Mike Ray From Band Haunter Discusses Single “Illuminate” Out TODAY!
For newer fans, how did your passion for music and career come about? I grew up around music -- my mom played piano all the time until I got old enough to get up on the bench next to her and mash all the keys and prevent her from finishing anything -- but my strong personal passion for music started when my friend Catherine convinced me to join the school choir in 6th grade. I fell in love with it and never looked back.
Where did you grow up and how has that influenced your style of music? I grew up in Oklahoma but moved to Texas when I was 11, so my influences are all over the place. My first concert ever was Garth Brooks, but the first show I went to by myself was Third Eye Blind & Matchbox 20. And I eventually turned into a punk kid. I try to draw influences from everything though. There's great music in every genre, and aspects of country or punk or alternative or EDM can add a lot to a pop song and vice versa. I often hear influences from & similarities to totally different genres when I'm listening to something and that will always be one of my favorite things about music.
Did you always want to be a musician or was there a specific moment that something happened that made you think "this is what I want to do with my life." If so, what was it? I actually only really wanted to play sports until I got mono and wasn't healthy in time to play baseball. I wound up in bed for almost two months and spent almost every hour scouring the internet for new bands. Eventually, I came across some band called Fall Out Boy & went to see them play at a bar down the street from my house & that one show literally changed the trajectory of my entire life. From that point forward, I've spent the vast majority of my life in or around music, and most of my close friends in life can be directly traced back to decisions I made that night -- including my 15+ year friendship with Enoma that started at a Fall Out Boy show a couple years later & eventually led us both to Haunter. It's kind of crazy to look back on, honestly.
Who have been some of your biggest musical influences growing up and do the same artists currently continue to influence you now? I grew up listening to a ton of 90's alternative because that's what my older brother listened to & a lot of country because I grew up in Oklahoma. But my dad also listened to a ton of classic rock, so I had a bit of everything. I definitely feel like all of those genres influence a lot of my ideas to this day, though. Even when I was in pop-punk bands in the past, most of my guitar parts could have been lifted from a Gin Blossoms song and many of my harmony ideas were straight out of country music. Again, I feel like good musical ideas transcend genres and can fit in almost any song if you know how and when to incorporate them.
What’s the best advice you have ever gotten from another musician? To never give up on music if that's really what you want to do with your life, and never make music for anyone else -- only for yourself. The music industry is brutal sometimes and can quickly zap whatever passion you have for music from you if you let it, especially if you're trying to please others or make music to make someone else happy. But as long as you're making the music that you want to make and that you enjoy making, you'll be fulfilled regardless of what else happens. And in the end, that's literally all that matters.
Was there ever music playing in the kitchen growing up? I didn't spend a lot of time in the kitchen growing up. I was a pretty active kid and only settled down when it was actually time to eat. But my mom is super musical so I was always around music in some form all my life, including my mom playing piano while she was pregnant with me. I couldn't get away from it if I tried.
What is an example of a menu you would prepare if I came over? Oh, man! I hope you life tofu! I'm not the best cook, so the vast majority of what I make comes pre-packaged in some form or another, but if I'm making something from "scratch" (aka a recipe from the internet) it's likely to be some form of an asian-spiced fried tofu with some stir fried vegetables. Or some other form of tofu-based dish, haha. Though I did make a mean pan-fried vegan gnocchi once!
If I was a bartender, what would you order? If I were going to order something classic or off a menu, I'll always start with an old fashioned. It's hard to screw up and you can get a decent assessment of a bartender's skill by the old fashioned they make. But if I'm able to let you have free rein, I'll just order "whatever you want to make, as long as it's spicy" and enjoy whatever I wind up with. And if there's a muddled jalapeño in there, you're getting a fat tip.
Finally, what should every kitchen be stocked with? Hot sauces. Of any and all varieties. When I stopped eating meat years ago, I doubled down on the spices to keep as much flavor as possible in everything that I could. I've been addicted to literally everything that Bravado Spice Co. puts out lately, so I'll put their sauces on everything I can get away with these days.