From 1994 to 2004, guitarist Ryan Ruiz and bassist Steve Van Wyk played in Surf Report, a band known for retooling metal songs (“Ace of Spades,” “Crazy Train”) into instrumental surf tunes. They opened for Link Wray, Los Straitjackets, and Bill Clinton’s brother Roger, and they played at a Chargers game and were selected in a 2000 Reader’s poll as people’s choice for best local band.
When MTV came to town in 2004 to tape a Real World series, Surf Report was asked if they would share some of their music from the 1996 CD Inferno.
“The producers called us,” says Van Wyk. “The guy I talked to said our music was perfect because it had no lyrics. They put surf music and San Diego in a search engine and came up with us.… They said, ‘We can’t pay you, but you’ll get all the producing and writing royalties from ASCAP.’ ”
Van Wyk says that all four band members agreed to share the royalties equally, “…although the songs were mostly written by Ryan.”
Van Wyk says that snippets of three different Surf Report songs were used. “There was a scene where some girl slapped a guy and she gets thrown in a police car while they’re playing our song.” He says the royalty checks have stopped coming because MTV is no longer airing Real World San Diego. “I just got a statement that said I had no royalties due.”
Ryan Ruiz, however, never did receive royalties.
“I just never bothered to sign up [with ASCAP],” says Ruiz. “It was a stupid mistake. All the guys told me to sign up. It was totally my fault.”
Ruiz and Van Wyk still make some money from the sale of that 12-year-old CD. But they understand that the instrumental surf genre is probably never going to bring a big payoff.
“Instrumental music has been deteriorating in popular appeal ever since the Ventures dominated the charts in the ’60s,” says Ruiz. “A big demand for surf guitar doesn’t really exist. You know if you are playing in an obscure niche you will forgo a lot of popularity.”
Van Wyk and Ruiz’s new surf-rock band, Secret Samurai, appears May 9 at Brick by Brick and May 20 at the Radio Room.