Lasermagnetic’s Johnny Hiller talks to Ray Mang

Ahead of Ray Mang’s headline appearance alongside Simon Lee (Faze Action) and Farley and Heller for Vintage House Foundation meets Lasermagnetic NYE at East Village, Lasermagnetics Johnny Hiller had a chat with Ray Mang about his work, the scene, disco and even Cambridge. We stuck our ear to the wall and had a cheeky listen to what was said…..

Johnny Hiller – Raj, how did you get to adapt the name Ray Mang? Sounds like a undercover cop character from a 70s Hong Kong B-movie to me, have we missed out on something?

Ray Mang – Ha ha!  Well, I’m fine with that interpretation!!  My pseudonyms generally stem from other peoples mispronunciations of my real name.  I still meet people all the time who call me Ray by mistake when trying to say my real name.  The ‘Mang’ was a suggestion from my friend Ben who I was working with at the time.  He had just returned from a holiday in Miami.  Together they seemed to have a slightly ambiguous international feel.  Maybe Asian, Hispanic (or something else) with quite a 70’s ring to it as you said before!!  Also, I like the fact that it’s kind of a play on Man Ray.

Johnny Hiller – You grew up in Cambridge and your first productions were associated with the dub disco of the the mid nineties as many of the UK’s longstanding disco producers did, too, so is this a coincidence?

Ray Mang – There are certainly quite a few people from Cambridge of my generation who have gone on to make careers in music for themselves.  Most of us know each other and have worked together at one stage or another.  The fact that so many peers took the plunge probably made it somewhat easier to attempt to follow that path long-term.

I guess only some of them are associated with the dub disco scene of the mid nineties though.  But there were plenty of other like-minded people in the UK also interested in similar things around the same time and we mostly got to know each other too!

Johnny Hiller – How does the scene and vibe of the mid nineties compare with what’s happening on dance floors right now? Anything missing in your opinion?

Ray Mang – It’s funny that on the previous question you refer to the ‘dub disco’ scene of the mid nineties.  When records of that style were coming out then they were generally categorized and reviewed in the press as ‘deep house’, ‘nu house’ or ‘London house’.  And the clubs in the mid nineties generally reflected that too.  There was a lot of house, deep house, and other related micro-genres of the time. It wasn’t until quite a bit later that someone (no doubt a music journalist) coined the phrase ‘nu disco’ and at the same time more people started talking unabashedly about disco in all it’s forms again.  Don’t get me wrong, there were amazing records being made and some great nights in a thriving dance music scene of the mid nineties but for me a lot of nights felt quite mono-dimensional.  Playing anything other than a deep house record was usually saved for a special moment like the end of a set!  These days that’s far from the case which to my mind is a wonderful thing!!

Maybe something that was better about the scene back then was the sense of occasion for a night’s clubbing and the great atmospheres that that often produced.  You know the stars of the party were the crowd!  It was also relatively a very prosperous time for the dance music industry (especially in the UK) which no doubt added greatly to the feelgood factor of the time!

Johnny Hiller – What aspects of disco music culture in your opinion make it different from say house music parties, or is it more or less the same?

Ray Mang – When it’s good it’s good for both!  It’s all music for dancing to and having a good time.

Johnny Hiller – Can you talk us through your studio set-up? What’s your favourite piece of equipment.

Ray Mang – I work mainly with a fat computer and lots of software these days and have done for around a decade at least.  I have some hi-end converters, mics, outboard valve pre-amps, eqs and compressors and some synths plus other instruments to go with it, but mostly in the box!!

And for that reason, although it’s not at all glamorous, trendy or ‘dope’ answer to give, I’d have to say my favourite piece of kit is a desktop computer with modern sequencing / recording software.  I have my personal preferences but most are good enough these days to deliver the necessary!  The advancement of modern (and older) music has always been linked to developments in technology.  And without doubt the biggest advance in music technology in the last 15 years is the computer along with all the available music software.  No longer do you need a couple of hundred grand’s worth of kit to achieve a high-end result.  And in these days of ever decreasing music revenue and budgets that’s especially important!

Johnny Hiller – Which piece of music that you have written are you most proud of and why so?

Ray Mang – I feel most privileged to have written and recorded pieces with artists I admire greatly such as Jon Lucien, Bim Sherman, Jhelisa, Kier Kerby, Robert Owens and Mozez.  I’m also very proud to have remixed some of my heroes too like Roxy Music, Banda Black Rio, Terry Callier, Freddie Mercury, Beck, Shirley Bassey and Grace Jones.

Johnny Hiller – What in your opinion makes a good song and how do you rate harmonies over rhythmic structures?

Ray Mang – For me there are no rules for making a good song.  Melody, harmony and rhythm are obviously the building blocks of music but I like songs that have varying amounts of all or some for different reasons.  As long as it touches you on some level it’s working!

It is of course easier to reach someone on an emotional level with harmony but to convey harmony and melody you almost always require rhythm too.  I started out as a drummer and do enjoy listening and dancing to purely rhythmic structures but even then, as drums and percussion are usually tuned, you find yourself hearing melody (and sometimes harmony) whether that be deliberate or coincidentally suggested.  In fact I sometimes use this fact as a way to start writing a piece beginning from a drum loop or similar.

Johnny Hiller – What were the last 3 tracks you physically bought and the last 3 downloaded?

Ray Mang – Physical buys:
Jo Bisso – Disco Amour Tonight – Makossa International
Tappa Zukie – Freak – Stars
Classical Mechanics – Woman Of Ice / Black Body Radiation – Panache

Downloads (first I bought, others I was sent!  Can’t say I buy many!!):
Christy Essien Igbokwe – You Can’t Change A Man – BBE
Play Pal Music Vol. 1 – Play Pal Music
Dirty McKenzie – Get Up Off My Cloud – Bass United Recordings

Here’s ten of my favourite new releases from 2012:
Mim Suleiman – Umbeya LP – Bubble Tease Communications – Mim and mauirce!  What can I say!! They’re doing it again!!
Various (although Gypsy Trance is the one for me!) – Tusk Wax Three – Tusk Wax – Not strictly this year but that’s when i got/heard it! Steve and Slim deliver another soft gem!!
Olololop – Mon / Aberabavoe – Room Full Of Records – A gentle beauty from Japan!
The Heels Of Love – Flight 707 (i like the Jadoo Rmx) – Nang – Finally gets a vinyl release.  Bass line and riff!
Todd Terje – It’s the Arps – Smalltown Supersound – Inspector Norse. Enough said
Marcus Marr – The Music / Pleasure Moon – DFA – So happy for my friend that this has finally surfaced on DFA!
Dr. Dunks – One Night Affair / Love From The Start – C.O.M.B.I. – Eric delivers quality edits again!!
Land Of Light – Land Of Light LP – ESP Institute – And relax.
Foolish, Friendly & Forgetful – Weapons Of Mass Destruction – Recycled Records – Great to see these friends make another record together again!!
Uku Kuut – Visions OF Estonia – Peoples Potential Unlimited – Interesting re-issue from an interesting label.

Check out the VHF meets Lasermagnetic NYE party HERE on P&S.