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Ray Wilson, taking time for an interview

headerBefore the club gig in Heiligenhaus, Germany, in the afternoon of July 19, we met Ray Wilson for an extensive interview about his growing solo-carreer, his Stiltskin project and future plans. Ray patiently answered all our questions, while outside temperatures were rising above 30° C ...


"I've now got a platform to do more gigs in the UK now" You have just toured the UK after many years, which was a bit strange as it is your home country. How was the response and will you do more gigs over there in the near future?
Ray Wilson: I was in two minds when I started the UK Tour. I didn’t want to do a 'Ray Wilson’s World Of Genesis' Tour there, but that’s how the promoter sold it and that’s what enabled me to get quite so many shows, all in theatres. So it was a compromise in the beginning, I didn’t want to do it like that, but once we started doing the shows, we had such a good response from the audience there. I didn’t expect it to be such a strong reponse, I thought it would be difficult to tour there, especially in some of the southern english towns, you know? And you can also see – some people have written reviews in forums – that it really worked! I made some new fans I guess. I did my usual 50% of my own material and 50% from Genesis and again – I was unsure whether I would get away with it. It was advertised as 'World of Genesis'. But I didn’t want to play a full concert with Genesis-material. But people were happy with this. Songs like The Actor and especially Change were good – as a song, Change went down extremely well. And the song was never released in the UK as a single. I remember playing the song and thinking, I wish I would have had the support to do it. It was more popular than any other song I played. It surprised me because it’s not a typical Genesis arrangement or something like that, it’ quite a plain ordinary song with a good melody. The UK-Tour was definitely a success and I think I’ve now got a platform to do play more gigs in the UK.

GNC: Before you played in the UK, you also played in South America for the first time. How was that experience?

Ray: South America is just fantastic! To be honest I always find any country with that latin spirit great, like Italy, Spain was the same when I was with Genesis there, and also South America, I think they are the best audiences in the world, in my experience. There’s this passion. When you play Italy, they applaude in the middle of the song when you do something. It’s really moving as an entertainer. It happens a little bit when you go north, the Germans do it a little bit, but not so much. When you get to the UK, it doesn’t happen at all and in Scandinavia the same, it’s quite a dry atmosphere. The South American stuff, in particular Buenos Aires was just phenomenal to play there. We had over 2000 people watching us in the theaters – it was just an amazing experience to be there and I would love to go back but it is difficult to organise and it is expensive. And you can’t sell any of your merchandise there which could cover some of your loss. You have to get the stuff made there. It’s a nightmare when you go through the customs etc. But I absolutely loved it!

1GNC: People have continuously asked us whether you would come to North America. What’s the status of that?

Ray: the USA-thing is very simple, actually. The answer that comes back from promoters in North America – and I have tried it now three times - is that 'Genesis were not that successful in recent years in North-America and we don’t think it would work'. I think Daryl Stuermer has a similar situation, I don’t know if this is fact but I know he does a lot of south American shows. He does some kind of Genesis thing, I believe. But it seems to be – when you get answers from North American promoters – that Genesis aren’t so successful there. So a Ray Wilson doing Genesis stuff isn’t really of much interest. There are always people like Dave [Negrin], who wanted to put a show on in the New York state, which would be great – but of course, by the time you have flown all your guitars and stuff over there, it’s so expensive to do it. You need to do a dozen shows or something to spread the cost and sell a bit merchandise to try to make the thing at least break even. The same in Canada. We had an offer from Montreal to play there but there just wasn’t enough money to do it. That’s always the problem. If I had Mike's or Tony’s money, I would do it I have to say. I would just go and lose money, I would be quite happy to do that. But I am not in that position. I am financing my own releases and it’s tough. But I’d love to play in North America and see what they think. Same with Canada – it was a big market for Genesis. I think the show that I did in the UK would work quite well. But up until now I haven’t got the chance.

GNC: You are now touring in Germany, which is obviously a good market for you. You came here first in 2002 to play an open air acoustic show in Duisburg...

Ray: I was in Duisburg again the other day, yes.

GNC: Yes, and it obviously developed from there. We now see you playing more of the harder stuff, you’ve changed your setlist or repertoir. Do you see these summer shows this year as a forerunner to the Stiltskin tour or some kind of test gigs?

