January 2012 (e-mail)
Guitarist/singer/songwriter Raymond Bally grew up in the New York/New Jersey music scene but had been out of it for many years when he released the album Nature Of Love in 2009. This project had modest roots as it was no more than some acoustic demos put on myspace only to be discovered by another myspace musician, Hans Bally of Sweden, who would overdub an array of sounds on them. The success & new friends brought from this project developed into Raymond Bally & The Renegades with steady gigs in the area & a new album.
Raymond was the first person to submit to me a promo album for my CD/DVD reviews blog when I decided to open it up beyond my collection in late 2010. I'd later, returning the gesture one might say, have him as a guest on my Roman Midnight Music Podcast in March 2011. At the time he planned to have his second album, Faker, available in time for the broadcast but it didn't happen, though he did allow me the honor to preview an unmixed song. Also during the podcast the name of the Renegades as his backing band was still up in the air & it wasn't until a call in that I knew the band even had a name. In December 2012 Raymond sent me a copy of Faker. He's not the first person to send me a follow-up CD to review, but he's the first whose been on my show previously so I felt, given our history, it was time to touch base again with an e-mail interview about the new album. Ironically, though he occasionally performs in New York City, we've yet to have the opportunity to meet face-to-face closing the circle.
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AJ: You once told me you hoped Faker would be out when we talked on my Roman Midnight Music Podcast back in March 2011 but obviously it took a little longer than expected. Though we did preview a new, albeit unmixed, track (i.e. "Can't Blame It All On You"). Can you give a brief history of the making of Faker?
RAYMOND: Faker began when Andrew Platt who I knew as the bass player of the band SKELETONBREATH told me he also happened to be a drummer. & that he would play on any recording session I set up. This, after I was lamenting that I had no drummer. & I had become friendly with [guitarist] Dennis Young toward the end of making my album Nature of Love. We started jamming & I realized I wanted him to be a major contributor on my next recording. Initially, I thought we would record 3 or 4 songs over a month or 2. That was over 2 years ago! Also I wanted to work with the engineer James Dellatacoma. I liked his work. The first sessions went well. I thought this could be a really good exploration & decided to make a full length album. When I had the money we would record. That’s why it took as long as it did.
AJ: Are all the songs new or are any of them leftovers from the Nature Of Love recordings?
RAYMOND: All new songs. However when I began recording the album in October 2009, I had only a few new songs. So THE RENEGADES recorded versions of "Echoes," "Will You Kiss Me" & "Burning For You." All together we recorded 21 songs. These & several new ones that didn’t make the album. Also a song written by Dennis Young. Oh wait, "Good Night Boys," the last track on the album, was written in the 1990’s as the title song of a rock opera I was working on about my adolescent, growing up in a small town. One night after a long rehearsal, 70 asked, "don’t you have anything else?" We played "Good Night Boys." He said, "we have to record that."
AJ: If one sees RB & THE RENEGADES live whose in the performing band versus whose on the album?
RAYMOND: The performing band is Andrew Platt, drums; 70, bass; Dennis Young, guitar/percussion. Bern Nix is busy with his own Trio but he will be playing with us at our album release gig.
AJ: Nature Of Love came about almost accidentally when Hans Bally, unrelated, found your music on myspace after you'd been out of the music world for some years, as I remember you telling me on the podcast, while this release has obviously been much more intentional in its creation. Though you don't have much hindsight as Faker is newly released how do you see the two releases in comparison in terms of artistic growth & musical &/or self-expression?
RAYMOND: I hope on Faker my songwriting developed further. I took more chances. & I feel very pleased that with these strong musical personalities the songs held up. Not only were the songs not swallowed up by the musicians, they proved to be strong in return.
AJ: Nature Of Love was your songs with Hans Bally overdubbing after the fact. How was Faker created & just how much contribution did THE RENEGADES themselves have?
RAYMOND: The very reason I created the band name & credit them on the album, is that Dennis, Andrew, 70, Bern, & James were all major collaborators.
AJ: Nature Of Love is an album of love songs, angst ridden at times but love songs just the same, while Faker seems to be of many different emotions, good & bad, swimming around, including regret. Can you share some general thoughts/feelings on Faker?
RAYMOND: Faker is more wide ranging. Nature Of Love was totally about love & hate in a relationship. There is more personal exploration on this record, musically, lyrically. I don’t if it is all works or not. I plan things out & then things change. I like to work that way.
AJ: The songs on Faker follow a general theme of looking on life & seeking some resolution & range from such topics as bad relationships (i.e. "Can't Blame It All On You", "Vampire Song" & "Bitter Love"), departed friends (i.e. "Dead Soldiers"), personal revelation & conclusion ("Heroes & Fools", "Hear Me God", "Good Night Boys" & "Faker"), love ("Mystery Play"). Are these a writer's creativity or inspired by autobiography or recent life events?
RAYMOND: Everything is autobiography. Maybe not in the way that is obvious in all the songs. For example, I didn’t go to war, but I understand the company of men.
AJ: Given this post 9-11 world one has to ask if the poignant "Dead Soldier" is specific or just inspired by generic events?
RAYMOND: "Dead Soldier" began with a Rudyard Kipling poem & my despair over the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. I wanted to write about the closeness men feel when they are together, at war, in competition, in brotherhood. & the devastation & loss they must accept & be tortured by.
AJ: The title cut "Faker" seems to be a vague/mysterious story of love (i.e. "I am the lover/you are the honey") & growing up ("... fearful & afraid/of my father's shadow") & is focused someone who might be a lover but just as well might be a friend or relative long gone ("recalling your steps/retracing your shape"), at the same time there's obviously a wall in a Romeo & Juliet way between this lover/friend & you (i.e. "the weird sisters are in the house") or at least there's a couple characters in this story influencing each other. Setting my guesswork aside can you share a bit on the title track, seemingly the most complicated song on Faker?
RAYMOND: I agree! Writing the song "Faker" was a breakthrough for me as a songwriter. I took a one-day workshop with Rob Stoner. Rob is a bass player/producer know for his work with Bob Dylan, Robert Gordon, Don McLean & many more. I played a song for Rob & he asked, "why only two verses?" Are you lazy? He asked what the song was about & started throwing out ideas. He was riffing & yelling out words. Encouraging me with, “yeah man,” as I sang & incorporated the new words/ideas. After this experience with Rob, my inner critic/censor was diminished greatly. & I realized I needed to push myself much harder & further. Words poured out of me. A few weeks later, I wrote the opening line of the song: "I am the faker/you are the dream/holy beggar at your temple." The rest of the song poured out.
AJ: While I described in my blog Nature Of Love as having a ethereal gritty-folksy flavor, Faker is quite different & with its quircky guitar solos reminds me on initial listens more of a folksy version of Captain Beefheart or Zappa than what you released previously. Without going more into the music, which I'll do on my blog review, any thoughts on my initial response?
RAYMOND: I really like the way you broke the songs into different themes. I don’t really know whom we sound like or how people would describe my music. I have tons & tons of musicians I admire. Adding Bern Nix to the songs takes the songs to another level. You can listen to his playing over & over & discover something new with each listen. The listener will eventually figure out that Bern links his playing to the vocal, the melody line, the chords & the beat all at the same time. Dennis Young’s guitar playing is so different from what I do & what Bern does. He adds texture, noise, & melody too. He has been a drummer/percussionist all of his life. I am fascinated by his approach on the guitar. Andrew & 70 hold down the fort & both contributed to the arrangements.