Ryan Breen didn’t mean to burn that abandoned house down. Not to the ground, at least. And yet, here he was, spending the 4th of July in a Phoenix jail…
“The whole experience left me in a weird emotional state,” explains the beat-slinger/singer behind Back Ted N-Ted. “I had no way of processing it, so I started writing all of this strange material that got me over a fear of singing and somehow led to where I’m at today.”
That’d be the long-awaited release of his first proper LP, The Mirror. Long-awaited because Breen’s spent nearly a decade as a producer, from rolling out four records with a genre-jumping Japanese artist named Coppe—we’re talking everything from downtempo to drum & bass—to tracking his first set of solo recordings, a delightfully-strange blend of disembodied spoken word pieces and Squarepusher-like soundscapes. While the latter’s skittish programming and splintered samples are still the backbone of Back Ted N-Ted’s songs, Breen’s fully embraced his frontman side by delivering massive choruses in such synth-guided electro-pop cuts as “Lose Control,” “Hookie” and the BPM-bumping “999 Buttons.” And much like the future-shocked soul of Jamie Lidell, The MIrror treats Breen’s voice as an instrument—something that can be filtered and phased out from verse to verse.
“I’ve grown more comfortable with the sound of my own voice,” says Breen, “But I definitely got really into processing the shit out of it for a while there.”
Pitch-shifts aside, Breen’s writing has become deeply personal over the past few years—ever since his brief stay behind bars, really. That’s the other striking difference between The Mirror and Back Ted N-Ted’s early tracks: abstract journal entries have given way to metaphor-free meditations on love and life in the big city. (Breen moved from Arizona to New York a year ago.) Breen largely attributes this abrupt shift to his father, a longtime country musician who’s treated the stage as a public therapy session for decades.
“It’s definitely had an effect on me,” explains Breen, “because he’d write things about the family as a way of communicating with us.”
He’d also taught Breen how crooked the music business can be; how you “need to be on guard” at every turn. That, and you need to progress creatively without losing a sense of how you got here in the first place.
“I’m pretty excited about being weird again, honestly,” says Breen. “I want to go back to my roots a little bit because I miss the vast space that ambient music can give you. I’ve definitely got a lot of pop songs ready for my next record, but I also want some epic, over-the-top production going on. I still want to write my own Siamese Dream, you know?”