Ray: Well, the autumn shows will be a bit harder, it’s not that the Stiltskin album is a metal album. It’s rock music. And during these summer shows we’re playing four tracks from the album and in autumn we have Uwe [Metzler] playing as well, which gives an extra kick up the arse. Probably three quarters of the show will be heavier. I will play the Cut version of Another Day in autumn, for example and from Sarah as well rather than the acoustic versions. So the balance will chance and these shows now are – yes – somewhere in the middle of what I did do and what I am going to do.

"I could introduce The Dividing Line and One Man's Fool to my live-set"

GNC: You finally play Calling All Stations again...

Ray: Yeah we put that in for the UK tour. I should have done it a long time ago, I have to say - but I didn’t. I’ve always loved that song, and hated Congo, as everyone knows. And there are some other tracks like Dividing Line, that was a great song and One Man’s Fool obviously was great as well and I could introduce these as well, maybe next time when we’re touring next year. I’d like to do more of that. And then it’s also ten years ago that this album was released, I was reminded of that by a candian promoter. He wanted to do a 10th anniversary [of Calling All Stations] and I thought ‘does anybody care?’ – but yes, it was interesting, Calling All Stations was very popular, it’s a great song, but just a pain in the arse to sing. It’s a tough one.

GNC: You have a new guitarist, Alex Ferguson, who is now in the band. How did you meet him and why is your brother Steve no longer in the band.

Ray: Well it’s Ali Ferguson, Alex Ferguson is Manchester United’s coach [everybody laughs]. Ali is a friend of Lawrie and Ashley [Macmillan]. They are all from Dumpfermine in Scotland. He did a bit of work with a folk artist called Dougie MacLean, i think Dougie is successful in North American terretories, it’s folk music. He did this track – Caledonia...

"Steve and I came to the end of the line, working with each other"

2GNC: Fish covered this track!

Ray: Yeah that’s a Dougie MacLean song! He has written a lot of good stuff, he’s a very talented guy. But it’s folk music and Ali [Ferguson, see photo, taken by Christian Gerhardts] played acoustic stuff with him. He’s a lighter player. I think when he plays the electric guitar he’s a lot more like David Gilmour. Uwe [Metzler] is a bit more Rock’n’Roll. So it will be a nice combination to have those two.
With regard to Steve, i think we just came to the end of the line, working with each other. He drove me completely insane and I think I needed more from him musically that he was capeable of giving – in a nutshell. Especially when I did the UK tour and we did things like Entangled and we wanted to do the original version of Ripples and we needed someone who could play this type of thing and it wasn’t really in Steve’s style, he’s more bluesy. So i just had eneough. I am also a very difficult person to work with, I make no bones about it, but I’m also very fair with people. I look after the guys in my band. But just when they’ve learned everything, I want to change it all. I give them a setlist, they look at it and then I don’t play one song from the setlist. You know things like this drive them mad. And they care about their own gear an they set their own ship up and stuff down and I expect this from people. We’re not in a position where we can have three roadies on 200€ a day. It’s not on. Otherwise the tour would lose money and you can’t continue. Once I get to an audience of 1000 every show then that would be different. So I demand a lot of people and equally I put a lot into it myself. And with regard to Steve ... I mean I love my brother very much, nothing has changed there but I think it’s better for both of us that we certainly don’t work together. I don’t know if it’s forever, but certainly we needed some time out because it wasn’t good.

GNC: This is a question by someone who posted in our (english) forums: You certainly tour a lot and how does that change you as a person? Does it make it more difficult for you to keep your feet on the ground?

Ray: Well I have to say that I battled years ago with terrible depressions. It started towards the end of the Genesis time. But it wasn’t because of that. It was a combination of things. I was with a girl called Vicky for years and years and that ended. The Genesis thing ended, the Cut thing didn’t really work. I was really clueless what to do, I knew that some Genesis fans liked Calling All Stations, others didn’t, some of them liked me singing with the band, some of them didn’t and I had this decision to make where I would say 'forget Genesis altogether, do I incorporate a bit in what I do, do I go back to the Stiltskin type of thing or the Cut thing'. There were so many questions that needed to be answered. And I had a real problem with depression and motivation. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. Everytime a tour was organised I wanted to cancel it. Tyla had a hell of a time with me getting me do do things. Someone wants to do an interview and I didn’t want to talk to someone. All these horrible brain-fucked type situations. But the last couple of years I took chinese medicine to try to deal with my depressions and it lifted my out of depression. I never wanted to take valium or any of that stuff. But I realised that something had to be done. So I went to a chinese herbalist in London and then one in Edinburgh and after two or three months everything lifted. It was the most amazing experience. And it was affecting everything. It affected my attitude, my health, my sex life, my creative life, everything. Depressions are just hell for people who have it. Once I got through that the last couple of years of touring have been – for the first time ever - really enjoyable. I’ve always been fighting myself like “that’s what I’m doing!” and something inside me said “Don’t do it”, whereas now I can actually enjoy the stuff I am doing. So now – to answer your question – touring is all I want to do! If I’ve got a complaint it will be that I can’t tour enough. I don’t have enough markets who support me. The German market does, a little bit in Poland, a little bit in Italy as well, but italian promoters are extremely difficult to deal with. And now the UK thing started – so I just want to continue.

