Interview with James Ray of Gangwar conducted via telephone on 7/30/96

Jester: Could you go into a little detail about how the Gangwar originally formed?

James: In 1989, I left Merciful Release Records and I split with The Performance. I then proceeded to start Gangwar with Damon Vingoe and Travis Earl. I started the band because I wanted to go out and play live which was a different musical direction than The Performance had ever been designed. The Performance was just myself and Karl. The stuff that we used to do wasn't something you really play live and Karl wasn't ever particularly keen on playing live. I wanted to change and Karl really didn't, so I left The Performance and start Gangwar.

Jester: Have any members of Gangwar had any type of formal musical training?

James: No, we have all been self taught.

Jester: Do you all perform music for a living, or are you forced to work on the side?

James: I don't have to work myself. I spend the rest of my spare time writing screenplays and books. It isn't something that pays well, but I hope it will someday. I have another income of sorts that allows me to not have to go out and get a day job. The rest of the band have day jobs when they need them.

Jester: What kind of screenplays do you write?

James: The screenplay I am working on at the minute is called, "Kill For Kill" I supposed you would call it a murder film. It is set in New York. I also just released a book called "Psychodalek" which goes hand in hand with the new Gangwar album by the same name. They are both about a schizophrenic living in London.

Jester: Is the new album going to be released domestically in the US as well?

James: Hopefully. We just sorted out distribution with Cargo and I am now working on distribution with Caroline. We may also put out through Fifth Column as well. There is also a previous album that hasn't been released in the US called "3rd Generation". So that might be released before "Psychodalek:, but it depends on how I arrange the distribution.

Jester: How did you get involved with Fifth Column to release the Performance and first Gangwar releases?

James: They contacted me through Andrew Eldritch of the Sisters of Mercy. He was originally contacted by Rodney Orpheus of Sungod and The Cassandra Complex. Jared had been in touch with Rodney to try and find me to see if they could release some of my older material.

Jester: Has the label been working well for you?

James: It's a bit early to tell, but I will find out when the first check arrives.

Jester: I noticed a country music motif in some of your older work. How did that particular stylistic reference come about?

James: It was probably heavily influenced by a band called Suicide who were greatly influenced by country western music.

Jester: Do you have any other strong musical influences that affect how you compose your music?

James: In the past I have been influenced by such bands as Chrome, early Aerosmith to a degree. The stuff that we do now is more influenced by trance and techno. The music that we do now is comparatively different from the first LP.

Jester: I heard from a friend of mine about a few shows that you played in England recently. Do you try and play out live as much as possible?

James: We hadn't played for quite some time but we started up again around the beginning of this year. We have another show in London in late August. We just played a festival in Leipzig, Germany. So we are starting to play a lot more than we used to.

Jester: Are there any plans to leave Europe and tour abroad?

James: We'd love to come to the US but trying to find an agent is very difficult. I am waiting for Jared to come back from his Chemlab tour and try and help us out. He was eager for us to possibly come over to the states and play with Chemlab later on this year. I should think that if we will ever play over there, it would be sometime in the late fall which would be nice because we've never played over there before.

Jester: Have you ever been to the US before?

James: Nope. I've never been to the states.

Jester: How is the live music scene in England? Do you usually have large crowds for your shows?

James: Yes we have had rather good attendance. The last gig in London was sold out and the next show looks to be even better. There are also usually other bands that play as well so it helps. It depends on where we play, but we never take anyone with us. I do think that the next tour we take through Germany we will bring a support band with us. A band called Sins of the Flesh who are very similar to us musically.

Jester: You described your music style as having evolved towards a more trance/techno sound. What motivated that change?

James: I've always been really into the early eighties techno scene. European bands like DAF. I don't really want to play the same sort of music for years and years. I like to evolve. Musical progression is very important to me.

Jester: What motivates you to write your music?

James: I like to have the ability to effect other peoples emotions. I do like the fact that things that I write can effect someone else. It's a control issue I suppose.

Jester: Are you trying to make people aware of social phenomena through your lyrics?

James: When we got out and play live it is always a fairly raucous event. I also like the fact that people can actually sit at home and listen to or music as well. So I do try to put across my ideas about social and political events.

Jester: Do you thin it helps people to see you live in order to better understand you music?

James: Definitely.

Jester: When you sit down and write new music, do you have any type of predetermined method that you use?

James: In the past I've have always written the words and music all myself, but recently John Bainbridge, who has been our guitarist for years has sort of started to take over most of the writing. He has now gotten to a stage where the music that he writes is exactly the type of music that I like to play. That allows me to concentrate more on the writing of the vocals. I always had the problem that when I put so much energy into writing the music first that when it came to writing the vocals I've already said everything.

Jester: So the band is taking a larger part in writing the music than before?

James: Yes it has become much more of a cooperative thing than before. On the new album John has written about 60-70% of the music and I've done the rest.

Jester: What kind of equipment do you use? Do you do all of your recording in a home studio?

James: We have two home studios. Both John and I have one. However we do use a professional studio with a full 24 track setup when we master the album. 95% of the album is written before hand before we ever enter the final production.

Jester: Do you have any other musical side projects or collaborative efforts in the past besides The Performance & Gangwar?

James: I've done two other solo albums under the name MK Ultra which were also put out on Merciful Release Records. I've never worked with anyone from other bands before.

Jester: Would you like to work with other musicians?

James: Yes, I think so. There are quite a few people who I think I could work with. I've really never approached anyone and they haven't approached me which is why I have always worked alone. My own music and writing has kept me very busy. To take time out to work with someone else would have to be for financial as well as musical gain to be able justify it.

Jester: Of all of the music you've written, do you have a favorite track or album?

James: Personally, I think the new LP is the best thing we've ever done. As for favorite tracks in the past, probably 'Rev Rev Lowrider' is amongst my all time favorites.

Jester: Is there anything else you'd like to add before we finish?

James: Only that I think it's best that people make up their own minds about my music rather listen to my opinion.

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