Toronto’s golden child of grunge, Allan Rayman, talks about his new album, world-building, his love for Christian Slater and maintaining a positive mental attitude.
The term ‘mysterious’ is cliché in music journalism. It’s been overused time and time again to describe someone we know very little about – and we’ve become a little desensitized as a result. One person who unquestionably deserves this description is Allan Rayman, Toronto’s secretive multifaceted singer-songwriter.
When we made plans to interview him leading up to the release of his fifth studio album CHRISTIAN, we thought he might cancel, Allan is notorious for not wanting to do interviews and letting his music speak for itself. Thankfully, this was not the case, and he’s cheerful as he walks into the cafe where we planned to meet. The popular cafe known for its traditional Portuguese baked goods looms in striking contrast to Allan, who exudes a certain joie de vivre.
He moves around the table, trying to find a sunbeam to park himself under – it’s still cold in Canada, after all. He drops his pack of cigarettes on the table and we dive straight into our conversation. We explore the driving force behind his creative energy to the idea of world-building through his records. From Hotel Allan to CHRISTIAN, we get insight into the mind of “The Most Mysterious Man in Music.”
With over 150 million streams to date, it’s surprising that we know next to nothing about him. Until now, the only information we had on Allan is that he grew up in Toronto, he’s a major grunge fan and “fears love like the common man fears death.”
CHRISTIAN is slated for release on April 3. It’s essential to note that the name Christian has nothing to do with religion. It’s short for Christian Slater, one of Rayman’s favourite actors. “A lot of the movies he made earlier just resonated with me,” says Allan. “Especially a movie called Pump Up The Volume.” A film about a lonely student, who is a host of a popular radio show. The album Harry Hard-On gets its name directly from Pump Up The Volume. It was the name of the character Christian Slater portrayed in the movie. CHRISTIAN is a continuation of Harry of sorts. “There’s naivety and angst in CHRISTIAN,” he says. “It’s a bigger range of emotions.” Listeners can expect hip-hop leaning instrumentals layered with the gritty vocals and deep lyrics.
His albums play a part in the universe of his creation in a sort of franchise-building like quality reminiscent of major franchises like Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Hotel Allan and Roadhouse 01 are primarily narrative albums that develop the story laying the foreground, where it all takes place, the characters, and so on. The character Roadhouse, he explains, wrote Hotel Allan and Roadhouse 01. The other records Harry Hard-On, Courtney and CHRISTIAN, are the albums Allan writes.
“Courtney is where Allan doesn’t quite have it in him to write a full album – he’s still an angsty kid in a garage making grungy music.”
“Courtney is where Allan doesn’t quite have it in him to write a full album. He’s still an angsty kid in a garage making grungy music,” he says. “On Harry, he starts to develop storytelling, but he’s still not quite there. CHRISTIAN is his thing. It’s Allan’s first stab at a full body of work. It’s the most confident album Allan has made.” Rayman sees his world as a series of intertwined stories that will eventually conclude with another Roadhouse. “That’s what I see with this. If you build all these characters, you have unlimited content,” says Rayman.
Allan admits that when he’s making music, the only thing that he strives to do is make something that he would enjoy himself. “As selfish as that sounds, I think it’s crucial to be selfish. Especially when it comes to art,” he admits. “I think the more real the lyrics are, the rawer they are, the more people connect to the lyrics. This is what it is all about, the vulnerability and putting yourself out there.”
CHRISTIAN is the next phase for Rayman: world domination. He’s courting a much wider audience, particularly in the states with a headlining U.S. tour that kicks off on April 7th (the tour is now being rescheduled due to COVID-19) in Boston. The tour will debut his full live band and be “raw as hell,” as Allan gracefully puts it. The sound will be unapologetically rock ‘n roll. Picture chilled guitars that sound like Californian sunshine. Woozy synths and Hip Hop elements that nod to the sensibilities of multiple genres.
Despite his outsider status within Toronto’s industrial complex, Allan sees Toronto as a great city for burgeoning musicians. That being said, he doesn’t feel like he fits in. “I’ve never been a cool kid. I guess what I do is seen as cool, but if anything, this city has an intense scene. And when you have a strong scene and culture, you tend to get a counter-culture. So I think I’m simply a product of the counterculture. I’m not part of the ‘Toronto scene’ per se.”
By the time we wrap up, Allan Rayman is wolfing down a breakfast sandwich overflowing with glistening bacon. He has one leg stretched out on an empty chair, and his arm flung over the back of another. He declares, “I feel good. I feel present, and I’m happy with where it’s at, but I’m wary of where it could go. I got good friends and family,” he explains. “Surround yourself with the right kind of people, and I think you will be Okay.”
Update: CHRISTIAN is out now.
Words by Moe Topping.
Photos by Justin Boruta for LYFSTYL.
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