Meet Brian Ray

California born native, Brian Ray, guitarist and sometimes bass player for Paul McCartney's band, talked candidly to Jorie Gracen in an exclusive interview about the man, his music, and what it was like working with a legend.

Brian did an exclusive Web Chat conducted by Jorie B. Gracen
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© 2004 -2005 copyright Jorie B. Gracen
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Jorie B. Gracen: Who were your biggest musical influences in becoming a musician?

Brian Ray: My biggest influences were Elvis, Little Richard, The Teddy Bears, The Everly Bros. and all of the early rock 'n' roll artists who were around then.

I was about three years old when my sister Jean used to baby-sit me and play records by all the greats. She was 15 years older and was already into this new thing, rock 'n' roll. She would show me pictures of Elvis, Rick Nelson and all these people. I just got it, at such a deep visceral level that rock 'n' roll was where the electricity in life was. At three years old I just knew it.

I was influenced by the music of the early '60s: doo wap, hot rod music, surf music and Motown. And in those days radio was playing every form of music and it wasn't classified into different formats separated onto different stations in different parts of the city for different people. There were only a few stations and they all played everything. You'd go from some crooner guy to Fats Domino to Vic Damone to the Beach Boys and to the Supremes. ...and then The Beatles came out. So before the Beatles came along there were all sorts of influences for me here on the west coast. They all came out of the early days of rock 'n' roll.

Jorie: When the Beatles hit, it was an explosion!

Brian: [Laughs] An explosion? It was REALLY an explosion! Because you know, let's say, hot rod music and surf music were informed by Chuck Berry. So it all really comes from black rhythm & blues, blues and country-now called rock 'n' roll. This gumbo turned into rock 'n' roll, a very explosive mixture.

Then here come these guys from England...Sunday night on the Ed Sullivan Show I'm sitting there and Paul, John, George and Ringo come jumping out of the TV. They also were raised on the music of Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Fats Domino, but it's come through a different filter and it's come out of a country far away with these guys with trippy haircuts and wearing collarless suits. They look mischievous but they are gentlemen. They were funny and they could sing their asses off and it just took my head off. It was just like, "Oh my God!" Life just stopped and began anew that night. It's a whole new game now, it's a whole new world.

The music that came before The Beatles was very colorful...but when The Beatles came out, it went to wide-screen technicolor and the world opened up.

Jorie: Any childhood memories of The Beatles?

Brian: I do remember the day my stepfather, who was a comedy writer on Art Linkletter's show called the House Party, came over one day when he was first dating my mom. He brought over two Beatles wigs for my brother and I and MAN did he score some points! Very early Beatle wigs, the very first issue. They were more like some sort of polyester leisure product than hair.

Jorie: Was there a reason why you chose guitar instead of another instrument?

Brian: Guitar was my chosen instrument at first and the first song I learned to play was "Gloria" by Van Morrison who had a group called Them.

I was influenced by all the British invasion bands: The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, The Animals. Then folk music of '60s influenced me because my older sister Jean was in a band called the New Christy Minstrels that was a folk touring entity. In the New Christy Minstrels she met Jim Glover and they married and they went on as Jim and Jean. They used to open for the Beach Boys and were touring successfully and made four albums. I'd go to their concerts and see them opening for a blues act like Buddy Guy and Junior Wells or I'd get to meet Albert King when I was like eleven years old. And in those days, much like the radio, club owners would put together people from all different styles of music on one bill.

I was influenced by the folk stuff and then the British invasion stuff and then British blues music with all the great guitar players that came out of bands like John Mayall, Savoy Brown and the earliest Fleetwood Mac which was originally a blues band. In 1967 they were a ferocious, spitting, hot blues band, just unparalleled.

And of course Jimi Hendrix who started in the States and was from the States but came out of England... I saw him in '67 opening for the Mamas and Poppas at the Hollywood Bowl.

Jorie: Your bio lists several tours where you performed or shared the stage with artists such as Joe Cocker, the Doobie Bros., The Stones and others. Is touring something you prefer over studio sessions?

