Gemma Ray

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Gemma Ray
Gemma Ray performing live in concert.jpg
Gemma Ray performing live
Background information
Genres torch song psychedelia, noir-pop, sideways blues, gothic folk
Occupation(s) Songwriter, guitarist, singer, film composer and producer
Labels Bronze Rat –

Gemma Ray is a British songwriter, guitarist, singer, film composer and producer.


Born in Basildon, Essex and raised in nearby Billericay, Ray has released six studio albums on the Bronze Rat label and has collaborated with artists including Sparks and Alan Vega.

Ray fuses many disparate genres, and has been given diverse tags such as “pop-noir”, “sideways blues”, and “gothic folk”.

Studio Albums[edit]

The Leader[edit]

Gemma Ray’s debut album, The Leader, was co-produced by Michael J Sheehy of the band Dream City Film Club. Released on 2 June 2008, it features the single ‘Hard Shoulder’ / ‘Name Your Lord’.

Unable to tour the album as a result of being struck down by illness, Ray wrote and recorded the album Lights Out Zoltar!

Lights Out Zoltar![edit]

Following just a year on from her debut album, Ray’s distinctive sound which blends psychedelic noir-pop with a "wall-of-sound girl group backing"[1] is evident on Lights Out Zoltar! Spin Magazine likened the album to "if Phil Spector forced his girl groups in a more noir-soundtrack direction, this might've been the result. Ray has a truly impressive feel for vintage pop flourishes, layered to lavish effect".[2]

‘100mph (In 2nd Gear)’ from the album was released as a single on 23 August 2009.

Lights Out Zoltar! earned Ray an Independent Music Award.[3] After seeing Ray perform live supporting Mott the Hoople in 2009, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page declared Gemma Ray “not to be missed!"[4]

It's A Shame About Gemma Ray[edit]

‘It’s A Shame About Gemma Ray’ features reworkings of songs by a diverse selection of artists including Sonic Youth, Buddy Holly and The Gun Club. Recorded over five days in New York, the songs are delivered in Ray's characteristic style of guitar playing and singing. The album was recorded at the studio of Heavy Trash's Matt Verta-Ray and was released on June 1, 2010.

In support of the album, Ray appeared as a special guest of the band Grinderman on their European tour in 2011. That same year saw the release of The Runaway EP, which featured the single ‘Runaway’ and also a cover of the The Shangri-Las song ‘Walking In The Sand’.

Island Fire[edit]

In 2010, after appearing on TV show Rockwiz (duetting with Jon English) Ray found herself briefly stranded in Australia when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted. Whilst grounded there she unwittingly began recording a new album returning in 2011 to complete what became Island Fire. Co-produced with Andy Zammit and Michael Szumowski, the album was released to widespread acclaim[5][6] on March 12, 2012. The album, which is characterised by a mix of "sugary and savoury girl-group dramarama"[7] and "lavish orchestral pop",[8] peaked at number 19 on the CMJ chart.[9] The video for album track "Rescue Me" appeared on the revamped Top of the Pops 2.

Island Fire includes two bonus tracks in the form of a collaboration with the band Sparks, which was also released as a separate 7” single entitled ‘Gemma Ray Sings Sparks (With Sparks). Produced by Russell & Ron Mael,the songs are essentially Sparks covering Gemma covering Sparks. The artwork for the 7” was designed by Rick Froberg of the bands Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes and Obits.

Island Fire was released on Shock Records in Australia.

Down Baby Down[edit]

In 2013 Ray released the vinyl-only “fantasy soundtracks” album Down Baby Down, which featured Thomas Wydler of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Demonstrating Ray’s "formidable skills as an arranger",[10] Down Baby Down was met with critical acclaim and prompted Mojo Magazine to declare Ray an "inspired music machine". The album was performed in its entirety with Thomas Wydler, Andy Zammit and chorus ensemble at Berlin's Imperial Club on December 3, 2013.

