Ryan Rockwell - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ryan Rockwell (Mixtapes). We discussed his time in Mixtapes, recording ‘Even On The Worst Nights’, songwriting, his podcast ‘Big Snackers’, what’s going on now, and more. Check it out below.

First, thanks for the interview.

Thanks for having me, I appreciate the opportunity! I've read the site for a long time and it means alot!

For those who aren’t familiar, you used to be in Mixtapes, you rap, and you have a podcast called ‘Big Snackers’. Can you tell me what you’ve been up to with music lately?

My first band ever that played shows or anything was a band called Verbal Dynamite, this is in high school. We were a hip/hop rap group for all intents and purposes, and while we weren't very good we made up for that in a silly stage show and having fun. At that time when I was growing up I was listening to a ton of Cash money records stuff, No Limit, Outkast, Three 6 Mafia, Project pat and such. Right along with that I was also getting into bands like Less Than Jake, The Vandals, Suicide Machines, Millencollin and bands like that. At the time I wanted to combine the two not yet realizing that it was almost impossible to mix rap and any sort of rock without being super cheesy, unless you're maybe someone like Rage Against the Machine, which we certainly weren't. 

So I always liked doing both, when Mixtapes started I was actually in a hip hop group that was playing shows with artists like Wiz khalifa, Kid Cudi, Curren$y and alot of really great artists and I’m still making music with those guys. Lately I did finish a record with those guys under the name Massive nights called "Trash Pop" that we will be releasing soon. Big Snackers is still going strong, the podcast we have been doing for 7 years or so at this point. We actually started streaming live on Twitch as well every sunday morning, but the episodes are available on any podcast app every Sunday typically.

I'm also writing for a band I plan on starting once Covid is under control. I love music and creating it more than anything. I took a break for awhile because I really had to get my life back together, and the music I was making wasn't honest, it didn't feel complete because I had too many things to deal with. I'm excited to put some stuff out into the world under a different mindset again!

How and why did you get into podcasting and what made you want to do it?

Before Mixtapes started touring I had worked at a venue for multiple years, and doing other touring in the past as well. Once we were touring often it was just so easy to get burnt out on music for me personally, especially driving sometimes 8-10 hours at a time, sometimes longer. I had liked podcasts but that's really when I got into them more seriously. My friend Justin that I do Big Snackers with and I had talked about starting one for awhile, he does stand up comedy and we had so many stories we just figured let's talk to people and tell stories and talk shit. We didn't think we would end up having some of our favorite musicians on the show, actors, video game developers, or anything. So to be able to get to have over 170 something episodes years later is cool. Now we have a third friend host with us and just kind of talk to each other every week and it's a cool little community. (It should actually be like 3 hundred and something episodes at least but eh, life happens what are you gonna do). 

Mixtapes had such a prolific career. You released a lot of music during that time. What was your inspiration to keep writing and releasing so much music during that era of your life?

I would say that comes from two main reasons. Some of the first Mixtapes songs I had already written before the band started but the band starting and the new songs I was writing were kind of a direct reaction to my dad passing away. Him and I were very close and when it happened I think it crushed me and I wasn't sure how to deal with it, so writing and being out playing shows and just making music in general was such an amazing place and headspace to be in. And also like I said in the previous question I've always been very into Rap and Hip Hop and so many rappers I was listening to were putting out mixtapes and albums and ep's all the time, so I didn't see why we couldn't do it. I've always looked at songs as a moment in time, taking a long time to write one song, or taking months to perfect songs in the studio never really appealed to me, songwriting was always more of a diary to me.

I think ‘Even On The Worst Nights’ is a fantastic album. What are some of your thoughts on that album now that it has been out several years?

I really like that album. I know it's probably our most popular album overall and I understand why. We had a great time making the record, we recorded it with our friend Eric who had recorded all of our previous stuff, but with signing to No Sleep we got more time in the studio, as well as we got to track the drums in a separate studio so it was cool getting to record in two studios. We were also writing so much then, we would practice in my bedroom haha and we were practicing between  4-5 nights a week at least if I remember correctly, and we had this big whiteboard in my room with songs and they just kept coming.

