Mudvayne Bassist Ryan Martinie Shares His Thoughts on the “Brbr-DENG” Memes and Videos
If you were of age when Mudvayne’s breakthrough hit “Dig” took over the airwaves in 2000, you were probably a bit confused, but also tickled, by the emergence of the “brbr-DENG” meme last year. Coined from an onomatopoeia mimicking the sounds of Ryan Martinie’s iconic slap bass riff, the meme has taken on a life of its own in recent months.
Martinie, it turns out, is even more baffled than you are. “It’s super awesome that people have had a good time with it and have been able to share something that I actually had nothing to do with,” Martinie tells MetalSucks by phone from his home in North Carolina. “I’m as curious as everyone else as to why and where and how and what. Who made up this onomatopoeia? I guess that’s the first question. ‘Brbr-DENG.’ Who actually came up with that?,” he muses. “It’s me! That would’ve been a clever trick! But no, I’m not that kind of magician.”
Martinie avoids social media entirely, so it was his bassist buddy Nick Schendzielos of Job For a Cowboy who first alerted him to the meme’s existence. “‘Uhhhhh, you’re viral bro,’” Schendzielos told Martinie. “I don’t think either of us thought a whole ton of it. Then all of a sudden it’s this damn thing that’s running amok on the Internet. I think it’s been really fun for everybody,” he enthuses.
The video that surfaced in April of the now infamous “brbr-DENG” slap looped on repeat for a punishing ten hours was simultaneously comedic and nightmarish for Martinie, who’s played that very riff thousands of times throughout his career. “I watched a couple rounds of it and got the gist,” he says with a chuckle. “It’s been a really long time since I took part in making the video and being there in that particular moment and having it replayed and replayed… it starts to get somewhat nightmarish for me! This thing that doesn’t cease that is history, that is then, but also now, oh my god, make it stop, burn it with fire.” But Martinie is quick to pivot back to his overall enthusiasm despite living in brbr-DENG purgatory. “Man, it’s still fun, but the repetition… yes, it gets the point across. Brbr-DENG!” Even Martinie himself can’t escape the irresistible urge of repeating that delectable phrase.
When I ask about the most recent viral video, which sees “Dig” slowed down by 1% with each iteration of brbr-DENG, Martinie gives a virtual eye-roll. “No, I didn’t see that one, man,” he laughs. “Just knowing what it was is enough. At this point everyone in the band has heard that song played at about every tempo.”
Reflecting on the music video for “Dig,” which has become inextricably linked to the meme thanks to its its over-the-top facial expressions and makeup from the band’s early years, Martinie reflects on what it was like for a new band to be in a professional video shoot environment for the very first time, back when labels spent real money on such endeavors. “That was our first thing so we were really green. I don’t think any of us knew that we were gonna be doing an all day and all night kind of thing straight through to get this done. It was so new to us at the time that I don’t think any of us had any expectations, so you find yourself in that situation and you’re really kind of along for the ride. With subsequent videos, you know the drill: you’re gonna show up, you’re in wardrobe and makeup early, all that stuff, and it goes the way it normally goes. But that first experience with it is pretty shocking and fun.” He also marvels at watching the cinematic aspect of the size and breadth of the professional team it took to get it all done.
Despite its light-hearted intentions, Martinie expresses some concerns about the misogynistic tones some iterations of the meme have taken on. “The times we live in, it feels like some of it is a little misogynistic and that’s a little not to my liking. It doesn’t seem to be the most equal in some ways.” Seemingly aware of the potential ramifications of alienating a portion of his fanbase, he declined to elaborate other than to say “there are lots of types of people” that participate in a cultural phenomenon such as this, but some quick research easily turns up a few examples of what he’s likely talking about. Martinie doesn’t hesitates to qualify that statement, though: “Most people are gonna take it really light-hearted and have a good time. I think intent goes a really long way so whether people mean it to be one thing or the other, I think some things could be taken a little out of context, or could be seen from someone else’s viewpoint and not be taken in a positive way and I would find that an unfortunate connection to it. I’m happy if it’s positive with everyone.”
Like most forward-thinking musicians, Martinie is focused more on the present and future than the past. “The fact that it has some kind of draw from the public is pretty cool. I hope I can create things now and in the future that people will like far down the road that’ll still ring positive with them, and they’ll be like ‘I remember the day when I saw that.’” Right now for Martinie, that’s Soften the Glare, a funk/jazz/fusion trio with guitarist Bon Lozaga and drummer Mitch Hull that released their debut album Making Faces in 2017.
Martinie tells MetalSucks that he’s really enjoying the creative freedom the outfit offers, speaks incredibly highly of his bandmates, and says that Soften the Glare will release a new album before year’s end. “Playing with people who have such a storied history making music allows for us to access different points in time within ourselves and our desires, things we’ve seen come and go, that we like. We’re really free with each other in the thought process. If I have to choose one word, ‘freedom’ would be what I feel from it. The freedom to do whatever we want.” He’s also greatly enjoyed making music outside the commercial system Mudvayne inhabited, saying “We have a portal with an aperture that isn’t controlled by some industry force, or our unwritten desires for success. The aperture stays as open as possible, and that portal is as open as I’ve ever felt.”
Reflecting on how the brbr-DENG meme might affect his musical career going forward, he offers, “Now that I’ve got my own onomatopoeia, if we ever play that damn thing live at some point, I know that’s gonna go through my head and I’m gonna have to stop myself from laughing while playing that damn riff. It’s funny!”