The Rick Ray band just goes from strength to strength. If Rick thought “Under the Sky” was their best yet, this release is right up there with it. The one thing about this band is that it has such a distinctive sound, Rick’s Ohio drawl and guitar pyrotechnics rubbing shoulders with more pastoral moments; at first listen they seem to capture the essence of a garage band, but there is much more to them than that. The album is available to buy on CD from http://rickray.net (You can follow the link on this site) and listened to on Spotify, Bandcamp and all the usual places.
I’m gonna pick out a few tracks to ask Rick about:
‘Wine and Clover’ is an unusual departure in style, it sounds more West Coast than East Coast to me with quite a retro 60s feel. Dave Snodgrass takes the vocal and it segues unexpectedly into a heavier section driven by a great bass line as Rick Ray unleashes a powerful guitar riff before returning to a more pastoral feel with the other Rick (Schultz) on sax and a vocal refrain taking us out. To my ears ‘Waterloo’ also has a country/ folk vibe to it? The question is: Am I onto something here, or way off the mark!
Rick/ the band: The chord work for Wine & Clover was written during the solo section of our version of Strange Universe (Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush) during a concert we were doing at the Winchester in Lakewood, OH. I don’t know about west or east coast. The tuning for Strange Universe on guitar is a weird tuning and so Wine & Clover is using that same tuning. As for Waterloo, to my ears is more jazz than country/folk. Definitely not your typical chord work in this one.
‘Atom Smasher’ sounds like the Rick Ray of old, based on blues progressions with twists and turns that are instantly recognisable over 36 previous albums - I should know because (and I really can’t believe this myself) I’ve listened to and reviewed every single one of them. I had some difficulty making out some of the lyrics (It might be the ageing process !!) - could you pick out a few songs including ‘Atom Smasher’ and explain what particular messages you are conveying; the same please for ‘Innocent’ - I think I know what this one is about!
Rick/ the band: Atom Smasher is an older song, actually written around ‘79 or ‘80, Shaggy wanted to pull this one back out. The message in this one is we are just a press of a button away from complete destruction. I like the one line in this one, “disposable planets available at Sears, you can put ‘em on layaway for a thousand years”. Innocent is just a song about wrongful conviction. There are people let out of prison after spending 40 years behind bars and they find out they were innocent the whole time and their lives were stolen from them.
Related to my comment above (the 36, now 37, albums) isn’t it time for a retrospective collection?
Rick/ the band: Maybe that would happen if I wasn’t always writing new material. We’ve already got stuff going for the next one.
Would you care to elaborate a little on the gremlins you refer to into your sleeve notes? Feel free to say no! (An aside - Do you think you have exorcised them in the title track?)
Rick/ the band: They are not exorcised yet. A lot of things went wrong during the recording of this album, a power glitch completely wiped out a finished song and ruined a few others that I deemed were unsavable. My ‘68 SG fell and broke. It is now repaired. The list is a long one and I think it’d take up a lot of time and page space to go through it all but the album got done and things did still keep happening but are finally starting to ease up.
I enjoyed the instrumental ‘Use Your Pinky, Frank’ and the piece called ‘Carole King’s Elbow’ – to what do these titles refer?
Rick/ the band: ‘Use Your Pinky Fran’k comes from an interview Frank Marino did saying he never uses his pinky unless he’s boxed in but his Live At The Agora actually proves otherwise. When rehearsing this cut, it has a lot of pinky work in it and Shaggy suggested we call it that and that’s how the name of the song came about.
Carol King’s Elbow’s title came about because Shaggy had said some of the chord work during the 2nd section sounded like Carol King. Well because of the “pinky” reference in the other one we just jokingly started calling it Carol King’s Elbow and just left it at that.
To my ears the band are in great form on this release: Kip Volan’s drums getting a real bashing on ‘You Can Take It’; Dave Snodgrass’s influential bass lines, Rick Schultz’s reeds have never sounded better taking a turn in the jazz direction at times. Please pass on my regards and extract some comments from them if you can.
When we spoke last for an Acid Dragon interview. I noted that the band has grown as a unit. I can see that process continuing into the future. What are your thoughts on that and the music industry in general?
Rick/ the band: We’re always trying to get better and better, not just with our playing but the songwriting and the recording and production. We are not looking for perfection. We’re a raw prog/fusion band like the way things were in the early days as King Crimson and the Mahavishnu Orchestra were.
As for a jazz direction, we’ve always had a bit of that going on. There seems to be more power in the music when it’s like that. The Music Industry is just a weird place these days. Not that it wasn’t before but it’s stranger now than it was back in the day. Ticket prices are outrageous. You have to mortgage your house to go see some bands. I won’t accept any excuse for that. People seem to pay it though, I won’t.
The online stuff is kind of stupid, the quality isn’t as good as a CD and what they pay the musicians is a very small fraction of a penny per play. So, to make a dollar you probably need 100 billion plays. We do it out of love for the music. If it was for the money we all would’ve stopped a long time ago. There should be some kind of middle ground for all of this. That will probably never get straightened out. Neurosis Records keeps afloat from people buying hard copies not streaming. If we had money to advertise to get more people to know what we’re doing, that would help immensely. All our currency goes back into the next album.
Finally, what inspires to keep producing music over all these years? I’d also like to give you a personal thanks to you and the band for all the great music over - no, I’m not counting how many years!
Rick/ the band: The love of music. We always have a great time when we get together, even when battling gremlins. I’m always writing new music, that can’t be helped. Like John Lennon said, “you do it whether you want to or not, it just happens”.
This interview is for www.dimensions-in-sound-and-space.com with a fuller review forthcoming in Acid Dragon magazine where many reviews of Rick’s music and some more interviews can be found.