Interview by Francis Shervinski
PO: Who you are and if you care to share how you identify…
Ray: Hello, my name is Ray, Raymond, Rashid. I’m from Brooklyn New York, I am 29 years old, gonna be 30 in September. I’ve been playing music since I was about 7. I’ve always been interested in punk rock. Growing up in Brooklyn, you’re exposed to so many different types of music. From punk rock to 90s freestyle to whatever - I have always been inspired by all these different types of music. But really, I’ve identified myself more with punk rock, metal and the hardcore scene. I started playing guitar in bands when I was about 15. It was nothing serious. It was more or less a way to project teenage angst and not caring about school, etc...
A lot of my friends were into drugs at that time. I experimented with some of that stuff, but it wasn’t for me. I’ve been straight edge ever since. It’s a big part of my life. At that time, too, I was closeted. The hardcore scene was intimidating for me during that time. When I was 19 years old I was dating girls, but secretly hooking up with guys. I really didn’t have an identity or know what I was trying to do with myself. I would play shows, and other guys would ask, “Hey, where’s your girlfriend?” or “I bet you get a lot of groupies,” and I would just laugh to myself.
When I came out, I thought it would be a big deal! I came out to my friends first. I would tell people that I was bisexual because I felt like I was into girls and into guys… into whatever. When I got older, I started to realize that being with women was nothing romantic and that I was much more into dudes. So, for me coming out as gay, wasn’t necessarily a big deal, but it was definitely something interesting coming from the hardcore scene where bands were mostly macho and throwing around the term “faggot.”
PO: At Punk Out our mission is to connect LGBTQ musicians and fans through music. Do you think that music can be the key factor for inclusion?
Ray: For me, when it comes to punk rock and pop punk, I think there are very minimal gay musicians out. No musician really comes to mind. It’s tough because who else do you identify with? I identify with many different types of people, but punk rock music is just so uplifting. There are so many different types of messages being sent out from many different types of bands depending on what you’re into. We can talk politics when we listen to like Bad Religion or bands that are real advocates for sexism and ending homophobia or spreading awareness of feminism etc…
Social media has made it easier to spark conversation, but we have to be careful what we say. For example, I played in Candy Hearts, and it’s tough because I look at Mariel… she has a tough job. Aside from her singing and playing guitar every night, she has to also uphold this image that she is representing women. If one girl doesn’t like what she says, then it can create the biggest controversy. It’s a real touchy subject.
Do I feel like I identify with music? Absolutely! I identify with so many different kinds of music. And I feel that music plays a big part on letting out frustration and also plays a part in bringing people together.
PO: Do you think there needs to be change in social media in terms of awareness?
Ray: Social media runs everything! Even from the smallest things. If you say something wrong, or jokingly, it can be blown up out of proportion like tenfold, and people just hop on a bandwagon without knowing what really happened. They don’t know the source, they just know that this sucks! It’s out of our control. So, yeah!
PO: Do you feel that there is a lack of inclusion in the punk scene?
Ray: There needs to be more progress. We need strides with homophobia in both the hardcore, and punk rock scene. When I came out, I thought it was going to be this big thing, like someone’s gonna make fun of me, and I’d really have to defend myself. Luckily, for me, nothing’s ever been blown up to the point where I was uncomfortable. I’ve met so many different types of bands and people who I thought would be weird with it, but they were cool with it. I also met some people that have said, “that’s not really my thing,” but I respect that. In any scenario, I’ve never been put in an awkward place for my sexuality. We have made progress from back in the day, absolutely, but there are certain things that need improving. The punk scene has grown even more so to be more welcoming, and if someone makes you feel uncomfortable or makes fun of you, then that’s messed up! There’s a togetherness and unity. It doesn’t matter what you identify as. You go to shows and you meet people that are interested in the same things as you, and I think that’s great!
PO: What inspires you to do what you do and connect with people through various backgrounds through your music?
Ray: Ok, so I recently played in a band called Candy Hearts. Playing those shows was such a great experience for me. Meeting the fans was just amazing. They have some diehard fans. Even though I was a touring musician, they were all just as welcoming. I live for playing live music! After playing the summer tour with Driver Friendly, Seaway and Stick Up Kid, they got offered to play with New Found Glory. I’ve listened to them since I was a kid. It was crazy! But after we would breakdown our gear after each shows, Mariel and I would just walk over to merch and kinda hang out and talk to fans. They would always give her some kinda artwork or gift. It was so cool for me to see that. It was great to hear how they connected with her music. There was a mother who had asked us to meet her daughter. The girl had autism and really loved the music. Her mother said she was a HUGE fan. But, she was very shy. When she met the band, she was like, star struck! And I was like… this is the best day of my life. That made me really appreciate what I do.
PO: Did you meet anyone that had an inspiring/touching story for you?
Ray: I met so many people on tour. OH! There was this girl in California. She was the coolest! She watched us on the summer tour. Super cool! We followed each other on Instagram and Twitter. She was able to pick up on the little things that we appreciated. So, I HATE glitter! I hate it more than anything! And she knew how much I hated it! Mariel of Candy Hearts, would put glitter on a lot. And I just hated it! So me and this girl would go back and forth on twitter and discuss how much I hated it! At one of the shows, either in San Diego or Los Angeles, this girl comes up to me and hands me pins. And I asked her, “what are these?” and she said that she made them because she knew how much I hated glitter. The pin was the emoji of the girl with her arms crossed and the background was just glitter! I’ve never seen anything like that in my life, and I just started crying! It was the funniest thing ever! This girl didn’t know me through a hole in the wall, but she connected with me and I connected with her, and I thought that was probably one of the coolest presents ever! I wore the pins when we played later that night! So Cool!
PO: We saved the hardest question for last… Who is your favorite band?
Ray: Aw Man! That’s so hard! … I. Love. Morrisey! But there are a ton of bands that I love! The one band I connected with when I was younger was Saves the Day! I loved the band and the direction they took their music. It sounded so different to me. I loved that each album is different. It shows that they’re inspired by many different things.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner are exclusively of the author or interviewee and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization. If you're a musician or an industry insider and would like to participate in our Artist Corner, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.