The Human Machine
Ken Miles was born in 1918 in the town of Sutton Coldfield, just outside of Birmingham, England. From an early age, he had an affinity for mechanics—American engines in particular. He started racing motorcycles at age 11, and at 15, began an apprenticeship at Wolseley Motors. Miles was a World War II veteran, working in tank recovery for seven years. He took part in the D-Day landings as part of a tank unit. Miles was also one of the first British soldiers at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, but he didn’t talk about that much.
John “Jonney” Ford was also born in England, 67 years after Miles. The son of electronic musician John Phantasm, Ford started producing his own music at the age of nine, and began DJing at 13. Returning to the studio at 15, he began working on the technical aspects of production, ultimately releasing his first album at 17.
After returning from the war, Miles began to try his hand behind the wheel on the British racing scene, competing at Silverstone in 1949. Moving to the United States in 1951, Ken Miles started building his own cars to race in. Miles was known for his affinity to detail and meticulous notes when it came to discussing how to improve a car. He built two attention-grabbing vehicles: The Miles Special and The Flying Shingle. As a skilled mechanic and natural-born driver, Miles won 38 out of the 44 races he competed in between 1958 and 1963. This attracted the eye of Carroll Shelby, an American automotive designer and racing driver. Miles was known for his quick wit and brash personality, almost as well as he was known for being one of the best racers and engineers of the time. Shelby made Miles the competition director and test driver for Shelby American, where he was instrumental in designing the Shelby GT350. Henry Ford, determined to defeat Ferrari’s racing team at the 1966 Le Mans endurance race, approached Shelby and Miles to create a car that could win the esteemed title away from Ferrari. After taking the victory at Daytona and Sebring, Henry Ford hesitantly agreed to letting Ken Miles become one of Ford’s drivers to race at the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hour.
In the years following his first album, Jonney Ford steadily kept creating music, releasing remixes for The Prodigy and Infected Mushroom. It wasn’t until 2016 that he found the moniker he’s now known by—JOYRYDE. Inspired by his UK roots, he started churning out punchy bass-heavy tracks that caught the ear of EDM legend Skrillex. Embarking out on the road in 2017, JOYRYDE started the “C.A.R. (Calling All Rydrz)” tour with a unique stage design that set him apart. Stationed atop a restored 1969 matte black Dodge Charger, JOYRYDE began playing shows around the world for the majority of 2017, and made appearances at major music festivals such as Ultra Music Festival, Lollapalooza, EDC Las Vegas and Orlando, and Electric Zoo. Fans became gassed up by JOYRYDE’s adrenaline-pumping beats as well as his brazen, witty, and honest personality.
That honesty kept fans invested when JOYRYDE began to push back an announced release date for his first studio album as JOYRYDE, titled BRAVE. On October 10th, 2018, JOYRYDE tweeted a teaser for the album alongside a promotion for “AGEN WIDA”, his collaboration with Skrillex. In a 2019 interview with Earmilk, JOYRYDE claimed that he “would prefer honesty with me forever rather than perfection because I am a human being that has confidence but can suddenly have doubts… Perfection is something you can only appreciate after the fact. Only when it has a chance to fail can it really succeed because people sense when something is pre-made to achieve a certain level of appreciation.”
It’s easy to center the bulk of the blame for the album’s delays squarely on the labels—BRAVE was initially intended to be released through OWSLA, then moved to HARD Records. The album was pushed from the initial November 30th, 2018 release date to early 2019, then again, then again. To fans, it appeared that BRAVE might never see the light of day.
The machinations of the music industry can strap artists in the backseat of their own careers, at the mercy of whatever force is behind the wheel—budgets, sample clearances, technical difficulties, and more. However, life has a funny way of placing roadblocks in front of someone on the final lap, confronting people with challenges that change them at their core.
On March 13th, JOYRYDE shared a personal note on Twitter about the story of BRAVE. In 2017, a disc in the producer’s lower back collapsed while writing an EP. Three weeks after undergoing spinal surgery, JOYRYDE played Ultra Music Festival, stating that “it was the most intense thing knowing how fucked I was and live streaming with this artificial disc in my spine.” Following his spinal surgery, JOYRYDE revealed that to cope with the pain, he was forced to take significant doses of opioid pills and nerve damage medication for five months. He “was totally high all the time,” suffering from “hallucinations… and even suicidal thoughts.” No longer in the right mindset to complete his EP, JOYRYDE began the long road of healing. To keep his mind active and get back to his work, he “went back to the studio and just started writing… no songs or finished ideas, just snips of charismatic ideas and stuff. I don’t even remember making some of these ideas to be honest… After a certain point I started to try [and] get off the meds which was super hard.” Slowly but surely, he reduced “the drugs down to small amounts,” and from there, “finished one track, then a week later two more. And I have been bouncing back ever since. I tried to release tracks and singles along the way but 2017-2018 was a real struggle. Especially with the constant reminder by now-impatient JOYRYDE fans who of course didn’t know what the fuck’s going on, and I really could not guarantee I would ever finish it again.”
In the 2019 film Ford v. Ferrari, Ken Miles (played by Christian Bale) tells his young son, “If you’re going to push a piece of machinery to the limit, and expect it to hold together, you have to have some sense of where that limit is. Look out there. Out there is the perfect lap. No mistakes. Every gear change, every corner. Perfect. You see it?” His son tells him that he thinks he does.
Roughly a month before sharing BRAVE, JOYRYDE tweeted, “over the last 2 years of writing I kinda changed or grew or whatever. I don’t know exactly what this record is going to be, but I’m glad I wrote it and I’m glad I’m not the same man I was when I started it. albums should do that I think.”
