An Interview with rising Bassist David Hadley Ray

by | Apr 22, 2021

Renaissance man David Hadley Ray is a Bassist known for playing and touring with many legendary musicians including Chuck Berry, Jeff Beck, Bo Didley, “Cream” Poet/Lyricist Pete Brown, and Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones, among others. He’s traveled across the globe and has this advice for new musicians..

“Play from the heart. The technique comes with study, but if you allow it to happen, music can provide peace of mind, soul and spirit. Trust me, I know.”

1 In Music: Thank you for this little emeetup. Let’s start with what is unique about your music?

David Hadley Ray (DHR): The first thing that comes to mind is that my music represents what I see and hear on a regular basis. It’s representative of my feelings about the current state of affairs in the United States and how it affects me. I think that the best thing that I can do is be honest. That is, honest about me. Every person is unique, so my love of heavy music, jazz, funk and social commentary all coalesce into a mix of what I interpret things to be. I think that we need truthfulness more than ever in today’s social climate. The mirror is clean, even if the image is dirty…

The mirror is clean, even if the image is dirty…

1 In Music: What/who shaped your music and who supports you?

[DHR]: I was fortunate that I had three different generations in my household growing up. My brother was playing Switch, Teddy Pendergrass, The Isley Brothers, and Brothers Johnson. My mother was playing Freda Payne, The Shirelles, Inez and Charlie Foxx, while I was learning to play bass playing Kiss, Iron Maiden, and Parliament Funkadelic. I then got into Stanley Clarke, Anthony Jackson, and Ron Carter. My tastes were eclectic. I ran into John Pennell around 1987 and studied with him before he graciously sent me to Donald R. Garrett. Donald played with Coltrane and Sun Ra I later learned. Eventually, I studied with Gerald Veasley, and now I study with Rufus Reid… At least, before the pandemic… As far as support, It’s mostly friends and a few fellow musicians like Mr. Reid and Gerald Veasley.

1 In Music: When did you realise you were going to make music professionally?

[DHR]: When I was playing in the Canary Islands I ran into Mike McCartney, Paul’s brother… He said “you’re a s*** hot bass player. You should come to Liverpool.” After visiting the UK, I met the Cream lyricist Pete Brown. He put me on sessions with Jeff Beck, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John Mayall, and Jack Bruce… Jack always spoke to me kindly, and I acknowledged his approval of what I was playing. I think being on record with those folks told me that this could be a reality.

1 In Music: What type of music do you listen to?

[DHR]: Good Lord, that’s all over the place! I’m listening to stuff that’s in the American and UK top ten. I’m interested in the production styles and where things are currently. I’ll always put on some Prince, Slave or Cameo. I’m really trying to get more familiar with the latest version of Logic, Reaper, and arranging. I literally have 300 or so songs that need to be updated. That’s what I’ve been retroactively listening to predominately. Pete always encouraged my writing, and John Pennell said some really encouraging things recently, so I listen to things with guided intent.

1 In Music: Who, to you, is the most undervalued music artist?

[DHR]: Charles Mingus.

1 In Music: Wow! You must feel strongly about that, thanks for sharing! So, how do you prepare for your performances?

[DHR]: Well, I go into these things with a plan. I know what the tunes will be and how I want to present them. I pick the personnel, and I rehearse the material until I’m satisfied. I do like to have people with me that have the ability to think quickly on their feet. If I hear something interesting in the harmony or a rhythmic idea that’s captivating, I may initiate exploration. Obviously, it depends on the gig or if there are set pieces. But, if the spirit is willing, and the chops aren’t weak, then I’m all for it. I mean, John Lee Hooker said it all on Boogie Chillen…

I heard papa tell mama,
let that boy boogie-woogie It’s in him and it got to come out…

1 In Music: What do you do when you don’t do music (creative or otherwise) and that you are passionate about?

[DHR]: I actually am passionate about computers and model figures, Hot Toys, Sideshow collectibles, and Jazz Inc. Dioramas. Hmm… I think I love to write. I’ve written some articles that were published, but I think I would like to combine the two somehow.

1 In Music: Success to you is…?

[DHR]: Not having to work for someone else… Not having a boss per se, and being able to pay your bills and living expenses from music. That is freedom, the freedom to explore what your purpose is. To nurture yourself, and gain awareness of your spirituality.

1 In Music: What do you wish you were told when you started out and that you think would help anyone who starts out?

[DHR]: Learn to play the piano in addition to whatever instrument you play. Learn harmony, learn some tunes, respect your position in the band as a bassist. You don’t have to solo to control the harmonic direction of the ensemble. Control that ego. Be kind and humble…

1 In Music: Wow, we learnt a lot on this trip into your music world. Anything we can look forward to?

[DHR]: I’m working on my original music, and will hopefully have a unit to perform it before the year is over. With the pandemic, I’m like everyone else… Waiting to see … A.F.F.I. – Awaiting Further Funky Initiatives

1 In Music: 🙂  Thank you for taking the time to answer all our questions. Where can we find any of your music project?

[DHR]: Check out … I’ll be using the usual media outlets when things are signed, sealed and delivered.