Brian: They're two aspects of my career that are completely different and completely satisfying for entirely different reasons. You can't get the buzz that you get from live performing in the studio. There's something that happens when you're up on that stage and the audience is just taking it in and smiling back at you and you're smiling, feeding off of them. And there's that circle of energy that goes on up there that you don't get when you're sitting in a chair looking down at your guitar with headphones on. It's just not going to happen. There's an immediate gratification and an immediate appreciation and acknowledgment that we're all feeding off the same buzz. That you don't get in a studio.

In the studio there's something that at the end of the day, on a good day, you've done something that lasts, that means something. You've painted a picture, you've made a movie for the ears that lasts forever. That's something like a photograph in time. You can't get that live either. You don't get the precision, and you don't get sort of the finesse, and the massaging of musical ideas in the studio. You can't get that live because there's not the same sort of quality control live that there is in the studio.

It's a trip to be in rehearsal with Paul and have him say to the band after the first leg, "Ok guys what kind of songs would you like to do for the next tour? I'll take requests from the band." I said, "Let's do 'She's Leaving Home.'" And he said, "That's a good one, Brian. I've never done that one."

And you think to yourself "this guy wrote this incredible song with John in late '66, or whatever and he recorded it and they finished that day. Then it's mixed, goes up on the shelf and the public gets to enjoy it for the rest of their lives. But he doesn't really go back and listen to it. And he never once played it live!" And so for him to go out onstage and look at those faces who for the first time in their lives are enjoying the song that's being play by the guy who wrote it, and then to get feedback from performing the music he wrote, his body of work... WOW! Can you imagine the feeling of that?

Jorie: When Paul was deciding on the set list for the tour did he pick songs based on their sales or ones he felt were the biggest hits?

Brian: No not at all. I didn't get that feeling that he did that at all. First of all we did get CDs of 40 some songs on the CD saying this is some of the general material we could be doing live. Be prepared on all of these songs, right? Nearly 50 songs. So I went, "Okay!" Before I had the CDs, I just started preparing everything that I could think of that he might do anyway. So he gave me the CD's and I listened and learned them. But when Paul and Wix sat down and wrote the set list, it was there in rehearsal in Culver City when we were rehearsing. He said, "OK guys we're just going to duck out for a second over there on the couch and come up with a set list." And it literally was 20 minutes later they came up with the set list and we never changed it. We did change it for the second leg and we did add more for the third but the basic structure of the set list stayed the same.

Jorie: Why does Paul prefer to keep to the same songs in the set list every night instead of substituting different songs at different shows as most other bands do? Fans would like to hear more Wings and solo material as well as the occasional obscure Macca song, but the set list seems to cater to the 'weekend McCartney/Beatles fan' rather than the hardcore McCartney fan. Is Paul unaware of that or does he feel that the majority of his audience comes to hear The Beatles? It's a shame that he ignores his brilliant post-Beatles material in concert.

Brian: Actually he did add songs to the set and he did change things around as we would go along. "Calico Skies" he just started doing in sound checks. In sound checks he'll just start playing anything. Hopefully you've heard and learned the song before you can jump in on it and that was the case with "Calico Skies" which got added to the set list.

Jorie: What happened when he lost his voice in Sheffield, England?

Brian: He only lost his voice on one show. We only canceled one show out of almost 100 shows.

Paul was so great. You know what he did that day? He lost his voice I guess, overnight. He got some sort of bad bug. He came to sound check in Sheffield that day. We had heard that his voice was a little rough. But we're up on stage just like we are every time before a sound check and he comes up on the stage and says, "Hey guys my voice is kinda rough. Let's see what we can get through."

There in the audience was our usual crew, the arena there is emptied except for about 12 people from a local radio station contest, to be at a Paul McCartney sound check... He got up on stage and announced in his half voice, "Welcome people out there from the radio station. My voice is a little rough. I got a bug and I'm gonna do my best to sing for you right now and I'm going to do my best to do a show."

He kicked off a song and did his best to do it. It was obvious that his voice was too hoarse to carry the whole show. We stopped the song, he looked at us and we had a little conference. He turned and got on the mike and said to the audience, the 12 people, "I'm so sorry that you came all the way down here. Thank you for coming, but I've lost my voice and I won't be able to play tonight but I want to thank you for coming and sorry I've disappointed you."

