Hank Ray : Interview [Pt. 2]

Hank Ray and the Raymen

If there’s one thing the Colonel hates, it’s pausing before the climax.

But things go slow down South, and there’s a lot to be said for taking the time to do things right. Why, even now he’s frettin’ that the hog he’s got smoking on the barbeque might not be fully cured for the fourth of July. Some things just take longer than others.

Like his Hank Ray interview… part two below.

The Raymen


Col. Jon Burrows: Rudi Protrudi of The Fuzztones appears on the new album, how did you two originally get together and do you have plans to collaborate in the future?

Hank Ray: Rudi and I’d been in touch for I-don’t-know-how-long when some time in early 2005 I sent him a mail saying: “Separating from my wife, moving to Berlin”

He wrote back: “Separating from my wife too and moving to Berlin also”

Was a kinda funny conversation, but we finally ended up in the same neighborhood. Just a few blocks away from each other

We’ve played together in bars and have spoken about getting something going together, but there’s always something coming in between. Busy men, you know. I mean, he has his Fuzztones and his Blues combo. I have The Raymen, the Hank Ray stuff, family.

We hang out whenever we have time and Rudi does artworks for meSinister FUntime – he did a great job on the cover for my solo album Barbeque of Souls and the fantastic cover for the upcoming Sinister Funtime album by The Raymen – and I do music stuff for him at my own little Ray Recorders studio. Like tape transfers, editing, pre-mastering, you know, funky copy ‘n’ paste stuff. We did the basics for ‘Snake Oil’, ‘Raw Heat’ and ‘Creatures’ here. Those are the ones I can think of, but there’s more we’ve worked on I don’t really recall right now.
Maybe there will be some project in future. We have discussed ideas, but nothing specific.

I’m being educated here. What about other types of projects? Could there be a book inside Hank Ray waiting to burst out? Something like Tav Falco has just done for example?

Yeah, I know Tav’s doing the book readings and everything, Rudi’s currently working on a book too, but I don’t have the patience/attention span to do that.
So there are definitely no plans for a book/autobiography from my side!

I’m not a big book guy anyhow. But I go for it, if I find something that really interests me, like right now I’m reading Zora Neale Hurston’s Tell My Horse. Pretty cool first-hand report on the origins of Haitian voodoo. It was written back in the 30’s. Very cool! Grab it, if you can.

I read a pretty good deal of music books though. Last one I bought was Chris D.’s A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die. Lyrics to all Flesh Eaters albums and cool short stories. Well worth checkin’ out!

As far as artists’ biographies, I’ve always hated the first chapters of books in which I get all the important information I don’t even wanna know, like ‘…the little puppy that Iggy used to cuddle in his trailer home when he was a little boy and then the puppy got run over by a bad red-neck in his semi and Iggy cried so hard for 80 days that he almost dehydrated so mummy and pappy Iggy had to leave the trailer park for an adventurous trip to the big city to get him a new puppy and …blah blah blah’. Sorry, not for me!

What I would like to do sometime is sitting down with some cool folks and telling some funny, freaky anecdotes from the past – you know?, the fun stuff, the cool stuff – maybe taping the sessions and have somebody else put the whole thing down on paper.

But as for me doing it. NO! Never going to happen.

Hank, you are living in Berlin, to my mind a truly great city. David Bowie has again just thrown it back into verse, but what attraction does Berlin have for you? If we boarded the Hank Ray tour bus of Berlin, what points of interest would we see, the usual tourist stuff like a boat trip on the Spree or something a little different like a picnic at the grave of the aforementioned Nico or Dietrich perhaps?

Berlin sure is a great city. Very cosmopolitan, great variety of people and styles. Great bars ‘n’ clubs like the Wowsville, Wild at Heart, Bassy Cowboy Club, Cortina Bob, just to name but a few!

Guess I would take you on a “Dining ‘n’ Drinking with the Dead” roundtrip. John Heartfield, Bertholt Brecht, Nico. Something like that! I don’t dig tourists’ hotspots. It’s nothing to me.
Or just hang out at some cool bar. You know, something cool & relaxing!

Drinking with the dead certainly sounds both cool and relaxing. So we’ve already spoken about some past influences but moving on to the living, who or what is turning your head musically right now? Reverend Elvis? Hank III?

Reverend Elvis! Yeah, super nice guy. We plan to do some stuff together soon. Very limited edition vinyl 7” box sets, autographed and everything, but that’s still in the planning.

I like Hank III.

He’s cool

like his grandpa.

Not a sucker

like his dad,

Hank II. Damn redneck!

I like Hank III. He’s cool like his grandpa. Not a sucker like his dad, Hank II. Damn redneck! Hahaha! Well, we gotta give him credit for some cool tracks though, like ‘Stoned at the Jukebox’ or ‘Living Proof’.

Phew, what is turning my head musically these days? Good question! Answer is: Not much.
But I’m open to suggestions.

