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Ray Wilson CHasing Rainbows Interview in Dresden 2013

Ray Wilson - Interview

Chase for answers: The Rainbow-interview

Ray Wilson will release his new studio album Chasing Rainbows on 19th April 2013. That's reason enough for us to discuss all the details, the essence and the making of the new album as well as new projects and new ideas for the year(s) ahead. Christian Gerhardts met Ray Wilson before the Ray Wilson & Quintet show at Lukas-church in Dresden on 10th March 2013 for an in-depth interview.

GNC: What was the reason to release Chasing Rainbows as a Ray Wilson and not a Ray Wilson & Stiltskin record. Has it something to do with Uwe Metzler's absence?

Ray: Actually, Uwe did play a couple of songs, but not very much, he played the mandolin on Whatever Happened and he also played a little guitar part I simply couldn't play. I don't really know why I didn't call it Ray Wilson & Stiltskin. Maybe because it really doesn't feel like a Stiltskin album to me. The whole band plays on the album, but I do feel the band needs Uwe, more involved as a writer, to create the real Stiltskin sound. Most of my band members, as players, seem more comfortable with what we have created this time. This albums fits everybody's style of playing - much better than anything I've done before. There were a couple of songs on the last album that also fit in this category, but having been in the original Stiltskin line-up and having been in Heavy Metal bands when I was a boy, I know what performing in that kind of band feels like and this band never felt like that to me. Uwe Metzler does fit that style, however. He's that kind of kind of player, he loves rock music. But I think Ali, Lawrie, Ash, even Filip before or Darek, they are not guys who grew up with hard rock music like I or my brother Steve did. So I think this album is more suited to their natural style, than anything I have created before.

GNC: It came to my mind that Chasing Rainbows is some kind of Symbiosis between Unfulfillment and Propaganda Man. And especially Unfulfillment was, for me, not a real Stiltskin record. it's more like a Ray Wilson record with an improved sound.

1 Ray WilsonRay: Yes, with the exception of songs like Guns Of God, that's more Stiltskin, that's Uwe. It's him that defines a big part of the Stiltskin sound. It's his playing and my singing that makes this sound, this combination. Also on the She album. So you hear when Uwe creates a piece of music, like Fly High, Guns Of God - that's Uwe - he's a rock riff guitar player. And he does it very well. I like what he does. But also, it's not naturally what I do, musically these days. I can sing it and it sounds good but it's not where I naturally am - as a musician, at this stage in my career.

GNC: You wrote the songs with Peter Hoff, what was the reason Uwe was not involved this time?

Ray:  It's just simply that Peter had been doing a lot of writing and he'd been doing it even when the Unfulfillment album was being released. He was sending ideas all the time. He'd gone through a stage of creating a lot of ideas. It was just a bit too soon for Uwe to create some new ideas. He has other projects, so that's the only reason. I've finished this album with Peter quite quickly.

GNC: So Uwe is in fact an integral part as assumed?

Ray: Yes a Stiltskin record wouldn't be a Stiltskin record without Uwe. It's not even an Ali style. Ali is more an atmospheric and melodic player … (thinks)

GNC: Like Rhianne and Frequency have proved …

Ray: Yes, exactly. He's a wonderful guitarist and brings a lot to my sound.

I have to say I don't know what's coming next. I normally tell people what is next and then I end up doing something else. I don't know where life will take me. But Chasing Rainbows really fits me and the band, at this moment in time.

1GNC: You recorded in August at the studio from ABBY in Berlin. What was the reason you recorded the album in Berlin? It's a bit funny since ABBY haven't even released their first album yet.

Ray: I knew Henne Müller, the bands drummer, for years. He was the assistant engineer on the SHE album, he has worked for Peter Hoff for a few years. And he moved to Berlin, and now has his band ABBY, they're releasing their album now with Universal. He's got his little studio there. Henne also played drums on a couple of songs on the SHE album. Wake Up Your Mind was one of the songs, he's a very good drummer. I wanted to go to Berlin to record, this time. I like the city. It's, for me, a much more interesting city, to be creative in, than Stuttgart. I feel much more artistic sitting in Berlin than sitting in Stuttgart (smiles). I am not a posh kind of guy. Berlin just feels a more artistic place to be. I wanted to work there, my own business is based there also, so I was interested to work with Henne, Philipp Lorenz and Philipp Thimm, I just thought it would be good to hang around with different people and different musical thinking. Just to see what happens. They played an important part in making the album regarding bass sounds, guitar sounds and other ideas. So when I look back on it - Peter wasn't so fond on the idea of working there, but I said, I'd prefer Berlin, this time and I think it was the right thing to do. This combination of working Peter with as a writer and producing really good musical ideas and then going to a different environment to record it - with different people, who are not so close to the demos as Peter and I were and then finally giving it to Yogi Lang to mix it. Was a good idea. Yogi did a wonderful job. I was so delighted. I was silently hopeful, that he would be good and after the first few days I wasn't so convinced. But once he got his head inside the sound I wanted to create, then he was brilliant and did a fantastic job. So the combination of writing in Stuttgart recording in Berlin and then sending it to Freising to be mixed …

