REVIVE: Pianist Ray Angry Talks '...and then you shoot your cousin', Life As A Producer & More
Pianist Ray Angry recently sat for an exclusive interview with REVIVE to talk about his musical evolution and recent production work, which includes a few tracks on The Roots brand new album “…and then you shoot your cousin.” The interview follows the release of the album, which dropped on May 19th via Def Jam featuring his production work on “The Unraveling” and “Tomorrow” – a collaborative track lead by r&b singer Raheem DeVaughn. Angry chronicles his early days as a classical pianist, his time at Howard University and his evolution on the professional scene, which has taken him from life as a session musician to musical director on a number of tours and life as a full fledged producer. He cites his move to New York City, the mentorship of Mulgrew Miller, his time on the road with Meshell Ndegeocello and his ongoing work with Black Thought as transformative experiences. Take a look at some of what he had to say:
R: So what was it like for you when you moved to New York in 2001?
RA: It was a whirlwind of music. I started working with Meshell Ndegeocello and it was one of the most important times for me as a keyboard player. I remember Meshell had this synthesizer, the Oberheim OB-8. She gave me the manual and she said, “Learn this. Program this keyboard and learn how to do this.” There [are] a few people who were instrumental to me, and she was definitely one of them.
Then I was working with Kelis, on tour with Britney Spears, when she had the “Milkshake” song. I was the MD for that and I ended up being the MD for Joss Stone. During the time, I was also working with Lauryn Hill, as well. It’s really crazy because I’ve been working with Lauryn Hill for a long time. I’d leave to [go] tour, then go back to Lauryn’s house. This happened for like two years. Recently, she’s been working on her album and I started working with her again, so I’ve been in the studio with her a lot. So my main thing now is a lot of studio work.
R: So this moves us nicely into some Revive/Okayplayer related topics. Let’s talk about your involvement with …and then you shoot your cousin.
RA: First of all, the crazy thing about my Roots involvement is that it was my very first gig as a recording artist on a major label.
R: This was with Joss Stone?
RA: Yes. Somehow they had heard about me and I got a call to go do a session with Questlove and it was for a commercial. I went to Philly, and we did the commercial, and I went back to New York. I didn’t think anything happened. Then they called and said, “They need an organist on this Joss Stone record.” So I did the record, and it was the craziest thing. It was because of The Roots, Rich Nichols, and Questlove that they gave me that first gig. Then shoot back 10 years later, I’m playing with them on Late Night, I’m touring with the band, and I’m doing How I Got Over, which was crazy. I did the next record, Undun.
Now, this new record …and then you shoot your cousin. Bro… let me tell you something. This is like the craziest shit for me. Bro… when you hear this record. Let me tell you something. This record is the shit. Sonically, from beginning to end, it is a work of art.
It’s almost like a painting, and that’s the best way I can describe it. It’s like each line has a purpose and each color has a purpose. I think a lot of times people want to make a hit record so they’re writing songs to find out what’s the next single. Whereas, these guys are like, “Let’s make some fucking music. Let’s make some art. Let’s make something that will withstand the test of time.”
It’s so crazy because the two songs that I did weren’t even supposed to be on The Roots album because it was supposed to be on Tariq’s album.
R: The long-awaited Black Thought album.
RA: Yeah, so I was doing these songs because Rich Nichols was like, “Hey, Tariq’s working on this album.” So I went into the studio and brought my computer and samples that I chopped up. I’m thinking I’m going to program some drum sounds and I’ll play piano on top of them. Then Tariq called in Raheem DeVaughn to come in and write. So it was a writing session and we were working on Tariq’s record.
Then, Tariq was like, “You know, Rich pulled the records for The Roots album.” So I was like, “Okay, cool!” So the one song, “Unraveling” is on the record. Then I get a call and Rich was like, “Yeah, everyone likes that other song and that’s going to be on the record, too.” And that was “Tomorrow” with Raheem.
For the “Tomorrow” record, I programmed the drums, and we did that in one take. I did one piano take, then Raheem sang on it, and that was it. Of course I went back, did some production in the end. For me, it’s definitely a great experience having come from wanting to be a producer, be in the studio, and work with recording artists, and really utilize all my skills.
Check the footage below to watch Ray Angry performing Little Dragon‘s “Twice” at The Iridium with Mark Kelley, Charles Haynes and Jean Baylor. Read the full interview and learn more about Ray Angry and his upcoming projects via REVIVE.