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Goin' Down Swingin'

an interview with

Brian Ray



Part 2
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RS: 36 years after I bought Abbey Road 2005 is like a fortunate tidal wave for Beatles fans. With your record, Rusty’s record and Paul’s new album Chaos And Confusion...(oops - ed.)

BR: Chaos And Creation...I can understand the confusion in the chaos...but go ahead...

RS: So what was it like playing on Paul’s record?

BR: It’s great fun. To work with Paul in the studio is such an honor. We got to work at Abbey Road for quite a while. We worked at RAK in London and we worked a few different studios. It’s just great to see his mind work and see him bubbling with ideas and loving music so much. It’s just very inspiring.

RS: Rusty told me there’s more music you and he recorded with Paul and David Kahne that was being devised around the same time as Nigel and Paul made Chaos And Creation In The Backyard.

BR: Yes, right. We were recording with Paul with another producer as well. With David Kahne, who did Driving Rain, his previous studio record. We recorded at Abbey Road. We have some material already recorded with David Kahne as well. But, Paul chose to finish the record with Nigel and obviously he made a great decision because look at the result. The result is Chaos And Creation In The Backyard, one of Paul McCartney’s best records ever.

RS: Like I told Rusty, before I’d heard the 1970 McCartney record I never knew musicians could do all that.

BR: Yeah, it’s just great to hear Paul accompany himself on a record again. It reminds us of his early solo records and some great Beatles stuff that was all Paul McCartney. Paul McCartney played all the instruments on...what is that John Lennon song?

RS: Didn’t Paul play everything on “The Ballad Of John And Yoko”?

BR: Yeah, exactly. That’s all Paul. And it has that sound to it.

RS: It sounds like John singing on a Paul record.

BR: Exactly. So Chaos And Creation has kind of content to it. It sounds just like he ever did, like he ever sounded.

RS: They’ll be listening to Paul for a thousand years. If the planet is still here. Maybe they should send his music in a time capsule into outer space.

BR: Yeah, that’ll be in there for sure, right? A bestseller on the moon!

RS: Do you consider yourself part of the L.A. pop scene? I was telling Rusty there’s been some great players coming out the L.A. music scene like The Wondermints...

BR: Yeah, great guys The Wondermints, really nice guys. The guys that play with Brian Wilson. Great people. Of course I consider myself part of the L.A. scene. I was born and raised out there, I love the clubs out there. I love going to Largo and I love going to the Mint and some of the various clubs around there to see my friends play music. You know, Rusty and I met each other 16 years ago, years ago, in Silverlake we were neighbors. And we used to borrow each others vintage guitars and he played on a demo of mine in 1990. But we never played in a band together until this one. And I always used to think, ‘oh, it’d be so cool if Rusty was the other guitar player in this band I’m touring with, instead of the guy who’s on tour right now. Oh!, if only Rusty was the other guitar player with me.’ And finally it happened, with Paul McCartney.

RS: Man, you couldn’t get a better combination.

BR: We have a great time playing together, Rusty and I. A lot of laughs and we’re very good friends.

RS: Jason Falkner also played on Paul’s record. Do you share Jason’s fascination with exotic guitar sounds. You must ‘cause you have some great guitars as well.

BR: I have no idea what Jason’s taste is. I’ve loved guitars for my whole life. I’ve always loved vintage guitars. I’ve always loved vintage amplifiers. I’ve always loved vintage pedals. And I’ve always been a huge fan of guitarists who were unusual, who had tones that were outside the norm. People like Randy California. I liked Jeff Beck in his very earliest years, like the Jeff Beck Group. Most unusual lead guitar sounds. Or Jeff Beck when he was playing on the Donovan songs like “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and when he was playing with Yardbirds, y’know all these great crazy fuzz lines. And I was influenced by the great blues players in America and then influenced by all the great British Invasion players like George, Paul, John and Ringo’s drumming of course and all the guitar playing of all the British Invasion bands. And I’m a huge fan of British blues invasion, Clapton, Mick Taylor and most especially, Peter Green. And I loved Kim Simmonds. I loved all these great guitar players that came over from England and was listening to it as they came on the scene in those years, when I was just a little kid. Fascinating.

RS: So which guitars are you using on the Paul McCartney tour?

BR: My main guitar is a 1961 SG Les Paul with PAF, patent applied-4 pickups. It’s in gorgeous condition and it was owned by Alan Holdsworth apparently. And it’s a brilliant, brilliant guitar in perfect condition. And I’m using a 1959 Gretsch Double Anniversary, the kind that Brian Jones used to use with the two tone green body. I’m using a 1963 Gibson Dove and a late ‘70s or early ‘80s Guild M-85 bass. You probably know that I play bass on half of the songs too, covering for Paul when he moves to piano or guitar.

