by Olivia Wycech
Somewhere a little over a decade ago, a purple-haired alien from outer space descended upon this planet and unleashed an otherworldly style of trap meets future bass on this new world of hers. Originally on the hip-hop tip, RayRay pivoted over to electronic music after discovering the heart-racing sounds of EDM. Not one to be bound by classifications, she carved out her own very unique style that sounds like a motley of her many musical backgrounds. She used this freshness to lure fans from places like Japan, China and Indonesia to the paranormal cult of RayRay. But in Asia, where over four billion people reside in a culture where standard practice doesn’t equate to the kind of perfect that society expects of you, there is a lot of really good talent in the region. So RayRay needed to stand out. Perhaps that’s why she coloured her hair purple. But it’s definitely why she fucking practiced.
RayRay’s quick ascent into the upper echelons of EDM started with a Red Bull 3Style win in 2013 (she went on to compete in the world finals as the only female in the competition). She was already poised to become Asia’s biggest EDM superstar in Europe after landing a string of high-profile gigs at Glastonbury, Sonar, ADE and Tomorrowland (where she was the first-ever Taiwanese DJ to play the festival) but it was when she officially signed to Barong Family that shit got really real.
The RayRay-meets-Yellow Claw anecdote goes a little something like this: they’d met about three years ago, back when Yellow Claw’s love affair with Asia was still in its infancy. She was DJing at OMNI (Taiwan’s go-to club for all things EDM), and upon meeting her, they were smitten from the get-go. They asked to hear some music, and by the end of the same year she was working on tunes for her first EP that would eventually release on Barong Family called ‘Purple Alien’.
“Besides RayRay’s character and positivity, she stood out because she is an amazing DJ and tastemaker,” said Yellow Claw on what caught their eye about RayRay. “Having her and her energy amongst us and the other artists on the label is amazing.”
Now officially being co-managed by the Barong Family, Yellow Claw has taken a very hands-on approach to nurture RayRay’s talents and pushed her to up the ante on ‘Alien Invasion’. The output of that was RayRay flexing her vocal chops over every track on the EP. “RayRay evolved over the last year into such a dope vocalist,” Yellow Claw said of their protégé. “With her own style and casual attitude, she just drops just bangsssss.”
Within a week of its release, ‘Back ‘n Forth’ (also Yellow Claw’s top pick from the EP) was sitting at number five on Beatport’s Top 100 Trap / Future Bass chart. The mind-altering video for ‘Outer Space’ has also just surpassed 40,000 views on YouTube and offers a glimpse into the supernatural world that RayRay lives and breathes every time she steps out of the house in Taipei.
‘Alien Invasion’ was officially released in its entirety August 30th on Barong Family and is making Asia really fucking proud to see a small slice of the region finally make headlines in the west. Yellow Claw feels the same.
“Besides this insanely fire EP releasing on the hardest label out there, it makes us really proud that it represents both the rise of Asian artists as well as female producers—two important movements the EDM community is not seeing enough of,” Yellow Claw captioned on their Instagram when announcing the EP.
So if Yellow Claw can go to Asia and find a hugely experimental and awesome scene that’s rife with “so many talented artists slowly reaching the surface,” then why is it that the US hears so few sounds from the Far East? Why aren’t more Asian artists playing American festivals? And when is RayRay touring the US? We wanted to know more, and so we talked to RayRay.
Taiwan doesn’t get a lot of attention in the music news. Tell us a little bit about Taiwan’s music scene, what’s happening over there, and who else we should be looking out for?
Taiwan’s music scene actually does get a lot of attention, just mainly from Chinese speaking countries. Japan, Korea and all of Southeast Asia have recently taken note as well. All the big western festivals brands are trying to get in now, but it’s really been the homegrown events like LOOPTOPIA that have elevated the scene and given Taiwanese artists an international platform. It would be great if everyone made more of a global effort. As far as clubs go, OMNI is easily the biggest and best club in Taiwan and is where I play the most. The crowd is really open to all kinds of electronic, and the organizers are super committed to local artists. Actually, they rarely book international DJs, yet the club is crazy and full every weekend.
There are a lot of great producers from Taiwan, too. Keep a lookout for Vonik, a super talented and experienced DJ, and he’s starting to produce his own music.
How did you get connected with Yellow Claw and eventually signed to Barong Family?
I met Yellow Claw in Taipei in 2016 after a show they did at OMNI nightclub. We connected right away, and they asked me to show them some of my music. Shortly after that, I got signed to Supermodified Agency, which represents most of the Barong Family artists in Asia. Obviously, we kept bumping into each other at festivals at finally at ADE in 2017, Yellow Claw asked me if I was ready to release an EP on Barong Family. Just a few months later, they personally invited me to join the Barong Family writing camp in Shanghai.
Even before this, I was working really hard and had a major role in the Asia bass music scene, so I’m hugely grateful that Yellow Claw gave me the opportunity to further that and work with even more artists around the world. They are always pushing me to take my music to new dimensions, and are now even co-managing me with my manager Alan.
What was it about Barong’s identity that resonated so well with you (or vice versa)?
My music style already suits the sound that Barong Family looks for. But they also put a lot of effort into helping Asian artists break out into the bass music scene. It helped that I used to play a lot the music they released in my sets even before I released my first EP on their label. To me, Barong is just like one big family. Everyone on the label is really welcoming and hugely talented. I especially love that they are so hands-on and always willing to help share with me their musical ideas and experiences as artists.