The scene ends with Ken Miles answering his son’s question. “Most people can’t. Most people don’t even know it’s out there, but it is. It’s there.”
Nearly a week after the album’s April 3rd release, JOYRYDE wrote a sentiment on Twitter.
“im watching Brave sail away from me like Tom hanks sailed away from that island he was on for years, it’s not mine anymore. now it’s everyone’s.
if u stand too close to something u can’t really see what it is , now I start to see it in the world. feels great.”
Shifting Gears: BRAVE and JOYRYDE’s Versatility
The 18-track album’s runtime is just over an hour, with most songs averaging close to four minutes long. Assuming that at least some the tracks on BRAVE were completed or formulated a year or two ago, it’s a striking comparison to the bite-sized, playlist-ready offerings artists are encouraged to pump out now. A recent scan of the standard running time of songs on Spotify’s popular EDM playlist, mint, shows that they almost all clock in at three minutes or less, give or take. That’s a small detail, but in the grand scheme of things, shaving a full minute or more off of songs indicates the gradual decline—or decreased expectations—of a listener’s attention span when it comes to music.
Shorter does not mean better, and JOYRYDE exemplifies why—each of his songs are given time to really build, open up, and explore new terrain. The length of each song provides listeners more time to fully appreciate JOYRYDE’s production skills. His percussion sounds are strikingly crisp and polished, from electrifying pops of kickdrums to snares that hang and vibrate in the air with each snap. The added time also allows space for featured artists to rev up to a satisfying speed, rather than hit the gas pedal from the jump in a hurried rush to get their verses out. Freddie Gibbs and Mika Means are highlights of the album, respectively featured on “DAMN” and “GOT REAL”. The two cuts are examples of Joyryde’s stylistic duality: citing bass house and hip hop as his main influences, “DAMN” gives credence to JOYRYDE’s credibility as a hip hop and trap producer, while “GOT REAL” is an ultra-efficient UK house track that rides as smooth as a Ferrari.
These worlds merge in “4AM”, a bouncy house tune which utilizes a pitched-up saxophone sample most well-known from Wrex-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker”, Public Enemy’s “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” and Jay-Z’s 2006 homage to the Public Enemy song, titled “Show Me What You Got”. That iconic saxophone sample originates from “Darkest Light” by the Lafayette Afro Rock Band, which has been sampled in 119 songs to date—many of which fall into the hip hop and electronic/dance genres. This knowledge and use of sampling is an indicator that JOYRYDE is as comfortable in dance music as he is in trap and hip hop, furthering his influence and impact as a producer.
JOYRYDE’s attention to detail and meticulous branding connects back to that Jay-Z song, too, in a small moment of synchronicity. In a YourEDM interview from 2017, JOYRYDE shares how the idea for the project came together: “I took this footage of a Ferrari driving around, drifting, doing donuts, racing down tunnels and stuff, and I put it over this record. Before that, I saw it as something more street, something more urban. And, when I saw this Ferrari with the music I was like, “F*cking hell, that’s something really nice!” That’s beautiful. That’s really fragile. It’s fragile and violent at the same time.” In the video for “Show Me What You Got”, Jay-Z embarks on a race around Monaco with Dale Earnhardt Jr., with Jay-Z and Earnhardt Jr. riding around in none other than a Ferrari F430 Spider.
The Final Lap
Fragility and violence. Two opposing ideas that, when held in tandem, become a thing of tenacious beauty. For Ken Miles, this idea was represented through cars. For JOYRYDE, it’s found in his music.
In a heartbreaking turn of events, Miles lost the 1966 Le Mans race on a technicality. Although he was the fastest driver, Henry Ford and his team orchestrated a publicity stunt that cost Miles the grand title, although the Ford racing team won the overall event. This defeat only inspired Miles to work even harder. With Ford Motor Company high off of their stunning win at the 1966 Le Mans, Ken Miles devoted himself to the new evolution of the Ford racing car. Dubbed the “J-Car” project, Miles served as the test driver as he and the team made improvements on the engineering of the car. Tragically, the J-Car unexpectedly flipped at the Riverside test site, exploding and killing Miles instantly. His death rocked the racing world, and ultimately led to the addition of safety precautions in vehicles. The steel rollover cage that was implemented into cars following Miles’ death saved the life of Mario Andretti in the 1967 Le Mans, as well as countless other drivers.
Before his death, Miles described himself as “a mechanic. That has been the direction of my entire vocational life. Driving is a hobby, a relaxation for me, like golfing is to others. I should like to drive a Formula One machine, not for the grand prize, but just to see what it is like. I should think it would be jolly good fun!”
JOYRYDE has said that BRAVE is an album that was “born out of what [he] went through and experienced” following his life-changing spinal surgery and recovery. Overcoming intensive physical struggle and opioid dependence gave the producer “this new outlook on music and what I wanna do with the rest of my time alive.”
Ken Miles and JOYRYDE share a common thread: both men devoted their mind, body, and spirit to their life’s work. One of them sacrificed their body for their passion; the other nearly broke his body down while trying to continue pursuing it.
BRAVE is a victory lap for JOYRYDE, proving to the world that the album was worth the wait. But BRAVE is so much more than that—it’s a reminder that life is short. Our time and our health are the greatest gifts we can ever receive. We don’t know when either of those gifts will be taken away from us.
JOYRYDE closes the story of BRAVE with a simple sentiment:
“My role in life is to create for others. I’ve made peace with that notion. So here is something I did.”
Follow JOYRYDE on Spotify.