Hank, you have named a vast number of influences but if I really pushed you for just five individuals who have had the greatest impact on your sound or the way you approach life, who would that five be and why have they had such a significant impact on you?

Well, there are lots more, but these five come to my mind right away: Tex Ritter – ‘Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’. I saw the film in the late 60s and Tex’s deep baritone rendition of the opening track has haunted me ever since. What a voice! I’ve always wanted to sing like Tex Ritter.

The other thing that confused me back then was that there were Indian tom-toms featured in the arrangement of the song, but no Native Americans in the film. That caused some great deal of head scratching when I was 8 or 9.

Bob Nolan – main man / genius songwriter / baritone lead singer for The Sons of the Pioneers from ’33 until ’49 and on record until ’56 and – like Tex Ritter – a great influence on my singing style. Could go on for hours on this, so we better stop right here.

Roy Orbison – Oh, my gawd, the BIG O! No one can hold a candle to the BIG O. – EVER! Elvis was once asked what he could say about Roy Orbison and I remember he just called him the “World’s Greatest Singer”.  Period! “In Dreams” is my choice for the ‘Greatest Song of All Times’.

Hank Williams – ‘Three chords and the truth!’ Great quote from Harlan Howard. What more can you say? Can’t think of any other singer/songwriter who wrote more ‘crying in your beer’ songs than the original Hankster. He still is my undisputed No. 1 in Country!
And I know damn well JC would nod in total approval.

Stan Laurel – Love the guy for simply being the total genius that he is. He was the concept guy behind all the amazing, amazingly funny L&H films. Just gets me today as it did when I was a little kid. And this stuff is now 80 years old or even older. Just f***** brilliant!

Can I push my luck and try to put you on the spot for a definitive top ten tunes of all time and why? While I’m on that line of enquiry, I’ll hit you for your top five albums too.

10 songs? Okay, here we go!

Mahalia Jackson – “I Asked the Lord”
Mighty, mighty Mahalia – one of the greatest voices of all time. Absolutely breathtaking! There’s some footage on youtube that’s simply not-of-this-earth!
Her phrasing is P-H-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C!!!!!!
She makes me B-E-L-I-E-V-E!! And this comes from a die-hard atheist!!

(Little note on the side here: Elvis used to do this backstage on piano as a warm–up before gigs, but never recorded it commercially. He should have done it.)

Judy Garland – “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (Live at the Palace, 1952)
Heart-breaking live performance of her very own classic. Judy gets carried away emotionally and starts to cry in the middle of the song. There are no words to describe it. Very touching!

Roy Orbison – “In Dreams”
Like I said before. My fave of the Big O.’s great repertoire of mini operas. If I had to pick my one favorite song of all times, this would be it!! It’s perfect!

Sons of the Pioneers – “Lie Low Little Doggies”
Also called “The Cowboy’s Prayer”, this is probably the greatest tearjerker by the Aristocrats of the Range. Bob Nolan’s recital over the Pioneers’ humming is Hollywood western opera at its best!

Luke the Drifter – “Beyond the Sunset”
Another recital-type tearjerker! This is my personal Hankster fave amongst all my Hankster faves. And there are many!!! Recorded under his alias Luke the Drifter.

Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – “Autumn’s Child”
Most beautiful song these guys ever recorded and a real classic! G-R-E-A-T use of the Theremin! It’s off the ‘Safe As Milk” album.

Iggy & the Stooges – “Search & Destroy”
‘I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm’. Great nod to The Yardbirds here and a pretty obvious choice, eh?! Iggy, James and the Asheton Bros. on top of their form. This is 99.7 % outta 100 %!!
And I DO mean the original Bowie mix!!

David Bowie – “Starman”
Speaking of Bowie! From my fave album “Ziggy Stardust”. The refrain is somehow reminiscent of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.

Velvet Underground – “I Heard Her Call My Name”
‘And then my mind split open!’…Total adrenaline-drenched mayhem from the Velvets here.
Greatest solo guitar ever!

Sonics – “He’s Waiting”
My favorite track from my all time fave garage band! Up there with “Psycho”,”Do You Love Me”,”Have Love Will Travel”,”The Witch”…KILLER!

 

The albums are even tougher! Here they come:

Velvet UndergroundWhite Light / White Heat
Thee Old Testament of Anti-Soul. White noise terror!! Definitely their best effort! The antithesis to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.

Hank Williams40 Greatest Hits
Make sure you find the original yellow jacket MGM vinyl double album! It is a must-have!
A house without this is not a home! Has all the hits, though no Luke the Drifter tracks except for “Ramblin’Man”. You’ll find them all on the Beyond the Sunset album.

RamonesIt’s Alive
Gabba Gabba Hey!  Needs no comment, right?! It is a must-have! A house without this is not a home! Has all the hits!  Hey, haven’t we heard that before?!!