Like, nobody does that! Most stars will send out their manager to say something but he walked up to the microphone, you know, and I thought, "what a guy!"

Paul is singing songs that he wrote 40 some years ago in the same key he wrote them in and not "cheating" on the high notes. In fact he's singing the high notes as strong as he ever did, sometimes stronger. And "Maybe I'm Amazed," and things like that, you know 30-year-old songs, he's singing a note in that song that's like somewhere about three feet above his head. [Laugh] You see his head kind of open up and this crazy note comes out and you just go, "Oh my God! He's just not goofing around."

Jorie: Where does it come from?

Brian: Where does that come from? Exactly! He goes into hyper-superman voice.

Jorie: It's true. When you see him onstage he's like a different person. He's like "Paul McCartney-The Rock Star." There's some sort of energy or something that comes alive that you don't normally see.

Brian: That's very true and it's interesting, Jorie. At sound check and during the show he'll be walking from, let's say, from guitar, across stage to to his piano. As he's walking... he looks possessed! He'll be humming all the way to the piano. It's like the music doesn't stop for him. It's not like "OK there's a song now, let me think about this stuff and then I'll go over to the piano." He's still in music even when he's walking across. Even onstage during the show as he walks from instrument to instrument-as he does all night long-you notice he'll be singing a song! [sings] "do-da-dada-do-do-do." Some random tune is going through his head. So yeah, he's possessed. [laugh]

Jorie: Is he a high energy, nervous type of guy?

Brian: He's a high energy guy and definitely not nervous. He's the most kicked back guy I know. I mean, it's a very strange thing there that's going on where he's always poppin'. He's always thinking. He always has his antenna out for ideas and little melodies, but he's not nervous. It's a strange thing. It's not a nervous energy it's like he's a channel. It's just coming through him you know. He's a high energy, guy...

Jorie: How did you hookup with Paul?

Brian: I was working on tour in France with two different French artists, Mylene Farmer and Johnny Hallyday. Both of those two artists are sort of huge in France, unknown here... The band with both of those two artists had Abe and I as the common denominator. We toured over there, me a bit longer than Abe, for five years. Abe went on to do other stuff.

One day I was on tour in France with Johnny Hallyday and I'm talking to Abe because he's now become one of my best friends. We used to spend time together, get meals together, walk all over Paris looking for a good restaurant, spent days off, goofing off and going to movies. We'd spend most of our free time hanging out together. He called me from LA saying, "You're never going to guess what I'm going to be doing next." I said, "No, what dude? What's going on?" He said, "I'm doing Paul McCartney's album!" And I said, "NO FRIGGIN' WAY!!! When I get back to LA we gotta have coffee. You gotta tell me what it's like. Geesh, I mean I can't believe it. You're going to be hanging out with HIM!"

So when I came back to LA, I called him up and asked, "How's it going?" And he said, "It's just amazing." I said, "OK let's get some coffee so I can download and hear what it's like to be working with Paul McCartney."

So he told me all about it. About a month or two later, I was having a birthday party and I invited Abe and his girlfriend to come. We're just hanging out having dinner in a local restaurant here in LA. I said, "So what's going on with Paul's thing?" He said, "Well, I think we're getting to ready to start doing some shows."

They had just done the Concert for New York and I'd seen them on TV and my other good pal Rusty was the guitar player. So I was going, "WOW! What a great band!" And I noticed Will Lee from the Letterman Band was subbing on bass while Paul was on keyboards. And I said to Abe, "Won't you be needing one more guy? A guy who can float between instruments as Paul floats between instruments?" He said, "Yeah we're talking about it. Yeah, we actually do need one more guy." I literally put my hand up in the air and said, "I'd love a shot at that!" He said, "Oh, cool! That'll be great!" And that's about all I thought of it that night. I was just glad that I spoke up.

What I didn't know is he went and told David Kahne, the producer of Paul's album "Driving Rain." Abe put my name forward to David Kahne.

About three weeks after my birthday, I get a call from David Kahne saying, "Hey this is David Kahne. I produced Paul McCartney's new CD." And I said, "Oh yes!" He said, "Paul McCartney is doing a song for the Super Bowl next week and he needs a bass player for the one song. I was wondering if you'd be interested in coming out and meeting with me and possibly being available for that." I thought, "are you kidding me?" He said, "Can you make it down to my office in an hour here in Hollywood." I said, "Yeah, I'll be there."

