Gemma Ray

Young Gemma Ray considered art to be more important than school rules and today's Brexit a bad dream… 

In fact, artists like Gemma Ray should give speeches in audiences consisting of governments, politicians and people who decide on our future. A word such as Psychogeology might not mean a thing to the average person, but it gains huge importance when explained from the likes of her. Immense meaning regarding who we are, the environment in which we live in and what our interactions with it, should be like “…record is about the relationship between landscape and emotion, how they connect and the perspective this can bring to more personal thoughts and inner architecture” she states, when asked about the main idea of her first work “Psychogeology” and dare we say, she is quite right.

Man, throughout his history has been fighting nature while ignoring his own origins. He changes all things so that they fit his needs, instead of accepting the environment as a part of his nature, something that has always existed in him and made him what he is today. We become either important or unimportant depending on what we are surrounded by. Ray seems to have a good grasp of this exact concept, judging from her new work. Her album is about her basic thoughts on “Psychogeology” declaring that it is an “ode to the landscape’s grandeur, the immensity of nature and time, as well as the inevitable of human life which eventually, after our death, will also become a tiny part of the already existing landscapes.” The connection of our minds and bodies with everything that exists out there is all important. It is this exact significance that Gemma calls upon us to realize and a whole sonic atmosphere will be made out of this. Through the blending of sounds, thoughts and landscapes we shall conclude to the inevitable realization of their unity. 

Starting from the defining significance of the album’s philosophy and moving on to its sounds: the British artist creates a fictional landscape of synthesizer sounds which resembles a kind of dramatic blues serenade, like the sway guitars in the track “Flood Plains”. Her voice is sampled and layered, either adding up to sound like a choir or turning into a backing vocal, thus portraying a sense of diversity. Sometimes smooth and others almost shattered, powerful or warm and triumphant with theatricality and brightness, Ray’s voice is astonishing and extends in a wide range; for example in the trackRoll in River” which includes all the aforementioned versions of her temperament. 

“It’s Only Loneliness”, perhaps the least technically pretentious song of the album, has a perfectly pitched bass which provides it with great warmth and strength. The lyrics place the song’s meaning in a much more abstract and playful way than we’d expect, but this can only have a positive outcome on an already philosophically driven album. Tracks such as “Blossom Crawls” combine loss or decline with optimism: to quote the artist’s lyrics “ …oh to feel yesterday’s love”  although later on, she decides: “…I’m prepared to be happy”.

“Psychogeology” is an album that amongst clever innuendos and points of tension becomes a beautiful reminder of the way in which the universe is simultaneously around and within us. An alarm bell for the fact that we forget we are a part of the planet’s wildlife. We have come in this world to live and die in harmony with all things coexisting…

Gemma has spoken to us about her new album, her musical past and present, as follows…

Psychogeology by Gemma Ray (out 15/02/19)


The Basement: Hello Gemma! First of all, thank you for this interview, we're so happy having you. Amazing new LP "Psychogeology" again on Bronze Rat. Please, introduce yourself to us.
Hello! My name is Gemma Ray.

The Basement: You were raised in Billericay, Essex UK but you now live in Berlin. Tell us more about your childhood, how you got into music and then moved to Germany.
I grew up in a Essex, a large county outside of London. I got into music through a need to make sense of the world through art, this started with a childhood obsessed with drawing, painting and making things from rubbish that somehow grew into wanting to play a guitar. I started playing guitar and writing songs from the age of 13/14 and this slowly became a fixation which took me to London and then more recently Berlin.

The Basement: What did you want to do when you grow up and finally which were your studies?
I left school at 15 - as soon as I finished the compulsory exams. I hated being in an environment full of rules which didn’t make sense to me and could not bear being forced to mix with a large group of people everyday. I spent a few months in Art College -I didn’t understand how a painting could be rated by someone else, and quickly realized I didn’t fit in there either and dropped out so I could start working for a living and find space to make music. I just wanted to be somewhere on my own to be able to create.

The Basement: "Psychogeology" comes like a philosophy turn on your writing. It's really a more personal one. Can you give us the central idea you had for it?
This record is about the relationship between landscape and emotion, how they connect and the perspective this can bring to more personal thoughts and inner architecture.

The Basement: Where did you record it and how much time this process took you? You also worked together with many great artists. Tell us more.
I recorded Psychogeology at an amazing, largely analogue studio in Berlin called Candybomber (situated in the now disused Tempelhof Airport). This took 6 days to track up with my band (the recording musicians were: Andrew Zammit, Gris-De-Lin, Ed Turner and Claudio Jolowicz) and then I made the overdubs and worked further on arrangements in my own studio in the attic of the Alte Munze (Old Mint) in Mitte. It was mixed at Candybomber by the brilliant Ingo Krauss.

The Basement: How you got in touch with Bronze Rat Records? It seems like you've found a kind of a shelter there, all of your records were released with them.
Andrew Zammit (label founder) and I have collaborated together since the very beginning, in fact the label was set-up initially to support a 7” release of mine when we were in a band together. We are partners and Andrew also makes incredible music but so far his passions for releasing other artists work has been the priority. Check out Series Aphonos too! Bronze rat's weirder, wilder little sister label.

The Basement: Are all of the compositions in the new LP yours? How could you characterize the kind of music you made in this one?
Yes! I’ll leave that to the ear of the listener…

The Basement: Your past is full of cooperations on TV, films and series. Could you someday imagine yourself as an actress?
No! I can’t act to save my life, I’m horribly self-conscious and can’t even walk on film without looking shifty. Ask any music video director I have worked with! I love working on film scores though… to make music to other peoples vision, this is something I hope to do more of – it’s so nice to be a bit part in someone else’s creation.

The Basement: It's been ten years since "The Leader" came out. What can you say about your present music comparing to that album?
Um, less naive but I do try to preserve my innocence about making music in the process so hopefully that element is still there. Also, I worked a lot faster when I was younger, my impatience was even worse, (which is pretty hard to imagine) ...I think this maybe gives my first record an urgent, concise, imperfect quality which I can recognize as a charm. Plus it features many great arrangements from Michael Sheehy who produced it with me. But the core of it, the thread, is not so different…

The Basement: Which were the most important music experiences you came across so far and will be forever remembered?
I have had so many amazing experiences as a musician, but I really loved playing at The Royal Albert Hall - to experience those acoustics and also I loved recording my album 'Island Fire' spontaneously when I was happily marooned in Australia when Eyjafjallajokull erupted. I fell in love with the wildlife and had the most generous offer to ‘kill time’ in my publisher's studio whilst waiting for my flight home… it was such a dream.

The Basement: What are you talking about in "Flood Plains" and what is the meaning of 360 degrees you sing there ?
A 360 degree viewpoint, total and all-consuming. This song is a kind of Retablo - a picture, a plea for help and a need to heal.

The Basement: Who are your favourite contemporary artists?
Um… I like John Grant a lot and also an Australian artist called Cash Savage & The Last Drinks - and just recently got really hooked on The Barrel by Aldous Harding - Oh, and I'm a long-time fan of Low - but not sure I have a stand out favourite as such…

The Basement: You're just finishing your tour to The Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, UK and you're finally gonna play in Germany. What your long future plans would be?
To make more music, to grow - no big master plan… would love to play in some more new and unusual places - like Greece...

The Basement: Make a wish for tomorrow.
I wish for Βrexit to just have been a bad dream.

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