Near Manchester (not England, but on the other side of the Atlantic) resides music aficionado Ryan Helfand. Up until the early portion of his teenage years, though, such a designation was quite inappropriate. If it were not for The Bends (the album, that is, not the ailment), his appreciation for the likes of Michael Bolton and TLC might have gone unchecked. How's that for embarrassingly personal?
In honesty, Radiohead was just part of the picture. Late nights watching MTV's 120 Minutes (a programme that is surely missed by more than just this reviewer) served as his introduction to songs other than those ranked weekly by Casey Kasem. Artists such as Faith No More, Smashing Pumpkins, and The Breeders had sparked a newfound interest in what music had to offer.
It was the purchase of Dookie by Green Day and the lending of that album to a new friend, though, that really got the ball rolling. That friend invited Ryan to join a cover band that played, in addition to the then-ubiquitous Nirvana, old punk acts such as The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks.
With his tastes broadened and, then, an eye toward England, he turned back to The Bends and began to investigate what else the UK had to offer. Another good friend's purchase of Oasis's (What's the Story) Morning Glory led to his introduction to Britpop giants such as Blur, Supergrass, and Pulp.
It was around the same time that concert-going became a treasured pastime, with the likes of Superdrag, Travis, Guided by Voices and, naturally, Radiohead putting on some very memorable performances. The opening acts for the latter (Kid Koala and The Beta Band) brought about the realisation that Radiohead kept some seriously cool company. A little research of other opening acts resulted in exposure to Sigur Ros and Spiritualized. Those successful finds set the precedent for ensuring that one new musical discovery should lead to at least a few more. For instance, Air thankfully begat Stereolab and Zero 7.
From then on, his ears have been open to anything and everything. One more good friend rounded out his exposure to classic rock (including the likes of Credence Clearwater Revival, The Beach Boys and The Doors). The 1980s pop to which he was exposed during his formative years no longer inspired just nostalgia, as recordings by bands such as R.E.M. and U2 became the cornerstones of his collection. The contemporaries of his amazingly talented grandmother opened up the worlds of jazz and blues. What did he do when his grandfather asked that he watch his favorite new bluegrass group on a local cable show? He listened, and has been enjoying the work of Nickel Creek ever since.
All of the aforementioned artists are just a sampling of the creators and performers of music that Ryan holds very dear. He has come to realise that music has the incredible ability to shape, as well as be shaped by, our lives. Every experience and feeling we have has a soundtrack, and serve to define that soundtrack for each of us. With all that music has said to him in hand, he feels that it's time for him to start doing some of the talking.