So I went down there and just met with him. I went up to David's studio at Henson Studios and I sat on the couch. He handed me a Telecaster and we were just talking. He was watching me play, listening to me play, and we were just talking about music. It wasn't really like an intensive sort of like, "Okay now play me something from the third solo album." It wasn't like that. It was just hanging out with David Kahne playing guitar, talking. Then he handed me his Hofner bass-David's Hofner bass. He listened to me, watched me play bass and continued to just talk to me. We hung out for 45 minutes and talked about life and music. That was it. He said, "Okay, thanks a lot. I have a really good feeling about this and I'm going to put your name forward."

I got a call the next day saying "Can you be on a plane tomorrow going to go to New Orleans to do the Super Bowl with Paul McCartney?"

So I got the call to see David Kahne on a Monday. Got the call to go on Tuesday. I left Wednesday, and I was back home having done the Super Bowl with Paul McCartney the next Monday. So in a week's time, life sort of changed in a blink of an eye.

Jorie: When did you first meet Paul? Was it at the rehearsal for the Super Bowl?

Brian: We had a dinner the night before the rehearsal for the Super Bowl. ...Paul held a dinner in the hotel in a private dining room A nicely catered, beautiful dinner. And that was my first time meeting Paul. He made me feel welcome. So I didn't meet him onstage at the Super Bowl. That would have been really scary. [laughs]

Jorie: The recording used for the Super Bowl was prerecorded, so you weren't actually playing?

Brian: That was the song "Freedom" and they used the track that everybody knows which was recorded at the Concert For New York. But Paul was singing along with it. If you listen to the performance at the Super Bowl you can hear him singing live. We called it "limb syncing." We were actually playing but you were hearing the track. We had a really good time performing at the Super Bowl.

We had a skybox to watch the rest of the game, which happened to be a really exciting game... We're watching, and Paul and Heather were there, the band is there, and a couple of friends were dropping by. I had a couple of chats with Paul up there watching the game. At one point, the head of his backline [crew] Keith [Smith] came up to me and started asking me about the gear that I owned and what kind of stuff I like touring with. I thought, "Oh my God! I'm just here to do the Super Bowl and now he's asking me about my gear!" I knew Paul was going to start rehearsing for a tour in five weeks.

And I thanked Paul... I said, "I just wanted you to know this has really been an honor for me and really fun for me and thank you so much for having me along."

We came back to the hotel after the game and Paul sat down at the piano in the bar and played for the 40 some people that were just having a drink at the hotel bar. Then we gathered around together in a little circle in the bar, and we're talking and Paul's telling stories. Then, he and Heather got up to leave and he said, "We're going to nip off to bed and thanks guys. Good one!"

He got up to give everyone a hug goodbye. I was sitting right between Rusty and Abe. He gave Rusty a hug, and Abe a hug, and me a hug, and said, "Well, Brian, welcome aboard. Stick with Abe and Rusty and they'll show you the ropes." And he turned and went off to bed.

I looked at those guys and I said, "Did he say what I think he said?" They both just gave a big grin and nodded their heads and we jumped up and down for a minute because Rusty and Abe are old friends of mine, you know, both of them.

Paul saw something in me I guess, I don't know. Paul said later he just knew that I was the right guy and that I would fit in great.

I knew I had five weeks to come home and really 'woodshed'-it's what we call it, to rehearse to get it together-to be the kind of guy that I thought that Paul deserved and the kind of player that Paul was looking for. A guy who could move easily between bass and guitar and sing the whole time and play acoustic guitar as well.

I came home and got every Paul McCartney, Wings, and every Beatles record. I put them on a CD player, stood up, got a mike stand, got a bass amp, a guitar amp and was surrounded by guitars on guitars stands, basses and acoustics. Three times a day I would stand there and just practice and play... sing and go over the stuff. Take a break for lunch...

Jorie: Were neighbors pounding on your door?

Brian: No [laughs] Actually my friend and neighbor, Scott [who plays bass with Weezer ] was saying, "Yeah, I remember hearing 'Lady Madonna' ALL DAY LONG!"

