Rick Ray (Interview)

by Jerry Kranitz

From Aural Innovations #17 (September 2001)

AI: I'm amazed at your output in just a couple years.... 13 Rick Ray Band CD's! What sparked this massive creative output? Or has this long been the case and being able to make CDR's simply made it affordable to crank out your music now?

Rick Ray (RR): My output of music has always been pretty productive, but you're right, having my own equipment to mass produce has made it much easier to release my recordings.

AI: Your web site bio mentions some earlier singles. Did Neurotic or the Rick Ray Band release any albums in the 70s or 80s?

RR: Neurotic released a single in 1981, "If I had The Chance" (rerecorded for Guitarsenal) b/w "I Want To Leave Here". It also recorded two LONG albums worth of material that unfortunately never got released. The Rick Ray Band released a single in 1985 "Pictures Of Darkness" (re-recorded for You People) b/w "Divine Wind" (re-recorded for Neurotic Tendencies). It also released a cassette album in 1989 "There's A Riot Outside", some of which you can hear on "Looking Into The Past". I hope to release most of this stuff soon, kind of a Looking Into The Past part 2, 3, 4, etc. There's also quite a lot of recordings that didn't make it on to the CD's put out between March of '99 and now that I've been listening to. I think they're very good, but either didn't fit the theme of the album, or didn't fit time wise, or was just an outtake that now I wish hadn't been.

AI: You've got a top 20 favorite recordings on your web site and 9 of the 20 are held by Mahogany Rush and E.L.P. What is the appeal to you about these radically different bands that causes them to dominate your top 20?

RR: The top 20 list on my website, nine of the twenty are either Mahogany Rush or ELP because these two bands had a very profound effect on me. Both Frank Marino and Keith Emerson have an excellent knowledge of chords and in my opinion makes for phenomenal songwriting. The right chord in the right place and time can take you to another world, a place you've never been to, with chills up and down your spine and the vertical hair factor thing happening. Also Frank Marino's voice and Greg Lake's voice are some of the best in the world. For example, "Strange Dreams" off of the Juggernaut (Frank Marino) album released in '82 has some of the best singing ever done. Greg Lake's voice especially on Emerson Lake and Powell is amazing. The virtuosity of Frank Marino and Keith Emerson also impresses me because both play not only with superb technique, but with extreme feeling and soul. Both of these bands are different but, for excellence they're in the same category. Plus the song writing skills of both are great. The whole "Karn Evil 9" piece from ELP. "Tales Of The Unexpected" from Marino. Just great. Some other influences are The Beatles, I grew up with that whole thing, they're the reason I started playing guitar. Then came "I Am The Walrus" and "A Day In The Life" and "Strawberry Fields" and just flipped me out. I also love the Four Freshman, excellent chord work with the voices. Captain Beyond is a favorite too. They're back together again recording, I talked to their management about coming up here to play and he said booking agents don't want anything to do with them. They are really a one of a kind band, also just phenomenal. Robin Trower is another influence on me, excellent guitar and the haunting vocals of James Dewar, who tragically had a stroke on an operating table in a hospital and has been in a wheelchair for quite sometime. Gustav Holtz's The Planets is a favorite, I like the way Tomita did it also. Fripp/Giles/Lake/McDonald/Sinfield were a great songwriting team. I could go on and on with influences so I'll end it by saying, if it makes my hair stand up and sends chills down my spine then I know it's good.

AI: I love Rick Schultz's reeds on your songs. It really helps give your music a trademark sound and often fulfills the role that keyboards would. I see he's been with you a long time. Is this unique sound something you recognized early on?

RR: Rick Schultz and I go back to around 1965, he was actually my older brother's friend, but in 1978 he got back from a stint with the Marines and we were over his sister's house talking music and he said he could play reed instruments. I asked him to play and he got out his clarinet and started messing around. I told him, "I mean PLAY!", he started cooking and that was it, he was in the band. I agree, it is a very unique sound and it puts a stamp on the music we're doing. We're looking at adding some musicians that are in the Euclid Orchestra with Rick to our recordings, maybe the live thing too. The new album "Manipulated DNA" has Rick Schultz , through overdubbing, becoming a virtual orchestra. On one song, there's 3 saxophones, 4 bass clarinets and 4 clarinets. That's an eleven piece woodwind section. Very cool.

