Talking Sensoria With Bill Ryder-Jones

Next month, music, film and digital festival Sensoria takes over Sheffield for a week, bringing the city’s creative spaces, cinemas and music venues to life with talks, screenings, performances and exhibitions of every shape, size and sound. One of the biggies this year involves resident crooner Richard Hawley, American singer-songwriter John Grant and former Coral member turned solo artist Bill Ryder-Jones, as they all perform in three intimate venues. Eliza Frost collars the latter to find out more about his role in the ‘3 Ring Circus’ as well as his taste in film scores and his recent time in the studio with local lads Milburn.

How did you get involved with Sensoria Festival?
The answers to these questions are never that exciting. Someone gets in touch with someone and you go “fucking hell that’s a great idea, let’s do that” or you don’t. John Grant and Richard Hawley are both brilliant and it’s really quite daunting to go on after either of them, to be honest.

The idea that there is no real headliner is great though, with each artist doing an opener, middle and closing slot.
Which is sweet but let’s be honest, I should be opening for both of them. Hawley and Grant are more experienced. You still get to see everyone though, don’t ya? Someone somewhere thinks it’s not weird that I’d be playing alongside them. And what a pleasure that is.

Can you tell us a little bit more about what you’ve got planned for the acoustic set?
I haven’t really settled on anything yet. It’s quite tricky because we have to jump in taxis and shoot over to the next venue so it’s limiting. I’d like to bring a little keyboard and drum machine, but that’s a bit of a faff. I’ll definitely be bringing a looper pedal with some samples on. I might write some decent tunes before October. I’m not mad keen on just going out with my guitar, I’m going to have to do some wizardry.
It still feels surreal, it feels like they got Richard Hawley and John Grant and then they were like “fuck” and they couldn’t get anyone else. And I was on the list for people who live an hour away. Maybe Richard Hawley is thinking the same…

Much of the festival is about the connection between music and film. How do you feel about the relationship between the two? A lot of your early work was centered around film soundtracks, like debut solo album ‘If…’.
They’re best friends aren’t they? Everything that I’ve ever wrote is associated with an image that I’ve got in my mind of something, and everything I see, I attach music to. I plan music in my head most of the time, without playing. I need to have my eyes open and be out seeing things. It kind of writes itself once you’ve got an image. Most of my favourite records are soundtracks. It’s a really fascinating world that I want to delve into more. It’s such a muddy relationship; I wish I had a better grasp on it, but I don’t have the patience or the talent, sadly. Three minute pop songs about being miserable in The Wirral is my level, I think.

You’ve been working with Milburn, producing some new tracks. How has that been?
It’s been great. I love them guys. They’re such miserable bastards, which is nice. The two tunes we did, their fans are going to really like them. We had a lot of conversations about artists who come out and sound like they’re 18. You’ve got to sound like men. I’m very excited for them.

And finally, if you could’ve written the soundtrack to any film, which would it be?
Because it’s my favourite soundtrack, Once Upon A Time In America, but only because I love the music that already exists for it. But what could I have actually done? Kes. Because it’s northern and miserable.

On top of 3 Ring Circus, there are a whole load of music, film and industry events to get stuck into at this year’s Sensoria. Here are our top picks:

Showroom Workstation, October 7th
To make the most out of so many industry folk in one place, the festival will be hosting SensoriaPro, offering the chance to gain invaluable hands-on experience from filmmakers, composers, promoters, artist managers, musicians and more. With talks, workshops and informal networking events, here’s your chance to mingle with, and learn from the best in the biz.

Wild Beasts

The Foundry, October 1st
It’s been a decade since the Kendal foursome broke onto the scene and with album number five now under their belts Wild Beasts are showing no signs of taming. Their show at The Foundry is in support of Boy King, a concept album dealing with the self-destructive effects of modern-day masculinity.

Don’t Blink – Robert Frank (18)

Showroom Cinema, October 8th
A film portraying the life of influential photographer and documentary-maker Robert Frank, whose work has taken him across the States with the Beat movement’s Ginsberg and Kerouac and on tour with The Rolling Stones. This film records a lifetime of work and memories, from personal relationships at home to his time on the road – sound-tracked by the likes of The Kills, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith and more. This event includes a guest Q&A.


The Octagon, October 1st
Created by Sound On Sound magazine, this showcase will give companies an opportunity to bring their synth products to the masses. Whether you’re a musician, producer or hobbyist, this is your chance to see new products and vintage re-releases from big brands and small boutique makers. As well as all of these exhibitors, there will be a Modular Meet Camp where you can show off your personal setup alongside music retailers selling CDs and vinyl. On top of all of this you’ll find Q&A sessions, seminars and demos.

Bill Ryder-Jones will be playing at Sensoria Festival’s ‘3 Ring Circus’ event in three intimate Sheffield Venues alongside Richard Hawley and John Grant on October 8th. Head to for more.

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