The Secret Samurai

Ryan Ruiz: Guitar (electric) | Steve-O: Bass guitar | Mark Kelley: Drums

Genre: Rock, Surf

Sound description: Frankie Avalon meets Clint Eastwood, to create a mix of high-energy, reverb-drenched surf and Middle Eastern music, juxtaposed with sounds reminiscent of Latin and Asian cinema soundtracks. A subtle spaghetti western influence can often be heard.

RIYL: The Smiths, the Pixies, Dick Dale, the Nebulas, Slacktone, the Madeira, Satan’s Pilgrims, the Secret Chiefs 3, Man or Astroman?, the Space Cossacks, the Madiera

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Inception: San Diego, 2005

Ex-Band Members: Chris Russo, Drums Bill Zuck, Drums Craig Yarnold, Saxophone Eric Lustig, Drums

Influences: Ennio Morricone, Laika and the Cosmonauts, the Madeira, the Bambi Molesters, Takeshi Terauchi, Meiko Kaji, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Pollo Del Mar, the Space Cossacks, the Huntington Cads, the Astronauts, Dick Dale, the Atlantics, the Shadows, the Smiths, Toshiro Mifune, Nels Cline, Jim Messina, the Fathoms, Eddie and the Showmen, Satan’s Pilgrims, Rautalanka, the Secret Chiefs 3, Joe Meek, John Coltrane, Buck Owens, Richie Podolor, Iron Maiden


Instrumental surf music is inseparable from Southern California. Popular 1950s rock and roll in Los Angeles adopted jazz elements, as well as Mexican street-music features. Dick Dale experimented with reverberation to give his Fender Stratocaster an echo and what he described as a “wet” sound, trying to re-create the music he heard in his head while surfing. Dale incorporated quick staccato picking, a hot-rod-tough sensibility, and Middle Eastern scales from his ancestral home of Lebanon.

Secret Samurai plays it as well as any other band. They carry on all the genre’s defining traditions: the lightning-quick riffs, clean rhythms, and reverb.

The band was founded in 2005 by Ryan Ruiz and Steve Van Wyk when their instrumental surf quartet Surf Report split after 12 years together. The original Samurais were a four-piece, including Craig Yarnold (Buck-O-Nine) on saxophone and ex-Surf Report drummer Eric Lustig on drums. The current lineup is a guitar-heavy, no-frills trio consisting of Ryan Ruiz on lead guitar, Steve Van Wyk (aka Steve-O) on bass, and Mark Kelley on skins.


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