GIL DE RAY, singer, songwriter, and guerrilla filmmaker, speaks to Jessica Winter from GLASS
Jessica Winter from GLASS is playing everywhere this summer, and fast gaining airplay on R1, writing with Fat White Family’s Alexander Sebley, and the Gorillaz’ Remi Kabaka. She guests on The Secret’s In Your Eyes (above), one half of a forthcoming bottle-green vinyl double A-side from the short, sharp shocks of GIL DE RAY’s eponymous band, who give out a sound that hits part way between the Stooges and the funked-out sex of Johnny Thunders, swathed in balearic psychedelia. GIL DE RAY are a four-piece, with Feedback Jack on guitar, Doctor Paco on bass, Jody Moroney on drums. They’ve toured Japan and the States with Little Barrie (Barrie Cadogan is guitarist for Primal Scream and others), often jamming together, and Gil turns his hand to making their artwork, live projections and videos as much as his own.
Originally hailing from Glasgow, Gil De Ray came to London to work at Rough Trade, releasing music under monikers including Blak Magik Society, and producing with Boston-based, Magic Magic. He makes spoken word soundscapes for writers including: UV Ray, Mark SaFranko, Tony O’Neill, and Murder Slim Press. Many featured on his Soho Radio shows.
The other track on the forthcoming GIL DE RAY single is Lost With You (below). It heralds their ‘first proper album’, A Riot Of Sound, out June 24th.
Jessica Winter: Hi Gil
Gil De Ray: Hello
JW: How are you?
GDR: I’m good thanks, long time no see!
JW: I have actually got honest questions I wanna ask you cos I actually don’t know. You’re like this imaginary figure…
GDR: Ha ha, I’m not imaginary
JW: You’re just like a face and a name but with many strings to his bow…
GDR: I like that…
GDR: Yeah, like an enigma?
JW: Uh huh. I want to ask you like how firstly did Gil De Ray start? Have you always done your own music?
GDR: Yeah, I always have, and had bands before but I guess what really got Gil De Ray happening was my last band, BlakMagikSociety
JW: Are you sure that was a band, or was it a cult?
GDR: Ha ha, yeah, well funny you should mention that. I’m interested in Cults and the Occult in general. And that band was kinda playing on that stuff a bit. But we saw it as Society in general was being ruled by a form of black magic. So we were trying to say this is where we are, this is our situation. But I guess I was more interested in that than say other members of the band were. So anyway we did one album called Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers, played a handful of crazy gigs, fell out and split up. It was like a whirlwind. And after that it’s like back to the start again. So I decided to use my own name, then it wouldn’t matter who I fell out with in the future and I wouldn’t have to change the name of the band ever again. Before BlakMagikSociety, I had a band called Cody High School. It’s an actual school in Detroit but I didn’t know that till later. The significance of Cody was when I grew up in Glasgow there was a gang called that and it stood for Come On Die Young, and that always appealed to me. Then what happened was there was a mass shooting at the school in Detroit.
JW: Yeah, I read about that.
GDR: Yeah, so that was the end of that…So how did you come to call your band Glass?
JW: Well as you know, my previous band was called The Hall Of Mirrors.
GDR; Yeah, that’s when we first met. I loved your band.
JW: Yeah, well we were more sixties inspired and psychedelic then but as time went on my writing developed and I felt like The Hall Of Mirrors didn’t really reflect what we were doing anymore. And I’d also gone through like 30 band members by that point.
GDR: Yeah, that’s a drag. That’s one of the worst things about having a band. People leaving.
JW: Well, they didn’t all leave.
GDR: Right, thrown out?
JW: Ha ha, yeah. So I just thought: right let’s do a new name. And I wanted something short, sharp and bold like which is what I thought the music was like and I thought Glass. I always liked bands with one word names. Like Sparks, Love, Prince…
JW: Ha ha, yeah.
GDR: Well, Prince is great. So anyway, band members come and go, but Scott survived from Hall Of Mirrors. And he’s the other half of Glass?
JW: Yeah, he is. We started writing together back then and we spent like two years of constant writing and then thats what developed the sound of Glass. Something that’s unique to us.
GDR: Well it’s interesting you mention that cos I was thinking about how pop music is rubbishthese days and how everyone uses the same sounds. Whether that’s cos it’s the same Producers or the same Writers knocking out songs for Rhiannon (Gil, do you mean, Rihanna? Editor) or Coldplay. They all use the same Euro sounding keyboard sounds. It’s nonsense but then when I listen to what you do, it’s unarguably Pop. But without all the industry standard sound motif bullshit. Which is why I like what you do. And obviously you’ve got a fantastic, unique voice. It really stands out in a world of fake divas. So what inspires your style of singing?
