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EPISODE #52: DJ RY TOAST

 

As we all continue to seek inner peace in these turbulent times, Pirate Radio turns to the good vibes and sonic selections of DJ Ry Toast. A Los Angeles-based turntablist and yoga teacher, Ry Toast approaches the seemingly disparate disciplines with the same mindset and has found a way to combine both in her recent series of Yoga & Mixtapes. A student of the Beat Junkies, Ry Toast has shared the stage with the Wu Tang Clan, Nas and DMX, to name a few. Oh yeah, she’s also a podcast MC and a vocalist in the band Tyrone’s Jacket. So, for all of you out there looking for ways to achieve a mental, physical and spiritual oneness, we recommend this mindful mix from Ry Toast as a great starting point. “This mix is meant to let you feel all the feels and know it's OK,” says Ry. “From mad to sad to smooth to sexy to dead ass evil to straight up blessed. If I was going to name it, I would call it Triggered. Kinda sums up the times for me. Put this on and go for a walk around your neighborhood. Remember to look up into the sky. Talk to a bird. High 5 a tree. You got this.”

 


Q+A

Ok, so you are a deejay and yoga teacher. Do these things tend to overlap in your world? What are the similarities?
Both as a yoga teacher and a dj, you are in control of the vibe. I have the same mindset for both: create a space where everyone feels comfortable and can start to relax, let their guard down, get out of their busy heads and into their bodies. Once I have their trust, then I can push a little harder, get a little weirder and I know everyone will ride with me. Although I am the one making all the noise, it's truly dialogue between myself & the crowd/class. I play/say something, wait for the response, and make my next statement accordingly.
 
Would you rather be deejaying a club or a spiritual gathering?
Neither, both sound shitty lol. I've never really felt like i fit in in the club dj scene or the yoga/spirituality scene. I guess that's why I created yoga & mixtapes: just really good yoga, really good music and no BS.
 
I would assume that the music would be different between yoga and the clubs, but it seems like there’s a lot of crossover. What’s one song that you play for yoga that you’d never play in a club. And vice versa.
In general, you need a strong low end to anything you are playing in a club, at a festival, or even streaming. Dope drums and a funky bassline are key for keeping people moving & engaged with you. Because that is not the only goal in yoga- sometimes you want stillness or even a more nuanced action/feeling- it opens up more musical possibilities.
 
For example, there is a song called "Breathe" by Swedish artist Seinabo Sey. It's a simple & beautiful track with minimal instrumentation. The focus is on her powerful voice and words, which are just reminding you to breathe when shit gets hard. There are some rad violins backing her up that almost seems to fill your lungs with even more air as she whispers the math of the universe into your ears.
 
When I play this song during “savasana,” I can see the physical reaction people have to it. I watch as their bodies let go more and more, their bellies expand with deeper and deeper breathing, tears sometimes well up in their eyes (and mine) for the sheer beauty of the moment. If I played this in a club environment- it would surely clear the dance floor and earn me some weird looks at the very least.
 
It would be hard to play Kurupt in yoga.   But now that I said it I kinda wanna make it work somehow.
 
We love MF Doom, but we would never imagine having an MF Doom set for yoga. But that’s precisely what you did. Why does it work?
In an esoteric, big-picture kinda way- it works because doom resonates truth and yoga is the ultimate truth. In a practical way, it works because I have a solid understanding of yoga & music, and a decent set of production skills. At first glance, I understand why yoga & doom wouldn't make sense. This has more to do with people's limited perspective on yoga than MF Doom's music. I'm not going to get started on that rant now tho lol....
If you take a look at Doom's catalogue, it's actually perfect for yoga. He has a wide range of material so there's a lot to choose from. He creates in all different BPM ranges which helps call on different energy in different poses. The lightning bolt went off for me when I found a gang of his instrumentals on the Beat Junkies Record Pool. MF Doom is a prolific MC. I would not try to teach over his lyrics for an hour- it's too many words coming at people. Instead, I took pieces of the instrumentals and mixed them with pieces of the full songs, so there is room for me to give detailed instruction, but then room to just be in the pose listening to doom spit wisdom flames. Plus, his songs are loop based, so there's a rhythm to them that makes timing the poses really natural. For example, in the first set of Half Moon Pose, I know I have 2 bars to get them set up, then we will hold the pose for 6 bars. At the end of the 8 bar phrase there is a drum fill or a drop, something to signify it's time to pull them out.  
 
OK music-related tattoos. From the photos, I see Stevie and ODB. Who else do you pay tribute to?
I have an incredible portrait of Rakim by Juan Puente. He also did my Stevie, my ODB, Biggie, Dilla and my Tupac. I have a DMC hit by the wonderful Henry Lewis. He also did my Wu Tang "W". I have some of my favorite bars of all time as well. "They Reminisce Over You," my fave track of all time by Pete Rock & CL Smooth is on my shoulder. "Infinite Skills Create Miracles," by Gang Starr is right underneath my butt cheek. I have MF Doom's mask and the words "Rhymes Like Dimes" by Winter Stone. and "The World Is Yours" -a nod one of my favorite Nas tracks. Also "La Tierra De Los Dioses" aka “Land of the Gods" under my other butt cheek. That's a line from a medicine song that I want to remember forever. I also have three boomboxes, 2 cassettes, a set of speakers, a turntable, and a phonograph. I have a gorgeous rose on my throat with morning dew drops on the petals-also a Henry Lewis piece. If you look closely, there are more Wu 'W's in the dew drops. We call them "Wu Drops."
 
