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Close up with rocker Zachary Ray

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Posted December 12, 2017 by Peter Burns in Interviews

Born in Rhode Island, Zachary Ray is a Danish/American musician residing in Los Angeles. He was introduced to Metallica and Eminem at age 5, by his mother and stepfather, and became wildly obsessed with drumming. Hence his grandma from Rhode Island gave him his first drum set. Ray later took drum lessons and eventually also learned to play the guitar. This was followed by singing, which gave Zachary Ray the musical combination to perform and record with absolute artistic freedom. His latest release, is the single ”Trouble”.

  1. How long have you been performing and recording, and did you record or play live first?

Zachary Ray: The local music school I was part of from age 8 to 15 put on shows here and there for family and friends. I started playing live with my own music and band when I was about 13-14. So I was definitely playing live before I started recording.

  1. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?

Zachary Ray: That would be Metallica and Eminem. Eminem is probably not super noticeable in my sound now but he definitely played a role when I was way young.

  1. Which artists are you currently listening to?

Zachary Ray: I’m really digging Nothing But Thieves and Gin Wigmore at the moment. I’m discovering so much new music right now, it really inspires me. Sometimes I have to take a long break from listening to music cause every time I put on a song I can’t help coming up with ideas for songs and stuff I wanna do, it gets exhausting.

  1. Do you remember the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased? And which is the one piece of hardware or software you’re still looking to add to your setup now?

Zachary Ray: The first instrument I bought myself was a drum set. Before that I had a beginners drum set I got from my grandma when I was around 5 I think. As far as what I’m looking for now, I’d say I’m really hot on the Electro-Harmonix Superego synth pedal for guitar. Really looking for a good guitar synth to mess around with.

  1. How and where do you do most of your recording and production work?

Zachary Ray: Been recording and mixing most of my stuff at my rehearsal space but when I need to take a song to the next level I jump in a real studio to polish it with an engineer. Been working closer with producers lately, it’s nice not have to worry about getting it all to sound right in Pro Tools, instead I just worry about serving the song.

  1. Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

Zachary Ray: That’s a tough one. I couldn’t pick one over the other. And I think both is equally important in order to produce quality content. I mean if you don’t sit down and develop your songs, your songs might not turn out so good and fails to connect with an audience or even yourself. But if you don’t play out you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t. both is super important, but if I had to choose I’d say playing live is my favorite thing. That’s where everything you’re all about gets a chance to show. It’s the ultimate therapy.

  1. Which one of your original songs gets the crowd’s emotion and adrenaline pumping the most, when performing it?

Zachary Ray: At the moment I think Insane Obsession or Break Me. Both big wild songs with a lot of emotion and surprise elements that captures the audience.

  1. On which one of your songs do you feel you delivered your best performance so far, from a technical point of view?

Zachary Ray: I’m very proud of Trouble, my latest single. I think it changes every time I put out a new song. I always strive to push myself beyond my own limits.

  1. Could you describe your creative process? Where do your ideas usually come from, what do you start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas into a song?

Zachary Ray: Usually it either starts with a riff on my guitar or a beat or melody formed in my head. It’s the best feeling when an idea strikes you, it’s literally like a light bulb that goes off like in the cartoons. Then adrenaline starts pumping and I just need to record it and work on it, there’s no escaping until the basics are down, like a verse and a chorus. But then it can take days to actually finish it, because you want every detail to be right. I feel like my songs are never fully done until I walk out of that studio with a fully mixed and mastered version of the song. It’s a long but super fun and interesting process.

  1. What were your main compositional, performance and production challenges in the beginning of your career and how have they changed over time

Zachary Ray: I’m still learning, and will never stop. I think I caught how to write simple songs pretty quick but to make them so that other people understood what I was trying to do was the biggest challenge in the beginning I think. Like it goes back to question number 6, you need to sit down and develop your song, listen to it, have other people listen to it and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Like you might’ve come up with the most bad ass guitar solo on the planet, but if it’s 10 minutes long, people would just loose interest and don’t give a shit about the rest of the song. So maybe learning how to take a great idea and strip it down to the most interesting parts and make them matter, would be my answer to that. Composing I guess.

  1. What are currently some of the most important tools and/or instruments you’re using in creating your sound?

Zachary Ray: Guitar, drums and Logic Pro.

