28 April, 2009
A new album from Christopher J. Wray, the instrumental menace from Manchester,
Great Britain, is almost ready to go. But what does another release mean for
this experienced artist whose music is a voice in all but vocals? I still
can't get over the fact that keyboards and synthesizers could excite so many
Thus, as the weather warms up, I took out the summer grill and grilled this
suddenly amused artist about his latest.
PHIL: Tell me about "Retrospect", your upcoming album. How was it first
CHRIS: Retrospect is my first "best-of" album, but rather than just
throw in or remaster past tracks, I decided to give listeners a new take by
completely re-recording each and every track on there. The project was mainly
inspired by the live interpretations of Dreamers, FutureScape and The Time Bell
(to name a few) that were performed at venues and radio broadcasts. In fact I
could have easily mixed any previous live recordings, but I opted for a fresher
and crispier produced compilation album.
PHIL: How did you get into this genre? What is so special about your
keyboards and synthesizers?
CHRIS: French musician Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygene" album should be
enough to convert anyone from listening to traditional chart-topping music.
I was quite fortunate growing up and listening to 60s and 70s mainstream music
on the radio, but with Oxygene it was purely a "What the hell was that?" moment.
It truly changed the way I think about music. The evidence is obvious when you
listen to my work. There's always criticism or statements made about
synthesizers and their inhuman mechanical status. Any attempts of producing
music from these instruments would have no soul whatsoever. It certainly
didn't do Pink Floyd any harm. It can even be described as elevator music,
which just makes me think you're actually taking the time to listen to elevator
music in the first place, for which I take as a compilment.
PHIL: Why do you produce music without singing? Is the music scene really
better without your angelic voice?
CHRIS: Lyrics are definitely one way in outputting your feelings in a
song, but I try to portray to you how music without lyrics can be just as
powerful, thought provoking and equally satisfying. It's no different than
classical music but just with synthesizers. I did briefly experiment with lyrics
in my 2004 album Dreamers Two. The song was called Bird of Sorrow, the lyrics
were sung by Kim Novak. But that song and the album were entirely conceptual,
making the point that you don't always need lyrics in everything.
PHIL: What do you think has improved or changed since your first album,
"Dreamers" (released in 2002)?
CHRIS: My whole artistry has definitely developed since my first major
release. I'm no longer falling too much into other inspirations such as Jarre
or Tangerine Dream, I've grown into a totally seperate entity. I'm also more
experimental than I've ever been, I love to improvise and focus more with
knowing what I want out of my sounds and not just "preset-ing" my way through.
PHIL: If you were to choose the best track out of "Retrospect", which would it be?
CHRIS: I think I'll leave that choice to your good self or to anyone else.
I'm far too modest to pick the best tracks. Ok... they're all brilliant!
PHIL: What is the track out of "Retrospect" that is most likely to work
with backing vocals?
CHRIS: Excellent question. Perhaps Dreamers would be a candidate but I
physically struggle in thinking it would actually work. I would be willing to
hear any suggestions for future incarnations!
Phillip Hong is a presenter on Centre Street, our current affairs programme
featuring alternative stories and interviews.