GNC: For quite a while now you are an independent artist. That must be a bit different from having a recording contract. How do you promote your new album with Stiltskin, She?
3Ray: Yes, now I am promoting my own records - with the help from SPV for distribution - but all the marketing money etc is my own cash. Even to get Radio Airplay you have to run competitions. At the moment we send SHE out to Radio Stations in Germany – only in Germany, I can’t afford to do the UK as well at the moment. To get airplay, you either pay for it or run competitions and in return you get airplay. At the moment I’m trying to run five competitions where two people each from the Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, they come to the Edinburgh Festival, they get the flights, five star hotel and they come to see a gig. Things like that cost me about 2200 € per competition. So it’s 11000€ to run five competitions, just to get airplay. Otherwise you can’t get airplay, you get the smaller stations, or stuff like WDR2, who supported me already.

GNC: They played Change a lot...

Ray: Yeah but you can’t get the younger radio, what is what you need to get a single moving...

GNC: Like EinsLive...

Ray: Exactly, all that stuff. So you look at it and think, ok I’ve spend a fortune to produce the album and I have to spend the same again to promote it. And at the end of it – it might not sell. And then you’re at the beginning and lost all that cash. I mean I don’t mind, I don’t complain. But you need a bit of luck every now and then, something to work for you. Something that you can put some money back and allows you to play in clubs etc.

"If Levi's came and said there's £ 50,000, I'd take it and put it right back into the system"

GNC: So you haven’t called Levi’s yet to get a song into a commercial?

Ray: No, things like that – apart from the fact that it’s not periticular cool, I mean nowadays it doesn’t matter but in the old days it wasn’t cool to do something like that. But quite honestly, if Levi’s came and said there’s 50.000 Pounds I’d take it, I’d bite my hand off. Because all I would do with that money is put it right back in the whole system. I wouldn’t have any problem with Levi’s giving me something like that although it’s not easy to get things like that happen. But it’s something like that that I need, just luck. I’ve got the song, She, whether you like it or don’t, and Lemon Yellow Sun, whether you like it or you don’t, I think they’re good tracks and I think this is the best album I’ve ever done. It’s worthy of selling a reasonable number of copies so that I can do it all over again. That’s what I feel about it.

"Stiltskin is effectively me writing with other guitarists"

GNC: ...which brings us right into the Stiltskin subject. What we get asked quite often is – who actually is Stiltskin?

Ray: Well Stiltskin in the first place was Pete Lawler and me. He was the writer and guitarist and I was the singer. I crafted the vocal melodies and all this stuff. Peter sang a lot of melodies to me and Peter of course wrote the songs. Stiltskin basically was that. And james Finnigan was a good friend of Peter’s, he was the bass player at this time. He started working with Stiltskin but after a very short time, fell out with Peter, left the band and we ended up with another bass player. We also had two drummers, in just 18 months! So, the Stiltskin thing was really, guitarist / writer and vocalist. What I’ve done with She is I work with a whole host of people. Uwe is a guitarist / writer. And I have written very little music at all on this album, apart from Show Me The Way, which you can hear that it’s my type of music writing. Basically, Uwe came along with a lot of guitar riffs and hooks, taking it to Peter Hoff, who is the producer and we created backing tracks and then I have written the melodies to the backing tracks. That’s how the songs have been done. Scott Spence also did some stuff. He has a really interesting way of writing, like She is really interesting the way he did that. And Taking Time, which is my favorite song, this is another of Scott’s. So what Stiltskin is, is effectively me writing with guitarists and me using a name that people recognise. The music is heavier and I think it’s important for people who are Ray Wilson fans to have some idea of what they are going to get. When you put Stiltskin on a poster you realise it’s not going to be me with an acoustic guitar. The other stuff before, like Change, was very acoustic, but this is a rock album.

