Time Spy, in reality Ryan Shah, is a rarity among electronica artists in that he is an actual musician, helping to destroy the negative stereotype that those in the genre can’t actually play their instruments. His album, Vol. 1, has been receiving its share of spins in the office with its tripped-out beats and mood-rotating atmospherics.

Julian Wilson: Time Spy is an intriguing name for your project. Does it have any significance to you or the music?

Ryan Shah: I’ve always felt that I would have liked to have been a secret agent or something along those lines if I hadn’t been a musician.  I used to dress in all black and run around my neighborhood late at night when I was as young as 10-years-old, hiding in shadows, spying on people through their windows, etc.  Just for fun, you know.  But being a drummer, I guess I feel that my music is rhythmically kind of like the vibe of a spy.  A good spy is never seen but sometimes his presence can be felt.  In my tracks, there’s a lot of subtle rhythmic things that aren’t always heard consciously but are picked up subconsciously by the listener.

Wilson: You’re different among most electronica artists in that you’ve had experience playing in “real” bands, namely rock and jazz acts. Of the three musical styles, which one has given you the most artistic freedom?

Shah: This is a difficult question but I guess I have to say being an ‘electronica artist’ since I am the one in total control of the entire creation.  ‘Artistic freedom’ is a questionable term though because I have
felt quite ‘free’ in one or two bands I have been in.  I think as long as an artist is challenged he is ‘free’ because he can grow. In music, stagnation is a prison.  And bands can provide that challenge (freedom) if
the other musicians are as skilled and courageous.  All said and done, though, being an electronica artist is probably the most freedom I have felt because of the absence of social politics.

Wilson: How did you become interested in electronic music?

Shah: The first track of electronic music I heard must have been Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit.”  Also, to me, hip-hop is a type of electronic music, and I’ve been into hip-hop since the days of Public Enemy and De La Soul.  In the late ’90s I heard some tracks by Artifacts B.C. while at a friend’s place in NYC.  I have been influenced by the compilations on the Quango label Brazilified and Lush Life; Jazzanova’s CD In Between; the compilation Brazilectro; the programming on Bebel Gilberto’s CDs.  And my biggest influenceas of this last year is Zero 7. Around 2002, I somehow got a demo copy of Fruity Loops and wrote some of the stuff on my CD Vol. 1 using it without a MIDI keyboard, just plugging notes with the mouse.

Wilson: Besides Time Spy, what else are you involved in?

Shah: I perform classical Indian music on tabla, accompanying a vocalist in Calcutta, India named Siddharth Chaudhuri.  I also play drums in a blues/rock/folk band called Humigalous Rex when I am here in states.  And I also play tabla with my drum set teacher Jeff Sipe. In my spare time, I practice martial arts like Aikido and Muay Thai Boran. I also study yoga and meditation.  I love movies as well.

Wilson: How do you feel Time Spy differentiates itself from other electronica projects?

Shah: Well, as far as lounge music goes, it doesn’t utilize any style or genre blatantly like say Brazilian or jazz or even Indian music but those elements are there. I don’t think anyone can really say that it’s “Funk
Lounge” or “Jazz Lounge” or “Brazilian” or even “Indian,” etc. I have a huge listening experience.  I was operating my folk’s stereo when I was 4 years old and have been listening to anything I could get my ears on since then.