From the Catalan to Sheffield’s Club 60. Ruiz! forges ahead on his own terms
“I’ve always played with people and machines I’ve, honestly, always found awful. But… I had nothing to do, nowhere to go and before you know it I had a couple of tracks. I played them to a few people and they were like, ‘have you done all this?’ And I’m like, ‘yeah!’
While so many of us were larking about in hastily acquired hot tubs, indulging in far too much alcohol, hoarding loo rolls or trying to obtain a pet dog, Ruiz! was fiddling with GarageBand, figuring that out and then investing in Logic, and before he knew it the foundations for an album were beginning to be laid out.
Made in Barcelona, before his Catalan family left following the political atmosphere there and now residing in Sheffield Hugh Ruiz - who goes by the artist name Ruiz! - is a self-taught guitarist and bass player, who also happens to be classically trained in Pianoforte and Violoncello no less, with an orchestral background. It’s apparent he knows his stuff, so perhaps a solo album was the logical next step?
“Honest to God, I’ve [previously] never sung or been a singer, I mean, I’ve always written bass lines, always had ideas for songs, or written for other people but this was all a massive surprise.” Ruiz utilised the time out of lockdown to do something he’d never done before, a project on his own, in his own words he did it, “for fun and partly to stop myself going mad. I couldn’t get anyone else to sing, so naturally I gave that a go as well.” This resulted in a fair few songs and consequently his album, Mind Games.
“I’ve never sat down with the intention of writing a song about pigeons, love or pain or whatever. I just record sounds that to me sound, well, great”, which is completely understandable when you consider that his musical background spans over 30 years. “My brain just sort of stores up stuff and then suddenly it’s like turning on a tap and this sort of sonic joy just seeps out, it just sort of captured the things that I loved.”
We delve into his musical background. He started out on bass in The Only Fruit when he came to Sheffield as a student, this was followed by stints in numerous other bands, AFID, The Better Ford Clinic, Jim Muir Slideshow, obLONG who also released two EPs and played on BBC 6Music, to recording at Club 60 with the legendary Ross Orton, and most recently The Clear. Ruiz was a regular at the legendary Club 60, a place where his friend Paul Blakeman ran a studio, “I used to go there for jams and was so lucky to have met such a lovely bunch of people, Jon McClure was always down there, you’d even sometimes see (Richard) Hawley down there as well, a great mix.”
“I remember when I was younger and my uncle bought me The Beatles, Red Album, on cassette and I just fell in love with it, also The Police, I’m not so much a fan of Sting’s solo work but as a front man in The Police”, our conversation slightly deviates off-piste into talk about psychedelia and the time Sting’s adventures — such as the time he delivered a baby calf while under the influence of magic mushrooms. “That’s what I love about Sting, he always wrote the music first and then the lyrics after, and that’s like my process.”
Upon listening to Mind Games, it really is quite an impressively eclectic amalgamation of musical influences, unbridled enthusiasm and this pervasive feeling that - in a world of unknowns - sometimes we should sometimes just let the music take us away in “a certain direction, because we don’t know where we’re going.” If you were to break it down though, it’s quite an apt, experimental mixture, a somehow cohesive concoction that impressively underscores how we’re all essentially collectively floundering to an extent in the current. It just so happens that Ruiz has created a cacophonous score that takes us there… wherever ‘there’ may be.
We discuss his plans for the next steps following the release of his debut, Mind Games, “well, y’know, I’m at the mercy of Mother Nature” but there’s something that tells me whatever surprises the universe may have in store for us next, Ruiz will find a means of turning that into his next creative endeavour. And surely that is a foreboding of something pretty good.
Mind Games was released on July 2, 2021, and is available on all the usual outlets, Amazon, Apple Music, Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.
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