RS: You’ve been asked this before but, is it challenging for you to switch between guitar and bass?

BR: No, it’s okay. I love the question. It’s not at all challenging to switch between guitar and bass. I love doing it. You would think, yeah...you’ve only got four strings and they’re giant and it’s a whole different instrument, a different sound, you’re playing with your fingers on your right hand. It’s got to be so different from playing with your pick. I just love switching back and forth. It makes it very interesting to me. I love both instruments and I love the honor of playing Paul McCartney’s brilliant bass lines while he’s playing piano or guitar. It’s an honor.

RS: Rusty said you are also a great lead player too. Is there a way you guys balance the lead and rhythm guitar in Paul’s group?

BR: Oh, that’s great. That’s very nice of him. I’m a lead guitar player and a rhythm guitar as well and I was always the lead guitar player in the bands that I’ve been in. With Paul I’m happy to play rhythm, lead, bass, acoustic, nose flute, toe dulcimer, whatever it calls for. I’m ready. And with Paul, I play lead on about three or four songs. I play lead guitar on “Get Back”, I play the lead guitar on “All My Loving”, I play the lead guitar on “The End” when we do our three guitars solos at the end. I play dual solos with Rusty, doubling Rusty’s solos like the Beatles records, on “Can’t Buy Me Love” or any number of older Beatles records where there’s a double tracked solo.

RS: Is Paul changing the set list?

BR: It’s pretty much the same that we started with on the top of the tour. This tour is, as you might know, completely different from our last.

RS: I wanted to ask about the session work you’ve done. I know you co-wrote a song on the last Bangles record.

BR: On the new Bangles record I co-wrote a song called “Nickel Romeo” and that was a real fun co-write with Michael Steel, the bass player of The Bangles. She’s very talented and that song is on their new record called Doll Revolution. And that was a fun session. I really loved playing all the guitars on the last Shakira record, Laundry Service, all the sort of colorful guitars that you hear on top of the tracks with Shakira’s Laundry Service. That was a fun record to do, in Miami. I loved doing the recording with Smokey Robinson that we did where I got to play guitars and I got to play keyboards and I got to play some of the bass stuff and some of the synth stuff on “One Heartbeat” for Smokey. Playing with Etta James on her late ‘70s record called Deep In The Night, with Jerry Wexler producing and all those great players on that record like Pocaro and Larry Carlton. Willy DeVille...I did a great solo record with him that was really fun. The live record that I co-produced with Etta James called Live From San Francisco, that was really fun. Oh, there’s just so many records. The new Paul McCartney record was a joy to do.

RS: You also played with Santana?

BR: I did a live performance with Carlos Santana a long time ago with Etta James. We did A Night At The Fillmore, and it was a celebration for Bill Graham, when Bill Graham was still alive. We did this big concert up there and it was Santana, and he sat in with Etta, and Al Kooper on organ. He was in Blood, Sweat & Tears and he also wrote “This Diamond Ring” and he was on Electric Ladyland with Hendrix. And what was his name...the drummer for Band Of Gypsies...he was on that gig too...

RS: Buddy Miles.

BR: Buddy Miles was on that gig. And Sly & The Family Stone was on that gig. The fun thing about playing with Etta James is everybody in the world wanted to sit in with Etta James so I get to play with Keith Richards sitting in, or John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker...all these people came through the doors when I was a teenager in my formative years getting to play with some of the most important in rock and pop history. And that was always a treat to get to have that influence.

RS: I’ll have to go and check out some of the Etta James stuff. She just blew me away on that “Soft Machine” track from your album.

BR: Oh, she’s incredible. She’s just great. And I played my 1957 Les Paul Goldtop with humbuckings with her too, my whole time with her, and a guitar that I’ve toured with, with Paul. And it’s a guitar I got for $850 bucks when I was a kid. Now those guitars are a hundred thousand dollars. Yeah, its crazy.

RS: So you’re a guitar collector?

BR: Yeah...I do collect vintage guitars. I love vintage guitars. I always look for them. I love vintage amps and vintage pedals. I’ve got a lot of guitars now.

RS: You use Divided by 13 amps.

BR: On stage I do and then in the studio I use just anything. I’ve got a ‘63 AC30, I’ve got old Marshalls, I’ve got old Fenders, I’ve got an old Supro. I’ve got all these great old amps. Old Gibsons.

RS: You’ve got some truly weird guitar sounds on the record. Like the record starts off with some weird, bouncy sound.

