Words, music, indie film

Ryan Stark

Photo By David Robert

Ryan Stark, tall and lanky and oft dressed in black, is a steady presence in Reno’s spoken-word open mic circuit, though he’s quick to back away from the label “poet.” “When you call yourself a poet, you lend yourself to pretenses,” he says. “I forget who said it, but the lines goes, ‘Poetry is a euphemism for talking shit.’ “ Stark is heading up a straightforward promotion of indie art. At 8 p.m. Aug. 2, Stark and fellow Reno word-slinger Tim Dufrisne will perform spoken-word pieces at Brüka Theatre to open an independent film night with the Michael Dean punk rock documentary D.I.Y.O.D (Do It Yourself Or Die), as well as local filmmaker David Howe’s Hear No Villa, Speak No Villa and a film by Jacquline Castel. I met up with Stark at Esoteric Coffeehouse, where he sat scribbling notes and listening to music on his headphones.

What are you writing? Or is it a secret?

No secret. [He reads:] “Radiohead’s Kid A on the ‘phones. Some great concepts … for the most part, it’s ambient techno with soft, gentle voices coming in and out.”

It’s a great album. Just takes a while to get into.

That’s what everybody tells me. All the music I’m into is almost the antithesis of everything Radiohead does, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Last time I saw you [at a Deux Gros Nez coffeehouse open mic] you asked me to tell you a story. Do you have a story?

[A pause.] I’m on tour. I have a night off, and I see Gil Scott Heron, one of the great writers and lyricists from the ‘60s. He helped create everything we know as rap or hip-hop. I saw his show and afterward had a chance to hang out backstage—and this guy, for a point in my life, was like Elvis. Did you ever hear the piece, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised?”

Oh yeah.

So I’m sitting with this huge influence on my life, and he’s sitting there with all these cool guys, and I feel like this dorky white guy. He offers me a hit off his marijuana cigarette, and I had to turn him down ‘cause I’m not into drugs at all, and that kind of tee’d him off. It was probably the most awkward thing I’ve ever done.

Were you disappointed by the experience?

Anytime you meet your hero, you always lend yourself to the opportunity to have him let you down—but he didn’t really do that.

Tell me about the Brüka show.

I’m doing a spoken word there, and I have one of my favorite spoken-word artists, Tim Dufrisne [performing a spoken-word piece]. He’s a young guy but has words that hit like hammers. And I’ve always been into film. [Making an indie film] is a huge feat, like building a skyscraper with toothpicks. So I decided to help promote some local indie film people, and I got to talking to Los Angeles filmmaker, Michael Dean. We have a great independent scene here in Reno that’s about to explode, [although] the indie film scene never got to be a huge thing. If you’re into film, the place to be is not Reno.

Are you worried about the turnout at Brüka?

No. I, myself, and a bunch of other people have been fliering this thing. And the names in the film are big enough—Fugazi, GWAR, Minor Threat. …