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Monday, October 7, 2013

Q&A with Clubland's Ray Guell

Ray Guell's mom and dad have said he started dancing before he could walk. They must have known they had a future star on their hands. Ray started as a freestyle artist who, in 1996, had an album released called You Took My Heart. Ray evolved into a more hi-NRG, positive-vibe style of club music that has captivated crowds around the globe. It was my distinct privilege to have the opportunity to have him blab with Beaverhausen.

Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: Thank you for doing this Q&A, Ray. My blog has an international readership of dance-music fans and you have an international fan base, so let's put it out there about you for all the club-music people.
Ray Guell: Sure, yes I am very lucky to have such a wide international range of support.

DBB: You were born in Miami but left to continue your studies in L.A. where you landed a lead role in the Spanish language production of A Chorus Line. Could you tell us how that all came about? I understand you were planning on an acting career; not one in music.
RG: When I graduated from junior college here in Miami, it was either New York or Los Angeles. There wasn't much happening at that time here in Miami. My first choice would have been New York, but things just worked out to go to L.A. I was financing my own education and California paid for college for it's residents. It was touchy, I worked two jobs, one with the telephone company (GTE) and then the evenings at an art house movie theater (The Nuart). They used to play all the John Waters (Divine) movies and all the cult films. My main dream was to make it on Broadway and in motion pictures or TV. I never really focused on the music industry because I really did not think of myself as a vocalist. I was a great actor who danced well and could carry a tune. I was very insecure of my vocal ability and, I must confess, I still am today.
DBB: I have to say I find that very surprising!
RG: At one point on the insistence of a friend, I auditioned for a Spanish production of A Chorus Line. I knew the show well as it was my favorite Broadway musical. So I went to the audition which was full of seasoned actors, I got two call backs (to my suprise) and finally got the part.

DBB: Returning to Florida, you joined a New Wave band as lead vocalist. You were consequently signed on the Futura Records label but as a solo performer. Did that create any hard feelings at the time?
RG: It was awkward and it was a tough decision but the members of the band had one vision, and I really wasn't comfortable in that New Wave band and [with] their vision. They all looked the part and I was a clean-cut looking guy. They all wore black eyeliner and looked very gothic and it was always a struggle to fit the look of the band. I loved the look but, really, I could not pretend to be something or look like something that just wasn't me.

DBB: Did you ever imagine you'd be a dance-music artist? What were your tastes in dance music like beforehand; who were some of your favorite groups and/or vocalists in this genre?
RG: Well, I never did imagine myself being a dance artist, although I loved dance music. Actually, I am a disco baby. While growing up, I listened to a lot of Motown and Salsa, and as I grew into my teens, it was dance music in the forefront. My idol was Donna Summer. But I loved Thelma Houston, Roberta Kelly, Lime, France Joli, Sylvester, Grace Jones... gosh, I am really dating myself. Well, my dance influences came from the late 70's. Then it continued in the 80's. I was a huge Madonna fan. I actually remember catching her at the small clubs when she would do her track act. Then, of course, she exploded. But to be honest, I also have a lot of influences when it comes to music. I love r & b, I love some genres of jazz, I even like Barbara Streisand. Then there is my other idol, Celia Cruz. She is part of my Cuban culture. I could sit here and just name drop artists, so we could stay on this subject all day long..... So I will cut this one short so I don't bore you. And I also love Broadway music.....gotta add that.
DBB: And I wasn't bored one bit!

DBB: Your song "Just Another Lover" was a hit in New York, California, Miami and in all major regional United States markets and throughout Canada, Europe and Brazil. That must have been a thrill! Was this your first release on Futura?
DBB: Yes it was. To be honest, when it was happening it was very surreal. Hearing my song on the radio for the first time was crazy. Then, when my friends would constantly call me to tell me my song was on the radio, it got a bit embarrassing.... but still thrilling. Wow, I had not thought about that in a long time! It was a crazy time... I remember people calling me asking "is that you?" As I said, I never was very confident of my vocal ability so I did not really tell a lot of people what I was doing. When it exploded, it caught a lot of my friends by surprise.

DBB: In 2010, you teamed up with the renowned dance-music producer Giuseppe D. How did that collaboration come about?
RG:  Giuseppe, or Pepi as I call him, was part of the environment and [one of the] people I was working with. So, we actually have known each other for many, many years. Eventually we hooked up and started collaborating together. He is super-talented, knows my voice and style, so we work well together, I think.

