Blog 1404: Writing About Writing

My direct response to the interviews I’m not giving – all about the ideas behind my art…

Ray Mann in Miriam Phillipson's "3x3 Berlin"
Ray Mann in Miriam Phillipson’s ‘3 by Three Berlin’

I erupted in a flurry of blog-writing around the end of 2013 / beginning of 2014 – in the wake my Australian tour, and since returning to my new home of Berlin.

While in Australia, I gave possibly the most involved interview of my artistic career to date, which brought up all kinds of things I hadn’t thought about for a while. I was also reading my friend Craig Schüftan’s wonderful book on “the rise and fall of alternative rock in the nineties”, Entertain Us!, filled with quotes from artists talking about their art. I kept putting the book down to write. And write. And write…

As much as I enjoy listening to music, I’m just as interested in hearing about the ideas behind it. That goes for movies, too: the stories behind their creation – concepts, production, cultural context – are often just as, if not more, interesting to me.

So: these blogs are about the ideas behind my art.

My current blog-writing is a direct response to the interviews I’m not giving. There are ideas behind my art that I hope are apparent, though I’m sure they’re not; ideas I’m happy to discuss, and yet almost never get the chance to. Music writers aren’t exactly lining up to interview me, and the few who do rarely ask the kind of questions that lead to such discussions – with the odd exception every now and again, to this day, interviewers begin, more often than not, with questions like “Is Ray Mann your real name?” and “How many musicians are there in The Ray Mann Three?”. Yes, really.

I guess not all music writers possess the scope for unassuming investigation of an artist’s theoretical framework that writers like Craig do – and if more do, I certainly haven’t met many of them. And after years of being asked questions like “So when did you start playing guitar?”, it becomes startlingly easy to forget a lot of the ideas that initially propelled me to create – ideas that, when I do recall them, still have the power to spur me on to create anew.

The thing is: these ideas aren’t lofty, obscure, or abstract. They’re pretty basic themes – about desire, happiness, emotion, connection – that I’m exploring in different ways, and not so much making definitive statements on as I am asking questions about. And the resulting connections in my art – between song and video, between lyrics and music, between genre and production – are far from arbitrary; and yet, I feel like most people don’t even get that there are any connections going on, at all.

Maybe I’ve got it the wrong way around: perhaps it’s up to me to steer interviews in directions I’m more interested in pursuing. I’m sure many people know how to do that, and maybe it’s a skill I need to learn.

But in the meantime, until the next interview presents the next opportunity to try it out: these blogs are my outlet, my DVD commentary track, for whoever’s interested; my discussion (or at least, my initiation of one) about the ideas behind my art.

I hope you’ll join in.

R x

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Ray Mann plays live at ArtConnect Berlin presents: Community Clash! this month.

In the meantime: you can read old words about even older art in the Ray Mann: #ArtBlog

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