GNC: It also could have been a Cut-Album

Ray: I could have done that, yes. But it’s not as well known as Stiltskin. Plain and simple. It’s purely a marketing thing.

GNC: Did you ask any of the oringinal members to get involved?

Ray: I asked Peter Lawlor if he wanted to get involved but he didn’t. So I bought the name, the patent for the name...

"I thought about getting the original line up but it would be a nightmare"

GNC: So you got the rights from Peter?

4Ray: He hadn’t renewed the patent, so I just bought it. He was a bit pissed off by that at first, but I spoke to him and said look, if you want to be involved, I’d be happy to work with you. We had a good conversation about it, but he didn’t want to. He works in the advertising business and makes millions doing it, from Diet Coke to Levi’s – he did three Levi’s adverts, you know. He’s in the big league of advertising and he’s a bit older now, has three kids and simply doesn’t want to do Rock n Roll any more. So he didn’t want to be involved. I thought about getting the original line up but it would be a nightmare, just a nightmare. So, I look upon the Ray Wilson / Stiltskin thing – the album is now called Ray Wilson & Stiltskin and goes in the shops like this as well. I’ve done this because of distribution. You need to get distributers to put the album in the shops. It’s not just the foregoing conclusion that you make an album and they put it in a shop. You need to want them to put it in the shops. So in some ways the Ray Wilson name is a better name than the Stiltskin name is - at least for distribution. But it’s the same material, same album, not other material. I have some extra songs but I didn’t want to confuse the fan by changing the album. We have three extra tracks and one of them will be on the next single. Obviously nobody buys singles but if somebody wants it.
There’s song called Keep On Believing which goes on the Lemon Yellow Sun single. We found so far as well – quite interesting – that there has been some airplay in younger radio stations. For me that’s important to broaden your fanbase. A lot of my fans are I guess 25, 30 and over and it would be nice to grab some who are between 18 and 25, you know? And the only way you can do that is getting airplay on younger radio stations, that you were mentioning. I noticed that Radio Fritz in Berlin started to play the song. Before that we didn’t get any airplay on these kinds of station. It was more on adult contemporary stations. I don’t know whether that’s because Stiltskin is on it or the song sounds cooler, I mean She is quite a cool sounding song. Lemon Yellow Sun sounds more melodic and is if you like more adult and probably won’t be go down so well on younger stations and that’s why I started with She. So when you ask – why Stiltskin – it’s marketing, very simple. And it allows me to show people this is a rock album.

GNC: There’s was some information that you wanted to ask Phil Collins to play on some of the tracks. Is that true and what happened to that idea?

Ray: Well I thought about it but decided against it, plain and simple. I didn’t think there was any point. I went through so many different thought processes during the whole Stiltskin thing– it took us about 18 months from start to finish with some gigs in between. I thought it would be a good thing to do and then there were times when I just wanted the whole Genesis thing to fuck off over my life and there were times when I quite enjoy it. The reality is my life, whether I like it or not, and the UK Tour made me a lot happier with it. That made a difference. But when I made the Stiktskin album I never wanted to hear the world Genesis again. I didn’t want to play anything of it again either. And then I did the UK Tour and thought ‘actually this is quite good’.

GNC: You mentioned Taking Time earlier. There’s obviously something towards the end of the song that reminds people of Iron Maiden. Was it meant this way?

Ray: Yes! That’s a reference to Iron Maiden. It’s of course not copyrighted by them because it can’t be. It’s from the number of the beast, I used to listen to that a lot when I was a child. We did it for fun. I mean most of the album was written drunk. I had my Jägermeister period when I became Jäger Wilson and I was drunk for the entire album and stopped nine or ten months after it because I thought I was an alcoholic.

GNC: And then you became Apfelschorle Wilson [german word for sparkling water mixes with apple juice]

Ray: Yes exactly! From one extreme to the other, but I was totally pissed. We had a great laugh subsequently. We have some great audio footage of me and Peter just laughing about something that isn’t funny at all, which happens obviously when you are drunk so it was quite an experince recording it. It was a long process.

GNC: Talking about writing, when you say you were drunk most of the time...

Ray: No, all of the time [laughter]

GNC: Ok, so, writing Show Me The Way, it sounds like Coldplay’s Clocks, did you want that?