How did getting picked up by a western label change everything for you? Can artists in Asia make it in the west if not granted the same opportunity?
Getting picked up by a western label absolutely provided me with opportunities to explore the world, and most importantly, I got to meet and work with a big selection of artists. It gave me more international opportunities than anything. So, while it helps, it’s definitely possible to break out of Asia even if you don’t work with a label. There are so many different ways to get your music heard nowadays. SoundCloud is easily the best platform for artists in Asia looking to get heard but also for the west to scout for music in Asia, too.
How has Asia’s (Taiwan specifically) music scene influenced the artist you are today?
Taiwan is incredibly open to all kinds of music from around the world—there are no restrictions, and people are wildly open-minded. I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop and pop music from Taiwan, and also from around the world. This led me to set up a kind of hip-hop music community when I was in college. There we shared a lot of music, so it exposed me to a lot of different artists and provided me with ways to meet and work with locals DJs and rappers. The Taiwanese hip-hop music scene is a super small and tight-knit community, but we help each other a lot. And because of my hip-hop background and the support I still get from that part of the scene, I feel like you can really hear that influence in my music.
‘Alien Invasion’ is a melting pot of styles and influences packed into five tracks. What artists are you listening to and getting inspiration from right now?
I’ve been listening to A LOT of drum ‘n’ bass influenced music recently, like Ivy Lab and Noisia. They are always my biggest inspirations. I’m also really fascinated with Dog Blood and GTA’s new releases, which are on heavy rotation.
The major difference between ‘Alien Invasion’ and your first EP ‘Purple Alien’ is that you’re singing over each track. What was it like stepping into the foreground like that?
I really like writing lyrics; it almost comes effortlessly to me. People might not know this, but I also did the vocals on ‘Ninja’ from my last EP. The results were so good that Yellow Claw encouraged me to explore doing an entire EP using my own vocals. Having a hip-hop background has helped me write good lyrics, and also provided me with more opportunities to work with artists in different genres.
Tell us about the collabs on the EP. Who are they and how did they come about?
‘Alien Invasion’ features three collabs. I invited Aazar, who is the dopest producer from France, to work with me on ‘Back n Forth’. We made the track together at ADE in 2018. ‘Drumstick’ is with Juyen Sebulba from Dallas, Texas, who is part of Barong Family, too. We loved working together so much that we have another single with Yellow Claw coming out soon. ‘Like This’ is a collaborative effort with two artists: Gianni Marino and Lil Debbie. Gianni is this awesome Dutch producer, who also worked with me on ‘Like That’ from my last EP—this is kind of a follow-up to that one. Also, Lil Debbie is a super famous rapper from LA who is just great fun to make music with. She works with so many artists from Barong Family as well, like Yellow Claw and Moksi.
The mainstream seems to be shifting from EDM and conversations surrounding the bubble bursting are trending. Is that the case in Asia, and how does that affect what you’re doing looking into the future?
EDM is still very much alive here in Asia. On the other hand, I am trying to do my own thing and navigate my own way through the scene. I am not too bothered if any particular trend or sound is dying because I just focus on what’s ahead for me. But it’s good to have an excellent understanding of what’s happening in the west and then compare it to the current state of Asia’s scene. This way, you can kind of forecast what’s going to happen next, and this allows me to stay ahead of the game.
The music industry is a bit of a boy’s club. From all that you’ve experienced, do you feel that the music industry environment is egalitarian?
Female artists have often been mischaracterized in history, both intentionally and unintentionally. However, we are living in an equal world now. It’s always great to see females playing important roles in the music industry and expressing their own concepts and tastes in music. To me, gender has never been a problem at all. Both males and females can all be successful by working hard.
In 2013, when I was in Toronto for the Red Bull 3style competition, I experienced a really incredible vibe there. Although I was the only female DJ in the competition, this didn’t change the fact that skills, ideas, and impressive performances are the keys to winning the competition—nothing about gender. Moreover, I realized that sharing what you have with others is paramount to helping anyone to learn in this industry. During the competition, although you were competing against one another, all the artists were still willing to share their experiences, skills, and opinions after listening to the set you prepared. Therefore, as long as you work hard, and you are well prepared for every situation, you will reach your goal when the opportunities come along, regardless of whether you are male or female.
What’s next after ‘Alien Invasion’? Anything on the horizon?
Right now, I’m still trying hard to become a role model in the music industry worldwide. I’m also looking forward to playing at new festivals around the world, getting to know all the great artists, and sharing my music and my stories with everyone. Now that the EP is out, I’m shifting my focus to releasing some music on Spinnin’ Records and Protocol Recordings. Just last week, I signed with Tiësto’s Musical Freedom label for a couple of tracks. Besides releasing music, I’m going to do a big EP tour of Asia in September and October.
It seems like the US is the last market you need to enter. What are your plans there?
I love the US. I’ve made a lot of friends there through my music, so I’ve been able to visit several times. It’s given me a chance to check out what clubs and festivals in the US are doing, find inspiration, and new people to collab with.
Actually, I’m looking for North and South American representation, an agency that believes in my music. I have a very extensive schedule at ADE this year, and that includes some meetings with American agents. That will hopefully result in a full-fledged US tour.
Artists, agents, and managers in the US, send me a message—I’d love to meet!
Follow RayRay on Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud.
Images via Nachi Lee