Under The Influence


Like a trip down jazz-rock memory lane, Under The Influence signals the 2011 return of The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers—featuring guitarists Jimmy Ryan, brother Johnny Ryan, bass ace William Kopecky and the late, great drumming wizard Johnny Mrozek. The memory of drum master Mrozek, who passed away in 2010, is brought into focus with Johnny’s Bonham-esque booming drum beats pushed prominently in the mix. Sounding like wild horses galloping through the sonic heavens, Mrozek lays down the optimum big beat for these great guitarists to extrapolate upon—both compositionally and improvisationally. William Kopecky, of course, is renowned in rock fusion land for his various solo albums and rich collaborations, and he absolutely shines on this release. Jimmy and Johnny Ryan must take great pride in the outcome—not only in the big Mrozek beat held here for posterity, but also for the incredibly solid instrumental rock music that really takes center stage on this spectacular sounding album. As great as the 2008 CD release of Totality was and still is, Under The Influence will surely go down as the best album of several from this lineup. The Ryan Brothers sound is solidly Americana, yet amazingly diverse and quite progressive within the instrumental rock genre. For an example, think of Steve Morse and his unique guitar stylings or perhaps the original mentors of the Ryan Brothers—dual guitar rockers Wishbone Ash, who are still rocking, led by guitar guru Andy Powell. There are way too many Under The Influence highlights to mention in this review. The opening track “Ascension” totally sets the mood, while the closing track “Adore” weaves a dreamlike melodic tapestry that soothes and soars. Track eleven, the spectacular surf-fusion (think the Ventures on steroids) sounding “Clockwork” is the only track here that doesn’t feature Mrozek, instead featuring the top notch drumming prowess of the newest FRB member, Dan Van Schindel. The CD packaging for Under The Influence provides yet another otherworldly experience indeed while the inside liner notes include a number of key facts about the CD, while listing a number of FRB influences—names guitar watchers might have heard about like Jeff Beck, King’s X, Rick Derringer, Gary Moore, Phil Keaggy, Joe Satriani, Wishbone Ash and many more. Like a form of sonic telepathy broadcasting from a far better place, Under The Influence works its magic with a myriad of intense musical moves and moods and, in the process, turns out to be the ultimate Flyin’ Ryan Brothers album. presents and interview with

mwe3: Congratulations on the Under The Influence album. How would you say the album sums up the career to date of The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers?

Johnny: Thank you! We are very proud of this album. We feel it’s our strongest material to date. We always push the envelope and try to break new ground with each release, and we feel we’ve accomplished that here. Most importantly, we always challenge each other to write better songs, which in turn raises the bar on our expectations.

Jimmy: With such a diverse collection of influences to draw from as well as our individual styles, there is never a shortage of ideas between us, and we feel that on this release we really delivered the goods. It’s always been about the music with us and highlighting our signature sound—dual harmony guitar.

mwe3: How would you compare Under The Influence sound-wise to the Totality album? Was there a different approach taken this time around?

Jimmy: We wanted to ROCK more on this record! It’s more “in your face” and has a harder edge to it. The primary focus was on groove. On Totality, the focus was more on the arrangements, and because of that the overall vibe was a bit soundtrack-y and esoteric. That’s not a bad thing…it’s just different.

Johnny: This time out, we decided to write songs with a lot of energy. We also wanted more high-energy solo guitar leads and more dual guitar leads, which is what we are all about.

mwe3: When the songs are written what was the process between writing the new tracks and actually getting it into final stages for the recording process?

Johnny: At the beginning of every new project, Jimmy and I go up to our place in Wisconsin and exchange ideas that we’ve catalogued and start piecing everything together. It’s a great environment with no distractions, and very conducive to the creative process.

Jimmy: Once we have a solid idea and a basic framework, we record it to a click track. Then after some listening, we tweak it out into the final arrangement. Then we rehearse it up with the band, and we’re ready to record the basic rhythm tracks. We always record our double leads together in real time to bring that live feel to the finished product.

mwe3: What guitars are used to create that classic Flyin’ Ryan Brothers sound on the new album?

Jimmy: I primarily used a Frank Verrilli custom S-style triple humbucker for this recording. It’s the most versatile instrument I’ve ever played—from hyper-clean chime to face-melting shred, it does it all. I also used a Nik Huber Krautster for some of the more aggressive, straight ahead stuff. It’s a stripped-down rock machine that screams.

Johnny: My main guitar of choice is my Zion. It just has a great sound and feel, and I’ve been using it for many years. I also use an Eric Johnson Signature Strat and 1992 Les Paul Junior. We also use several other instruments depending on the particular sound and vibe we’re looking for.

mwe3: How has the Flyin’ Ryan Brothers choice of guitars changed over the years?

