FROM CLASSICAL BEGINNINGS TO ROCK AGAINST CHILD PORNOGRAPHY.
LORRAINE SPEAKS TO MYSPACE PAL RAY WILLIAMS, LONG TIME MUSIC PROMOTER WITH FIRST STEP MANAGEMENT.
LORRAINE: Well Ray, let's get right down to business and all shall be revealed. Let's start at the beginning, so tell me .....where and when you were born and how you first came to find a love of music?
RAY: I was born in London, (Chiswick hospital in 1955), I know I'm that old. I grew up in Suffolk, we moved there when I was 6. I used to listen to Radio Caroline at night under the bedclothes and grew up with The Beatles etc. I started in music at secondary school aged 13. The teachers let us have jam sessions at lunchtime in the school hall and play records there,which I was involved with. Then the science master, who was a genius, put together a radio station that the kids could listen to on their radios at lunchtime and I was one of the broadcasters from a classroom, one of the first pirate stations I suppose. I learned piano and violin at school and played for the county orchestra and passed all my exams. I also went on music courses every year in Newbury, run by the likes of John Williams, who I performed with, and Yehudi Menuin. My dad was a singer and trumpet player and regular visitors to the house were Benjamin's Britten, Peter Pears (the ten or) and Imogin Holst (Gustovs daughter), so it was in my blood at an early age.
LORRAINE: So from classical beginnings, how had your involvement in music progressed by the mid 70's and how did the shake up that was punk rock affect you? What were your musical preferences pre punk and did they change?
RAY: When I left school I went back to West London, Shepherds Bush, and being now influenced by the classical rock bands like ELP and Curved Air I auditioned for several bands the new Roxy Music being one and ended up forming my own band that ended up sounding like Marillion. Being in West London my haunts were The Greyhound in Hammersmith the Kings Head and Golden Lion in Fulham and the Nashville in Kensington. The birth of punk in the uk, one week we were seeing Mungo Jerry with Chicken in a Basket then next The Police the Clash and 999... awesome!. I was also a regular at the Red Cow in Hammersmith, the birth place of the Stranglers who were awful till Peaches hit the charts then everyone loved them. My claim to fame there was that I played on-stage with a band comprising Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello and Ian Dury, what a great night that was and the birth of stiff records.
LORRAINE: So what lead you to the promotions side of music and the formation of First Step Management?
RAY: I formed a few bands but it didn't lead to anything so I went back to the dj side of things. I did discos at the Three Fishes and Dolphin in Kingston where one night the boss there asked if I could get a band as he wanted live music. The only one I knew was 70s band Blackfoot Sue and I booked them. It was packed out so he said he wanted bands every week so I became a promoter. Our second band was Sailor then Dr Feelgood. I formed First Step Management when I moved to Hull for 2 years with work (Trusthouse Forte) and saw what talent was there and I wanted to get involved. My first tours were with Thunder and Terrorvision and I managed Wasteland Cross and Dragonsi as my first bands there.
LORRAINE: First Step management has now been in action for 35 ( is that right?) years. What have been some of the low and high points for you personally? I know it was a dream of yours to run your own widely known, successful music venue which you have achieved, not in the big city, but in Ilfracombe, Devon with The Marlboro. Can you tell us a little about this and the many bands that have played there?
RAY: Yes that's right 35 years, and apart from here I've had venues in London, The Stick of Rock in Bethnal Green, Hull Ritzy and The Blue Lamp and in Swindon, The Monkey Club. Over the years some of the highs in London have been working with breaking bands like Thunder, Terrorvision, Little Angels etc. In Swindon it was working with Tigertailz and a band I took on tour, If Only, managed by Miles Copeland and Geoff Downes. In Hull the best was booking the Manic Street Preachers and they played there the day they made no 1 with their first single, and in Ilfracombe it's been working with Space Ritual and the Good The Bad And The Queen on their first gig (Damon Alburn) and Them Is Me, (ex reef), there again their first proper gig, and also the old punk bands, Hazel O' Connor, The UK Subs, 999 and especially my old mate Bekki and Vice Squad who I'm working with at Christmas again. There have been many lows over the years, bad turnouts at gigs, and managing them to travel 200 miles and find no one there and not one poster up anywhere, that's why I try to look after bands as I'm on the other side of the fence as well.
LORRAINE: You recently joined the team at 'Rock Against Child Pornography'. Can you give us an insight into how this came about and the aims of RACP along with your role in the organisation?
RAY: RACP I met on-line and they had just started in the UK, I have children of my own and to me child abuse is one of the worst things in this world and everyone, including governments, try to forget about it and hope it goes away. I've always believed if you're in a position to help you do something. They wanted concerts and I had a club and years of experience so i offered to put, what became the first UK concerts, on here in Ilfracombe in January. We did it over a weekend and raised over £800 for the NSPCC. I was asked to join the organisation and put on all the UK gigs and since then we have been to Ipswich/Glasgow, back in Ilfracombe tonight with concerts coming up in Belgium/Nottingham/Durham/Plymouth and London this year,with all money going to local childrens charities. We pay for everything ourselves, travel/accommodation/food etc., but I've vowed to be at every gig and run them and I'll be there as it means everything to me. Since the first concert we have been invited to London to visit CEOP, the Government Child Protection Office and talk to them and see their work and I'm going on a training course with them in October so that wherever I am in the country I can go into schools the day before and give a presentation. If one child's life is saved by this then it's worth doing and i believe that strongly!
LORRAINE: Many thanks Ray for taking the time out to talk to Mudkiss. You sound very busy, what do you do to relax and are there any more dreams for Ray Williams to fulfil?
RAY: I'm always busy. I've become a bit of a perfectionist over the years and every show I do I put 110% into making it special. I'm gutted when it doesn't happen, probably more upset than the punters, but to relax I go onto Exmoor which is 15 minutes from where I live. It's got the sea, spectacular views and complete peace and quiet. You can sit there, up a hill or in a valley and feel you're the only person in the world and you could be in any century you chose. You c an think there and plan things and be yourself. The sea and the moors are very special to me and I wouldn't be anywhere else in the world right now. Dream wise, I'd just like enough money to pay the bills and to be known as a promoter who cares about the people I work with and to raise awareness of RACP and be known for my charity work. I don't want fame or fortune, just to try to make a little bit of difference out there.
Thanks Lorraine and have a great w/end, and thanks for having the time to do this :)))
I'm off to the moors :))) xxxxx
LORRAINE: Hang on, I am packing my bag :-) xxxxx
CATCH RAY ON THE FOLLOWING LINKS