Interview: Ray Okpara

Ray Okpara is an artist who has been heavily involved on the scene since the early 90’s! We sat down with him recently to talk about his early musical background, his recent release ‘Blue Hunt’ on his imprint AMA Recordings, and his plans for the rest of 2017…

Hey Ray, how are you? What have you been up to recently?

Hey, guys, I am fine, and I have been travelling with my family and most of the time producing music or practising on my guitar. Taking care of my boy in the daytime is what I love to do most. I forget most of the things I have to do when I am with him <3

Firstly I’d like to ask you if you were always interested in music growing up?

Yes, I can’t remember not loving music. So I have been all my life. But did not imagine that my life would be so much ruled by it. My guitar has opened another channel in my head :)))) especially since my fender guitar broke and I had to get a new one. Quite an unknown brand but I love it.

Tell me more about your musical experience, how has the Nigerian side of you influenced your music?

Nigeria has a big influence on me musically. When I was young and living in Nigeria, we were listening to a well known music style called high life. Also, Fella Kuti, William Onyeabor and later Femi Kuti was the music we were listening. Of course, also to Michael Jackson we were dancing all the time. Maybe mj was playing actually most of the time )))

What inspired you to delve into the electronic music scene?

Johnny d, drum n bass, the end in London, love parade, Ibiza, pacha, Jamiroquai, those were all thing that happened in one year. 2000. When we know, we want to make our own parties and play as DJs. Before we were partying on loads of raves & clubs, from hip hop to drum n bass to garage and then to house/techno.

We all know how important the role Germany has played in electronic music, how much of an effect do you think it has had on you musically?

For me, it was the beginning of the 90’s when Germany got more and more techno. Berlin was the perfect place for it to spread. Abandoned buildings, a lot of artists, and then Berlin got to be the techno capital in Europe. London was always the pioneer in music-styles, but Berlin was cheap and young after the east German wall fell. I got stung by the Berlin bug in 2004. Then 2005 I moved there.

Lets go back some years to when you started your club night RAJO, what made you want to start promoting events?

Ibiza. We came back(johnny&i), and we fell into „depressions” not really, but we wanted to go back. Then we looked for a venue and found one fast. After that, we went into hd800 from d-man a well known figure in Mannheim who use to run the milk club. This club was known all over Germany.

In 2001 Nick Curly joined you guys and your RAJO began a residency at The loft in Mannheim, how did this come about, what was your association with Nick at the time?

Yes. Nico joined rajo after playing with us for our party. Johnny was working with Nico at that point and always told me about his colleague who was a DJ too. He was already playing in an old club called vibration where they played house, drum n bass & techno. Also sometimes all styles on the same floor. That’s how it was back then and they had to close the club at some point. Nick knew the owner well and he told him about our parties and scene, so they decided to start the club with us as residents. The Loft, and we were going to the Loft a long time before. Suddenly we were the resident. Crazy days :)))

At what point did you start producing music, was it a conscious decision you made or did it occur naturally alongside the DJing and promoting?

Of course, we started more to sink into the music. And we got away from more commercial music. Deeper, hypnotic but still house or minimal techno. Nothing faster than 124bpm.

Fast forward and your most recent release was out on AMA Recordings, how do you manage juggling the label and your DJ/touring commitments?

My whole life has a plan! Almost. I can still shovel some free time in here and there. I’m also a father. So family first and then music. But it’s hard to keep all levelled and grounded. Sometimes more time for family in quiet moments and then more touring and less time for the family. But all in one, I can say I am not too stressed. It comes naturally, and I’m doing this for a long time, and I produced the current release some time ago. So working for the future always pays out.

On the EP you have Brett Johnson and Bassline Generation on the remixes, what was it that drew you to those particular artists for remix duties?

Brett Johnson is one of my all time favs. And I thought could work out well to have him on the ep, and I dig his remix. He even made two versions. The second version I’ll use for the next ama recordings compilation. His track „temptations” is also one of my all time favs <3 Matthias Heinstein is my mastering engineer. His drum and bass remix as bassline generation is also a party groover. He still plays out and told me it works for his dance floors. I never could test it on a dance floor that’s why I asked him. Or maybe I should just drop it at the end of a set :)))

Having a Drum & Bass remix on a house EP is something we’re not really used to, what was the reasoning behind this, do you have an association with drum & bass at all?

I grew up with dnb. Mannheim is also famous for jungle or drum n bass raves like: „kings of the jungle” or „meditation”. in these times fewer raves though, but in my teens, we were rocking.

Besides the music, what do you get up to in your spare time?

Swimming <3

Lastly, tell us a bit more about what you have lined up for the year ahead?

Releases coming on: Happy Techno, No Excuse. on AMA Recordings artists like Kevin Over, Nicke, Alexis Cabrera, Fabe, Meat, Chris Wood, Chris Tietjen, Paul Sparks, Leo Portela are going to be released.
I’ll be soon travelling back to South America as well. Playing in Colombia, Peru, Chile.
I will be travelling to ADE ( Amsterdam Dance Event )
So catch me if you see me 🙂

Ray’s ‘Blue Hunt’ is out now on his imprint AMA Recordings.
Grab it here.