My friend Ryan Davis – metal-head, Jesus-freak, post-punk-boy, husband, and leader – is my next Becoming the Student subject. When he walked into my studio he was carrying the Iron Maiden-themed TROOPER beer, which bode well for the evening. I began the portrait with Ryan giving me a lengthy narrative on his musical back story, his influences and interests. It was an interesting and winding tale, as any story starting with Kenny Rogers and ending with Anthrax must be.
On Loving Heavy Metal
“Part of it is that I never want to feel too tame. Maybe it is about recapturing something, or feeling younger… but metal just makes me feel more ‘up’ – other music doesn’t do that. These days I sense that I’m getting back into metal more because I can’t really relate to what my friends are into. But all music is worship. I can see God in any music. In metal they’re telling you truths about the world – often about what’s wrong – and looking for some sort of hope and don’t know where to look. I feel as if most metal I listen to has a social message to it. Many of the bands I listen to are speaking out on injustice or the rape of the environment. Of course, there are party songs and pure anger songs, but that’s not all of it.”
Ryan is an incredibly vulnerable man to his friends. Our conversation during the two hours I worked on his portrait moved from things that were seemingly frivolous to intensely deep heart issues. I’m thankful that he was willing to go there in so many areas of his life. Most of these things just can’t be shared in a public format, but I feel that my painting was a kind of subjective record of the narrative journey we took. Ryan is a guy of integrity and strong emotion, and it was humbling to witness his openness.
On Living a Life Not Based on Affinity
“Now, as a Christian, I no longer have so many relationships based on affinity any more. I mean, if you look at who God has put into my life – the people who I’m the best friends with – on paper our friendship doesn’t make sense. People could easily think, ‘they’re not into the stuff you’re into, they don’t like the music you like; how can you like them?’ For me the answer is just that they’re awesome people and they love Jesus. That’s it.”
On the Time Modest Mouse Played in the Basement
“So, they played the KCOU festival one year. They were supposed to play outside, but it was raining. For some reason my house was thrown out there, so they came over and played in my basement. There weren’t 200 people in my house, but there were a lot. There were maybe 50 people down there at the time. I’ve seen that band twice and I love them, but back then the singer just wanted to do drugs and fool around… phone booths and whatnot. Yeah.”
On Our Healthy Future
“Maybe we’ll both get into CrossFit and we’ll lose a ton of weight, be totally ripped, and work out so much we puke.”