Vince Ray is one guitarist who is still exploring influences which hark back to the 1950’s and bringing them to a modern audience. But, there’s more to the man than just his music, so we thought we’d find out a little more.
Andy Gunton: Can you remember what got you into music in the first place?
Vince Ray: I’ve played since I was a kid after seeing a local Punk band in a church hall. I remember going home dreaming of just owning an electric guitar. When my folks cracked and bought me one, my Dad tried to make a lead to plug it into the wall. I always wondered if he was trying to kill me before I started making a racket and ruining their friendship with the neighbours. That's what happened next of course.
AG: Was there a song, or artist, that first grabbed you and made you sit up and listen?
VR: I saw the Elvis 60 Comeback when I was ten years old and never looked back. I wore a black shirt all the time, wore mirror shades and greased my hair back with Swarfega from my Dads garage. My folks played a lot of rock and roll around the house and I still own the old 78 player from those days.
AG: Why the guitar?
VR: The guitar is what grabbed me first. When I was growing up, to play the guitar seemed like a magical power, and everything was learned from friends, or listening to records. Plus it was something that I found I could do ok, rather than be good at football, talking to girls or anything academic. In many ways, it's a dumb thing to be good at!
I still work at things today and find it's a bottomless pit of experimenting with sound. I never get bored of it. Working out riffs and scales is like a Rubiks cube, trying to find different ways of putting everything together.
AG: Have you played the same style of music, Rock n Roll, all your career?
VR: It's been mainly Rock n Roll and Garage Punk since the 1970's, when I first heard The Cramps. I think they should get more credit for opening up an Aladdins cave of music for a lot of people. Through them I discovered Link Wray, The Sonics, the Johnny Burnette Rock and Roll Trio and tons of incredible old recordings that no one seemed to know much about at that time.
I still think Rock n Roll music should be futuristic, like it was originally. I'm not a guy who likes to pretend that he’s still in the 1950's. I love all the music, cars and culture from that time, but I'd rather draw on influences from that era, than try to recreate it.
AG: How would you describe your music?
VR: I hope my music is seen as my own twist on early raw Rock n Roll, Rockabilly and Garage Punk. I like to add a lot of black humour to things. I take the playing and writing of the music seriously, but I don't take myself seriously. I like to take the piss out of myself and the audience too. Nothing mean, just a bit of twisted fun. Plus I hate songs about relationships, love and all that jazz.
I like the sound to be as raw and straight forward as possible. The Loser Machine record live and we try and avoid overdubs where possible. I like the feel of playing live in the studio, with that commitment to 'just get it right'. You should be able to play the whole thing from beginning to the end without messing up. This music sounds best that way, I don't know why.
I think the convenience of modern technology can kill the vibe of a song. I want folks to hear the recording and envision us playing in a smoky bar, all sweaty and smelling like burnt motor oil!
AG: What influences your music and the songs?
VR: I seem to be able to write lots of songs about Hot Rods, motorbikes, sex and horror. As regards other artists, I have a massive obsession with Link Wray and have been working with a guitar company in the USA to make a tribute model. His music always sounds fresh and unique, it stands on it's own rather than be associated with any genre and style. I love all the old originals like Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Gene Vincent too.
AG: What bands are you currently in?
VR: I have two projects running at the moment, Vince Ray and The Boneshakers and also the local two piece The Loser Machine.
The Boneshakers are the traditional rockabilly three piece with double bass, guitar and drums. The band has existed for around ten years now, played around Europe and supported bands like Stray Cats and the Reverend Horton Heat.
I formed The Loser Machine to be a smaller set up with just guitar and drums. I love the idea of two piece bands, it has a completely different dynamic. I wanted something different from the usual rockabilly thing so I took out one of the most important elements....the double bass. I like the space in the sound, it leads things in a different creative direction. Chris Russell plays the drums like he's falling down stairs, and I play guitar like I'm tripping up them, we meet in the middle.
AG: Can you tell us about the new Loser Machine EP, which I believe is imminent?
VR: It’s coming out in October, on a new local label, Property of the Lost. We met a kindred spirit in Karl Horton and decided to put a package together with a T Shirt, plus a vinyl 45rpm single. There'll be a download version too.
The A side is a garage punk rocker called ‘Red Rocket 88’ and the B side will be ‘Voodoo Boots’.
We're planning a big launch party gig at the Jenny Lind on October 10th along with Thee Jezebels, our favourite all girl local Garage Punk trio.
AG: When did you start doing artwork as well and did you study art?
VR: I started doing music first, but the artwork turned into something that I could make a living out of, well sort of. I see them both as being linked, as the theme for a piece of art often becomes the theme for a song.
I did go to art college, but I'm not sure it was really relevant to what I do now.
AG: How would you describe your artwork? It does have a definite look and style to it.
VR: It's a weird thing to make work in a way....taking imagery and style from the past, and making them into something new.
I like to point out that things didn't really look this way back in the 1950's. Record sleeves and posters weren't actually covered in hot rod flames, skulls and girls. It's all been reinvented, and that's a good thing.
I started as a graphic artist while working on 'adult' comics, which were quite hardcore at the time (1980's) The publishers just wanted the mucky stuff on every page, but that got a bit boring. So I started adding my own interests, with stories about hot rods, bikers gangs, pulp fiction and horror stuff. The publishers let me do that as long as everyone was bonking like mad, so it all became a bit surreal.
When those projects finished, I continued with the themes I'd been drawing....but with less bonking!
AG: What is your artwork usually used for?
VR: Mainly music related products. I've been lucky enough to work for some musicians that I've always liked. I've made merchandise, and record covers, for bands like Stray Cats, Rev Horton Heat, Demented Are Go, The Meteors, and recently Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry Lee Lewis's sister)
If you want to view some of Vince Ray’s artwork, just enter his name into a popular search engine, where there are some great examples.
The Bonesakers, who have been described as a cross between Eddie Cochran and Motorhead, have released five albums on Raucous Records: raucousrecords.com
If this has whetted your appetite, why not go along to that gig at the Jenny Lind, in Hastings, on 10th October and see what all the fuss is about.