Ray: Yes. Production-wise, yes

GNC: The keyboards sound quite similiar

Ray: Yes, it’s a similar idea [hums the piano-melody]. In terms of production and feel of the drums, absolutely. I was playing the song on the acoustic guitar, that was how I wrote it and I thought that it may be quite cool to have that kind of Coldplay type feel. I guess it’s the one song on the album that’s a little bit out of context with the others. It sounds a bit like a Change type of song and realistically it would have been better to have left it off for something else that fits in better but it was such a good song that we kept it.

GNC: So you haven’t called Chris Martin yet.

Ray: Noooo, God! You know in terms of ripping somebody off, you can’t rip somebody of for copying a production idea. It’s not unusual, I remember when Stiltskin did Inside, which was a production sound that Peter created, and then Zombie came out from The Cranberries, which sounded bloody identical! And it was a big hit. It was just a production style thing, you couldn’t say that Zombie sounded like Inside as a song, but in its production you could hear a similarity. That’s how music works. And Clocks is such a great track. And we thought we use the essence of it, put it in the song and see what happens.

GNC: Some Of All My Fears obviously has a Beastie Boys influence..

Ray: Yes it has! I played that on the bass and I love that song Sabotage. I wanted it to be quite aggressive as it is about terrorism etc an we loved the energy of the song. And yes, we had that idea again with the bass!

GNC: Who did the rap part in Sick And Tired?

Ray: Adonis Star, a black guy from Miami, he had been working with Peter Hoff in one or two things. He is now in London and started worrking with a couple of other guys, he signed a deal with EMI or somebody. But I can't remember the name of the project, but he’s a fantastic singer! He also did one or two bits of writing with me and he’s singing backing vocals on one or two other tracks, he’s got a great voice. I would love to use him on tour but he just signed a deal and wouldn’t be able to do all that much.

"I can't afford Nir Z. to be in my live-band at the moment"

GNC: You’re touring as Stiltskin this fall, who’s going to be in your live band? Will Nir Z be involved?

Ray: No, I can’t afford Nir Z. Too damn expensive, you know? He’s a good jewish boy, he likes his money [laughter]. He always makes fun of me being scottish, so...He’s a good solo jew, our Nir – takes as much money as he possibly can. And that just makes it. I can’t, it doesn’t add up, you know? I cannot justify something like that before I get to an audience of a thousand and I am not at that stage. He’s a great drummer! And I love using him on recordings, especially for his knowledge of the studio. He’s sponsored by GMS, who do great drums and there are great tones in those drums he has this sponsorship with and he hits the drums so hard, I’ve never seen anyone hit the drumkit as hard as he does, he’s in that kind of Phil Collins-zone of knocking hell out of the drums and I like that for rock music. Nick D’Virgilio, the other drummer in Genesis is also great, better in some respects but not that much a rock drummer. Anyway, I thought about using Nir, but it doesn’t add up. He also doesn’t tour that much now.

GNC: He toured with Nena [german female pop singer, the Editors]

Ray: He toured with Nena but you can imagine how much he gets for doing that.

GNC: She played in front of 10.000 people.

Ray: Yes of course, so there’s no comparison. Imagine 10.000 people buy a 30€ ticket, you know? In the end it’s a million € coming in. And I am nowhere near that. But it’s ok, Nir has also a family and goes with the money. And I just haven’t got the money to pay him.

GNC: Who will be in the live band then?
Ray: Uwe Metzler [see photo on the left, taken from] will join this band. Ali [Ferguson] is also involved and Uwe will be in it so it will be six of us. This band and Uwe Metzler.

GNC: What happened to the Stiltskin Homepage?

Ray: The homepage – I realized that, from a retail point of view, I had to merge the Ray Wilson and Stiltskin thing, so it’s another Ray Wilson album that’s a rock album. It is Ray Wilson and Stiltskin. My initial idea was to go off on a tangent with it. But the more that time went buy I relalised that I couldn’t get a record deal for it, nobody really wanted it. Ok, some poeple wanted it but it was just pointless financially, giving them 80% of the album for nothing. So I didn’t get support for that. I don’t think it is necessarily because of the music, it’s more the way the market is. Music business is on its arse and record companies are playing very safe. And I realsied that the original idea to sign a multi million deal and tour the world for 10 years as a superstar wasn’t gonna work [laughter]. So I just integrated it into what I have been building up over the last 5 years. I didn’t really have a choice but to do that. Having said that, now that we play some songs of it during these summer shows, it feels pretty good. We did more acoustic stuff in the past, but we had this kind of rock bit as well with Inside and Footsteps etc. And now we have like two halfs and it works, I like it! People like Robert Palmer did that when he had jazz tracks and kind of more laid back tracks. So he did the show in two sets. Record companies don’t like that cause they can’t put a sticker on you. But when you do a show for a couple of hours which is what I always do, it's nice not to be hit with full rock music for two and a half hours. We have some acoustic stuff and Rock.

