How come you ended up behind a drum kit? Were you always drawn to drums and was it your first and only alternative?
I ended up behind a drum kit primarily because of the influence of my father. He was a piano teacher and also played in a rock cover band. I would always go to their rehearsals and soundchecks. Whenever I got the chance, I would jump up on the drummer’s kit and smash away. My dad took notice and asked if I wanted to play drums and I emphatically answered “YES!” I was always into music from a young age because my parents constantly had music playing in the house, the car, at the beach… Everywhere we where and went. I started out on piano because my dad was a piano player/teacher. I enjoyed it but it didn’t really stick too much with me as an eight- or nine-year old. When I saw the drums at his band rehearsals and soundchecks at the age of ten, I knew exactly what I wanted to play and never looked back from that point forward. I was most drawn to drums, there was never an alternative after I started drumming.
To you, what defines a great drummer?
That can be a loaded question! Haha. So many things define a great drummer. For me though, having your own authentic style with great feel, timing, precision, groove and consistency really defines a great drummer. Of course, having great technique helps you in many ways but you can’t rely on that alone… I think the most important thing is to be yourself, though. The best advice I’d give to up-and-comers is to take from your influences – never try to be them. I learned that from my father who recognized in my young teens that I wanted to be exactly like Neil Peart (rest in peace) from RUSH. I started sounding very much like him as a drummer, even in drum parts I made up for my bands that I played in. My dad went on to say, “Son, you sound like Neil Peart?!?” I was like, “Great!” He said, “No, not great.” You won’t be as good or be better than Neil, EVER! Only Neil Peart will be as good or better as Neil Peart. So focus on being Ryan Van Poederooyen. Take from Neil and others who influence you but focus on being yourself and creating your own sound.” I’ll never forget that moment. I pursued creating my own sound from that point on. I pass that advice on to my students and other up-and-coming drummers whenever I can.
Which drummers do you think helped shape your style growing up and learning the instrument?
As mentioned, Neil Peart is at the top of the list and always will be. I’ll never get bored listening to his recordings at any time. He influenced me tremendously. Vinnie Paul from Pantera (rest in peace) was a big influence on me for years as well. Then I’d say Gavin Harrison and Tomas Haake for the modern-day influences – and there you have my main influences that helped shape my own sound.
Which drummers do you think stand out today?
Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, Pineapple Thief, King Crimson) is probably my favorite drummer on the planet right now. He’s just fantastic at everything. Incredible feel, timing, very creative and definitely has his own sound. Tomas Haake (Meshuggah) blows me away every time with his drumming and style. He’s also a good friend of mine. Tim “Herb” Alexander (Primus) is another incredible drummer I enjoy listening to. I also love Danny Carey (Tool). He’s a phenomenal drummer with a unique style. There are so many great drummers out there… But those are some drummers that stick out to me in today’s scene for sure.
You played for years with the Devin Townsend Project Project and Band. When that ended, you formed Imonolith. You released your debut album not long ago. How has it been starting a new band from scratch?
Yes, touring the world many times in buses, getting nice hotels and flights was amazing. I’m very grateful for those bands and especially Devin for having me as his drummer for 16 years. So, moving from a well established band like DTP to Imonolith is night and day! Haha, I knew what I was getting into. It would take a lot of hard work, and would definitely not be as glamorous as playing with Devin. I’m not scared of working hard, though. With Imonolith, I’m in a band that I helped create and I’m also a co-primary songwriter and lyricist in the band as well. It’s been a really fun experience with great musicians. We spent 2018 and 2019 forming the band and writing our first album. Unfortunately, we started promoting our debut album in December 2019 for a March 27th, 2020, release date – not knowing that the pandemic was right around the corner. Terrible timing, and as everyone knows, everything shut down in March 2020 and it made things extremely tough on our debut release – along with all our touring in Europe/North America which we had all booked up for 2020 and into 2021. Over the pandemic we decided to write and record a second album, which came out in May 2022. We did that to stay relevant and to be productive until touring could resume. We had a 2022 Canadian summer tour booked but it fell through due to clubs shutting down and promoters going out of business. A six-week tour running through January/February/March 2023 was booked but one of our main promoters went bankrupt in December 2022, which cancelled that run. So another big blow to the band. Right now, we’re figuring things out for our next step. I won’t lie, it’s been very tough and frustrating at times, but we’re doing the best we can moving forward in this changed music industry.
