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May 2019

Ray Toro: "I didn’t expect to end up writing an entire record"

When Ray Toro started tentatively working on a few songs at home, he quickly ended up with an album too good to be kept under-wraps.
Published: 2:46 pm, November 18, 2016
Ray Toro: "I didn’t expect to end up writing an entire record"
[vc_row css=".vc_custom_1445369766238{padding-bottom: 25px !important;}"][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1479479578903{border-bottom-width: 10px !important;padding-bottom: 25px !important;border-bottom-color: #0a0a0a !important;border-bottom-style: solid !important;}"]

"I didn’t expect to end up writing an entire record."

When Ray Toro started tentatively working on a few songs at home, he quickly ended up with an album too good to be kept under-wraps.

Words: Ali Shutler.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]Way back when My Chemical Romance started out, Ray Toro put their first website together. He’d never made one before but he taught himself how using Dreamweaver. It was the same when it came to t-shirts. He had no idea how to use Photoshop, but he got a book and taught himself how. It was the same when it came to recording their first demos and during work on the scrapped fifth MCR album, he started getting involved in engineering.

While Ray's debut solo album ‘Remember The Laughter' packs a surprise around ever corner of its epic, winding journey, the fact he's spent the past three and a half years teaching himself every aspect and every skill needed to create the cinematic escape is exactly what you'd expect from him. "I like pushing myself," he explains from his home in California. "I like learning new things. I like trying new things. I feel like as I get older if I don't do things like that, I'll become stagnant. A great way for people to stay young and to stay fresh is to keep absorbing the world around you."

But as for expectations, that’s pretty much where they stop playing by the rules. “When you see someone in a band, you only see them in one role, in one way. When you release a record on your own, you get to see more facets of them, more colours of their personality and I think that’s what the record shows of me.” Turns out there’s much more to Ray Toro than big hair and bigger guitar licks.

What started out as a toe in the water quickly morphed into something more immersive. “Music is part of me so I always knew I would continue doing it in some fashion, but I didn’t really expect to end up writing an entire record,” admits Ray. “It just kinda happened.” It started with a handful of song ideas three and a half years ago and then, little by little, the idea for the album took shape.

Visiting his little home studio after his wife and son had gone to sleep, Ray would work on these ideas until the early hours of the morning. “After a couple of months, a body of work started shaping up,” from the ideas that stuck around and over the following months and years, it shifted, altered and eventually settled as ‘Remember The Laughter’.

“I just love the idea of recording from home and everything made sense when you take what the record’s about,” explains Ray. “The themes on the record are very family orientated so it makes sense that 90% of the record was done at home. I’d have my kid come in when I’m trying to track and he’d want to touch the knobs, so he’d adjust them for me and I had him play percussion on one of the songs. On ‘Lucky Ones’ there’s a shaker sound that’s one of his Jake and The Land Pirate toys that I grabbed. I had to have some of that on the record because it ties it all together. Doing it here, doing it myself, made it a family affair.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=".vc_custom_1478859832570{padding-top: 25px !important;}"][vc_column width="1/2" css=".vc_custom_1478859590538{padding-bottom: 25px !important;}"][vc_single_image image="34417" img_size="full" full_width="true"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/2" css=".vc_custom_1478859609165{padding-bottom: 25px !important;}"][vc_single_image image="34418" img_size="full" alignment="center" full_width="true"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=".vc_custom_1445370543092{padding-top: 30px !important;padding-bottom: 30px !important;}"][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]
“I really tried to show all sides of my personality.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]There are a few reasons why it’s taken Ray so long to break cover with his solo project. First up, “right around when the band broke up I had a kid and that was the best thing that ever happened for my wife, and me. Raising him took up a lot of time and my wife had just started graduate school so it was a good time for me to lay back on work and pick up the slack, where she used to do that for ten years or more when I was touring.

“The other reason was I was learning to do a lot of stuff on my own. The music side of the song usually comes easily but the other stuff, singing, writing lyrics, those parts took a while for me to find my own footing and my own personality. I feel like I know how to express myself playing guitar, I know all the colours, and shades, and tones and tonality that a guitar can create. I know how to get certain emotions out of a listener by playing a certain way or by playing a certain part, at least I think I do, so lyrically and vocally, I had to learn that too and that took some time.”