Iggy & the StoogesRaw Power
Get the original Bowie mix on vinyl! Forget Iggy’s re-mix and the sissy-ass discussions about Bowie f***** up the album mixes back in ‘72! B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T!!! This is the coolest, shit-kickenest punk rock album ever! Period!!

SonicsHere Are The Sonics
If you’re looking for the ultimate garage album by the ultimate garage combo of all times, well, here it is!!
Fantastic stuff! I still remember the first time I heard the opening drum roll from “Psycho” and that was that! Bob “Skin-Driver” Bennett – sure one of my fave drummers ever!! I used to play “Psycho” to all of my drummers back in the 80’s and told them to copy his drum rolls. We also used his style as a role model for the Raymen.

There are some fine choices there, Hank. I read an article where you were talking about the odd sounds on the Countricide album. You mentioned, “inspired by Eno, who had recorded weird shit like rattlesnake guitars in the mid 70’s…having snakes crawl across fully amplified guitars and record them”. Lux once got excited when listening to the feedback from a Triangle. What’s the weirdest sound you’ve recorded? Is that a Harmonium on Countricide?

Yes, it is an old Harmonium on ‘Death Letter’ and ‘Heaven Sent or Born in Hell’. It’s a synth on the other tracks.
Think the weirdest sounds I’ve ever recorded must be the slide guitar on “The House I Live in” from Countricide.

Release of your album Sinister Funtime is imminent and has enthusiastically been reviewed here. It truly sounds every bit as good as the Death’s Black Train EP.

You have previously quoted Nick Cave’s comments about songs surrounding serial killers, murderers and the darker sides of life providing a more interesting lyrical playground than the usual boy-meets-girl-lovey-dovey. The new album seems a little more upbeat than previous offerings; dare I say a little happier?

Not happier, just a little more upbeat as you’ve mentioned already. The lyrics are still pretty dark. We wanted to go back to the roots a little more and do a real cool four-piece kick-ass album like Desert Drive or Trashcan to the Ballroom. No backing choirs, strings, organ this time.

We got a little carried away production-wise with Hollywood Hell. So it was time to go back where we came from in the first place and focus on the real deal!

We don’t see you playing live too much, any reason why? I know a lot of people would really like to see you in London. Are there any tour plans on the horizon for Hank Ray and The Raymen?

Well, guess we’re just a bunch of lazy old muterf*****s! Hahahaha!
No, seriously! Main reason is that everyone in the band has tons of stuff beside The Raymen. Tex Napalm, the guitar picker, for instance, has four other projects/bands rolling beside The Raymen and is currently playing shows in Australia. Same for the bass player T-Base. He has recording obligations with another band. That’s why he can’t play the April/May dates to promote Sinister Funtime and is replaced by Pete Voltage, who has two others bands also.

Now, add the job/family activities and I guess you got a pretty good picture of what’s going on.
Another reason is…you’ve guessed it…M-O-N-E-Y!!

If we get

decent payment we’re

there. And I’m

not talking about

getting rich

If we get decent payment we’re there. And I’m not talking about getting rich here, but these days the guarantees offered by some of the clubs are so way below even covering the costs that we have to say ‘Thanks, but no thanks!’

Yeah, of course, would love to play London!

Hey, nice promo photos by Martin Von Hadel, can you tell us a little about your suit? It looks pretty damned sharp.

Thanks! Straight off the rack though! Got it at H&M or C&A.

There has also been some speculation as to your footwear in those photos. Can you clarify what you had on your feet for any of the hipsters who may be reading? I have you down for snakeskin cowboy boots, perhaps with a Cuban heel?

Yep, Python cowboy boots with Cuban heels. Bought ‘em – and you guys won’t believe this, but it is true – from a black guy off the back of his pick up truck at a big swap shop down on Sunrise Blvd, Ft. Lauderdale in the late 90’s for the AMAZING sum of, well, $ 0.50 !!! This is true, no joke!

50 cents for a pair of used, but still-in-great-condition Python boots. Can you believe this? I bought three more pairs of leather cowboy boots for a total of TWO DOLLARS!!

Never asked the guy why the prices were so ridiculously low. I paid the price, took my bargain and walked off! Kinda “Don’t ask, don’t tell” Hahaha!

When that inevitable time comes around, not for quite a while I hope, what words will be chiseled into that big old slab of marble covering your bones?

Hank Ray – Nonconformist


Part one of this interview

About Col. Jon Burrows 18 Articles
Col. Jon Burrows. Conceived in the ghettos on the outskirts of Memphis. Hailed as the new face of the hood. Haikus to him can be found on underpasses, large rocks at public parks and the occasional idling limo. Nearly all of the words he writes are spelled correctly, occasionally managing to format a page with a paragraph break. He once drove a tank and lives solely in hotel and hospital suites covering the windows in tin foil. His epic autobiography, ‘Fuck You Buddy’, will hopefully one day be published, if someone in the literary world can decipher its sophisticated and convoluted message.

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