Music Avery Dey: Interview with Ray Hayden, the UK’s Underground Musical VIP

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    Family, meet Ray Hayden.  He is considered among industry peers as one of the most innovative and bona fide producers in the UK.  Specializing primarily in acid jazz, Hayden took time out to speak with me about his professional journey, the ever so changing industry, and his upcoming new venture.

     

    AD:   How are you today Mr. Hayden?

    RH:   I am good, we are having some strange weather here in the UK but I am good.

     

    AD:  I have to be honest; I am very impressed with your work.  It’s very soft and soothing.  All I need is a glass of wine. (Both Laugh)

    RH:  Well that ‘s what we call the sound of urban London.  It’s that mixture of soul and reggae really is where it originates.  That head-nodding thing is very important to me and to my audience, really.

     

    Family, meet Ray Hayden.  He is considered among industry peers as one of the most innovative and bona fide producers in the UK.  Specializing primarily in acid jazz, Hayden took time out to speak with me about his professional journey, the ever so changing industry, and his upcoming new venture.

     

    AD:   How are you today Mr. Hayden?

    RH:   I am good, we are having some strange weather here in the UK but I am good.

     

    AD:  I have to be honest; I am very impressed with your work.  It’s very soft and soothing.  All I need is a glass of wine. (Both Laugh)

    RH:  Well that ‘s what we call the sound of urban London.  It’s that mixture of soul and reggae really is where it originates.  That head-nodding thing is very important to me and to my audience, really.

     

    AD:  I listened to “Things Will Get Better” and I see you have a little bit of Outkast working on the video.

    RH:  That is one of the things that I am doing on the side.  I am learning how to do animation and I am working on a comic with computer game interactivities.  This was done a few years ago when I learned to use this particular software.  I just do this for fun. 

     

    AD:  I really like the song.

    RH:  I like this kind of vibe, this is the center of the vibe that I’m in.

     

    AD:  So tell me about yourself, sir.

    RH:  Well, my parents came here in the 60’s from Ireland.  So I was born in Ireland and raised in East London in a place called Hackney, which is kind of like The Bronx.  It’s a neighborhood with a lot of heart.  I went to school there and it was a very big black community, at that time.  I got into DJ’ing and had my own sound system when I was about 14.  I then got myself a proper job, left school and then some years later I opened up a recording studio.  A lot of my friends that I went to school with got into music; people like Caron Wheeler of Soul to Soul.  They were all having a lot of fun doing music and I was working in insurance on the legal side.  They would always come to me and say “Ray, can you tell me what this contract is about?”  I would tell them “I can tell you what it means in English but if it’s good or not, I can’t say.”  I was thinking “you all are having so much fun and making some good money”.

    So I decided to open a recording studio, which was a natural thing to do for someone who had a sound system and was doing a lot of club gigs and stuff.  I opened the studio and I focused on R&B and Reggae.  In a black area at that time, even in the UK there weren’t any studios that were recording R&B.  A lot of my friends were second generation black folks who had come from the West Indies and weren’t able to find studios that were able to understand how to mix a record like it was mixed in America or even in the West Indies.  So, because I had been playing this kind of music since I was a boy and most of my friends were in the area, it was quite an easy thing for me to set up and it became really successful. I opened it in 1986, it was a big facility as well, I was very lucky because in that area you couldn’t rent properties out.  Nobody wanted to rent properties in that area because it was basically a …  anyway so now I had this really big premise [and now its all gentrified around there].  I had the studios, I had rehearsal rooms, and I had a long list of clients waiting to find a place where they would be understood.  I had engineers - giving them work and they would also bring in clients.  As a result, the studio just prospered.