GNC: But Freising is a posh city…

Ray: (laughs) well you know, it kind of started with money - and it ended with money. It went from Stuttgart through Berlin, to the Munich area … but yes Freising is a posh place…

2 Ray WilsonGNC: Speaking about the music. When did you have the idea to have a saxophone on the record?

Ray: At the very end and again, I said to Peter, I want a saxophone. And he said I don't like saxophones on records. And I understand what he means. it has to be more Bruce Springsteen and E-Street Band, than Kenny G (smiles), which would of course, be a bad thing for me. So I'm sure Peter thought "oh shit" "Saxophone, Ray's gone crazy". I wasn't so sure either, but at the very beginning, I told you that also I wanted a more Tom Petty sounding album, that kind of feel. American country rock type of thing. I don't know if that's what I ended up with on the record, maybe some elements are there. Songs like Follow The Lie, but the question was, what is missing for my musical life on that record. And the answer was: saxophone! (laughs) I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. I've always wanted my own E-Street band. It was my dream and now I've got it (laughs). I'm not playing football stadiums yet, though.

"I have written a rock song for a boxer, called Desire. Maybe I should have another band that does the heavy rock stuff only"

GNC: What happened to the song Run For Your Life?

Ray: As you know it was written originally for a marathon. It still exists. The story is still developing. After that song I wrote another, again with Peter, called Desire and this was written for a boxer. If was requested by a friend of mine, who is a radio sales promoter. He told me his colleague is a well known German boxer, and he asked me to write a song for him to use as he walked out to the ring. And I said… ok. I asked Peter, he was quite busy and we were both unsure… because nothing had happened yet with the first song, Run For Your Life. In the end Peter send me this new idea, I wrote the song, Desire, to it - and it sounds really great. It's a bit 70ies Rock. We sent it back to the guys, and they loved it. The record company also sent me an offer for this and in addition a deal for an album. But I think a single makes sense, for now. It's a good song. It's a lot more of that Stiltskin sound. I said let's just release a single for now. I can't start thinking about writing another album right now. So that story is developing. When we meet again for an interview in a year or so, there will be …

GNC: ...a third song …

Ray Wilson interview 3Ray: (laughs) yes, or an album or whatever. Who knows. But as I said, it's a good song and the more I create songs in a more rock style, the more I think, maybe it's a good idea to create a side project. Just a band that plays heavy rock. I don't perform it that often these days. I'm actually more interested in songs like Lemon Yellow Sun, Show Me The Way, Tale From A Small Town - this kind of sound. They fit me and my band better, this feels correct. I'm moving away more and more from the rockier stuff in the live shows. some people will be disappointed about that but it just doesn't feel right to me and my band.
Whereas this other area is developing now, with the new heavy rock songs. So maybe I will create a new side project. Then I'm not mixing the music up any more,during the live shows with my own band.

GNC: There's a single coming, Easier That Way. Will there be a physical release?

Ray: Yes … but not to buy. It will only be a promo CD for radio. So we have a disc, but you can't buy that. It will be commercially available, as a download, on iTunes and other portals. But radio sometimes prefer CDs, so we're doing these CDs solely for radio, at the moment.

GNC: Will there be a b-side?

Ray: No, there aren't any other songs.

GNC: Run For You Life maybe?

Ray: No, not really that will be on another album, it wouldn't fit the new CD. I mean there are other songs, me and Peter created,for this latest CD, but we didn't finish them. Besides releasing a proper single, for me, is a pointless exercise these days. If Easier That Way received heavy radio airplay, then there would be an argument to do that. But I would be more interested doing something like putting Chasing Rainbows out on Vinyl, than creating singles. That interests me more.

GNC: You know the line "good things come to those who wait"?

Ray: Sure

GNC: Do you know how many times you have used it?

Ray:  No, but you do

GNC: Three times ...

Ray: Exactly the same way?

GNC: Yes, with little variations ...

Ray: It's true, that line - but what songs?

"I often refer to spiritual thinking, in my songs"

GNC: Lemon Yellow Sun, Sick & Tired and Ought To Be Resting. I didn't find the line on the new album. So, is "Wait For Better Days" maybe the replacement for that?

