Diggers Directory: DJ Ray

LA-based selector DJ Ray made the move over from his home of Miami last year armed with a few bags of vinyl. It could be the good weather and the close proximity to the beach but there’s something about the green surroundings of Eastside LA that bring on a momentous feeling of calm, something that Ray seems to exude.

A regular player around the city and beyond, his sets are an education in the smooth and the sultry, illustrated through his guest slots on radio stations like Red Light Radio, NTS and The Lot. Earlier this year he launched his own label, Open Space, with friend Goiz who provided the inaugural EP and set the tone for the imprint, representing the sounds that they love in a purely honest way.

Alongside an interview about his relationship with records he delivers a vinyl-only mix that serves as a reminder to take life at your own pace, worry less and relax. Something we all need to do that little bit more…

DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?

I can’t say that was the case for me. No one in my family really collects records in a serious way. My dad used to rinse KC & The Sunshine band albums on our drives to school in the mornings and although I wasn’t into it as a fourth-grader who rather listen to the new 50 Cent album, I’m sure it had some influence on me once I rediscovered those kind of sounds through my own scope.

People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging?

Two specific people come to mind when I think of why I started collecting and playing records as a DJ. When I first moved out of my parents house, I lived next door to my good friend Javier aka Smoothy aka Deroboter, a massively talented DJ and producer who came up in the early/mid 2000s Miami electro scene. Hanging out at his place every day watching him and other friends mix records had a major influence on me to start doing the same.

Another person I have to mention is my boy Daniel Edenburg aka Brother Dan. Although we’re about the same age, Dan’s been collecting and spinning records long before I had any interest or knowledge. When I first met Dan, I was immediately inspired by his passion for digging and constantly exploring new sounds. Hanging with him over the years has taught me a lot of what I know about finding my own sound as a DJ and honing in on what I’m looking for as a digger. Our friendship has only grown, and he continues to inspire me on a daily basis. Keep your eyes peeled for his ‘Terrestrial Funk’ record label and shop.

Where do you store your records and how do you file them?

Filing my records is something I need to get a bit better at. I’ll take a full afternoon to file them all in rough order of genres, moods etc. but since I’m always pulling and playing records at home, they tend to get disorganized pretty frequently and end up in small random piles around the house instead of in my white Ikea record shelf where they belong.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

I’d have to say my favorite kind of spots to dig are usually the big classic rock-n-roll or hip-hop focused shops with a messy neglected section of 12” singles that hasn’t been properly filed. Sitting on a dusty carpet that smells like wet cardboard and flipping through these sections for hours can be an arduous task but has resulted in some of my favorite finds ever. As far as specific shops go, I’ve got to give major shoutouts to Amoeba in LA, Technique Records in Miami, and the mighty A1 records in New York. All three of these spots do a crazy good job of keeping their used stock fresh so you’ll hardly go back and see the same old records lying around.

Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?

Bob from the old Blue Note records in Miami comes to mind as far as colorful characters go. That guy has more records for sale than he knows what to do with and he’s got a little story to tell you about every single one of them. Quite the experience visiting him for a dig, but well worth it! I’d also like to shoutout a big legend in LA, Jason Douglas aka Deejay JD. He’s got one of the most deep and interesting record collections I’ve seen and a great appreciation for DJs on the hunt for hidden gems. I can probably throw together a decent mix using only records he’s sold me and I’m still constantly finding new interesting bits every time I visit. Seek him out next time you’re in the LA zone!

Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?

Too many elusive records to mention. My Discogs want list is mostly a long list of records I can’t afford and will probably never own! I know it’ll feel so good when I find ’N.M. Band – She Wants’ in a dusty dollar bin somewhere, but until then I’ll keep dreaming and playing this mp3 version I found on the internet.

Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?

I love to do both, for different reasons. Digging alone is a therapeutic experience, and something I crave when I need to disconnect completely. ‘We Got The Beats’ in South Florida is a spot where I like to go solo, flip the ‘do not disturb’ function on my phone and spend at least five hours digging through that beautiful mess. Digging with friends is great because you can end end up tipping each other to certain records and discovering things together, or come up empty handed and go for lunch after. In any case you’ve won because any day spent with a friend is a special one.

Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?

I usually sniff out the used 80s and 90s 12” singles section and start there because it’s where I feel most confident in my knowledge. My friend Phil Cho can flip through a huge stack of LPs and pull out all the sleeper hits, I cannot. That’s why we go digging together. Friends helping friends is a beautiful thing.

How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?

I’d say it plays a massive role, considering it’s usually the first thing that determines whether or not I’ll pick a record out of a stack for further inspection or listening. Especially when searching through 12” singles, I’m always intrigued by center labels with strange logos I’ve never seen or the type of naive graphic design of the 80s and 90s that looks just wacky enough to be genius.

Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?

Yes, this ‘Laidback Lifestyle Mix’ is a simple reminder to take life at your own pace, worry less, breath deeply, and relax. Often times we get caught up in thinking we are falling behind our peers and need to do more; a feeling we’re all too familiar with in a world where you can pop into Instagram dot com and see what everyone is doing, constantly. I think it’s important to relax and focus on what you are passionate about, despite the constant growing pressure of society. The tracks in this mix represent that laidback feeling for me, and I hope they’ll do the same for you.

Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?

I love all these tracks so much, it’s hard to single one out, but I’d have to say the ‘Detromental – Juice Bar’ tune is special because it’s truly a record I never thought I would find ‘in the wild’. While in London recently, I had a list of obscure UK records in mind that I’d wish to come across and that was probably the one I was least hopeful about. Finding a random white label at Flashback in Islington and tossing it onto the listening station to discover it was a very rewarding moment. Big shout to my man Jonny G aka Jonny Mons (one of the best DJs I know) for the massive tip on Flashback Islington’s wonderful basement of records.

Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?

One of my good buds from Miami, John Suarez comes to mind immediately. Every time I hang with John he’s showing me some insane obscure downtempo track or an awesome weird boogie thing that goes for $1 and no one knows about. The type of records that are not exactly ‘rare’ or ‘sought after’ but require an insane amount of dedication and persistence to find and would shoot up to 300 dollars worth on Discogs if Hunee played it. Oh, and he knows how to mix them like a pro too.

Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?

Aside from the friends I’ve already mentioned, I have to say Jamma-Dee in LA is a massively under-appreciated digger and DJ. He is constantly on the hunt and is a master at uncovering forgotten classics in the deepest spaces, from random new jack swing CD’s to dollar bin dub mixes on records the average digger will easily overlook. Jamma-Dee is the truth. Check out his monthly ‘Soul In Paradise’ show on NTS and book him for your next DJ event.

You launched your first label Open Space earlier this year alongside your friend Goiz, what’s the idea behind it?

We started the label based on a sound that we’ve both become obsessed with. Certain 80s and 90s dance records with slower tempos, big drums, aggressive bass lines and gentle ambience. Tracks like ‘Skydiver – Sunblast’ off Force Inc., Move D’s ‘IN/Out (Initial Mix)’ off his album ‘Kunststoff’, or Sade’s ‘Make Some Room’ instrumental really inspired us to recreate and represent something in that vein. It’s a sound that we feel represents what we love in a purely honest way.

What’s coming up on the label? 

The next record is a five track EP by Alexander Folonari aka Gateway Shuffle titled ‘Digital Lifeline’. Alex and Goiz have been close friends since high-school and came up producing together. He’s easily one of the most talented producers I have ever heard, and I couldn’t be more excited to put his tracks out. You can hear a few of them in a mix I did for Red Light Radio a couple months ago that features exclusively upcoming material from the label.

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?

Lots of good things coming up.. I’ll be spinning records in Vancouver on the 22nd of November at ‘Paradise’ with strawbb and DJ Alex which I am looking forward to! Big shout to the man Alex Coutant aka beatport_top_100 for setting that up. Also playing on Brother Dan’s Terrestrial Funk Soundsystem in Miami at Rakastella Festival for Art Basel, and starting a four month radio residency with Skylab Radio in Melbourne very soon. Big shout to my dog Simon TK for that! Big shout to everyone, I love you. Peace!

 

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