    In 1991 one of my clients at that point - you may have heard of her, Amii Stewart who sang “Knock on Wood” - was living in Italy…lovely woman.  She came to the studio to work and she had a band with her and singers, which were session singers.  One of the session singers was another girl from New York named Martine Girault.  Now Martine had a sort of flu bug or something and wasn’t actually singing but making noises to the harmony parts that she was going to be doing.  I thought WOW…even with this bug this girl sounds amazing.  I asked Amii, “Is she part of your band, and what is she doing?”  It turns out she was not part of the band.  I had just broke even with the studio investment and I wanted to start a label.  I wanted an artist like her.  I signed her to my production company in 1992 and we made a record called, “Revival” and it went to #1…my first ever record.  Then it got picked up by everyone at that point.  It was used in the first scene of the movie Tupac was in called “Bullet”.  Then Nescafe used it for one of their advertisements, Meg Ryan used it in one of her movies.  From that point onwards I was a record producer.  My first tune went to #1, I had Ronny Jordan call me, I had George Howard call me, Jonathan Butler called me and I pretty much just went 24-hour shifts until I was so tired… I was in demand.   I had so much and I couldn’t even find artists quickly enough to put on my label; so I decided that I would sing something.  I’d never sung before but I did it and then I made my debut album and that got snatched up in Japan.  I then got a licensing deal in Japan and they were funding three albums a year from my label to go and release out there.  They weren’t really particular about the style of music.  They just wanted great records and I was making really good soul, jazz and gospel on my label. I was mostly shipping it out to the Far East and it was doing well. 

    So, that’s kind of how I got started and on my debut album. I had a duet track with Maysa Leak; and I also produced some duet tracks with her on her album, Gwen Dickey from Rose Royce, (I had a duet with her), and then Martine’s revival LP, that just blew up and was received really well.  I just kept putting out my stuff and that’s how I got into it.

     

    AD:  Wow… you have just been all over.     

    RH:  Yeah, I did some really big remixes.  I did some remixes for Mary J. Blige, Marvin Gaye and that was the best thing I’ve ever done.  Well I wouldn’t really call it a remix.  I was actually paid to finish an unfinished Marvin Gaye track from 1967.  For me that was amazing, to get the 8 tracks and to hear the single track of him singing, snapping his fingers and tapping his feet…it was just…nothing could touch that.  That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve just been putting out stuff.  I have about 25 albums on my catalogue.

    I had some misfortune in studio back in about 2000.  There was a fire and the studio got flooded. I lost all of my tapes, my studio was destroyed and I had to start all over again. 

     

    AD: Oh my gosh

    RH:  At that point you had the change from record labels and music stores to what we have now where the infrastructure has completely changed.  I spent a lot of time reinventing myself and I’ve only recently returned to putting out my old catalogue and making some new material.  I just had to escape to my other project which is graphics and it’s very hard learning how to program.  I’ve been getting back to music in the last year or so. 

     

    AD:  Do you have a new project forthcoming?

    RH:  Yes, I like to do different things and I’ve done a lot of soul and R&B and that’s what I’m known for.  I’ve done a world music album with a guy from Dubai, which mixes Arabic and Hip Hop, I did a rock album for a girl from Tokyo, I did an orchestral album which has an opera singer singing soul tracks from the 70’s.  I’ve never done a dance album, so I did the “Believe” track and got a lot of props for it for it being a new area for me.  I’m going to do a whole album like this.  I’m going to make a kind of indulgent dance project with Bluey from Incognito, Kenny Thomas, Natasha Watts (I’m not sure if you know of her) and Martine with myself doing vocals.  My approach is I’m looking at some of the best dance sounds that I’ve heard in the past 30 years.  Believe it or not there was some disco stuff that Etta James did back in the mid-70’s which had a disco kind of feel or more funk maybe.  I’m going to try that with Natasha.  Martine is always known for her romantic, moody, dark tunes so I have something for that.  Kenny Thomas has a soulful voice so I am doing something that is kind of like The System from back in the day.  I’m looking at some old sounds that I like that, that made me dance back in the day.

    AD:  I have to ask you what is the driving force behind your sound?  Is there some type of motivation?  I listened to “Believe” and I really like it.  Do you get up in the middle of the night and say “Hey…I’ve got an idea”?

