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Guitarist Ray DeTone Speaks With His Mouth This Time
By Ben Ohmart
(more articles from this author)
2001-09-05
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Ray DeTone is in with the next generation of superb guitar players. Rock, instrumentals, playing lead for rock musicals, the man has done it all - and still it continues...

[Ben Ohmart] How would you describe the kind of music you're doing now?

Ray DeTone I like to think of it as instrumental, progressive, rock fusion, although, sometimes I stray into a blues or rockabilly motif also. The best marketing genre would probably be instrumental metal since that audience is more open to pay attention to just damn fine guitar playing.

[Ben Ohmart] Zappa said he'd do only instrumental music, if they let him. Do you think there's any kind of negativity lodged against mostly instrumental bands/players?

Ray DeTone The average person is usually bored with music without vocals. I try to draw those people in by composing my instrumentals with the same approach as I would if there were vocals involved. The focus should always be strong melodies in any song. Songs Rule! I was not a fan of instrumental rock CD's growing up because, most of the time, they had a cheesey melody, then a long winded solo and then back to the melody ...The End!

I was much more emotionally moved by the early Genesis style of compositions, where there were a lot of instrumental sections that took you different places, supporting the story line of the lyric. Melody Rules, I should really say, whether it's attached to a lyric or not. With my instrumental work, I try to incorporate all I've learned about songwriting Words & Music.

The approach for moving people with music is the same for me whether I have lyrics or not... it is creating an emotional connection with the listener. From time to time, a scorching solo can accomplish this but after awhile it all starts to sound the same and it loses its effectiveness in communicating to the audience. It's like a series of one night stands, after a while you really want and NEED something that you can go back to, hold on to and stick with for a bit. I once walked out a show of a world renowned guitarist, who is totally unique in his style and sound, cause all he did was blow amazing solo after solo over different rhythms. Quite frankly, after 20 minutes I thought I had heard every searing, twisted riff he had ever played 10 times... BORING... I'll take "Definitely Maybe" by Jeff Beck any day over that!

[Ben Ohmart] What are you trying to accomplish with your music? What are your goals?

Ray DeTone As a session guitarist, I've always had to fit into someone else's vision, either a producer or songwriter. So my instrumental CD's have been my forum to do whatever the hell I felt moved me at the time musically and what I thought an audience might also get the same vibe while listening. Also, I'm looking to get more exposure for myself as an artist and more work for myself as a guitarist/producer. The notoriety I'm obtaining with "Strange World" is helping that.

[Ben Ohmart] You toured with Iron Maiden's lead signer, Paul Dianno. What was it like?

Ray DeTone It was different and fun 'cause I was the only American in the band and the English do stuff way different. For instance, rehearsing for a tour with an American band might be 8 hours of grueling work. With Dianno, it was 2 hours of work, 2 hours at the pub, another run thru then back to the pub. Paul was a really nice guy and very subdued compared to what you hear about him being a wild man and all. He was a pleasure to work with as was the rest of the blokes.

[Ben Ohmart] You also have played guitar for stage shows, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. Is there any element of improv to that sort of situation, or are you playing it the exact same way nightly?

Ray DeTone Godspell and JCSS were both very guitar oriented shows which is one of the reasons I chose to do those two, so while there was a lot of score reading involved, there were also places where the MD just let me improvise within a certain feel he was looking for.

[Ben Ohmart] Are there any musicals you Really like?

Ray DeTone JCSS is the best, other than that I'm not a big fan of traditional Broadway musicals. RENT was cool. The thing about Broadway is that there is always so much talent in a show, those people are all very excellent at what they do.

[Ben Ohmart] You must have an interest in the progressive and dramatic side of music. What are your favorite players/bands in that direction?

Ray DeTone Yes! Oh yes! I loved early Genesis and the emotional journeys Peter Gabriel took you thru when he was with the band, with all the costumes and such. Gentle Giant, ELP, Camel (not Frampton's Camel), Ambrosia - before they got too Top 40 - great '70's prog bands. And I loved what Peter Banks did with Flash... all those guitar textures, great stuff!

[Ben Ohmart] Tell us about the guitar classes and clinics you give.

Ray DeTone I'm just trying to keep tomorrow's guitar slingers aware that knowledge is power and even if your favorite guitarist was Kurt Cobain, the more you know about music, theory and application and the more you work towards mastering your instrument, the more doors will open for you down the road. And you may even be able to make a living at music even if you don't become a household name.

