We catch up with contemporary disco don extraordinaire Ray Mang
The musical world of producer, DJ and artist Ray Mang is an amalgamation of boogie, disco, dub-disco and house, a sound he’s perfected since his first releases in the mid-90s. He’s since put out a succession of highly polished disco-house hybrids that come with easily some of the best handclaps in the business.
Three artist albums and countless tracks and remixes later, he’s still going strong, with his latest release another disco anthem-in-waiting. This time it’s Do It from Smoove & Turrell that gets the Mang treatment as part of the duo's Stratos Blue remix album, which is due out in mid-October. Mang’s Do It remixes – a vocal and an instrumental version – perform his now-standard trick of turning a good track into a perfectly-produced disco epic, with the kind of percussion that DJs can’t get enough of and the musicality dancers love.
We managed to pin down the usually elusive Mr Mang for a talk about his unique production style, his creative process and what inspires his music…
Thanks for your time today! For any readers who don’t know, please can you tell us who you are and what you do?
“Thanks for having me! I’m Ray Mang, also known as Laj and Raj Gupta. I DJ, make records, produce, engineer, remix… and play most instruments badly!”
So how did you get into producing house music in the first place?
“The pivotal point for me with house music was being in Manchester from 1989-1983 – I saw the light! Slightly late I know, but everything I was doing and all that surrounded me there, as well as on trips to London (where I moved after), lead me into it.”
And more recently, how has lockdown been treating you?
“Difficult and strange times, of course, but okay thank you. Ups and downs like most. Managing to keep well and stay healthy. Hope you are too! I've been managing to get some things done in the studio, in-between the barrage of domestic duties, and I've been playing quite a lot of tennis since the courts have reopened (and the weather has been amazing). But I'm missing the travel and partying with all my friends!”
You’ve got your Smoove & Turrell remix coming out soon, and it’s another pristinely produced monster-disco groove. Your work always has an identifiable ‘Ray Mang-ness’ to it – how would you describe your sound?
“Very kind of you to say so! It depends what type of project I’m working on but generally, I love drums (that’s how I started out) and percussion, as well as often favouring the more melodic, organic side of dance with a soft spot for delay and effects. I like the old and the new for music, studio and technology so I guess my production is a mix of all that.”
How do you decide which remix projects to take on? And why did you decide to do this one?
“If I like some aspects of a track, or sometimes even just one or two elements, and have an idea of where I want to try to go with it, then that’s enough. In this case I was particularly taken with the fantastic bass and great chords in Do It, so my starting point was building new drums and percussion around those, then editing and adding in the other instruments along with changing the arrangement around a bit. I did the instrumental first.”
Do you think of yourself as a DJ who produces, a producer who DJs, or something else?What kind of a link is there between your DJing and your production?
“I would like to think I’ve done enough of both by now to be considered a DJ and producer. That’s not to say I’ve mastered either – there’s always more to learn and plenty of room for improvement.
“Listening to lots of music of all kinds informs and inspires both production and DJing. DJing, travelling to do so and meeting lots of wonderful, interesting people in the process brings me into contact with lots of amazing and varied music. And testing out productions when DJing can be very helpful on a few levels.”
What inspires you to make music? And what motivates you to make music, or are these the same?
“Inspiration can come from anywhere. And being in the right state of mind. Doing it for the love. A deadline can certainly help motivate me to get things finished, though!”
Is there one piece of studio kit or software that you couldn’t do without?
“Nothing that exciting. I wish I had an extensive list of indispensable analogue synths, vintage outboard and an SSL I could rattle off for you, but alas it's mainly just a fat computer and software here!”
Your remixes often feature superb bleeps, squelches and dub FX as well as all that lush disco instrumentation – any particular studio techniques or production secrets you can let us in on?
“I love the fact that working in the box allows you – without spending the equivalent of a house – to have full automation and total recall. This means you can mix to your heart’s content – it’s like having many, many pairs of hands and piles of gear – and switch between multiple projects with ease!”
Which of your own tunes is your favourite? And do you have a favourite remix?
“I'm not sure I’m totally happy with any of them, ha ha! There’s always something you think you could have done better when you listen back later. That goes with the turf I guess – and drives you forward.
“But I’m honoured and humbled to have had, and to continue to get, the chance to remix and work with so many amazing singers, bands and artists! I think songs recorded with a band of live musicians are some of my favourite things to remix.”
What kind of a person are you away from house music – what interests do you have outside of music?
“Lots of cooking, tennis and walking my neighbour’s terrier at the moment.”
Where do you want to go next? Do you have a vision of what you’d like to achieve, musically, in the future?
“It’s good to challenge yourself to keep growing musically, successfully or not, in one way or another. But often the achievement is just to keep going!
“I seem to always have lots of tracks, remixes, collaborations and a bit of sound-to-picture work on the go. DJing has been very busy over the last couple of years and I’ve been loving that, but it’s inevitably meant the studio has not been getting as much attention. But recently that has swung back the other way, for obvious reasons!”
Your music is generally euphoric and full of joy, and has bought countless people moments of dancefloor happiness. How does that make you feel, and is that your aim when producing?
“Thank you for the kind words, and yes, that is everything! When I'm producing I’m always trying to find something in a track that gives me the tingles or provokes some emotion, so it’s a wonderful feeling when it works and other people feel something too.”
Finally, is there anything else going on with you that iDJ readers should know about?
“I've got remixes out right now of Smoove & Turrell's Do It, The Phenomenal Handclap Band's Judge Not and Soma World ft Falle's Want This, and the Smoove & Turrell Stratos Blue remix album, with my mix of Do It on it, will be out on 16 October. And there's lots more coming soon!”
Words: Harold Heath Insert pic: Diogo Pinto
Smoove & Turrell's Do It [Ray Mang Remix] is out now on Jalapeno Records