Ray: Yes, it has the same meaning. My writing and thinking is often spiritual based. And if you listen to the lyrics of the songs, you will realise that I do repeat themes. Not always - Guns Of God is one of many exceptions and there are other songs, refering to many different subjects, on the new album too, but I often refer to spiritual thinking, in my songs. It plays a big part of my life and has shaped my life since the end of Genesis.

4GNC: What's the story behind the rainbow idea?

Ray: Chasing the rainbow is about hitting the big time. When I was young we were made to believe at the end of the rainbow there is a pot of gold. So it's making the journey to the pot of gold. Trying to hit the big time. And Follow The Lie is a song about being on the road and is about my life - following the lie - the lie being that there is an end, there is a pot of gold. There never is. When you find what you believe to be the pot of gold, you realise you have to move on and try to find the next one. That's the Unfulfillment issue also. You never quite get there, that's the fun. I'm sure in the end you realise that everything you really needed, you already had and have had all along. You just need to make the journey to realise it.

GNC: Were you aware that the song title Shouting In My Sleep was used on the first Stiltskin album already?

Ray: Yes, sure. I sang it - how can I forget. We performed it a few times, in the old days. I have to say, the new song is a lot better than the old Stiltskin one (everybody laughs). Peter Lawlor created the old stiltskin song. I don't know why I used the line Shouting in my sleep on my new album. I still tend to write using the same process i used, when writing with Genesis. Playing the musical demo and then singing and recording the first thing that comes to my head. Just to create melodies and ideas. And maybe I was thinking about that when I wrote that song. I have this situation quite often. Like with the song Razorlite. It came from the Rock am Ring poster when I headlined the festival with Genesis. The Band Razorlite were also on the bill. I just took that word from the poster, which hangs in my studio and referred it to an Asian girl I use to know - it reminded me of her eyes, they were like razors, she was beautful and also dangerous to any weak willed man, and that's where Razorlite came from. So quite often, when I write a song, I see a word or phrase somewhere and I use it to create an initial idea. I'm not sure if that's the case with Shouting In My Sleep, but it's possible I was thinking about the old Stiltskin song.

GNC: Take It Slow, for me, sounds more like an atmospheric version of Fly High, musically

Ray: Hmm, Peter wrote the music to that one and I wrote the lyrics, so I can't tell. I wouldn't have thought so, as Uwe wrote the music to Fly High and this one is from Peter. Maybe there are some similar atmospheric sounds. Take It Slow … I wrote the vocal part at Peter's place. I remember I was ill and had to cancel a show, I caught a bad cold and yet I was still trying to sing ideas. I wanted to have new melodies for the songs, this time. I wanted my voice to sing differently to see if I can hit higher notes and create different melodies. This song is a good example. The whole concept behind that song is a spiritual one. To get your what you want in life, to happen more quickly, spiritually speaking, takes slow and careful thinking. A more peaceful approach to life. If you are rushing through life, stressed, fighting all the time … that can slow your progress down or even stop the progress all together At least that's what I believe.

GNC: So that's the "good things come to those who wait" feeling

Ray: Again, That's the similar thing, yes. And Take it Slow is all about that.

GNC: One of the tracks, Rhianne, was recorded with Ali on vocals. Listening to that song, I thought it would even sound better without drums. Have you ever thought about that?

Ray: No. But you could be right. Musically for me, it's dreamy. With the vocal idea … I was going into my falsetto voice and when Ali sings, he naturally sings that way. Our voices fitted the dreamy atmosphere of the music. And on that basis - yes it could probably work quite nicely without the drums - it would be even more dream-like in its feel. But I haven't tried it. Maybe we can try it later in one of the acoustic shows …

GNC: Let's talk about the cover. There was this cover image that was circulating with the boy and the rainbow and I always thought, if that's the cover it would be your worst ever cover. I saw the cover on a flyer last Friday in Chemnitz. So obviously it was a draft.

