We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?


I’m from a small Texas town where country music and high school football reign supreme. I’ve always rebelled some against that but it’s hard to escape the catchy chorus a country song can have. That comes out a lot when I write a song. Rusty grew up in the Houston area and has always been into 80’s metal with teased hair, makeup, and people shredding on guitar. Phil is from the Indianapolis area and was a big thrash/industry metal player. Matt bounced around some and is a student of every genre of music. He’s literally a music encyclopedia. I like to think that all of these completely different traits all shine through at different times and allows us to write something original that sounds like HDQ.


Where'd the band name come from?


My brother and I started traveling to the high desert (Joshua Tree, Salton Sea) every year for the last 6 years or so. We just completely fell in love with the beauty of the desert and how life can persevere in a place where it shouldn’t. So the first part of the name is homage to that. “Queen” is representing the queen of the desert or the queen of the earth which is Mother Nature. The strongest entity in the harshest yet most beautiful place to live in seemed like a worthy band name to us!


You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?


This ones easy, whenever they finally make a long awaited sequel to Big Trouble in Little China, we will be ready.


You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?


“Slaves and Bulldozers” by Soundgarden because it’s just the most punishing and grimacing song that Soundgarden ever wrote. I’d love to dig deep and research about the writing and recording of that song and whole album for that matter.


Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?


On stage it was definitely playing at RippleFest Texas and jumping out into the crowd and getting to jam and head-bang with my wife and the whole crowd that was supporting us. I’ll always remember that.


Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?


There is absolutely nothing more fun on this planet than playing live. But it’s only incredible when you’re on stage with people you love. I’ve sung in other bands, fun projects, or been a guest singer and that’s fun, but nothing compares to being on stage with people you love, respect and honestly are just in awe of. I sometimes have no idea why they rest of the guys let me sing in the band. They are so incredibly talented and I’m lucky. I take zero moments like that for granted and will absolutely leave everything on the stage. I completely lose myself on stage and love how the band can jam and improvise and use some of that nervous energy to play off each other. If I’m not completely drained after a show once the adrenaline wears off, then something’s wrong with me. Would I go back up and do it all over again though? Absolutely. I can only hope that the people in the crowd can feel the energy and the love we have for music. Music brings all kinds of people together and getting to experience that and facilitate that is something we don’t take lightly. We don’t care if we play in front of 2 people or 20,000 people, we take the same energy into every show.


What makes a great song?


If it causes you to have any kind of positive emotional reaction, then it’s a good song. However, if it causes an intense positive reaction and you want to spread that energy everywhere you go and in everything you do, that my friend is a great song.


What one single album do you wish that you'd written or performed on, and why?


This is a long list, but if I had to chose only one, I’d say pretty much any ZZ Top song. Those guys just ooze “cool.” There may not be a cooler person on the planet than Billy Gibbons and I would like to imagine I’d somehow conjure up enough swagger and soul to write something like they do.


What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?


This is hard because I’m most proud of what we are writing right now and hasn’t been recorded in a studio yet. We have definitely allowed our music to grow and have gotten even better writing together. Plus we added my best friend and incredibly talented Bobby Kirk to the writing process. He appears as a guest on our debut record but he’s a permanent member now. But as far as what I’m personally most proud of about our debut record is the track titled “Bury the Queen.” That’s actually the first ever guitar riff I’ve written that was used in any band and the first time I played guitar in the studio. That song sounds very little like how I wrote it originally as the rest of the guys really let that song come to life and I love how that song moves and flows. Same with the track “Skyscraper.” I think we are all really happy with the atmosphere that song creates. We are going to have to record a live version of that song because we play it differently every time.


Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?


I feel like anything Mark Lanegan is a part of, and he appears on a lot, is going to be great. He’s just an amazing song writer. The Melvins, Sasquatch, and Lowrider just completely kick my ass. They all just continually pump out music that just makes me want to move. It’s impossible to listen to any of their records and not move.


Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?


I grew up with CD’s and converted to digital because I’m constantly searching for new music to listen to and digital makes that super easy. However, I’m beginning to become addicted to collecting vinyl. There’s just something about listening to an album in it’s entirety on vinyl. It’s a religious like ritual.


Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice


Beer. Whiskey makes me do things I can’t remember.


We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?


I’m in a small Texas town called Canyon Lake so I have to venture out for records. The Cosmic Peddler in San Antonio has to have the absolute best collection of vinyls in the country so that’s where I go. There’s a great place in Austin that’s pretty famous called Waterloo that’s good. Plus in Houston you have to go to Cactus Records. That place has been great for years.


What's next for the band?


Debut album is released on Oct. 15th so we look forward to playing some shows behind the record and then getting back into the studio. We have about 2 hours worth of music we want to record and then figure out what to do with it all. Then we want to play as many live shows in as many places as we can. I love meeting people at shows. I’ve found those are still the best friendships I have. We hope to get over to Europe in the summer of ‘22 and already have some things in the works on that front. Just do whatever we can to grow our music family. You can never meet too make good people in your life.


Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?


I just want to express my love and gratitude for all people. No matter creed, background, politics, I truly do love all people and know that music is the one thing that can bring all people together. I feel that the Waveriders are aware of this and that’s why we love them all so much. The band and I want to thank Ripple Music for giving us a chance to spread that love throughout and have already met so many great people just because of some songs we wrote. We hope to meet every single one of the Waveriders and continue to grow our extended family.


And I want to thank you for letting me blabber on. I hope to see all of you soon. For anyone that read all the way up to this point: much love.