    RH: That’s exactly what I did what that track, exactly.  It was about 3 in the morning on a Thursday.  I tore myself away from music for maybe about a year and I was enjoying not being in it.  Then I kept thinking that I should put out more from my old catalogue, I got myself a distributor and I started putting stuff out and it was cool but I thought, I want to do something that will highlight this stuff.  I made an album to mark my twentieth anniversary with a young lady named Cartier Fraser.  That was the last thing that I did to get some momentum and it fell a little bit and I was very disillusioned for a bit.

    After being out of it for a little bit, I was riding in the car with my girl and we were listening to this new dance music that she listens to all of the time.  I told her that I was going to make her a track like this for her birthday, when it comes up. I really like this stuff.  One night just shortly after that, I had this brainstorm and it came out of her job.  She has to be really strong mentally and sometimes it’s hard; so I wanted to make a track that was all about keeping that strength, about believing in yourself.  I wanted anyone else who heard it to say, “Yeah, I can do anything in this world if I really want to”.  People don’t believe that because we are all told, so often, that you grow up and come from this background then this is how you’re going to be and so on.  My mother has always encouraged me to believe and to dream big and that’s what I wanted to do.  I just had the idea, the entire lyrics were written in my head with this idea.

     

    AD: What are your short-term and long-term goals.

    RH:  My short term and long-term goals, well I have three things going on…

     One is to try and keep the Opaz identity, which is quite strong in Europe and the Far East, I want to try and keep that going on and make that even stronger.  My strategy for trying to make a living from music right now is best served by having as much content out there as possible.   At the same time I can’t just put it all out there all at once.  Each move will build off another.  So my short-term goal(s) is to: keep Opaz going, keep the profile of this cool little boutique label, and not disappoint anyone with this material that I am going to reissue.  Long term I am trying to develop this multimedia thing.  What this is it’s an online interactive comic.  Once you get half way through, you can click on a page and play a computer game version of that scene.  I’ve been trying to create something that I enjoy and it still has music in it.  I get to put my catalogue of music into this project.  I still have a lot of work to do still.

     

    AD: What advice would you give about music to the readers as a closing remark?

    RH: I’d say the thing about music is that the way the industry has gone it’s basically very hard for people who are music makers who are without bands and promotions to go out and make a living.  I think that there are some unbelievably talented and gifted people out there who, right now, are struggling to stay in this game.  If there is anything that I would ask my fans and anyone who reads the feature that you are writing, it would be to look up the artists that are really great, find them.  When you have an artist that is doing substantial work, you need to keep them close because they need every little sale they can get.  If you don’t do this, then what’s going to happen is they won’t return to the studio. What you’ll have then is people making music on their wristwatches.  That’s not going to compete, there’s nothing in that for you.  We have to keep the art available for everyone and the only way we can do that is by supporting this kind of art.  It’s art.  If we are going to keep this going for the next generation then we have to give something back.  We have to put something back into the pot.  It’s so easy to steal music.  It’s so easy to just pass it around…just buy a track.  They only cost a dollar.  If you like something buy it.  It doesn’t matter who it is.  If it’s good to you buy it.  That’s going to help our industry in the long run.  It’s going to keep us going.

     

    AD:  Support good music and good artists.  If the tables were turned you would want the same thing as well.

    RH:  Exactly.

     

    AD:  Ray, thank you so much for your time and for sharing about you and your music.  I am looking forward to all of the great things to come from you and I look forward to speaking with you again.

    RH:  Thank you and it has been a pleasure.  I look forward to speaking again.

     

     

    About Music Avery Dey 

    Inspired at a young age, music has always been a driving force in my life.  Having been exposed to many genres and events centered around music, I wanted this series to bring the human aspect of the artist to the music that we love. 

    My passion for the music and desire to introduce new artists and the artists from yesterday, has been my dream for quite some time.

    I am your “Avery Dey” individual who wants to share my musical appetite through my series entitled “Music Avery Dey”.  I believe that music allows us to express emotion without words yet it cannot be silenced.  It’s a powerful instrument that influences us all. 

    You can experience more artist insights on my website AveryDeyEntertainment.com