[Ben Ohmart] Do you think everyone has a bit of natural music talent, or are there some people with just no rhythm at all (like Steve Martin in The Jerk)?

Ray DeTone No, not every one has natural rhythm, it's sad but true. Even some well known musicians lack a certain natural approach to rhythm and note choice - while others often let their practice rituals become their music, instead of letting their music be a conduit for emotional communication which is what I believe it is.

[Ben Ohmart] You studied music with Steven Tyler's (Aerosmith) father. What did you learn from him that you still carry around today?

Ray DeTone Ha, Ha, Ha - that a dominant 7th is way different from a major 7th. My original teacher never explained that one, it was the only thing that I got wrong on my music endterm in high school. But seriously, he was very cool because he was a classical pianist who could totally appreciate what was going on in contemporary music. He used to bring ELP stuff in and he loved how they had interpreted the classics. That made me open my eyes to using all music forms to help create my own signature style.

[Ben Ohmart] Music promotion is pretty difficult these days in the face of SO much competition. What are you doing to cut down the odds?

Ray DeTone Putting naked chicks on the next cover... Only kidding! Actually, I hired a publicist to work radio and fanzines, gives me more time to pursue more musical avenues. Of course, I still do a lot of my own promotion too, but if I take a day off I don't have to feel as guilty about it.

[Ben Ohmart] What's next on the gig calendar?

Ray DeTone Right now, the push is on getting "Strange World" licensed overseas. My 1st CD, "Once More ...With Feeling!!!" (available at www.guitar9.com/oncemore.html), was released last year in Japan. I want to expand into Europe and the Scandanavias with this CD. Once that is accomplished, I'll consider touring to support sales in those markets.

[Ben Ohmart] Speaking of "Strange World," what are your favorite cuts on the CD?

Ray DeTone "Hoedown" - what can I say - early prog rock had a big influence on what I love about music: the diversity and the different emotions spun into one piece of music. I wanted to do an instrumental that would be recognized by almost everyone, a hard feat in itself. And since Hoedown was known in the '40/50's as a 20th century orchestral piece, in the '70's as ELP's flagship track and in the '90s as the US Beef commercials... When your playing live to an audience that has no idea who you are and you are doing instrumental rock, I figured I better have something that people could relate to. I decided to stick to Emersons version pretty closely since I thought it to be so great. I even worked on nailing his articulation and slurs that are created on his Hammond organ with the percussion on... although, I did add a few twists of my own since it is just a 3 piece version with no keys at all.

"The Journey Begins" is probably what I consider to be the masterpiece instrumental on the CD. It covers and encompasses a collage of sounds and styles compressed into a singular contiguous piece which includes nylon string, steel string acoustic, crunch wah, glass cracking Beckish harmonics, ballsey, fat, sick, twisted John Petrucci figures and a lamenting hook that put a tear in the eye of DSS singer, Al Fritsch, when he first heard it.

"Street Urchin Symphony," originally called Street Urchin Slink...was an unfinished symphony for 8 months. The first 2 minutes was written before SW was even a thought, but I just couldn't finish it. After being inspired by the NYC band, Splendor's (Todd Rundgren produced) simplistic approach to great texture, I came up with the simple 2 chord cadenza that finishes this tune. The beauty and power had me gasping for joy with tears in my eyes as I wrote it and envisioned how it would be in its completed form. It was one of those moments, when you feel so great that you just have to call someone and tell them how you are feeling right that moment - it was one of those epiphany's that makes being in the music business all worthwhile.

"Strange World" is probably my fave vocal tune: the darkness, the churning hammer anvil loop, the lyrics poignant and dark, great vocal track (Ric Prince is just awesome!!!). I wrote this after seeing the movie U571, the WWII submarine movie and it is about the darkness of war. I tried to write the lyrics so that it could be depicted by an individual's imagination to be of any time period, from the distant past to now. I can picture a movie in my head when I listen to the lyrics. I hope it does the same for others.

[Ben Ohmart] Anything else you wanna leave us with?

Ray DeTone I'd like to hear more guitarists spend more time composing rather than trying to play a harmonic minor scale faster and more articulated than the next guy. Come up with a new way of using the theory, don't just spit it back at me. Sometimes I wonder if some of today's shredders have forgotten that this supposed to be MUSIC and not an Olympic competition.

www.raydetone.com

Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» Ray DeTone - Strange World - Dancetone Music (2001-08-20)
» Ray De Tone - 'One More... With Feeling' - Dancetone Music (1999-04-22)


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