Ryan Davis

Berlin, Germany

The Last Untamed Frontier


Behind the Music

As a curious person, I am aware of many events and happenings around the globe. Ian’s book enhanced my prior knowledge and exposed me to new facts about the ocean, its laws and the people living in it.

Although crimes take place all over the world, enforcing justice seems especially hard at sea. What I find most terrifying, however, is the water’s limitless power. When we think about the ocean, the sun and a piña colada may come to mind. But we don’t necessarily think of the ocean as a destructive force that can harm human beings with its winds, waves, cold temperatures and storms. The chapter “Jail Without Bars” is particularly intense for me because of its descriptions of these harsh forces.

Given the brutality of the ocean, it is humbling to read of people who still embark on journeys at sea in hopes of finding a better life elsewhere. The chances people take are astounding — for example, the men that hid in the engine room of a ship with a loaf of bread, not knowing how long the journey would be. It is scary to imagine stowing away on a ship, constantly afraid of starving, being mistreated, or being discovered and forced to leave the ship on the high seas. This notion — that some people accept the risks and terrible conditions because they have no other choice or don’t know another way out — resonates throughout the book. Although people can feel stuck in similar circumstances on land, the situations seem more dire at sea because of the constant battle with the powers of the ocean.

As I listened to and read The Outlaw Ocean, I constantly asked myself how I could translate the pictures in my mind, inspired by Ian’s stories, into sound.The most obvious approach would have been to write a score with imagery that follows the construction of the narrative in a chapter. But unlike a story in a movie, a story in a book unfolds much slower, hindering the effectiveness of this approach. Another approach could have been to create music that conveys the emotions of certain stories in combination with the reporting.

Which approach to take became clearer to me as I continued to read the book. As heavy and complex as the stories in the book are, the idea of water itself became the inspiration for my music. I use various forms of water to describe feelings, express actions, and paint lyrical pictures. The ocean, which is home to underwater creatures, ecosystems, and sailors, has elements of both calmness and brutality. In this way, the vast ocean is like a reflection of ourselves with all our contradictions and complexities. I try to capture this notion in my music, as I compose tracks about the fates, doomed ventures and destinies that Ian witnesses at sea.

Ryan Davis
About Ryan Davis

Since 2006 you can follow Ryan Davis´s traces on almost every important melodic electronic music label worldwide such as Erased Tapes, Anjunadeep, Watergate, Traumschallplatten, Bedrock, Last Night on Earth or Klangwelt Records. Touring the planet constantly inspires Ryan´s musical aesthetics whose quality brought him an international fan base and a reputation that is nothing short of remarkable.

Over the years he collected notable attention by a variety of artists out of every electronic music genre such as Aphex Twin, Olafur Arnalds, Stephan Bodzin, Apparat, Max Cooper, Sasha, Vessels, Boys Noise or even Depeche Mode including his music on their “Sound of the Universe” tour. He is playing all around the globe, being invited to iconic venues like Bilbaos Guggenheim Museum or Berlin´s legendary Funkhaus.

Nowadays, Ryan represents a fundamental name in the modern melodic techno culture, in which compositional qualities are a must. His remixes for masterminds like Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm, collaborations with Robot Koch or Alex Banks and recent placements in ABC´s “How to Get Away with Murder” or the Hugo Boss 2019 Fashion Week underline his work and musical mindset to celebrate and spread the compositional techno which leads the way to establish a world on its own besides pure dj-functionality.

The Journalism behind the Music

All music in this project is based on The Outlaw Ocean, a New York Times Best-Selling book by Ian Urbina that chronicles lawlessness at sea around the world. This reporting touches on a diversity of abuses ranging from illegal and overfishing, arms trafficking at sea, human slavery, gun running, intentional dumping, murder of stowaways, thievery of ships and other topics.

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