Johnny: Mine have not changed much over the years. You stick with what works for you. We have made some new acquisitions through the years, including a Parker Fly and matched Carvin California Singles. My brother is a different story! He is the ultimate guitar geek.

Jimmy: I’ve shifted to a number of boutique hand-built guitars over the last few years. Overall, there’s much more attention to detail and the build quality far surpasses the “name brands.” I do all the setups, mods, upgrades and tweaks to all of our instruments. Like Johnny said, I’m a real geek when it comes to that stuff, and I love doing it!

mwe3: Can you say something about the late Johnny Mrozek and what you feel he brought to The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers sound and how did his drumming and passing affect or influence the sound and vision of the Under The Influence album?

Jimmy: Johnny was like our blood brother, and we love him. His loss leaves a big hole in our lives for sure. He completed all the drum and percussion tracks shortly before he passed, and he absolutely smoked. We have a picture of him in the studio, and his presence was with us every step of the way. We wanted to honor his memory by giving the absolute best performances we were capable of, and in that regard we were completely “under his influence” during the recording. Even in death, he kicked us in the ass!

Johnny: What can I say about Johnny? He was the greatest. Not only was he one of the all-time great drummers, he was a close and very dear friend. He was the ultimate groove machine, like a bullet train with drumsticks. His intense style and sophisticated rhythms were the foundation of our sound and to say he will be sorely missed is an understatement.

mwe3: How about the addition of Dan Van Schindel to the Flyin’ Ryan Brothers lineup? What does Dan bring to The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers sound?

Johnny: Danny was the original drummer in the original Ryan Brothers band. He is an amazing drummer and a dear friend as well. We used to call him the “professor” before that name was used for Neal Peart!

Jimmy: Danny is a human drum machine with insane chops, incredible technique and great instincts but also knows how to groove deep and play for the song. He will be a great asset to our band and sound moving forward. The fact that he’s a great friend as well is the icing on the cake…you always have fun with your buds!

mwe3: How does William Kopecky and his sound fit into the Flyin’ Ryan Brothers sound? How long has William been in the lineup? I hear he lives in France now.

Johnny: Billy is the greatest bass player we will ever know. His sense of melody and complete musicality never ceases to amaze us. He takes each of our songs and raises them to a higher level, for sure. Our music would not be the same without him. End of story.

Jimmy: Billy is the “third” Ryan Brother, and is a complete musician, consummate professional and spiritual brother. He brings so much melodic content to our music, and working with him is an absolute joy. Bill has played on our last four records since Legacy in 2002, including my solo Truth Squad project. Billy did indeed move across the ”pond” to France, and, given his talent, he is always involved in multiple projects and ever in demand for his formidable skills.

mwe3: You mention a number of influences in the liner notes, from The Allman Brothers to Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Wishbone Ash and even film composer Bernard Hermann! Was that the music that shaped your musical background growing up?

Jimmy: Absolutely! As children, we were exposed to many styles of music through our parents. Our mother was an artist and an accomplished pianist and our dad was a great vocalist. There was always music in the house. My brother and I took piano lessons together when we were younger, but once we heard The Beatles, Wishbone Ash and Hendrix, among so many others, all bets were off. We knew what we wanted to do…and we’re still doing it!

Johnny: If you’ve never heard of Bernard Hermann you need to. He was a musical genius, and his movie soundtrack scores made a huge imprint on us when we were young. That said, I think it’s so important to not limit your influences to just guitar players. We have always been inspired by different instruments and genres of music. This has had a huge impact on us as players and musicians and can be heard in our compositions, arrangements and overall sound.

mwe3: I also saw Cliff Cultreri’s name in the liner notes. What’s Cliff doing these days? I used to see him and talk to him all the time in Pantasia, my one-time favorite record store in NYC.

Jimmy: I got to know Cliff through, a collective of artisan luthiers and boutique amp builders which he formed and represents. That’s where I got my Verrilli and Krautster guitars, among others. He is a living legend and one of the nicest human beings on the planet. I would have never found these exceptional instruments if it weren’t for him and his collective. He’s changed my musical life for the better. I’m elated and I’m in his debt.

mwe3: What does the future hold for the music of The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers?

Johnny: We want to continue to create and grow as musicians. Being independent artists will always give us the freedom to explore new ideas, think outside of the box and take chances. The music resulting from that process is its own reward, and we will always go wherever the music takes us. We owe that much to ourselves.

Jimmy: There’s not much I can add to that. Over the years, Johnny and I have honed in on what works and what doesn’t in our collaborative approach to what we do, so it’s actually getting easier to write together. Privately, we’ve acknowledged to each other that we’ll never get all of the music out of us, so we’ll do as much as we can for as long as we can. It’s been a great ride so far…here’s to the future!

Thanks to Jimmy Ryan and Johnny Ryan and the Flyin’ Ryan Brothers @


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