BR: On “Good For Nothing”? You know what it is? I listened to the song and I thought, ‘okay, that’s a great song and if it’s going to start the record, I want it to lead into that first chord with some kind of a sound. In the mastering session I said, ‘okay I’ve to come up with something quick ‘cause we’re mastering right now.’ I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I want to take the last chord of the song where the guitars are just ringing out, the E chord at the end...there’s like a variety of guitars all playing an E chord. Clip it off right at the attack of that chord, and then reverse the whole thing, and a stereo version of it, and tack it on to the front of the song.’ And that’s what it is. It’s an E chord going backwards with all the guitars. With their slide-offs and everything backwards leading into the song “Good For Nothing”.

RS: Are you going to have a signature guitar in the future?

BR: Well I just have a signature bass by Yamaha. A beautiful hollow body bass in the shape of sort of like a 335. Dark, dark Emerald Green with big de Armond pickups just like the ones that are on my Guild. It’s brilliant. It’s sort of like a Guild Starfire bass. Hollow body but solid down the middle. And that is gorgeous and it has beautiful star inlays like an Everly Brothers guitar. And that could be a Brian Ray signature guitar. Oh and you asked me about pedals...quickly. I use an old... it’s an Italian wah-wah pedal and it’s the same as the Clyde McCoy, except it was an Italian version, I can’t remember the name of it right now. Anyway, that’s a great pedal. A Fox fuzz pedal, a Vox tone bender pedal, a Boss BB2 vibrato pedal, I like the Divided by 13 Dyna-Ranger a lot. I use a Line 6 delay modeler and modulation modelers and just a variety of pedals.

RS: You’re also using the Epiphone Casino guitar?

BR: On my record? Yeah, I use that. I use my TV model Juniors, my ‘50s TV models. I’m using a bunch of Oliver Leiber’s great guitars. Oh, there’s a slew of great vintage guitars on the record and a slew of vintage amps..

RS: It sounds just so cool.

BR: Thank you. Well we recorded it to tape. That’s another reason, with a great engineer, Joe Zook. We got vintage guitars in a great studio, recorded to tape... It should sound good, if you’ve got a great engineer using all this great outboard vintage compression and stuff.

RS: Any other guitars you’re using?

BR: I also have a Taylor 12 string acoustic and a Patrick James Eggle Discus guitar and a James Trussart carve top guitar.

RS: Rusty said he was using a Duesenberg guitar?

BR: No, that’s me, not Rusty. I was using a Duesenberg on the first two tours. Not right now though. In strings, I use D’addario .009-.05’s, between a 9 and a 10. And I use a variety of strings like that. I use big strings on the bass, with the big E string being a 105, I use pretty fat strings to get the fattest sound. Ashdown bass gear...that about covers the gear.

RS: Paul’s synonymous with the Hofner bass. Did you ever play his Hofner? (ask a stupid question...)

BR: Sure, except its a little inconvenient. It’s upside down and backwards! (laughter)

RS: Exactly, you caught me there! Okay one last question about your soundtrack work. You did a movie score with Abe?

BR: I sure did, yeah. A great little movie called The Failures. We did it in early 2003 I think. Its a really fun, offbeat, dark, romantic comedy. A dark, romantic comedy I should say. And Abe and I did the film score together in my house and we played all the instruments. And it was a blast to do and I really look forward to the chance to do some more of that. We had a really good time doin’ it.

RS: Is is available on CD?

BR: Not yet, no. We’re working on that but doing film scoring gives you the opportunity to play with so many different colors and not be constrained by the parameters of pop songwriting. You can really just go koo-koo and its just fun.

RS: Just again congratulations on the tour with Paul.

BR: Thank you very much.

RS: I hope they get to make a CD and DVD of the 2005 tour.

BR: By the time your readers pick up this magazine my new CD will be out. But I made a deliberate determination to come here to just be of service to Paul McCartney and not confuse my record with it for the first, at least two thirds of the tour, before I put out my record. That’s what I’ve had a good time doing, now just to come and be of service to Paul. Because if it weren’t for Paul I probably wouldn’t have the wherewithal to do my own record, much less the inspiration.

RS: I second that emotion. I really like the record and I had a great interview.

BR: It’s been my pleasure Robert, thanks a lot.

Thanks to Brian Ray @ www.brian-ray.com and Jorie Gracen - author of Paul McCartney: I Saw Him Standing There (Billboard Books) and the Web master of the Macca Report - www.maccareport.com Ms. Gracen is also an award winning photojournalist whose photos have appeared in Rolling Stone, Newsweek, People, TV Guide and on Paul McCartney's Tripping the Live Fantastic album.




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