Derryk Gan: one-man band who plays ethereal music

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Derryk Gan’s songs will take you on a long, psychedelic journey. (Luqmannul Hakim pic)

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has a heartfelt independent music scene teeming with talented musicians across genres.

A great place to catch these acts is the independent music venue Merdekarya, which holds live music shows four nights a week.

It goes without saying that these passionate musicians spend countless hours honing their craft, driven by their passion for music.

One such musician is Derryk Gan – better known by his stage name Armand Tanzarian – a one-man band who creates atmospheric music though live looping, in which different layers of sounds and textures are recorded in real-time in front of an audience.

A beautiful confluence of droning riffs, waves of distortion and echoing reverb, Gan’s songs take listeners on a psychedelic ride through the depths of melancholy and yearnings of hope.

“It’s almost like building a sculpture in real-time; people get to watch and experience each layer of sound created as it builds on top of each other,” said the 34-year-old who works in marketing.

Gan has been playing the electric organ since he was six years old, and thought himself to play the guitar and bass in his mid-teens.

As a huge fan of post-rock music, he is inspired by local bands such as Kuala Lumpur Post-Harmonic Quintet, Damn Dirty Apes and Citizens of Ice Cream, as well as international bands such as Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, Mogwai, and Mono.

In addition, Gan also listens to post-metal bands such as Isis, Cult of Luna, Russian Circles, Deafheaven, as well as progressive metal band Oceansize.

In 2011, he started performing on his own, having played in several other bands prior to that.

In mid-2021, he released his first album “A Year Without Light”, and in June this year, his second album titled “A Simple Gift”.

Gan described this second offering as “mostly depressing, yet at the same time, a cry for optimism and a fierce demand for independence after two years without light”.

Despite a hectic work schedule, he recorded both albums himself.

“I didn’t focus on releasing singles or albums in the beginning because I felt that the interesting part of what I do is the visual aspect, where the audience gets to watch me play around with different guitar pedals to build the songs,” he told FMT, adding that he occasionally incorporates audio samples from old commercials, films and news clips into his performances.

Gan said he plans to keep the momentum going and to record more albums in the future. “Although there’s a temptation to keep perfecting a song, I want to try to complete them and release another album in the middle of next year.”

In addition to his solo music projects, Gan also plays bass and guitar for bands Momin & the Deen’s List and The Bungalows Had Eyes respectively.

Catch Derryk Gan and other musicians at independent music venue Merdekarya in Petaling Jaya. (Merdekarya pic)

Gan is extremely grateful to the local independent music scene, made up of a diverse crowd of musicians who are welcoming and supportive of each other’s musical journey, in addition to accepting people for who they are.

“It’s one of the most amazing things that we have; it’s a scene that we’ve built entirely by ourselves, as we’ve never really had much support from corporate sponsors or the government.”

However, he notes that without wider acceptance in society as well as institutional support, the scene will continue to be insular.

“There needs to be an understanding of what it means to play music and why we do what we do. It’s also not just about singing love or protest songs; it’s a way for people to be happy.”

Derryk Gan’s post-rock, shoegaze music transports listeners into a different realm. (Luqmannul Hakim pic)

Playing music for more than half of his existence has undoubtedly made a huge difference in his life.

“I used to be this nerdy kid who never spoke much, but I’ve since gained a lot of friends, and not to mention, confidence.”

At the end of the day, his aim of playing music is to fill the space with the overwhelming sense of emotions he is trying to convey.

“I want the audience to momentarily push away all distractions and have a shared experience of joy, anger and melancholy. To me, it’s akin to chasing an emotional high; it’s addictive, and once the song ends, you feel exhausted, like you’ve just been on a journey.”

Listen to Derryk Gan’s music on Spotify and Bandcamp, Instagram and YouTube.

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