By the time the rehearsals began for the tour, I felt good. I felt confident. It was a relief to go into rehearsal that first day when we all finally got together in Culver City. We rehearsed as a band without Paul for five days. And then Paul came in and we rehearsed for another five days. And then were in tour production rehearsals. So we had 11 days of rehearsal before... It was very quick.

Jorie: So how was that very first concert?

Brian: It was electric! There was nothing like that feeling. It was in Oakland, which was a town my dad was raised in. And it was April 1, April Fool's Day. I remember Paul being very, very relaxed and coming into our dressing room a half-hour before to see what we were wearing and joking with us, just joshing with the guys. We were back there playing video games in our dressing room.

Jorie: He wasn't nervous?

Brian: He didn't show it if he was. He was joking and laughing, "Come on guys, time for a show." We'd go walking down the hall and he'd say, "Okay, walk this way!" and start walking like a hunchback. And that's what we did on the way to the stage. We did a little huddle extemporaneously before the curtain went up. That became a tradition. Then we played the show and it was sort of like one of those magical kind of feelings where it feels like you're being carried. It felt like, you know, how a hovercraft just seems to float above the ground? That's just how we all felt. And we all came off stage and I had the feeling like, "We just did that! That was us!"

Jorie: Is it like an out-of-body experience?

Brian: It really was. We came off so elated and so pumped up. And the audience was going nuts. Paul was just as excited as us. We were jumping up and down. We were brand new at this and it's the first time we felt these feelings.

Jorie: Had you experienced anything like that ever before?

Brian: There's nothing like playing with Paul McCartney on a stage in an arena full of people with the faces looking back at Paul McCartney. There's nothing to compare to. [laughs]

I've played for a lot of huge audiences, yes. I've played for stadiums, yes. I've played for thousands and hundreds of thousands of people live, but not with Paul McCartney.

Jorie: How hard was it to play Paul's legendary bass parts in concert with Paul looking on and thousands of McCartney fans listening?

Brian: It's the kind of thing if you stop to start thinking about... [laughs] you just might stumble over yourself and fall over because, here's the guy who changed the role of bass playing in popular music.

Before he came along, bass parts went "dump-bump, dump-bump." And when he came in "bah-doo-boom, doo-do-do-do- boom..." All of a sudden he brought a whole other world to the role of the bass in popular music. And there you are... now you're playing those parts. It's a mixture of feeling honored, and humbled, and fortunate.

Jorie: Have you learned anything from your association with Paul? Has he taught you anything?

Brian: Oh my God! You know just being around him... He's such a musical spirit and he's just so musical. He lives musically, thinks musical and talks musically. And that's such a great influence. He so multi-dexterous and ambidextrous and he's singing and playing every instrument under the sun... It's an incredible influence to be with him.

And yes, playing with him has made me a far better musician because I played bass a lot before Paul, but not live. Guitar was my instrument. I was playing live when I was 16 on guitar. But I only played on recordings and my own demos and for friend's demos on the bass. But I never played it live. He made me into a better player. And I sang and played before as well. But singing with Paul on those background parts, really requires a sort of 'pat your head, rub your belly' kind of dexterity.

That's unusual you know when you think about the bridge of "Lady Madonna," where the bass goes "da-doom-da-doom-da-doom..." and the vocals go "ba-bah-bah-baa, buh-bah-baa-baa." It's very bizarre to play those two things at the same time. It stretches you and it pushes you and you reach a plateau and you go "Oh, my God! That was impossible the first time I did it. Now I can do it." He pulls out the best in musicians.

Jorie: Have you taught him anything?

Brian: Ah.... FASHION! No, I'm kidding. [laughs] No, he doesn't need any tips from me.

Jorie: Is he good about getting suggestions from the band? Does he allow you some creativity when you are recording?

Brian: Absolutely. He does allow for creativity. He's very generous with the guys in the band.

Jorie: Does he ask you to play specific arrangements that he's worked out? Or if you have an idea to play it differently does he say, "Okay, let's try it?"

