Ray Keith

Ray Keith Interview

Ray Keith’s seminal drum & bass Dread label round off its 20th birthday celebrations with a party at Club No.65 in Vauxhall on 12 December. We spoke to the man himself to talk about his career past, present and future.

What you were into before you got into electronic music?
Well, I was in the clobber business. I worked at Fiorucci in Kings Road for a few years. I used to play soul, rare groove, jazz, hip hop and then 1988 was house music all night long. Clubs like Buzbys, Crazy Club, Limelights on Shaftesbury Avenue and Orange Club.

Do you still listen to that now, or play it out?
Yeah, I’ve done a few soul weekends and deep house nights, there’s a great vibe over in Essex for that.

What got you into electronic music?
I first heard Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, the 15 minute remix, and then remixers such as Dave Morales, Dancin Danny D on FFRR, Shep Pettibone to name but a few. Electronic bands like Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, OMD, Japan, Duran Duran, Ultravox and John Foxx all influenced me. I was very interested in the beginning of the electronic sound and keyboards. Also Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling, wow… that’s a blast from the past!

How did you get involved with Black Market Records?
I worked for City Sound for five years both full-time and part-time. The day after the Christmas party one year they sacked me and said I had got “too big for the shop”. I called Dave from Black Market and he said “come in Monday, I will give you a job”. I was there for 19 years. Time flies when you’re having fun.

You have a lot of tunes in your back catalogue even before Dread, what was the first track you made that broke through?
I had a couple of labels, one was Advance Dance Records under the name Dune, a track called Too Much, and another called Destroy. My first big track was a remix I did for Orbital, a track called ‘Chimes’. Tongy signed it to FFRR and Rider championed the tune and smashed it everywhere.

Out of the top tunes that EVERYONE knows from the jungle era, you’re responsible for at least two of them. Did you think at the time that the kids of the ravers who were dancing then would still rate those tracks now?
Wow, thank you, I just made them from the heart and having living legends like Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson to look up to I wanted to make quality timeless music as they had done.

As well as your label and DJ work, you’ve thrown a few parties yourself… tell us a bit about that…
I was the first promoter at The End. Mr C is a good friend too. I did the Black Market nights at the beginning. Also I was involved with the Best Of British party, and did the last ever rave at Bagleys as well as a few Dread parties and residencies at Cafe 1001, Bussey Building in Peckham and the Rhythm Factory. The Dread nights are a great chance to play our sound and give the younger artists a chance to perform and see them grow.

You’ve branched out with different projects down the years, Dub Dread being one of them. Am I right in saying that something special is forthcoming?
Oh gosh, we’ve got our clothing, live band and sound system as well as our parties and I’ve been recording songs myself as well as producing several artist albums. But yeah, Dub Dread 5 is out in the shops now – big up all the artist on the compilation. Stay by Bladerunner is emotional, trust me.

You’ve got the 20 Years Of Dread Recordings party coming up soon… you must be really looking forward to that?
It’s been a learning curve… mad, but yeah, it’ll be a great celebration of what we have achieved, and all the artists we have brought through. It’s taking place at Club No.65 in Vauxhall on 12 December and DJing alongside myself on the night are Bladerunner, Nookie, Kenny Ken, Darren Jay, Jamie Rodigan and Electric Blu with MCs Five Alive, Margaman, Moose and more. Tickets are only £10 in advance.

What does Dread’s 21st year hold in store?
Simple, Dread come to conquer: new radio show, more Dread tours and live band stuff. Keep it locked!