When and how did you discover Toontrack?
I discovered Toontrack in the mid-2000s. Drumkit From Hell is what got my attention. Everyone was using it in my circle. I checked it out and quickly found out that it was the most realistic-sounding drum program to my ears. So I would use it for drum track demos in my various bands. It wasn’t until 2013 when I started using more than just the drum stuff. I got into the various EZdrummer, EZmix, EZkeys packs and more. All the Toontrack stuff has been a staple with my music creating for the past ten years.
How do these tools help in your work?
They make demoing material before I go into the studio so much easier. There have been times where we’ve actually kept programmed synth parts and so on for the actual album recording. It sounded that good. As opposed to going in and having someone play it on a keyboard. Toontrack software is a definite staple for me with creating new music.
On a more personal note, you are very invested in public speaking, helping others find inspiration and motivation to be the best they can be. Where does this stem from?
Yes. It stems from my parents influence growing up. They taught me to believe in myself, set goals, take action, never quit and to be authentically you. The only way to live life is to love what you do and do what you love as much as you can each day. Set your standards high. Don’t settle for mediocre. You may not always get the best end result, but you’ll average a lot higher if you always shoot high with your goals. Just be the best version of yourself and never stop learning from your successes and, most of all, from your mistakes. Your mistakes are your greatest teacher! After learning these principles over the years, I applied them to my life with great success (and some failures too), which eventually inspired me to share it with as many people as I could. I feel grateful for my success and helping others succeed and live a life they love.
Where do you see yourself taking it next?
I want to take it around the world in a seminar kind of way. I’ve already done dozens of seminars while on tour with the DTP in many countries across the globe. It’s a goal of mine to do it as it’s own entity sometime down the road, outside of doing it on tour. I still have some unfinished musical goals, but I could see myself having my music career and motivational speaking coexist with each other in the not too distant future.
What’s coming up in your own and your band’s agenda?
I’m always working on several things at once… Teaching, session work, clinics and motivational speaking. I enjoy all those things and try to include as many of them in my life when life allows it. I’m a busy guy. As for Imonolith, we’ve had a rough go at things, as already explained, but the goal is to get out there and release some more music and hopefully tour to support it. Recording and touring are what I love doing most. It’s a tough industry, but you got to keep pushing forward and believe! I believe one way or another great things are ahead for me.
Double pedal or double bass drums?
Double bass drums all the way. I used to play double pedal for most of my life but switched to two bass drums in 2011. I have a hard time enjoying a double pedal after switching to the feel of two singular pedals on two bass drums. The smoothness of two single pedals has won me over! So, two bass drums for me for the foreseeable future.
Click track or no click track in your headphones?
It’s funny, when I started drumming, I always practiced to a click but never played live to one. In 2005 that changed. While on tour with the Devin Townsend Band opening for Opeth, I suggested to Devin that we use click track in our in-ear monitors live for the Synchestra Tour to tighten the band up even more, which worked out well. Then when the DTP started up, Dev wanted us all on click track in our in-ears from day one until 2018 when the band broke up for him to explore other musical ambitions. I enjoy drumming to a click but am comfortable without it too.
Dream team band (with you on the drums!):
That’s not easy! I have so many musicians I love and respect including the guys in DTP and Imonolith. But I’ll go with players I haven’t played with before… Let’s go with Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer) on vocals, he’s so diverse and talented as a vocalist. I’d definitely go with Geddy Lee (Rush) on bass. I know I’d have a blast feeding off his creative playing. On rhythm guitar, it’d be awesome to have the super talented Dave Grohl, he’s as solid as they come in many ways. Alex Lifeson (Rush) is one of my favorite guitarists with his memorable solos, so let’s put him on lead guitar and then me (with a HUGE smile on my face) on drums!
Check out Ryan at the kit with Devin Townsend Project from our Metal Month livestream some years back!