Brian: It's happens more without so many words. If Paul, as we have gone along in the recording process, has gotten a clearer and clearer idea of how he wants the record to sound and in that process, has gotten more and more comfortable, he relays to us exactly what he's looking for That's a fun process Sit there and watch these ideas come to his mind and then help him to get them recorded. It's really fun.

Jorie: It must be a fun experience to go out with Paul socially especially when he goes to public places and tries to blend in. Now that you are part of Paul's 'inner circle,' is it a surreal experience to see the rest of the world just lose it in front of Paul?

Brian: Yeah, I've lost it in front of Paul. It's like somebody pinch me! I'm hanging out at dinner with Paul McCartney. It's a great question.

One time we were in Brighton, England and the band, and Paul and Heather, had gone to see Brian Wilson play at a concert hall near the beach on a cold, rainy night. We were up in this little booth and we were shouting, "BRI-AN! BRI-AN!" to Brian Wilson as he was playing all these great "Pet Sounds" songs. Paul and Brian are very close now and there's a lot of love and a lot of respect and a really nice rapport going on there.

On the way back from the show, Paul said, "Let's go grab a bite guys." He knew of a little Indian restaurant right down the street so we got out of the cars and walked into the restaurant. You know, there were twenty-some-odd people in the restaurant sitting down eating. All of a sudden everyone stopped and stared. And he does something that blows my mind. He sees that everyone is staring. Of course they do. They've stared his whole life. And he turns to someone at one table and says, "And YOU! I don't want any trouble out of YOU! And YOU over there, YOU'D better cut it out, they are going to cut you off tonight. You've had enough already! I don't want any trouble from YOU OVER THERE, little lady!" And everyone just cracks up. They're all disarmed now and comfortable and he sits down, has dinner and nobody does a thing.

Jorie: They leave him alone?

Brian: Yeah, because he's charming and disarming and makes everyone comfortable instead of, "Hey I'm a star over her with my posse and my big security guys with black clothes and headsets on." None of that crap around him.

Jorie: Don't look at me because I'M PAUL McCARTNEY!!!

Brian: Yeah, don't look at me, MAN!

He's very cool you know. He doesn't turn his back to the rest of restaurant. He just sits down like a regular guy. He kind of demands somewhat of a normal life in as much as he can have a normal life. He really wants to preserve as much normalcy as he can possibly attain. So he does that.

Jorie: And at the same time he's working the crowd in the restaurant.

Brian: In a way, and that's a way to make them comfortable and it makes it easier for him to just sit down and not feel that strange silence. He'd like everyone just to go on and have a great meal and not have people sitting over there eating quietly or wondering how to act, "is this a library or restaurant? No it's not a museum. It's a restaurant. Let's party! Let's eat!" It's setting a tone.

Jorie: I'd be unnerved if people were staring at me all the time.

Brian: Can you imagine?

Jorie: It's like living in a fishbowl.

Brian: Exactly!

Jorie: After being on the road with Paul, does he have any peculiar or annoying habits you can talk about? Any interesting candid moments you can describe?

Brian: There's just nothing to say. The guy is a really nice guy... embarrassingly nice and it's funny to talk about. He goes to a great extent to make the people around him happy and comfortable in as much as he can. He's very funny. He's quite irreverent. He's always looking for a chuckle. He loves a joke. He loves to tell a story. He's very generous with stories and he's generous with his energy and his time. And he's not peculiar! He's just a really groovy guy.

You just think, "Here's a guy that's been 'hit on' since he was seventeen in every possible way you can think of and demands to have a normal life." He makes sure that he has somewhat of a normal life.

Jorie: I always thought Paul would make a good standup comedian.

Brian: He's hilarious! You should have seen him at his wedding when it came time for the little speeches. He was just hilarious! People were like falling off their chairs, rolling.

He's from another planet let's face it. He's a hilarious self-effacing comedian. He sings like nothing you've ever heard. He's got so many voices within his voice. He's got Little Richard. He's got Fats Domino ... and they're all his own. They're not imitations. They're all Paul.

He writes arguably, the most important writer in rock 'n' roll history Maybe of the whole last century He, along with John [Lennon] and a couple of others.

You know, what planet is that? He's the real deal!

Jorie: Anything you can mention about the new studio album? How it's progressing.

Brian: It's progressing really well.

