21 September 2010

(More than) 10 Questions with...Ray Weston

It’s been a long strange trip.

When I first met the guys in echolyn, it was NEARfest 2002 in a cramped band vendor room at the Trenton NJ War Memorial. Getting to talk to anyone was a miracle in and of itself, but somehow in that short bit of time, the first bits of what would turn out to be friendships began to form. I became a regular at as many of the local echolyn concerts as possible, and got to spend a lot of time talking with the guys in the band.

Having said this, for me at least, Ray Weston always seemed a bit of an enigma. He always seemed a bit aloof, keeping people at arms’ length a lot of the time. If someone asked me about the guys in the band, I could tell them all kinds of stories about things I’d discussed with Brett, or Chris, or Tom. Ray, on the other hand, or Paul? Not so much.

In time, this would change.

I’ve gotten to know Ray a lot more over the years, and I think the fact that I understand some of his experiences allows me a better insight into him as a person and an artist. His solo album, This is my Halo, continues to strike me as frighteningly dark, disturbingly candid, and amazingly true. I still spin it to this day, as hooked on the scenes he set to music today as I was the first day I heard the album.

Ray’s the second member of echolyn I’ve had the chance to interview officially for this blog…considering that the band is in the midst of recording their new album, 5 years on from the release of The End is Beautiful, the timing seemed perfect.

1. To get things started off, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in music?

RW: We always had a radio tuned to WPEN on in the house. WPEN played big bands, Nat King Cole, The Mills Bros., The Andrews Sisters, Glenn Campbell, to name a few. I should mention that this was around the late 60's. In the early 70's I joined our church choir. I was chosen to lead the congregation in song during Sunday mass. My first gig was a 9 o'clock mass. In the mid 70's I went to our public library where I found the Black Sabbath, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. I brought it home, recorded it on 8-track, stood in front of my mirror, learned everything about the album. I thought I sounded like Ozzy, so what the hell! Why can't I do it too?

2. Most recent echolyn shows have seen you playing multiple instruments (guitar, bass). Do you have a favourite and if so why?

RW: I have to say the guitar. Although I know my way around the bass and piano, when I want to write, my guitar is what I reach for.

3. How does it feel having echolyn back and having everyone getting along and making music again?

RW: It feels right. We are a family. Paul and Brett have known each other since grade school. I've known the 2 of them for almost 25 years now. Echolyn has been around for 20 years. Like any family we have had some fights, some of them real knock-down, jumping out of the bathroom window fights. We are all more secure in our own skin these days to let things get out of hand, besides we're to old, if one of us broke a hip-it's out to pasture with a shotgun.

4. How are things different now than they were in the 1990's?

RW: We have less attitude, more feel. Back in the day my head was full of me. The whole Sony experience has really humbled me, even now. Like J.F.K. said ask not what the song can do for you, ask what you can do for the song.

5. You released a solo album around the time mei was released (This is my Halo). Can you shed some light on the genesis of this project?

RW: When the band broke up, Brett, Paul and I put out 2 albums, did some shows, we were starting a new life. In 97 or 98 Brett and Paul were asked to go back to Nashville and record with Grey Eye Glances. This was a great opportunity for them but in my pea brain all I felt was left behind. I sank into a deep depression that lasted for years. Most of the songs for Halo were written during this funk. Now 7 years later I'm much better. I still visit the pit from time to time, I just find my way out faster.

6. Do you have any plans for another solo release, and what areas do you think it might explore lyrically?

RW: I have everything written for a second album. It will be called "A messenger of all's right." It's a mix of drugs, depression, dreams and dames. No matter how black my moods get my wife, girls, and friends show me the lighter side.

7. What do you think you bring to echolyn that no one else does?

RW: Plaid pants and a lot of hats.

8. Are there any moments that you recall as being exceptionally special musically, the kind of moment that you know won't even happen again?

RW: I would have to say our mini-tour of Europe. We were 9 moving as 1. A beautiful machine.

9. What did you think of the Still/Always Almost project? Are there any thoughts about returning to it in the future?

RW: 2 great albums. Raw energy. We really found ourselves. The 3 of us pounding out tunes. When we find time we will put out a third to tie it all together.

10. Are there any particular bands or artists you're listening to right now that are really impressing you or hitting the right spot musically for you?

RW: When I'm in a mellow mood at work I like to listen to Imogene Heap. There is something about her voice that massages my brain almost to the point of forgetting where I am…almost. My taste is very polar. I love the darkest, most vile music. I find it relaxing. It's like they are doing the work for me. Then on the other hand, Andy Williams, Eddy Albert, even Glenn Campbell will always have a place in my ears.

11. Loaded question time: what do you think of prog in general? Do you think echolyn is prog?

RW: It's growing bigger in different directions. Bands like Between the Buried and Me push the boundaries, Mastodon are more organic, Cephalic Carnage bring a death-jazz thing to the table. There is a new young band by the name of The Tea Club, they are about to release a new album. I expect to make a lot of noise real soon. Where do we fit in? I don't know.

12. How are things coming along with the new echolyn release (feel free to be as vague and/or artists as you wish)?

RW: Our new album is coming along just fine. There are 4 songs "completed" with another 3 on the way to "completion" and a few more under construction. Time line...sooner than later. I think this album has our best melodies. I can't wait for you guys to hear it.

13. Do you have any last words for our readers?

RW: Last words...learn from your mistakes, say your prayers and take your vitamins. Oh yeah come to the magic room in Brighton Massachusetts on the 25th of September to see the tea club open for me...

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(Photo above: Ray Weston live in concert with echolyn at NEARfest 2008 by Bill Knispel.)

1 comment:

Don said...

I never saw echolyn live before they broke up, so when I had the chance to see Always Almost and Discipline together in Philadelphia in 1998, I jumped at the chance. I spent about 5 minutes talking to the merchandise guy before I introduced myself.

Me: "By the way, I'm Don."
Merch guy: "Ray Weston. Nice to meet you."

It's funny that you found him initially aloof, because he was the opposite that day.