Milk For Your Motors[edit]

Appearing soon after the picture disc single 'Death Disc' (a Record Store Day exclusive), Milk For Your Motors is "an extraordinary addition to an already impressively idiosyncratic catalog".[11] A collection of "noir-ish surf-doom ballads and expansive pop-exotica",[12] the record features several guest appearances including Alan Vega of the band Suicide on the track ‘Motorbike’, Howe Gelb on 'The Wheel', The German Film Orchestra Babelsberg, and Deke Leonard. Its release was marked by a series of performances with the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg which was arranged by Fiona Brice and conducted by Lorenz Dangel. Mojo Magazine made Milk For Your Motors the ‘Album of the Week’, declaring it "unpredictable and inspired...a series of remarkable musical tableaux".[13] The album was released on August 22, 2014.

Gemma Ray toured “Milk For Your Motors extensively until 2015. 2015 also saw Ray perform at two special events to pay tribute to the works and legacy of Lee Hazlewood, at the London Barbican, and Lead Belly at The Royal Albert Hall.

The Exodus Suite[edit]

The release of Ray's most recent album, The Exodus Suite, was announced on March 16th 2016. Described as a 52-minute odyssey through her unique style of epic torch song psychedelia, it was recorded live in seven days at the infamous Candy Bomber Studios by producer Ingo Krauss. The album’s title reflects the personal-political themes of the songs within. The first track to be made available was ‘There Must Be More Than This’, an Afro-Beat meets Krautrock gambol with a sprinkling of Ethiopiques (courtesy of guest pianist Carwyn Ellis, of the Zarelli and Edwyn Collins’ band). The album was scheduled to be released on May 20th 2016.

Ray warmed up many of the tracks as special guest to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion across Europe in February 2016.

Film Work[edit]

Gemma Ray has contributed music to several films and television series around the world. She has provided a bespoke version of her song '900 Miles' for the horror film 'Mum & Dad'.

In 2015 she wrote, arranged and recorded the score for the German film Vorstadtrocker by The Plura Sisters.

Also in 2015, Ray worked with Wim Wenders on the restoration of his early material which led to a special performance at Berlin's Berlinale Film Festival. At Wenders' request, Ray performed at the opening party for the Golden Bear Awards alongside the band Calexico.

Her music has also featured on shows such as The Killing, What Remains, Switch and Ringer, as well as films such as Sticky Notes and Sex & Crime.

Gemma has appeared on TV shows including Rockwiz, Spicks & Specks, Jam Sandwich and Top of the Pops 2.


Gemma Ray has collaborated with several notable artists throughout her career. A chance meeting in Los Angeles with Ron and Russell Mael of the band Sparks led to the band collaborating. The result, a 7’’ single entitled 'Gemma Ray sings Sparks (with Sparks)', features the band covering Ray’s own interpretation of two of their songs.

Her most frequent and long term collaborator is Andy Zammit, who plays drums with her live and is also involved in the production of many of her albums.



Year Title
2008 The Leader
2010 Lights Out Zoltar!
2010 It’s A Shame About Gemma Ray
2012 Island Fire
2013 Down Baby Down
2014 Milk For Your Motors
2016 The Exodus Suite


  1. ^ Doran, John. "BBC – Music – Review of Gemma Ray – Lights Out Zoltar!". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  2. ^ "Gemma Ray, 'Lights Out Zoltar!' (Bronzerat) | SPIN". Spin. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  3. ^ "Independent Music Awards | Gemma Ray". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  4. ^ DiGiacomo, Frank. "Gemma Ray Doesn't Like Mick Jagger and Doesn't Need Jimmy Page to Play Guitar for Her". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  5. ^ Aston, Martin. "BBC – Music – Review of Gemma Ray – Island Fire". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  6. ^ "Album Review: Gemma Ray – Island Fire". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  7. ^ Aston, Martin. "BBC – Music – Review of Gemma Ray – Island Fire". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  8. ^ "Gemma Ray – Island Fire | Albums | musicOMH". musicOMH. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  9. ^ "NMR 1182: January 24, 2011 – CMJ". CMJ. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  10. ^ "Down Baby Down – Gemma Ray | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  11. ^ "Gemma Ray: Milk For Your Motors « American Songwriter". American Songwriter. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  12. ^ "Milk for Your Motors – Gemma Ray | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  13. ^ "Stream Gemma Ray's Milk For Your Motors – MOJO's Album Of The Week". MOJO. Retrieved 2016-04-03.