GNC: Any chance for a re-release of The Mind’s Eye, perhaps with some bonus tracks? Did you speak with someone from Virgin or EMI?

Ray: Peter Lawlor owns the rights of that album. He would never give me the rights. I don’t think it is necessary anyway. I don’t particular want to go into what the album was. Inside is the song that people remember. Footsteps as well had Top 20 success here and in other countries. But apart from that it wasn’t a big deal. No I don’t think we go back to that album, maybe some live versions of those songs, but that’s it.

"I want to release a DVD that's worth buying"

5GNC: You offer some nice videos on your website like Sarah during a Westernhagen support show and Change from the church in Rathenow. Are there any plans for a DVD-release?

Ray: There are always plans for a DVD release. I am at a stage now where I will record a show from the autumn tour, i don’t know where yet. I tried to get Rockpalast to do Bonn Harmonie because it’s a great location for recording but they haven’t got the space to do it. I will try and put my own crew together. I know that Nazareth recorded in Worpswede. The guys in my band know the guys from Nazareth cause they’re from Dumpfermine. And they recorded a DVD in Worpswede where I did the live recording. And the guys said it turned out pretty well. It’s all about lighting as you may know. And you need a good audience as well of course. Worpswede is always a good audience for me. There are lots of lights, a big stage, an elevated position at the back of the hall for good camera angles, all those things are important. So I am looking for a location to record the autumn show. Once I’ve done that, I have the autumn show, I have the rock palast - the thing from the Change Tour and the Acoustic Thing in Rathenow. The only problem with the acoustic thing is that people in Rathenow didn’t have a grasp for english, so the humour I used to put into the acoustic show didn’t work. So ... I used to do that back then, people like the stories that I tell, I don’t do it so much now. But my idea was to record an acoustic show and put it out. But I didn’t put it out because of that. The humour was an important part of that show, talking about Phil wanting his job back and all that stuff that I used to go on about. And that’s why I never released it. So now the idea is to record the autumn show and maybe use bits and pieces from the other shows I have. I want to make it valueable, you know? Not just one gig. And I’ve got so much. Even amateur footage on the camcorder. I just haven’t got time to look through it. I’ve even got stuff from the Genesis time, the Rock in Park concert, back stage footage. It was the last ever gig that Genesis did, the last moment when I come off the stage and say ‘is that it’? and Tony Smith, the manager of Genesis, said ‘Yes’ and he literally meant it, you know? That was it. And I remember at the time I was thinking ‘that is it’. I just felt it. And it was probably the best gig we did in terms of response and vibe, it all felt kind of Robbie Williams, you know? It was a great atmosphere during that show. And that was the last thing we ever did. So I’ve got lots of this footage and I’d like to have a section of that on a DVD and make it worth buying.

GNC: So this is the plan for 2007.

Ray: That’s next year’s project, yes. I don’t want to release anoter album next year, just record a bit and do some writing.

GNC: Will the next album be a Ray Wilson album or more Stiltskin-like.

Ray: Hey – who knows. It’s a quiz [laughter]. Could be anything. Could also be something that I shouldn’t do and then will do. I don’t know now.

GNC: Any plans for more collaborations like with the Turntablerockers or Armin van Buuren or the project with DJ Sha which vanished?

Ray: Well to be honest I don’t like all this crap. I found the Armin van Buuren thing intsresting, he took Another Day and turned it into a trance tracks. And there’s something in it that I quite liked. He also did Gypsy and I prefered Gypsy, but it wasn’t so popular.
The Turntablerocker thing you know, I’m always open to things like that, depends on what it is. Anything that’s just a bit different. That keeps music interesting. It’s kind of boring playing the same stuff over and over again. It’s kind of fun to deversify a little bit. But there’s nothing in the pipeline.

GNC: You have jammed with Joey Kelly, any plans for this?

Ray: Well the thing with Joey is, the Kelly Family obviously has an image of not being very cool at all. But Joey got a good image for all his sport endeavours for all this crazy stuff he does. He’s a really great guy, I’ve got a lot of time for him, a very sincere character. He’d be the first to admit that he’s not much of a musician. He thinks he’s shit really. He doesn’t think he’s got any talent, he’s a buisness man and does the business for the family. He did this song Flip A Coin on his last album, it was very unusual and quite agressive sounding. And I liked the way he talked on it. It was almost like rap I guess. What he did there was quite interesting you know, I am a singer and he’s not really. We were looking at maybe doing something with the two of us and seeing if it works, but it’s at very early stages.