The end result is a broad record that never sits still but manages to create a peaceful serenity with its ever-adventuring hunger. It’s a record that’s aware of the darkness of the night but holds out hope for the morning. “The songs are pretty diverse because I really tried to show all sides of my personality and songwriting style on one record. Sometimes that can feel very haphazard and it wasn’t until the end of the record where I found a way to connect it all and make it all cohesive.”

‘Hope For The World’ was the spark that made it all fall into place. “That track is a great encapsulation of the things I’m trying to say on the record. When I wrote that track, I realised this is more than just a few songs. There’s some meat here, there’s something more tangible than just a few pop rock tracks. When I wrote that song, it let me know, this is going to be a really cool record if I do it right.”

And it does right. The uplifting optimism of the record is a reflection of who Ray is as an individual as well as a musician. “I’ve always been a very positive person,” he smiles. “I’ll always look at the brighter side of things, sometimes to a fault. Sometimes I can annoy people with my positivity but I always look for the glimmer of light in the darkness.”

The opening track ‘Isn’t That Something’ was written pretty soon after MCR broke up. “I feel like it was my own way of telling myself it’s okay, I can keep going, keep making music or keep doing whatever it is I want to do.” From there on out, it’s an encouragement he wanted to spread. “I feel like if other people, fans of the band or fans of me, can take that positive energy for themselves, I think that’s important. It’s just the side of songwriting I tend to lean on.”

Never one to stick to the expected path, ‘Remember The Laughter’ also tackles the world at large. Since having a child and stepping away from the day to day routine of being in a full-time touring band, Ray has been able to pay more attention to world events. “Whether it be the political situation in the US, what’s going on in the UK or in Syria, to the riots in Ferguson, it just feels like the past few years have been very volatile. I’ve had more time to look at the state of things and a lot of the songs are about that.”

After experimenting with voice, Ray found: "The best way to express myself was with directness. Over the past three years, there's been some crazy shit going on so I just felt like I needed to write about it."[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=".vc_custom_1445370543092{padding-top: 30px !important;padding-bottom: 30px !important;}"][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]
“You just have to write what you feel.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]As joyous and uplifting as ‘Remember The Laughter’ is, there’s a sadness to that phrase. A sense of loss. “It’s very nostalgic,” offers Ray. “The record is very linked to family and the circle of life, one life starting while another life ends and where that lyric came from, it’s super morbid but it’s one of the things you think about when you become a parent. How do you comfort your kids when you’re going to pass on? That phrase just always stuck with me. I just feel like that’s what, when that day comes, I will tell my son. Remember the good times. That’s the thing, we’ve all seen so much shit in this world but there’s still so much good and that’s what I’d like to shed a light on.”

For people listening, the record offers “a sense of hope and a belief in themselves that they can do anything. Those are things I want to instil in my kid and ultimately the album, especially songs like ‘Remember The Laughter’, they’re written for my son. Those are things I want to leave with him. To have that confidence to go out into the world, do what he feels he wants to do and make his mark on the world.” It’s a message for one and a message for all.

"The best music is never written to make people happy or to make people feel a certain way. You can't think about the aftermath," offers Ray. "You just have to write what you feel and right now I'm treating this album as a one-off. I have a bunch of other material though that, over the next month or two, I'll go over and see if I can flesh out more.

“I have to figure that out, but I think right now, the focus is on getting this record out, getting people to hear it, play some shows - as long as it can be done right - and see where it goes from there. You’ve just got to see where life takes you. If more music wants to be created, it will come out somehow.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=".vc_custom_1445370422462{padding-bottom: 25px !important;}"][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1479480038816{margin-top: 15px !important;border-top-width: 10px !important;padding-top: 15px !important;border-top-color: #0a0a0a !important;border-top-style: solid !important;}"]Taken from the November issue of Upset. Order a print copy here - we deliver worldwide. Ray Toro’s album ‘Remember The Laughter’ is out now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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