JW: Probably classical music. My voice is quite classic in that way. Growing up as a kid I listened to Audrey Hepburn and Mary Poppins. Also I love classical songs like Liszt and Debussy and Tchaikovsky, so many. The music is so pure, it’s like dripping water and it makes the vocal melodies sound like you’re in the middle of a lake or a mountain and that’s what I always loved. Thats what I’m in to. Then to combine that with modern music is quite a nice mix. But you’re right, on the whole there is a similar sound. I don’t know why that is?
JW: Ha ha, do you think? Do you think it’s money?
GDR: Yeah the record labels just want success, and once they see something is popular they keep copying it till its dead.
JW: But that’s kind of exciting cos it leaves people alone to do something completely different. And when it comes through its like: Whoa, what’s this? But also when you look through the generations there’s always been a sound. And maybe when you’re in the sound, you don’t know it’s the sound! And in ten years time we’ll look back and go, that was the sound…
GDR: Yeah that horrible Euro sound!
JW: Ha ha, yeah. Exactly.
GDR: So anyway it’s been a few years since The Hall Of Mirrors and you’ve been writing non-stop so you must have a lot of songs now?
JW: Hundreds! It’s crazy, I can’t stop!
GDR: Are you going to start putting these songs out? I know you’ve been doing a lot of videos. And you clearly have a strong idea and sense of style so what’s the plan?
JW: Well, what I used to think was important is no longer important. Before I was obsessed with doing an album and getting a sound and having it like as a piece of art. But now I’ve backtrackedon all of that and I’m just obsessed with the song. The album age is almost dead, unless it’s on vinyl or something like that. We’re in the age of instantaneous, people want things now. And I just think all my songs should have the same attention given to them. So I’m not thinking of doing an album anymore, that’s not in my plan at all. I wanna make every song I release a single with a video.
GDR: Well I like that idea too.
JW: Yeah and so we wanna release a new song every few weeks or so with a video. And then possibly at the end….
GDR: You’re gonna do an album?
JW: Ha ha ha! No, we’ll release the collection of songs as like a scrapbook.
GDR: Are you not just changing the word ‘album’ to ‘scrapbook’?
JW: No, we’re not, cos it’s not all going to have the same sound and it’s all going to have been done at different times and different studios. Normally an album would be recorded in one studio in a short space of time with the same general sound. But this will have been done over the course of years. It’s going to reflect the true nature of unsigned artists making it for themselves cos we haven’t had the opportunity to go in a studio for that long. We’ve had to do it ourselves. And that’s what it will reflect. And I think that will be a piece of art in itself.
GDR: Well, it’s a document isn’t it, I get it. I agree with you. People aren’t really interested in albums. I am. But most people just want the single. But most of the albums I love, the songs I listen to the most aren’t necessarily the singles. And we’re in danger of losing that side of the creative experience. But like you, I wanna do videos for every song on the album. That’s important these days.
JW: Oh are you? That’s great. I look forward to that.
GDR: I think you have to. People want a visual representation of what you’re doing.
JW: So what’s next then?
GDR: The next single will be a double A-side, Lost With You and The Secret’s In Your Eyes, which you’re singing on too.
JW: Yes! Cool! What made you write this song?
GDR: The song is about infatuation, which can be experienced in different ways. Whether it’s someone who is unobtainable and you can’t have or it’s someone you have a relationship with but there’s a barrier between you and you can’t break through.
JW: Is it a personal song? Is it anyone you can talk about?
GDR: Ha ha ha, no! The eyes are the windows to the soul, as they say. And you look for answers there.
JW: That doesn’t work well for me. That’s why my eyes are always shut.
GDR: Raybans are always a good idea. So when are we going to see your next video single?
GDR: And we’re going to do a video together aren’t we?
JW: See this is what I mean, you have your band, you make videos and you’re in another band. Who’s in that band?
GDR: Yeah that band is called Pet Weapons, that’s a project I’ve done with Barrie Cadogan from Little Barrie.
JW: Is it like Pet Sounds but more violent?
GDR: Yeah, he’s such an amazing musician. Musically it’s like The Stooges meet Can and The Doors. It’s really exciting. I can’t wait to get that stuff out.
JW: And are you going to be touring?
GDR: Yeah in the summer hopefully and through in to the autumn.
JW: As Gil De Ray, and Pet Weapons?
GDR: Yeah maybe even together, let’s see.
JW: You’re going to be busy aren’t you? Maybe I could join in sometime.
GDR: Well yeah, we should definitely do that.
Gil De Ray’s Lost With You / The Secret’s In Your Eyes featuring Jessica Winter will be available very soon on transparent green coloured vinyl 7” and digital. A Riot Of Sound will be available June 24th on vinyl, CD and digital.