GNC: When we compiled the questions it seemed like we could get away without asking something about Genesis, but then of course in our forums...

Ray: ...everything was about Genesis

GNC: No, just two or three –

Ray: Good, cause there’s nothing much to say about Genesis ...

"I think what is more impotant if Genesis did another tour, is to get Steve Hackett involved before Peter"

GNC: One of the questions was whether the ex-members of Genesis have heared She and what they think about it.

7Ray: No and I don’t know. [laughter] They haven’t said anything, I mean you may know well enough anyway that Genesis are not really the type of guys of being too vocal about anything, they keep it all close to the chest. I mean I spoke to Dale Newman, the guy at The Farm a little while ago, and he never gets to hear about what’s going on. And he works with Mike, you know? They never tell you anything. Nick Davis has spoken to me the other day as well. He called me, they’re doing I think a 5.1 version of Calling All Stations, and he called and said “hi” and i said “what’s happening” and he said “no idea”. I don’t think even Genesis know what they are doing next. But maybe they do know and just keep it all close to the chest. And there’s always rumours about Peter being involved which of course would be fantastic. For me however, I think what is more impotant if Genesis did another tour, would be to get Steve Hackett involved. For me that would be better than getting Peter Gabriel involved. The time I enjoy most from Genesis – and everyone knows that A Trick Of The Tail is my favorite album – it was Steve’s contribution to Genesis that created the most magic. I mean Gabriel is a legend of course. I wouldn’t be that turned on to watch genesis because Peter sings some of the older stuff, I would be more turned on if Steve Hackett played guitar. But I don’t know. I guess it all comes down to money at the end of the day.

GNC: Another question was whether you have the means to rerecord or play Nowhere Else To Turn.

Ray: Uuhh, I can barely remember the song, ermm...

GNC [singing the first few words]
Ray: Ah yeah. They gave me that one to write lyrics to. [rolls his eyes]

"Stuff like Banjo Man, that was a load of shit, to be honest"

GNC: sounds a bit like a Mechanics song ...

Ray: Yes, and they did all the backing tracks and didn’t know what the hell to do with it, they gave it to me. That’s how it started. There was one exception, There Must Be Some Other Way is quite a good soundtrack to write to. And Small Talk was kind of a reminiscence to Solsbury Hill a little bit, as an instrumental. I didn’t really like what I did with this to be honest but it was the best I could come up with. And they coukdn’t come up with anything better, so. And Not About Us of course is a nice song, it sounds a bit like a Mike & The Mechanics song as well unless you try to play it and then you realise that there are so many chors in that song – it’s actually very Genesis when you play it. But when you listen to it, it’s actually kind of Mike & The Mechanics. With regard to [songs] like Banjo Man and the other things, I mean, that was a load of shit, to be honest with you. And the guys of Genesis had the same opinion. These were b-list songs. And Nowhere Else To Turn was a b-list song and we left it off because we didn’t think it was good enough. I mean if you take the song Calling All Stations and try to compare it with Nowhere Else To Turn or Banjo Man, I just don’t think there is any comparison. I certainly wouldn’t put it into my set. I also don’t play Congo and it was the first single they released.

GNC: In your forum someone suggested Sign Your Life Away could be added to your live setlist

Ray [long breath] yeah [pause] I mean there were bits and pieces of the additonal songs that were ok. There was something in it, but not enough to justify going the whole way with it. And I think it’s great that these songs are available as b-sides or whatever, but they should remain that way. And if I was going to add anything else in my set – first of all I play what I want to play. Like Ripples, I love that song, so I play it. Same with Entangled. When I come to the Calling All Stations album, I don’t like as much of that album as I do on Trick Of The Tail. If I went to a record shop and wasn’t the artist singing on the album, I wouldn’t buy Calling All Stations, I would buy A Trick Of The Tail! That’s the reason I play a couple of songs from it, I like it! But if I am going to add anything else from the Calling All Stations album, it would be One Man’s Fool, which was a good track, or The Dividing Line.

