A Conversation with Civilized Creature

Here’s a previously unposted interview I did with Civilized Creature (aka, Ryan J. Lane) about his music, literature, Beast of Formalities, and the nature of humanity.  Read on…

EJ: What got you interested in music?

CC: I’ve been singing songs since I was a youngin’; my Mom exposed me to a lot of tunes, and as I learned how to operate a radio I started my own musical discovery.  The first two main stream artists that really caught my ear were The Beach Boys and Slick Rick.  Fun combo, huh?

EJ: What inspires your songwriting, lyrically and musically?

CC: I get motivated by concepts, impressions, and random ideas that randomly pop into my head.  This is 80% of the creative process for me.  Usually I’m doing an everyday activity (ie. driving the car, taking a shower, trying to sleep), and I’m struck with some thought or idea that spurs further thoughts and ideas that then become a song.  The other 20% is just sitting down with an instrument or computer and making things until something cool happens.

EJ: What do the names “Civilized Creature” and “Beast of Formalities” mean to you?

CC: I’ll try to make this short.  In summary, I was struck by a few interactions with people at how “creaturely” we are, and yet we sometimes act in a way that completely ignores or denies this aspect of who we are as literal created beings.  I believe we are set apart and above from the rest of the living creatures, but we are still creatures nonetheless.  We are creatures that are civil: thus, “Civilized Creature”.  The “Beast of Formalities” was kind of just another way of saying the same thing, although in using the idea of a “beast” I hoped to highlight the depravity of human beings as well.

EJ: What are your favorite things about living in Portland?

CC: Food, coffee, and an occasional craft beer.  Portland offers much of the cultural complexity and beauty of a big city without actually being a big city.  Plus it’s only a 20 minute drive away from being completely out of the city and surrounded by wilderness.

EJ: Your latest EP, Beast of Formalities, seems coherent lyrically, and it definitely is unified musically.  Would you say there is a message behind the whole release?

CC: Yes.  As touched on in regards to the meaning behind the names, I have been struck a number of times over the recent years with the “creature-ness” of mankind (being a father, watching my children be born, everyday encounters with humanity, etc.). Yes, we are made in the image of God, and thus unique from all other created beings, but we are creatures nonetheless. It is our “Imago Dei” character that gives us the ability to do what was ultimately done in the story of the garden; to believe we, as created beings can be more than we should be, and to not just be made in God’s image, but to strive to actually BE Him. This was, and continues to be our downfall; sin working out in our hearts. All of humanity resultantly tends to forget with ease our fragility as creatures of the Almighty, and lean toward (to a flaw) embracing our God-likeness. In creating this album I hoped to communicate some impressions of these thoughts through music.

EJ: On the cover, is it a wolf wearing a human suit?  Or a human wearing a wolf head?  Is there any special meaning attached to this?


CC: The cover art rather caricatureistically depicts a creature dressed as a man (really it could go either way), with the desire to depict some of this concept of mankind’s “creature-ness” in shocking starkness.

EJ: You’re music almost has a literary feel to it.  What was the last book that you read, and what did you enjoy about it?

CC: I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books lately, and the last one I listened to was called “The Bear” by Claire Cameron.  It’s written from the first-person perspective of a four year old girl whose parents get eaten by a bear. Yeah, WOAH.  The bulk of the story is her survival in the wilderness with her little brother.  It was really bleak, but kind of a unique story in the way it was told.

EJ: In the title track, you say to remember that we forget.  What do you think people forget the most in their daily lives?

CC: I know I constantly forget that this very moment is real; life is now but it’s also short, and it’s so easy to live in the past, or daydreaming of the future while the present second is squandered.

EJ: What are some moments from your journey as a musician that you treasure?

CC: Well, I don’t know that they would be meaningful to anyone else, but I miss playing music with friends from school. There was a connection in playing live during that season that was unmatched.   I enjoy dancing like a moron with my kids in the living room.  That’s one of the best!

EJ: How has your family responded to your music?

CC: My family is uber-supportive of all my endeavors.  Whether they really like it or not, I don’t know, but they like me, so that’s good. Ha!

EJ: In reference to making music, when do you feel most satisfied and accomplished?

CC: The best moments are when something happens creatively that seems like I am just a medium or instrument of.  Things come together in the music in such a way that I am enjoying it almost as if I were myself a spectator.  Honestly, most of the time I don’t feel satisfied with what I am making, and that’s okay.  It’s kind of like how food that you make doesn’t taste quite as good as when someone else makes it because when you make it you know all the ingredients and process.  It kind of lessens the magic.  Often I listen to older things I recorded a long time ago, and it’s the closest I get to hearing it for the “first time”.  Usually I appreciate things I didn’t even really notice in the initial creation process.

We would like to thank Ryan for taking the time to do this interview, even though it has been a while since it actually happened.  His latest album, A New Heart, is set to release this year.  Be watching for that, and follow him on all the social medias.

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