I'll just say this about it. I'm watching as the process unfolds. Paul is giving himself a lot of latitude and a lot room and a lot of time to create something I think is going to be very special. To be part of that process and a witness to that process is really exciting.

Jorie: Do you have an idea when it will come out and if there will be another tour?

Brian: I have no idea. I just think it will be a really great record.

Jorie: On tour do you remember any funny audience antics?

Brian: People don't really think of themselves in the audience as being a show for us, but they are. The show goes in a circle.

We're up there pouring out this great music that Paul wrote, but the audience is pouring back to us a whole other show. We're up there, we're playing the material and a lot of the material you know, becomes a bit second nature. So while we're playing it we're all clicking away at different snapshots that are going on, [laughs] in our minds, out there in the audience. Taking snapshots in our minds.

Later, after the show, we compare notes.

"Did you did you see the woman in row fourteen with the hairdo and the sign? And she knew every lyric. Did you see the kid that was four or five on daddy's shoulders in the third row singing along to 'Here Today'?"

How did a five-year-old kid learn Paul's solo material, you know, lyrics? You can understand it if it's 'Can't Buy Me Love,' but WHOA! this is amazing!

"And look at that!"

There's a whole row of people each holding a sign spelling out my name or Rusty's name, or signs that are talking to Paul referring to shows of twenty years ago, 'I was in Manchester in 1989!'

It's hilarious at the show.

Jorie: Is it a distraction? Fans spend a lot of time on this stuff to get noticed. Is it worthwhile for them to go to all this trouble?

Brian: Here's what the fans need to know. We see a lot more than they think we see! [laughs]

Jorie: Obviously the people filming the DVD saw a lot more than I did!

Brian: Oh, the scenes on the cutting room floor. A lot of colorful undergarments, and the lack thereof.

Jorie: Was there an audience that responded differently than you expected? I ask because someone mentioned a response in Budapest to "Live and Let Die." The audience was unfamiliar with the pyrotechnics during the song and when they went off, I quote, "20,000 Hungarians sh*t in their pants!"

Brian: [laughs] Well, I didn't notice that. [laughs] Fifteen percent of the audience nudges the person next to them and tells them to put their fingers in their ears and the rest of the eighty-five percent who don't know it's coming are just looking up with their mouths agape like they always are because it's a musical suspense note/moment, [sings] "Live and let DIE!"
BAMMM!! [makes explosion noise] Those people jumped out of their skin.

I remember looking down at my stepfather and my mother at one of the concerts we did in Denver. My stepfather, Ray, was a prisoner of war in the Second World War and was around a lot of bombs and gunfire. He was in the Air force. When our pyro thing went off, it just really shook him. [laughs] It was a little disquieting, "Oh NO! Poor Ray!" a little post-traumatic stress disorder coming up in the middle of the rock show. [laughs] It took him a minute to get over that one. But it's pretty tame. If you go to a Metallica show, it happens every four chords...BOOOOOOOOM!!.

Jorie: Is Paul a collector of Beatles things?

Brian: I understand that he does have a lot of the things from his own history.

Jorie: Do you know if Paul is planning to release the pre-show song or is he saving it for another Fireman album?

Brian: Could be. There's always a method to Paul's madness. Things get put aside, but they're never lost and forgotten about. He creates art and music and it's all one thing to him. Sometimes I get the sense that if he doesn't know exactly what he's going to use it for, it turns into something later. They're like found objects again. "I can use that thing from the Fireman." And suddenly it's found it's right place.

Jorie: I know Paul likes to cook. Has he ever served you one of his meals?

Brian: Oh, yeah a couple of times. We've had great meals with him.

On the first tour we'd only done a handful of shows and I think we were playing Boston and had a couple of days off. He said, "Guys why don't you come out to house?" his home outside of New York.

He gave us a house to stay in and he and Heather stayed at a nearby house. The house that we were given was the one that he lived in with Linda for many years. He and Heather stayed in another one not far down the road.

Paul said, "I'll pop by in the morning to see how you guys are." We were dropped off there at night. We all went to our bedrooms, the band, and were woken up at eleven in the morning the next day by Paul and Heather yelling, "WAKE UP EVERYBODY!" They came in the front door with a huge bowl of fruit, bagels and cream cheese, pots of tea, and this and that, toast and jam.