"I'd love to play Domino and In The Cage in my own set"

GNC: The Dividing Line was one of the strongest moments in the 1998 live set

Ray: Yes, it’s quite a good live track. Some songs don’t work very well live as well, but that one did. Like Shipwrecked. That wasn’t a great live song with Genesis, so we threw it out of the setlist after a couple of shows, it’s kind of boring. And then you get things like Domino, I mean I’d love to play Domino in my own set. It’s a great track. And the other one we didn’t play, In The Cage, they always used to play that live and didn’t do it with me and we should have done it because I was doing well on it. But we had Domino and Home By The Sea and then In The Cage would have been too much in this style. But I would have done Domino and In The Cage and left Home By The Sea out because I don’t like that song.

GNC: Last couple of questions, only short answers required.

Ray: I don’t do short answers [laughter]

GNC: What’s your favorite Whisky?

Ray: Probably the Glenmorangie Sherry Wood - I like this very much. I like the less peaty malts, I don’t like the peats. So I would never drink Laphroaig, for example. Apparently, during the prohibition, Laphroaig was regarded as a medicine so they let people drink it.

GNC: What about beer?

Ray: Oh, german beer is fantastic. It just makes you fat.

GNC: Do you use PC or MAC?

Ray: I use a PC and a MAC. For the recording we use a MAC, because it’s better.

GNC: So what do you do when you don’t play music? Do you have toy trains or something?

Ray: I always do music. I have no hobbies. I think this is a failing in my life I have to say. I need to fill the gap, like getting interested in the garden like Tony Banks. I need something else, but I don’t have hobbies, I am totally a musician through and through.

"I would drive one of those mobile lawnmowers if I wasn't a musician. And maybe we can have I Know What I Like playing in the brackground"

GNC: So what would you be if you weren’t a musician?

Ray: I would drive one of those mobile lawnmowers that Forrest Gump drove [laughter]. You laugh, but I mean it! There’s a little mountain in the center of Edinburgh called The Arthur’s Seat where King Arthur famously sat to contemplate the war Scotland – England many years ago. And there’s this mountain in the middle of the town and it’s beautiful and you can drive around it. I go there nearly every morning when I am at home. You can see the North Sea etc. So I go there, buy a coffee first and then sit down somewhere – and that’s all the story from the song Gouranga. This one was written when I went to b a coffee from the kiosk. So I go up The Arthur’s Seat, sometimes phone my mother for an hour, and I watch this little guy sitting on his mobile lawnmower cutting the grass. And I look at him and think, there’s so much peace to be had from what he’s doing and until the last couple of years I used to drive up The Arthur’s Seat with my depression problems with no peace in my life and everything was a problem. And this guy had peace and I hadn’t – and I wanted that. And now I’ve got it but I am not driving the lawnmower but it’s a possibility – and maybe we can have I Know What I Like playing in the background. [laughter]

GNC: Last 3 CDs you’ve bought?

She AlbumRay: I bought Breaks Co-op – The Sound Inside, which I saw on TV in England – and what else did I buy recently....I bought a Randy Newmand album – Land of Dreams, it’s an old album which was produced by Mark Knopfler and Jeff Lynne [Electric Light Orchestra] and it’s a fantastic album with humerous lyrics. And yes - I bought Bruce Springsteen – Seeger Sessions.

GNC: That’s quite a funny album and he was drunk as well when he recorded it

Ray: Yeah you could see that [laughter], it’s really a cool album, it’s just different. But there’s not a lot out there that makes me particular excited musically, I have to say.

GNC: Last three gig’s you’ve been to?

Ray: I don’t have the time now, I gig all the time at the moment...and I am not a fan of going to gigs. Terrible thing to say because my life is relying on people going to gigs. I don’t like it very much. I like this type of gig where it’s small enough to see the artist. I’m a bit of a trainspotter, when I watch gigs as well, I look at the production, what kind of guitar people use etc.

GNC: name three songs you’re most proud of.

Ray: Okay – I think on the new album Taking Time because I managed to have a chorus that lasts two bars, I think that’s an achievement [laughter] and [thinks] Gypsy was always a favorite and – what else have I done – I like the song Alone as well. Just because of the sentiment. Not very interesting musically, but for me it has kind of a Wicked Game feel. So those three tracks.

GNC: Name three songs you’re least proud of

Ray: [answers quickly] The Airport Song, Swing Your Bag and the Banjo Man [laughter]. But I’m gonna put these on an album one day, all those humerous shit, you know.

GNC: Ok, thanks for taking so much time to do this detailed interview!

Ray: Was a pleasure, thanks.

Interview and transcript: Christian Gerhardts
Photos: Helmut Janisch