Berlin-based, British-born Gemma Ray and her band will bring their unique torch song psychedelia to Australia this April in support of her latest album The Exodus Suite.
Tomatrax caught up with Gemma to talk about her latest release among other things.
You’ll be touring Australia in April, what can fans expect from your show?
Blood, sweat, beauty, bile, happy accidents and no backing tracks!
You received international acclaim for your last album, does this make you feel any pressure going forward?
Not at all, I’m not really driven by that kind of thing – my motivation for making music is more about personal gratification and relief, pursuing a curiosity which is never fully sated. I would still be recording with the same level of intensity if my only outlet was to fill a time capsule with cassettes and to bury it in the garden.
You recorded the album life over 7 days, what was the inspiration for this approach?
I always wanted to make a record where I sung and played guitar live with drum spill in the vocal mic and vice versa – it’s always seemed more natural and obvious to me, but it took a while to get the courage to commit to it 100%. It was important for this record to have a connective element, to keep it’s human flaws and for it to document a time and place with minimal options and trickery.
Was it hard to get the whole album done within a week?
It was intense, but I always feel an urgency when recording anyway. Andy Zammit and I worked very hard on the pre-production, so it was actually a real pleasure to release the songs to tape in such a direct and pure way.
What inspired you to record the album at the infamous Candy Bomber Studios?
When I first moved to Berlin, I wanted to make a soundtrack record with Thomas Wydler (of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), and he immediately recommended Ingo Krauss and Candy bomber. I have since recorded and mixed many projects there – it was a big part of the inspiration for making ‘The Exodus Suite’ the way I did. I am so into working with Ingo and love his approach to sound and space – I trusted him 100% to capture the songs the way he did.
You have also contributed music to several films and television series around the world, how does writing soundtracks compare to writing your own albums?
I really love having a boss and to be part of a project that is someone else’s baby – so far I have found it very rewarding to contribute to someone else vision other than just serving my own – cathartic even! (being a solo artist is pretty self indulgent…) – but the very first phase of writing is not too dissimilar in a way – playing around with imagery and sounds and seeing what happens.
Had writing soundtracks changed the way you view TV shows and films?
A little bit, I do pay more attention to how music is used if something interesting pricks up my ears. I really liked the juxtaposition of The Knick score for example – but in general I am more in the habit of listening to soundtracks without the accompanying visual.
You have now released 7 albums as well as the various film and TV work, is it hard to keep coming up with new material?
No, I have the opposite problem, fear of running out of time before I can record everything I’ve written! That’s really what propels me through life and gets me leaping out of bed everyday. I have huge amounts of music catalogued which is either ready to record or to be developed…. I just don’t have enough time to get it all down.
When writing what comes first, the words or the music?
Ideally both at the same time, although I try to keep things fresh and have an open mind and so frequently write words without music and vice versa. It funny how once you let things loose how they can turn up and bump into each other at just the right time.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
No, only when I’m mixing and mastering, then I have no interest. I go from obsession to utter disinterested almost overnight…
What music do you listen to?
Vinyls currently out their sleeves here in my lounge are: – Max Roach ‘We Insist’, Can ‘Soundtracks’, Nina Simone ‘ Pastel Blues’, John Coltrane ‘Olé’, the ‘Fantastic Planet’ soundtrack, – plus a Motown Girl Group compilation which I am currently obsessed with. Generally I like listening to soundtracks, jazz or experimental records at home – or nothing at all.
What do you have planned after your upcoming tour?
First stop will be an adventure somewhere between Berlin and Melbourne… then a woozy summer in my little studio I hope.
Tour dates are below. Check out Gemma Ray’s website to find out more!
GEMMA RAY – APRIL 2017
Friday 21st April 2017
Four 5 Nine, PERTH WA
Saturday 22nd April 2017
The Wheatsheaf Hotel, ADELAIDE SA
Monday 24th (Anzac Day Eve) April 2017
Newtown Leadbelly, SYDNEY NSW
Thursday 27th April 2017
Northcote Social Club, MELBOURNE VIC
Saturday 29th April 2017
Caravan Music Club, OAKLEIGH VIC