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Christopher J. Wray
New album continues a unique take on electronica
Phillip Hong
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 people.
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 planned?
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.
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