  1. How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you would suggest fans see?

Zachary Ray: I think it’s super important. My New Year’s resolution is actually gonna be to release a video plus behind the scenes and other goodies for every song I release in the New Year. My goal is once a month. It’s just important to be consistent otherwise people lose interest. You’re an entertainer. My social media presence have been almost non-existing up until now. I’ve seen a huge increase in traffic within the few months I’ve been going at it like this. And it feels good to not be alone with my music anymore, and sharing my moments through pictures, videos, interview and what not. I’ve been in the game for a long time but I don’t think people know who the hell I really am. I mean really, what’s better than to connect over music with other like-minded people?… It just took me some time to realize or get out of that shell. My only music video is for Insane Obsession at the moment but in February a video for Trouble should be out!

  1. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political and/or social vehicles – and do you try to meet any of these goals in your work, or are you purely interested in music as expression of artistry and entertainment?

Zachary Ray: I think music is the most powerful tool of expression there is. And that it’s used in politics and to influence or raise awareness is only natural. But I’m in it for my own joy. I don’t get a kick out of writing a song for a commercial or if someone tells me to write with a certain perspective. Unless it means something special to me or I really think I’d be fun. I actually made a few commercial tracks. One for Naked Fruit in Denmark when I was about 16 and one for VUC Fyn, when I was 18. I believe that one is still running in selected movie theaters in Denmark.

  1. With more and more musicians creating and releasing music, what does this mean for you as an artist in terms of originality? Do you still see great potential for originality in music and how do you think you set yourself apart from the pack, so to speak?

Zachary Ray: I think it’s awesome with that many musicians creating. Makes you feel less like an outcast haha. But yeah it’s true it also makes you feel less special in a way. But if you’re in it just for fame and glory I think you’ve lost already. And lost to who really? Everybody seems to be racing each other, I’m guilty of it. Every day I feel like I need to do something to move my career and I have that as a daily goal. Which is not necessarily a bad thing!! But it wasn’t until I realized the real reason, for why I keep pushing myself that something real started to happen. And now it’s not the thought of the race that keeps me going. It’s the love and passion for creating and discovering, expressing and inspire. Curiosity is my main source of inspiration to be honest. I terms of originality; we’re programmed to evolve based on curiosity and failure. And as long as we’re imperfect, originality will never cease to exist haha.

  1. Of all your achievements what do you think can be considered as being a high point of yours so far?

Zachary Ray: Right now every little step I take feels like a new high to me. Being a solo artist and learning how to navigate in this new world of music is so interesting I don’t know what the best parts of it is… I mean moving to LA and playing legendary Whisky A Go Go, Viper Room and all those clubs and just being part of the LA music scene, is in itself a huge milestone to me.

  1. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real original talent to emerge?

Zachary Ray: Definitely not easy to get heard or seen with all that noise, but I think it’s good that it’s there. Gives everyone a chance and an outlet. I think really talented artists will get recognized eventually. Social media gives you an opportunity to develop and try things out. But it can be confusing for some people who’re really not good at the social media game. I’m only starting to get it… But we’ll just have to adapt.

  1. What is the best piece of advice regarding the music business that you actually followed so far, and what is the advice you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?

Zachary Ray: Consistency! Engage with your surroundings. Surround yourself with persistent people.

  1. Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the media and possibly working with a PR company. What’s your perspective on the promotion opportunities available to indie artists today? Do you have a manager or label aiding you?

Zachary Ray: So nowadays it again mostly comes down to a social media presence and how you engage with your audience. If you do so the right way you can come a long way on your own. I’m just starting to realize these things myself. But of cause there’s other areas which are hard to conquer on your own, such as labels, radio, magazines, finances, tours and what not. I only recently signed with a management to take this thing to the next level but it’s still up to me to be the content creator and explore opportunities.

  1. Do you have a musical vision that you haven’t been able to realize for technical or financial reasons – or maybe an idea of what music itself should and could be beyond its current mainstream form?

Zachary Ray: So far no. I mean I have a huge desire to collaborate with other creators, like an EDM producer or an orchestra would be fun, but I feel like everything has its own time so I will eventually get to all these ideas but I need to get myself to a point where I feel like I’ve shown the world what I’m all about right now, before I take an obscure direction, which I’m sure I will someday haha!

  1. What is the next step being programmed on the Zachary Ray agenda? What can fans expect for 2018?

Zachary Ray: So my new year’s resolution is gonna be to release a new single and video pretty much every month, along with performances, behind the scenes and other stuff. I’m super stoked about this new venture of mine!

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