Ryan (left-center): “The machines are a big part of our sound.” Courtesy of Mind Spiders.

There’s something almost serene about Mark Ryan. The thoughtful, direct, soft-spoken 40-year-old frontman/guitarist/songwriter for Fort Worth/Denton’s Mind Spiders carries himself with the confidence of a person who has figured out how to find that elusive balance between playing and recording music for fun, holding down a steady day job, and trying to build momentum for a band without worrying if it ever headlines Coachella.

The guy has toured the country and abroad with former bands –– most notably Denton punk rockers The Marked Men. He owns and operates his own studio, Cool Devices in North Fort Worth, and he plays bass for Denton punksters Radioactivity.

But his best work might be Mind Spiders, a synth-punk trio that is about to put out its fourth release, Prosthesis, later this month. The self-recorded album was tracked at Cool Devices and will be released on Portland’s Dirtnap Records (Phylums, Mean Jeans, Radioactivity).


The record is eight tracks of driving sci-fi synth noise draped over dark, sinister guitar licks and sardonic lyrics. The band combines elements of glam, goth, New Wave, and post-punk, but it sounds like the logical progression for a songwriter who’s always had a punk-rock heart.

Mind Spiders, now composed of Ryan, keyboardist Peter Salisbury, and drummer Mike Throneberry, formed in 2011 after The Marked Men disbanded. Ryan said he found a Korg synthesizer at a garage sale, which led to his obsession with synths, sequencing, drum machines, and the musical territory between live instrumentation and machines.

“The machines are a big part of our sound, but it’s still punk,” Ryan said. “Now I feel like our sound is a lot closer to being [stylistically] more consistent. In the previous albums, we were trying out different styles.”

Mind Spiders were initially going to be just a recording project. Ryan played all of the instruments on the first eponymous seven-inch record. The project ballooned into a gigging band after Ryan recorded a few songs that he thought were good enough to warrant other people’s input. He asked two members of Bad Sports, Gregory Rutherford and Daniel Fried, to play with him, as well as Throneberry.

During its early years, the band was just an amorphous group of whoever Ryan could get to play with him. Now, he said, the lineup is consistent, and it’s allowed the sound to evolve.

Ryan and Throneberry have some serious history. They’ve been playing together in bands since they met as students at the University of North Texas in 1995 and in addition to The Marked Men have also shared the stage in The Oddfellows, The Reds, and High Tension Wires. That familiarity has allowed the group to feel comfortable experimenting, Ryan said.

Until a few months ago, the band was a quartet, but the roster was trimmed after recording Prosthesis. During live performances, Salisbury now juggles his keyboard duties with playing a bass synth.

Though Mind Spiders do not perform live very often, they will playing an album release party on Sunday, March 13, at The Double Wide and will play a few gigs at South by Southwest.

“We try not to play much,” Ryan said. “We go in cycles: We work on albums and then play more when the album comes out.”

You likely won’t see Ryan and company hanging posters all over Near Southside bars. The business side of music, he said, is something he has never really embraced.

“When we play shows, I definitely want people to come out, but I don’t worry about it,” he said. “I just like doing it. We’re lucky to work with a good label that supports us.”

Ryan has had a relationship with Dirtnap since his days in The Marked Men. The label has extended an open invitation to sign the new projects of the band’s former members. Radioactivity, fronted by The Marked Men’s Jeff Burke, is also part of Dirtnap’s stable.

Though the group plays only occasionally, Ryan said that recording albums is his passion and focus.

“I want to record again soon,” he said. “I feel like it takes so long to record an album, I want to start now. The momentum dies quickly, so you have to keep putting something out.”

Though many of his projects have achieved some modicum of success, Ryan’s attitude toward the music business and scene has been colored by dozens of house shows, small tours, and gigs for no one. He hasn’t abandoned the idea of Mind Spiders catching on, but nothing will change if the band isn’t packing stadium tours in the next year.

“I’d like for the band to be high profile, but I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “It’s impossible to predict. This is just what I do.”