5 Ray WilsonRay: It's actually a picture, an original picture, taken when I was in Buenos Aires with the band and my girlfriend, Gosia, last year. We were on a city tour bus and we saw this street kid walking and we thought he couldn't see us. Gosia was taking a photo of him and he gave her the finger. The original photograph is the kid sticking his middle finger to Gosia. The timing was perfect for the photo. Where it fits the Chasing Rainbows idea? The song is about chasing dreams. And this kid looked like he had no chance of chasing his dreams. So the photo image and the song meaning created a nice contrast. I asked the designer to work with the photograph. I asked can you involve a rainbow with this kid. He did a few drafts. The problem was the kid was obviously telling us to "fuck off" and I thought maybe that's not good for a cover as it is offensive for some people and also record shops. So I asked him to change the hand, turn it around so that it gives a peace sign, but my designer created a "V" sign instead, which is fine in Germany, but in Britain it still meant fuck off. So a "V" sign in England means fuck off. If you turn the hand around it means peace. On the continent I think it just refers to victory. In the end I used the picture behind the CD disk and also as the artwork for the single and just used the peace sign, which I believe means the same thing, everywhere.
single cover rpomoAnyway, then I was looking through the photos Christian Baltrusch gave me. And I thought it's about time to use some of this guy's stuff. it's so great. For the last seven years or so he's giving me all these photographs and every time I get new photos I just go "wow, that's just great". So we took them and Thomas created an alternative look, with the brief to create an idea like a 70ies Bob Dylan or Neil Young album, that kind of style. So he took that concert photo from Braunschweig, from Christian, removed the GUINNESS sign and the computer - and it ended up really nice. Then we carried on Christian's theme throughout the album - apart from behind the disc, where we use the picture from Buenos Aires.

GNC: So you were aware it was the photo from the Genesis Fan Meeting in Braunschweig.

Ray: Oh yes, sure ...

GNC: It took me three weeks to realise that.

Ray: I knew exactly where it was, I remember the gig quite clearly.

GNC: Christian Baltrusch is really proud about it.

Ray: He can be, he's very talented. He let me use all these photos for nothing which is very kind because he didn't have to do that, but he did. It all looks great and it works really well.

GNC: Ok, there will be some changes this year in your live …

Ray (interrupts): Are you a fortune teller (laughs) 'you will get married'.

GNC: No, I was more referring to your live-shows. You are changing names Genesis Classic Quartet becomes Ray Wilson & Quartet etc

Ray: Ah, the Genesis Classic Quartet show. People start counting how many are in the band, there are now six.

GNC: Exactly - so now you have different names, like the 20 Years & More which replaces the Stiltskin shows, the Quintet…

Ray: Octet as well, recently in Katowice.

4 Ray wilsonGNC: Was that a decision to get rid of the Genesis Classic name when you are doing quartet and quintet shows?

Ray: It's really to simplify my homepage. When you buy a ticket or see the press information you know who is in the band and what the show is. The Genesis Classic concept is still there. I've introduced saxophone/flute and clarinet to some of the acoustic shows, as well. With the Genesis songs - the more classical they become, the better it is for the acoustic shows. Something special happens to the songs. The way they have been done originally doesn't interest me, from a performance point of view. I wouldn't have the heart and passion to make them identical. I wouldn't do it like The Musical Box or something. I want to take them and do something new with them. So this idea has developed. Now we even have Alicja, on solo violin, playing Horizons from Steve Hackett and Basia playing Entangled on solo violin. It's so lovely. I'm asking the guys more and more to put in their own input and ideas. Don't just wait for me to say let's play Abacab or some such song. Don't wait. Just come with ideas. I enjoy it a lot, still. Genesis and the individual band members created such wonderful music over the years.
And I always loved saxophone, when used in a good way. This element brings something new to it. Like with the song, That's All, it fits perfectly, I think Phil performed that song with his big band also. it worked really nicely. Brass doesn't always work, in these songs, but used selectively and carefully, it works very well. Marcin mostly plays flute or clarinet in the arrangements, which works very well for most of the songs and we use saxophone on just a few.

GNC: You mentioned Steve Hackett. You recorded Carpet Crawlers. You'll be doing three shows …

Ray: At the moment it's three. It started with two. We have just added Milan. I played in Italy many times myself and i am sure we will be back again with the band or the classic programme. I know the Italians love the early Genesis music and the more complexed arrangements. The audience always express themselves during and after the shows. It's a very satisfying experience playing in Italy and it will be fun playing there with Steve, I'm sure.

"Steve Hackett also suggested to do Firth Of Fifth and Broadway Melody"

3GNC: How did it happen now that you work with Steve?