This record I think did end up sounding a little more slick and produced than we had planned. It's funny because it really wasn't intentional but we were just having so much fun in the studio that we would keep coming up with more and more riffs, harmonies, background vocals, extra instruments etc.. that sounded cool so we just kept adding on. In one of the songs there is a part where we recorded a toy helicopter blade spinning and a beat being tapped by two pens on a desk, real ridiculous stuff, but it sounded cool and we were having so much fun. 

It probably could have been a couple of songs shorter but I really think it's a great record and I am happy that I got to be a part of it!

The title track is great. What do you remember about writing that song?

My friend Christian who at the time was in a band called the Tattle Tales (and now just put out two songs with his new project called The Feels) actually wrote the beginning riff and had written the pretty mess part about our friend Danny, who is awesome, and her name on this message board we were on was PrettyMess. (She's also in an amazing band called Jabber

I told him that I was going to make it into a real full song and he said alright and then I did. The song was just about how even on the nights that seemed so bad that they couldn't get better, I could always find things to find hope in, whether it be people, beautiful nature, music, there are so many things. 

What were some of your favorite parts of the punk scene Mixtapes was part of and how do you think the scene has changed in this current era?

Mixtapes got extremely lucky in that we were kind of able to be accepted by and tour with bands in the more Fest oriented and underground pop punk scenes. In that regard we got to play Fest, tour with bands like Dear Landlord, Banner Pilot, Masked Intruder and many amazing ones, and we also got to tour with bands like the Wonder Years, Fireworks, and we got to do a Van's tour, as well as Warped Tour and other things. In that way I think we were really lucky because there were so many different types of things going on and I got to find awesome things, songs and people in all of them. 

We were also coming up at a time when "pop punk" was really kind of exploding in alot of ways, so we got to see many bands try and ride that wave, and some succeed, and there was alot of entertainment value to that. Mixtapes, probably to our own detriment, didn't have that type of a mindset so it was for sure an interesting time.

You’ve been teasing a play through and discussion series about your songs on Instagram. Can you tell me about that?

Yeah I actually just finished wrapping up what I'm calling season 1! I love all of the music we made as Mixtapes, and the friendships and family we made through the entire experience, meeting people who related to the stuff I was writing and the feelings I was having was so amazing and I'm forever grateful. I was also an unhappy mess most of the time mixtapes existed, after my dad passed I just kept pushing musically because I was ignoring everything else, which I didn't or couldn't see at the time. I had so much growing up to do, tragedies to deal and cope with on top of also being a complete pill addict and alcoholic. I really was at a crazy dark place, and while I wrote some music I'm really proud of and had these amazing accomplishments I had literally dreamed of, I was just this sad angry numb asshole. 

I wanted to find a way to tell both sides of that story, and also just talk to all of these amazingly talented people I know who have great stories, sad stories, funny stories and so much more. So I called it Hey There I'm Ryan and I’m putting a new episode out every Monday. The first couple are me really trying to figure out exactly what I'm doing but I think are great if you like Mixtapes or just shows/podcasts in general about touring, making records, addiction, talking shit, working on becoming a better person and pretty much anything else, please check it out now I just launched it!


Do you still talk to Maura Weaver and do you think there could ever be a chance for another Mixtapes release at any point in time?

I do, I talked to her a couple of weeks ago. After the end of Mixtapes things were definitely weird to say the least. By that point I was just really a mess in so many ways and it affected the band so much, as well as anyone around me. That's the stuff I wish I could take back, I think the experiences help us grow and I have so much since then but the part where other people have to deal with you and all of your shit is the stuff that hurts, the stuff I wish I could take back.

We have talked since then of course and played a reunion show for our friend Matt Medina's 10th anniversary for his record label Animal Style Records, who put out our first album and more! Matt is one of my best friends as well as everyone else in the band and it was an amazing experience. So yeah we have talked many times since the end of the band and Maura is still making music in quite a few fantastic bands and I have since changed just about every single thing about my life. I am still making music as well, have a job I like very much as well as a family. I don't know if you will hear new music from us, but you never know, it would be interesting to even see what it sounded like years later.

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

Thanks for having me, I really do appreciate it! I don't really, thanks to anyone for listening to our band, if you haven't check it out there's some cool songs, and be safe and be happy!

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