AI: I love your artwork. It seems to be a combination of Dali and the 60s/70s underground comix artists. Tell me about your artistic influences.

RR: As for my art work, I started drawing very early. By the time I was 14 or 15 I became the Masked Cartoonist in Euclid, Ohio and drew on anything plain in Euclid and Cleveland, such as indicator boxes, signs with space on them, walls, anything. After getting busted for that about two years later I curbed that kind of artwork a bit. The police were after me diligently for those two years. They told me when they had their pre-patrol meetings every night they would say, "Let's get that Masked Cartoonist!". They treated me great when I did get busted and every cop showed, even off duty cops and they argued who got to bring me in. That's about the time I started working on my animated movie. I've only had one large public showing of it, it was shown behind the band (Riot Act '93) during one of our concerts many years after I made it. The audience asked afterwards to see it again, it was too distracting, the movie and the band, so I showed it again and it was a hit with the crowd. My bedroom back then was also kind of famous, wall to wall cartoons. As for my influences in art I would say M.C. Escher, Dali, The Yellow Submarine Movie, Don Martin, and both my Parents were excellent artists. I started doing masterpieces on friends walls but eventually they all started getting painted over, so my work started going into drawing books. Some of which I scanned and painted in the computer. I got a job as the cartoonist for Background Magazine, a progressive rock publication, so that's pretty cool. The first one that was published was a cartoon of an ELP reunion, but it was Arnold Palmer swinging clubs in the background instead of Carl Palmer on the drums.

AI: I see you've got a show with Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush coming up in August. Do you get to play live much? Recording as much music as you do I'd imagine you're BUSTING to be able to play live.

RR: The show coming up with Frank Marino will be my second one with him. The first was with my band Riot Act, but this time I wanted to get a little more into my solo stuff, a lot of which has never been played live at all. So August 10th, 2001 the Odeon will be a good place to be. The Rick Ray Band is Paul Geltch-Drums from my old band Neurotic, Rick Schultz-Woodwinds, Gary Wood on bass and vocals and Me. Gary and I started working together at the end of last year. We're rehearsing and it's sounding great. We'll be opening the show with "Fanfare For The Common Man". We've got another gig the next night also, at the Berea Commons, a free concert, we'll pretty much repeat the show from the previous night.

AI: The one non-Rick Ray release on your Neurosis label is Phil Jackson's Paradox One project. Any plans to expand Neurosis to release anyone else's music?

RR: I released Paradox One -Reality Quake by Phil Jackson because I thought it was real good. I've also released a live recording of the Night Owls, a 1930's type jazz band, really great musicianship and complex song structures. I'll release music that I believe people should hear.

AI: Any future projects or news we should know about?

RR: As for future projects, maybe this version of the Rick Ray Band will put an album out, we'll see how things go. I'll always be recording. I think if I didn't I would explode. A lot of things inspire me to write and record music. It could be a news story or something that personally happens to me, good or bad. The Bible (AKJV) is great inspiration for me, I see the Book Of Revelation unfolding right in front of us, it's prophecies are beginning to come to pass. World Government, Aids, Cloning, The Atomic Bomb and various other plagues, manipulating DNA, mind control, rampant drug culture (especially prescription drugs) is all written in the Book Of Revelation and that was Jesus Christ's words told to John so he could write it down for us. A letter from God to warn of some very, very bad things coming up in our life time. So a lot of times after studying this book I pick up my guitar and go. I'm into God , Jesus, the Bible and the truth but not religion, religion is pretty much evil bull$&!t. Religion's sole purpose is to take people away from God and out of all the so called churches there are in this world today, you could count, probably on one hand, how many good ones there are, that are only into the truth and not religion and money and being holier than thou and all that stuff.

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