Paul and Heather stood in the kitchen and served up bagels and cream cheese and fresh wonderful fruit. We had this nice long breakfast that they made for us and we sat around and talked for hours that morning.

Jorie: So are you veggie now?

Brian: You know what? I'm really influenced by his vegetarianism. I haven't made a total switch to be honest with you but, yeah, I really love the food that's so generously given to us through him and Heather and through the catering on our tours.

Later that night, that same day he invited us over to the other house to have dinner. First we went to the bowling alley to see if we could get a game. But some league had the alleys. I said, "Come on, we'll take that league on. We've got our own little league here." And of course they wouldn't let us play.

Jorie: They wouldn't let you?

Brian: [laughs] I think that was one of the very few times that someone didn't realize it was Paul McCartney!

Jorie: He probably likes that.

Brian: He LOVES that. It's refreshing. So anyway we stayed in the bar next door to the bowling alley and had drinks and played pool. Then we came back to Paul and Heather's house. Once again Paul and Heather cooked a wonderful vegetarian barbecue dinner with grilled vegetables and wonderful tofu and all sorts of stuff and then we played Cranium for hours and laughed our heads off.

Jorie: I hear he likes to barbecue.

Brian: Yeah, he does. He's really good at it. He had marinated vegetables and all that kind of stuff

Jorie: I want to ask you about yourself. I know you have written songs. Is there a Brian Ray album in the works?

Brian: Not right now. But there's always a chance that there will be sometime in the near future.

Jorie: Are there any other artists that you'd like to work with?

Brian: After Paul? [laughs]

Jorie: Is it all downhill after Paul?

Brian: No, I think if anything, moving forward with Paul, I'm not looking forward to getting into some other band or something. I'm really devoted to being Paul's guitarist and [sometimes] bass player.

I think in the future I'd love to continue with film scoring and producing other bands and writing with other people as I've done before... I just did my first film score last year with Abe. This time last year, we had just turned in the score to a new independent film called "The Failures," which is brand new, just completed and looking for distribution at this moment. Abe and I did the film score for that and it was really fun to do. So I'd love to do some more film scoring. It's more along those lines. Those are the avenues I'm more interested in.

I can't see myself jumping in some other band's bus and going on tour, but you never know.

Brian Ray wants to set the record straight about the confusion on the Net about that "other" Brian Ray.

Brian: It would seem as if there are a few Brian Rays out there. Some of the Internet searches show that I've worked on things which the "other" Brian Ray has done...

I did not do:

Crystal Lewis
Farmer Not So John
Michael Knott
Morris Chorus
Screamin' Ray's
Any 'Christian' record producing.

And I'm not married to Crystal Lewis.

© 2004 2005 copyright Jorie B. Gracen
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For more information about Brian Ray go to his official Web site at:

Several years ago, Brian Ray wrote a # 1 hit song for Smokey Robinson. The song, "One Heartbeat" became a three-format smash for Smokey and a big break for the young Brian Ray. Since then, Brian has not only been musical director and guitarist for R&B legend Etta James, but has spent the past 4 years as guitarist/bassist with Paul McCartney. Now, Brian is returning the favor to Smokey by recording a modern version of the old Robinson hit, "Tears Of A Clown", as a bonus track to his new album Mondo Magneto. "He did one of mine, and now I'd like to do one of his!," says Brian.

"My band and I worked up the new version originally to do live after we'd finished recording," he explains, "so it didn't make it onto the album. But when the people at UME/Universal heard the song, they 'flipped out' and played it for the folks at Apple who decided to release it as a single on iTunes and then to add it as a bonus track to the downloadable album." According to Ray, his version remains true to the meaning of the song: "guy loses girl and pretends he's fine... something we've all done," he laughs. Re-imagining the song with an upbeat "AC/DC meets Jet rock/pop feel to it," Brian has added it to his band's live show as well. "When my band plays it live, it's all about having fun, so we fit it into our style."

Mondo Magneto is also available at, CDBaby, and at Brian's offical website

This Way Up - Brian's latest CD!!!

This Way Up is available on and at Brian's offical website

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Jorie Gracen