DBB: Your first effort together was the fabulous "Love Is the Answer." I read on your web page [] that the song is still " burning up the air waves and dance floors in Brazil with... new added mixes...." Share with us what the dance scene is like in Brazil and your continuing popularity there. Can you describe what motivated you to write that song? And did you suspect you had a hit on your hands?
RG: Well, "Love Is the Answer" has a universal message. I was motivated to write that track because, at the time, there was a lot going on regarding discrimination as to who you are supposed to love or not. We were at war and I felt our government was not being forthcoming with information and that religion was being used as a reason for wars. I really don't like to discuss politics, so I won't. But I may write about it or sing about it. I just had something really important to say in the lyric of that song. I did not set out to write it that way though, but I just wasn't feeling a "love song". No, I did not suspect it was going to be a hit.

DBB: New remixes are on hand this month of your song "Haunting Visions." You wrote it in memory of your father. Could you talk about what motivated you to ultimately put these feelings into a song?
RG: When I sat down to write a new song, I was just not feeling creative. Words did not come easy. I was not in a good place emotionally. I had been suppressing my feelings because I was keeping my entire family together while everyone was falling apart, or so it seemed to me. Who knows, maybe I was just imagining that. So, I took a step back and sort of allowed myself to surrender to what I was feeling. I usually write lyrics in prose or poem form. Then I tailor it to song.... Well, once I opened up, the words came and it was somewhat therapeutic. Because I had not acknowledged how I was feeling and how I was being haunted by memories of my dad. Some were good and some not so good. And when I say not so good, I mean the memories and images while he was sick.
My dad and I were very close. And, as each day goes by, in his absence I feel like I am knowing him more and the challenges he endured in life, raising our family. In retrospect, I am very similar to him. To be honest, I never thought of releasing this song, it was very personal and I wrote it more for me than for the world. I actually wrote it before I wrote the previous release, "Celebrate." After I wrote "Haunting Visons," I wrote "Celebrate" because I needed to cheer myself up and I thought everyone else could use some positive music to cheer them up as well.

[Check the link:]

DBB: Can you tell us a little about your growing up in Miami and your early years there?
RG: My parents left Cuba in 1958, just before the Cuban revolution. You know before that monster, Fidel Castro, destroyed a country and a society. They were married in Miami and I was born here. Growing up in Miami was awesome. There was such a sense of community. The Cubans were exiling here and everyone was like family. Seemed everyone had someone in common. The exiled Cuban community evolved into Cuban-Americans and the music scene here became very prominent. Miami became a latin hub for other latin countries. It seems very different now, though.

DBB: Your recent numbers, "You Don't Know Me" and "Celebrate," each have of a slew of fantastic remixers attached to them. How does it make you feel when you stop and think that there are all these mixes available, that djs all over the globe are playing your songs and crowds are dancing to them?
RG: Gosh, it is so cool and flattering! It is great that I started as a Freestyle artist and while I still am loyal to my Freestyle fan base I am also allowing my music to evolve into the other dance genres. The fact that other remixers want to be part of my music and DJs are playing my music is thrilling and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

DBB: What do you like about the dance-music scene today? What do you feel is missing that you might want to help change?
RG: Some of the dance music today I respect but, to be honest, I don't really listen to it. If it is too hard or harsh, it just seems like noise rather than music. (Ok, I know I am going to piss someone off, but just being honest.) I like vocal-driven dance music. I love house and bouncy dance tracks. I guess I am more into pop dance.
DBB: And I'm definitely onboard with that, Ray.
RG: Then again, that goes back to my beginnings. Disco. I love big-sounding productions. Nice vocals.... Sometimes it seems that a lot of the music playing in the big clubs is catering to chemically induced audiences. And hey, that is cool... whatever floats your boat. But I don't chemically induce so maybe that is why I don't get alot of it. Ok, let me make a disclaimer, I am not preaching and to each his own. I am by far no saint, I mean I did grow up in the 80's... so read between the lines. What is missing today is, I feel, the music industry has changed and it has not settled yet. Change is continuous and it is a different environment. Labels no longer develop artist, and some music that gets [released] has no business being out there [while] some good music never gets heard. In the old days it was called payola. Who knows, maybe that is still going on. Again, I am going to piss off some industry folks, but I am just keeping it real!

[Here's a link to the rare, original video for "Just Another Lover" -- DBB]

DBB: Ray, thank you so much for your time in doing this Q&A. Any final words or shout-outs you'd like to put out there for your international fans?
RG: First of all, I want to thank you for giving me this platform to express myself and reach out to the many listeners. Second, I want to thank all the audiences that support the dance music genre and tell them that it is because of their support that dance artists can continue to strive to be heard. I am not going to mention anyone by name, because all those that are special to me know it. I am not one that holds back when I appreciate you or your support. And last [to] my fans, my supporters, new and old, thank you for allowing this humble guy from Miami to continue his dream. Thanks for being a part of my dream. Take care of yourselves, be kind to one another, be happy, be safe and stay healthy. Thank you once more for all your love and support!

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