Tell me about studying with the Beat Junkies. What did you learn from them?
I learned SO MUCH from them. First off, I learned that I didn't know sh_t about DJing lol! Once I got over that I started focusing on scratching, basic juggling and turntabilism. I took creative mixing classes from them as well as master classes with Melo D and DJ Shortee- who I met at a ladies scratch event they hosted. I am still building on all these lessons everyday. I learned that I LOVE THE DJ COMMUNITY. DJs are so cool and so nice. I learned that if you don't know how to do something, break it down to steps, and just try one step at a time. Slow it down as much as you need to. I learned this in regard to scratching, but it applies to everything. I learned that if you surround yourself with people who are better than you at what you do, you will always be inspired. True mastery is keeping a humble, open mindset of a beginner forever.
 
You’ve played with DMX, Nas, Wu Tang Clan. What does it feel like to DJ around names like that? Some of which you assumedly looked up to? That must be nerwracking. Do you have to constantly question what you’re playing?
I definitely get nervous still but I channel it towards excitement. I prepare for all my gigs. I try to go in with a plan so that I can be free in the moment to perform. Preparation allows me to be present even if I have to ditch the plan and try something totally different. Mindset is key. A lot of my preparation these days is aligning myself with the attitude that will be best for that gig.
 
You interviewed Pete Rock for the Honeydew LA podcast. Is that another thing you do?! Tell me about the podcast, and it’s mission.
HoneyDew LA was a wonderful project that I co-created with my homette DJ Allura. We mostly interviewed women we looked up to, a lot of them happened to be DJs but not all. We wanted to shine a light on all the dope queens we know, and have open conversations about the male dominated world we live in. When we got the chance to interview Pete, we jumped at it even though it didn't fit our usual programming. HoneyDew LA is currently on pause but you can still listen to our library of episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.
 
Tell me about Tyrone’s Jacket? What do you play? How long have you been together?
Tyrone's Jacket is my band with my husband The Grateful Carl and our best bud Knowa King. I am the DJ and I also do vocals. Knowa is the lead singer and Carl is on guitar & vocals. We work with Grammy nominated producer King David (Lupe Fiasco, Nipsey Hussle & more). We have been together about 4 years. When we first started making music, we got a lot of shows right away. Shows lead to tours, international travel, sharing stages with huge acts at festivals, etc. Since being in lockdown, we have shifted our focus to recording and releasing. Last year, we put out 4 singles & videos and dropped our self-titled debut album in November. Go and give it a listen straight through top to bottom, I dare you. You can thank me later.
 
So, seeing as you’re a yoga teacher, a deejay, and in a band, it seems like you have three jobs that are all in precarious positions given the general state of affairs in the world. How do you cope? Has the pandemic given you time to learn/create, or have you found the lack of human interaction hinders things?
That's very true. It can be overwhelming to think about the uncertain future. When my mind starts going there, I try to reel myself back in by focusing on the things that I can control: my breath, my thoughts, my body. I literally tell myself out loud, "Ry, you're ok. You're really ok. You're safe. You're supported. You're loved AF." Sometimes I have to stop everything, lay on the floor, breathe, and talk myself into being OK. and that's OK. As an adult who has been through some shit, I remind myself that the most painful experiences in my life were also the most blessed. The pandemic has given me time to create at a deeper level. Since I am not in the weekly cycle of preparing for gigs, I can think more into the future and deliberately create it to be what I want. My vision of fusing yoga and music has been in my mind for years, but I never had the time to do it properly. Altho we just launched in early January, my project 'yoga & mixtapes' has had an epic first month. We are holding a weekly class that is growing exponentially, we booked a series of sold out retreats, and got on the schedule at my absolute favorite yoga studio. So, although there have been many challenges, I try to stay focused on the blessings this time has brought me & my family. I value my alone time. I love that my phone does not beep 100 times a day anymore. When I do see my friends, it's a wonderful celebration that energizes me to my core.
 
What’s the first thing you will do once the pandemic is over?
Take a hot yoga class. Travel.
 
I have a feeling that people are going to dance harder, and more often and show a bit more emotion once this thing is over. Like they will no longer take for granted the opportunity to let loose. Thoughts?
I love that! I definitely feel more openness and honesty with people already. From myself to husband to my family to my friends to my IG community, it just feels like everyone is already being a bit more real. The third wall came down in 2020. We realized we are all just big kids trying to make sense of this place (earth), heal, and be
happy.
 
Name 3-5 songs that define you.
“This Must Be The Place”- Talking Heads
“Be Here”-Raphael Saadiq & D'angelo
“Encore”-Cheryll Lynn
“700 Mile Situation”-R.E.S.
“Jobs” -City Girls
 
Name 3-5 songs your set can’t live without?
“Bad Girl”- Usher
“Money”- Leikeli47
“Hood Pass Intact” - Dam Funk
“Wild Youngster” - Nez feat. Schoolboy Q
“Jobs” - City Girls
 
Explain your dj style. Explain what you were thinking when you put together this set. What is the optimum listening environment?
My DJ style the same as my teaching style: is I wanna leave you in a better place than I found you. When I make a mixtape, I like to do a few things. First and foremost, I want to put you on to something you haven't heard. Highlight hip hop tracks that have exceptional bars. I love lyrics. A hot 16 adds a lot of replay value to a song. A lot of hits go hard in the club but are essentially disposable after they have their moment. Mixtape tracks go the distance. There is a reason for every verse I let play and the ones I don't. Pay homage to the old school, not just through hip hop but samples as well. Add in the best of what's coming out now- I think of these artists as future classics. Sprinkle in some stand out soundcloud gems and voila! Le Mix!
 
This mix is meant to let you feel all the feels and know it's OK. From mad to sad to smoothe to sexy to dead ass evil to straight up blessed. If I was going to name it, I would call it Triggered. Kinda sums up the times for me. Put this on and go for a walk around your neighborhood. Remember to look up into the sky. Talk to a bird. High 5 a tree. You got this.