A Golden-Coast exclusive

Dean Del Ray; a California Classic, a True Rock'n'Roller, and a Genuinely Nice Guy

In San Francisco, like Hawaii, twenty or thirtysomethings are a transient bunch. They're either coming or going. Very few people make a long term go of it in "The City." The rents are absurd and the weather can be tough going. It takes guts to stick it out in San Francisco. To be a musician in San Francisco, well that takes balls. Del Ray has made San Francisco his home since 1989, playing music all these years.

Del Ray recently released his first Dean Del Ray record, called Lone Mountain Serenade. It is a rock solid record that inspires and at times, leaves the listener in an introspective, mellowed frame of mind. Well-crafted and superbly produced, LMS, can be played time and time again: Driving down coastal Highway 1, railing along San Francisco's freeway-like Geary Blvd, or in the quietude of your living room. While the record is stellar, the true fun comes in seeing Del Ray live. It's hard to imagine anyone, or any band, enjoying the stage and rock music more. Del Ray and his band put out 110%. .

The following interview was conducted in late 2000, via a series of emails between Del Ray and golden-coast.com wrtier, Patrick Murphree. In it, DDR talks about his music, his influences, and what it's like to play rock music in West in the new millennium.


 G-C: How would you describe your own music to someone who had never heard any of it?

DDR: my music is best called rock. i like to let the people describe it. everyone interprets music different. that's what's so great about music. one person sez bruce springsteen. the next sez matchbox 20 or wallflowers. or black crowes. you get the idea.

G-C: What other bands do you like to listen to and or share gigs with?

DDR: i love a lot of different music i listen to rock hip hop country everything. if its good i want to know about it. right now i am listening to the new wallflowers record breach and the new supergrass and the new merle haggard. so it varies. i also get into some metal i love rage against the machine. they are one of the best bands i have ever seen live with out a doubt. but i always go back to my fav. 6 tom petty, rolling stones, neil young, led zeppelin,black crows, beatles and so on. i love playing with who ever. i just love to gig. shows are hard to come by so when i do get one i go all out. i try to treat it like its my last gig.

The Fillmore Auditorium is an old San Francisco stalwart of the music scene. Everyone from the Grateful Dead, to the Sex Pistols to Johnny Cash has played there.

G-C: What is your favorite venue to perform in?

DDR: the fillmore in san fran is my all time fav. i have played there about 10 times. every time it was magic. it's just the perfect venue for the fans and the band. it's what all venues should be. But really i love any place that people are at to watch live music. since this is such a rarity these days. all the clubs are closing down. kids love raves and the internet. not much demand for live club level rock bands in calif. other places in the us are a little better.

Playing Outside of CA

G-C: Where have you played outside of CA and what do you think about those places in terms of both playing there as well as hanging out there?

DDR: Portland's great for live music support. So is Vancouver. i love the vibe up there everyone just wants to rock. sf used to be great about 7 years ago you could go out and the clubs would be packed all of them. crazy how much it has changed. i have been playing sac lately and it reminds me of SF about 5 years ago. i have only played there 3 times this year but the people have been really supportive. i just got a review on my cd in their local paper. i have been here all my life and San francisco has a blind eye to roots rock. They never give me any support or write ups. i have headlined the fillmore sold out all the rooms here and so on. you know what i am talking about. just look at the motherhips they never get any press. train, counting crowes all those bands since they're not hip or cool looking they never get any props

Del Ray's song, Rocca Drive (from his album, Lone Mtn. Serenade), is about his years in Petaluma, Calif, a small suburb 50 miles north of San Francisco.

Living and playing in SF

G-C: Did you grow up in SF? Have you ever lived anywhere else?

DDR: i was born in yosemite Calif. can you believe it. was raised there for awhile before landing in petaluma Calif. i spent my teens there. then i busted loose for the city. i have been playing in San Francisco since i was 16. i can give you so many storys of the good ol days ha ha. i was in high school when i started playing gigs at the mabuhay gardens in SF i would get home around 3am and then go to school the next morning. Crazy i have been playing this town for 16 years i cant believe it. i moved to the city in 1989

G-C: With regards to kids in CA loving raves and the Internet, you seem to be pretty comfortable with the Internet, you have a cool website and you are very responsive with e-mail. What is your take on the digital revolution in general?

DDR: i will do any thing to get the word out on my music. the computer does so much for me. first of all the email list saves me so much money. no more snail mail list the email list works so good. i cant believe how many people come to the shows from the email list. people we don't even know. also the web site is a must. i cant think of anything better than the digital life i live. But it sucks if you don't have dsl. those long waits for loading stuff. But soon everyone will have fast hook ups. its only going to get better. also i sell a lot of cds and merch on line which is great. People can find your stuff 24/7 no waiting around to find cds in stores. it's only going to get better.

G-C:Do you use the computer to create music? Your music is so organic and has such a genuinely "analog" sound to it. Are you a purist when it comes to the recording process? Do you have any qualms about tainting it in the digital realm?

DDR: i dont mind the digital way of recording. it's getting better and better. it's more useful for hip hop and modern pop music . if i have a choice its always going to be analog. there's nothing better. i did a few songs digital a few years back and i cant listen to it now that my records done. the difference is very noticeable in the bottom end. But these days with pro tools and a few other things you can make a killer digital record. you also need some one who is a master at that style of recording. you can make records anywhere which is great since studios cost so much.

Semi-famous musicians from David Immergluck (Counting Crowes) to Rammee Jaffee (the Wallflowers) to Jim Bogos (Cheryl Crowe) have all played or recorded with the Dean Del Ray band.

The Lineup

G-C:The lineup of your backing band changes on occasion. You had a few different drummers play on 'Lone Mountain.' What is it like trying to keep a band together these days on the brink of breaking through to the big time?

DDR: to keep a band together these days is almost impossible. All the good musicians have moved out of SF or stop playing music altogether for a dot.com job. most people turn 30 and stop playing music if they havnt made it. i cant believe it. i will play music till i die. But some people put timers on things. you know the old story i haven't made it so i am out. forget the shit. the younger people aren't even playing instruments so the there is a shortage. try finding a drummer or guitar player in this town that is under 30 and good
G-C: Tell me about Dave Immergluck.

DDR: i don't get to see david that much these days since he joined counting crowes again. But he is one of the best guitar players i have ever played with and recorded with. he is very spontaneous. also we are very close so we read each others minds. he brings so many weapons to the table. and i have never seen him freeze in the studio. he always has 2 or 3 great ideas for each song. he is amazing. just a machine. he made lone mountain serenade sound so fresh

G-C: Your voice is very true, soulful and seemingly natural. Have you ever received any formal vocal training?

DDR: i took lessons for awhile. Not to learn how to sing but but how to save the voice from going south. you have to worship your voice when you are on the road. So i learned a lot of warm up stuff to save the voice. But i have always had this voice. i love to sing but it is the hardest thing to do. everyday your body is different. and so is the environment so you have to adjust. one day you are in the mountains of mammoth the next the hot sun of sac next foggy SF you get the idea.


Special thanks to Dean Del Ray for doing the interview.

For more information, check out www.deandelray.com.

For other golden-coast sounds, check out out golden-coast sounds.

Photos courtesy of Daniel Huertas. Graphic design, Jon Schreiber.

Copyright 2001, golden-coast.com. All rights reserved.