Interview: Ray Dickaty

Ray Dickaty has been a key member in several influential bands, most notably as part of the renowned outfit Spiritualized, led by Jason Pierce.  Ray always has a hand in the musical current and he is now promoting the latest ‘Live at SpaceFest!’ album; a live recording of the performance of the Pure Phase Ensemble musical collective, which this past year included luminary Mark Gardener of Ride.

Ray is the Musical Director of the workshop that produces original music to be played at the space-rock and shoegaze SpaceFest! music festival which takes places in Gdansk, Poland each year.  In the past, Ray has collaborated with several illustrious artists such as Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab), Chris Olley (Six By Seven), Steve Hewitt (ex Placebo), and Jaime Harding (Marion).  Read on to find out more about Ray’s experiences in Pure Phase Ensemble and both his former and current bands.

Hello Ray!  It’s a great pleasure to connect with you about your annual involvement in SpaceFest and the Pure Phase Ensemble music project.  Before we get to that, how are you doing and where are you at this moment in time?

I’m pretty good – Thanks!  I’m in my apartment in Warsaw, Poland where I have lived for the past 5 years, looking after my 14 month old son.

The latest SpaceFest took place in Gdansk, Poland this past December.  During this event you directed the program for the Pure Phase Ensemble workshop.  Each year a different guest artist is picked to be a co-director who helps to guide an international collective of artists in the creation of original music that is then performed at the SpaceFest festival.  Who chooses the artist for the co-director position?

Each year the guest artists and guest local musicians are normally chosen between Ania Szynwelska of CCA Łaźnia, Karol Schwarz, the head honcho of Naiono Records, and myself.  As Musical Director for the Pure Phase Ensemble, I have been involved with the project since the first edition.  After the musicians are chosen and the guest artist(s) confirmed, I then work with these people over a 4-day period to create a new body of work to be presented at SpaceFest.

Who else was invited to join this latest iteration of the Pure Phase Ensemble line-up?

The following Polish musicians: Jacek Rezner on drums and Kamil Hordyniec  on bass from the band Wilga, Michal Pydo on guitar and vocals from the band Hatifnats, Michal Kostek Stoic from the band Cisza Nocna, and Karol Schwarz of Nasiono Records and many bands.

The latest album, Live at SpaceFest!, by Pure Phase Ensemble 4 is now available for purchase at Nasiono Records and BandCamp.  What is it like to work on such a time-restricted, blank slate-like musical project?

For Pure Phase Ensemble, the only fact that has to be established is within what boundaries we are going to work, and as this is a festival of space-rock, psych-rock, and shoegaze music, this is easily established.  The musicians, myself included, often bring with them ideas that we may play around with.  Some get rejected  and others are worked up into full-fledged songs.

The time limitation in reality means that everything that may normally be worked out over a few days/weeks/months is compressed and therefore you have to be “on it” 100% of the time (or at least as close as possible).  Emotions can run high as generally you have to put your egos aside and honestly look at what is being presented and sometimes be brutal with accepting and rejecting ideas.

What was it like working with Mark Gardener as part of Pure Phase Ensemble this past year?

I had crossed paths with Mark previously, but we didn’t really know each other.  For this group, Mark and I decided to get a working rhythm section for the ensemble in the form of Polish band Wilga, amongst other strong Polish musicians to collaborate with.  It was a joy to be part of this past year’s Pure Phase Ensemble and, really, the songs suggested and almost wrote themselves as we met and started to play together.  Once the basics were in place, it was only a case of the subtle re-arranging of some parts to produce what I think is very strong music.  Mark is a very relaxed character and he infected the room with his laid-back vibe.  He also has a wicked sense of humour and this edition was full of laughter from the start.


You’re perfectly suited for your duties at this music festival due to your musical chops and tenure in renowned space-rock band Spiritualized and free-jazz act Solar Fire Trio.  What was it like being a member of Spiritualized?

As you can imagine, a trip… Really there is too much to say regarding this band and it would take a separate interview!  But briefly, Jason was a fan of my previous band (Moonshake) and when he heard we had split up he gave a mutual friend a call to ask about my interest in playing with them.

After a few shows I was offered the chance to join as a full-time member and I was in the band for a further 5 years.

One great aspect of this band was the use of improvisation within the song structures and this for me meant that every show was different and every time a song was played, it varied.  Of course you have the correct lines to play, and at times certain arrangements to stick with, but the music was allowed to rise and fall organically at each and every show.

Why did you decide to move on from Spiritualized with Solar Fire Trio? 

I didn’t decide to move on – I was pushed out.  New members had arrived, the vibe had changed, Jason had changed, it felt wrong, and I didn’t particularly like the direction the music was taking or how the band was being run.

Solar Fire Trio was a band I formed upon returning to live in Liverpool from London after an emotional time and a serious illness, from which I recovered after 6 months of chemo and a couple of years of therapy.  I form SFT as a way of directing my pent-up anger and frustration into something more creative rather than a continuation of my self-destructive tendencies.  I also wanted to play free jazz with a rock and roll attitude and take the music out of the “jazz” ghetto and get in the faces of a more rock audience.  This we were able to do on a few occasions by supporting Julian Cope on a few dates of a UK tour and supporting the band The Heads in Bristol.

You have 4 albums released as Solar Fire Trio.  Are you working on new material for an upcoming album or EP?

SFT as a group still exists as we have never officially disbanded, but the original drummer is seriously ill and without him it just doesn’t feel right.

We have lots of rehearsal tapes which, over time, we may release.

What music projects are you currently involved in?

I’m involved in several different music projects: Infant Joy Quintet, which is a direct homage to the great Albert Ayler and has one album released and new material is being worked on for a 2nd album; the electro-acoustic group Sounds of the Night Sky; the band Warsaw Improvisers Orchestra which I formed and am principal conductor and director; my dark ambient contemporary jazz project Noise of Wings which has an album due for release once a record label is found for it; the politically-charged full-on free jazz trio Line of Fire; and Osaka Vacuum.

Are you a classically trained saxophonist or are you self-taught?  Why did you pick sax out of all the other woodwind instruments?

On the sax I am self-taught.  At school I had music lessons on flute (which I liked) and clarinet (which I hated).  I had always wanted to play sax, but music education at the time deemed that to play sax one has to first learn clarinet, so I gave it up.  But one interesting aspect of my education was that a few of us that showed an interest in music were allowed to give up sports and spend a day each week for a year or so attending a local art school to experiment with sound.  Here we had the chance to make tape loops, mess with synths, and generally explore sound experimentation.

Only upon reflection did I see how important this was for a 14 or 15 year old to experience and actually how much it impacted on my musical tastes.

There were 4 of us in total who did this – One became a fantastic classical guitarist but succumbed to a heroin addiction, another became a world famous drummer and is still going strong, the other I have no idea about, except that he played bass… So I guess this was my first group since we did jam together!


Words: Jen Dan

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