Ray: I never thought much about it after we had a short contact 2 years ago. I didn't see a point unless we created a new song together which would be interesting. We are in different areas, musically. I'm not sure how many fans like both him and me? Now Steve did his Genesis Revisited II album - he had many guest singers, I wasn't one of them of course. I can understand why he didn't want to use me as a singer on the album - because of my association of Genesis. All other singers came from outside. So maybe he thought it wouldn't be right. Also I have been playing more of the mainstream side of Genesis, which is not what Steve does. However, he contacted me to do a song or two as a guest on a couple of his shows. That came first. So I checked my tour schedule and there was some free time on week days. I could have done some more, but for now we have three. And then he asked me to do a recording of Carpet Crawlers. Which was one of the songs I suggested singing live, Steve also suggested Afterglow, for the live show, but that's a difficult song from the vocal side, just a bit too high for me. It's a great song, but not my kind of singing. He also recommended Firth Of Fifth and Broadway Melody.
For the studio version of Carpet Crawlers he sent me the recording they did and I started singing on it, although even that one is in a slightly higher key than I usually sing. It really gets high in verse 3 and 4. When i got to verse 4, I thought shit - I can't sing it. I usually put the 4th verse down an octave to be able to sing it. However I figured a way to sing by using my falsetto voice, He's happy with it, which is important. I also think it sounds really good.

GNC: Will you be involved in rehearsals or will you just come to the sound check

Ray: Don't know yet and I'm still figuring out what to sing. I'd love to do Entangled. I did that in my own shows and Ali took the higher melody in the chorus So we'll see … does Steve's drummer sing that?

GNC: Gary sings Blood On The Rooftops

Ray: So who sings Entangled?

GNC: Jakko Jakszyk. They did a video recently. He's not in the live band.

Ray: Who sings live?

GNC: Nad Sylvan. He's the general vocalist.

Ray: Who is he?

GNC: He's from another band called Agents Of Mercy

Ray: ah, so it's not the drummer singing?

GNC: He will, but most likely only stuff like Blood On The Rooftops or Broadway Melody.

Ray: So Steve has a singer! So maybe Nad will do that, if he has a higher voice.

GNC: Let's talk about the 20 Years & More shows. People are wondering what kind of songs you will play there - besides No Place For A Loser ...

Ray: (laughs) I have no idea. I have had so little time to rehearse all the new stuff, let alone things like No Place For A Loser. I've got an entire band and string arrangements, which takes time. It's a bit of a dilemma. But the good thing is, it's called 20 Years & More, so I could also do it next year (laughs). I would actually like to focus on it and bring in older songs. I don't have enough time at the moment. We will rehearse soon for a few days. But in that time we do seven new songs, but also a video and photo shooting. The shooting is for a concert in Rankweil with a full orchestra in Austria. I've got all of that to do. So going over songs like No Place for A Loser or things like that - at the moment it's impossible. As the year goes by - the one thing we do have, in the summer, is time. We have a lot of gigs during the weekends, especially in Poland, so I can bring in the guys one day early to do more rehearsals, so we will add a new / old song every now and then over the year. But for the Radio Trojka show, I want to include the new songs, that interests me more than going through the old albums. On the other hand we will include songs like The Actor, which is probably one of the best songs I've written, it's developing and sounds beautiful. And also songs like Ever The Reason, I can always do that with Ali and I liked that one acoustically better anyway. They only want 18 songs for the Trojka concert, but my shows contain at least 25 songs. So i'm sure we will record more
The Katowice show was a great show, but the filming wasn't really as good as I was hoping. The venue was perfect for RPWL, but not for me, with an acoustic show … it sounded beautiful, but I think it would be better to do the acoustic DVD in some sort of castle or special location. Maybe with a small audience, i'd like to use the visual atmosphere of the location. I will find the right location for this, but the Katowice show will not be released.

"The Trojka thing will happen, but Katowice will not be released on DVD"

Ra Wilson 7GNC: So, it's a project and when the time is right, you will bring out the CD.

Ray: Yes, I would also love to do a tour with this idea 20 Years and More Acoustic Tour. But that is difficult, I'm quite busy this year. So at some stage we will do something else with it. The Trojka full band show will happen, we will put this on DVD. Also, now I have the Saxophone/Flute/Clarinet and I want to include that on the acoustic CD/DVD and the full band show.

GNC: What about the Orchestra?

Ray: That's in Rankweil in June, it's a Show with James Morrison from the UK. I want to work more with a full Orchestra, We rehearsed the show for a concert in Lodz already, but we're still arranging a new date for this show. So I also want to move on with the idea. It's the introduction of brass which makes it different. That's the fine line, getting the brass to fit in to the arrangements and adding, not taking away from the song. It works well on songs like Land Of Confusion and turn it on again for example. So, we're finding these special moments. That won't happen over night. It's a development. It's never been big on my list of priorities. But if there's something intersting coming from it, we'll do it.

GNC: Okay - thanks for this update!

Ray: Any time ...

Interview and transcript: Christian Gerhardts
Photos: Lars Neumann (Facebook)

Ray Wilson - Chasing Rainbows - review
Ray Wilson & Quintet in Dresden - Photo Gallery
Ray Wilson & Quintet in Dresden - Show report (to follow)

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