The Four Questions: DJ Lil Ray
How did the 1994 Ft. Lauderdale bat mitzvah scene influence you as a DJ?
I grew up in a suburban Jewish enclave 30 minutes from Ft. Lauderdale Beach around its Spring Break heyday. Thanks to radio stations like Power 96, freestyle and booty bass were a normal part of the pop music soundscape. And rollerskating was THE thing to do. So all of that youth culture music worked its way into the bat and bar mitzvah scene, and as a result, I belonged to a tribe of adolescents whose weekends were taken up with formal dance parties where it was normal to hear the 69 Boyz and Debbie Deb alongside the Hora and the Macarena. And this went on for about 2 solid years between all of the kids around my age who went to one of the two synagogues in the area. I guess this was the one saving grace, right? The suburbs are pretty depressing and devoid of culture, except for this weird thing that emerged from what's essentially an ancient rite of passage. Given all of that, to me, it makes perfect sense that I would grow up to be a dance party DJ.
You DJed Veggie Conquest last weekend and Vegan Drinks on Thursday. Are you already becoming the dominant DJ in the NYC vegan event scene?
I only moved to Brooklyn recently from Atlanta, where I had a resident Saturday night gig for the last year, so instead of starting from scratch here, I've been lucky to join a certain vegan community that makes a point of supporting its members. My roommate Jessica Mahady, who's an old friend from ATL, is responsible for Veggie Conquest, and we've been talking about having me come up to DJ it for months, even before I decided to move. So I thought, if I need to have a following to get booked anywhere, and here's this community I would join anyway that's presenting all sorts of DJing opportunities, I might as well work that. Everyone benefits, and I'm grateful to have met such friendly and supportive people. And now I really do have an NYC following (ahem, booking agents/bar managers).
Speaking of having a following, I would be remiss if I didn't add that I'm also a part of a crew called Astoria DJ Group, and whenever one of us plays somewhere solo, the rest of us show up.
I see you'll be at Shalom Queen, billed as the "most fabulous Chanukah party ever," next month. What kind of songs will you be playing?
Well, I billed it that way, but I think the promoters would agree. Hey Queen parties are all about camp and glam, so I'm going to pull out bangers, sing-a-longs, and club hits, mostly from the 80s and 90s. Lots of female vocals, nothing down tempo. If people Jazzercise or do the Running Man to it, I've done my job. Oh and Madonna. I will play lots of Madonna.
Suppose you were volunteering at a soup kitchen and you were monitoring the line where people enter the building. What would be the perfect soundtrack to play?
I was managing the line at a soup kitchen recently, and I suggested that funk is the universal genre and that's what we should listen to if we had the means to listen to anything. I was informed that Johnny Cash would be much more relevant and enjoyable. Loretta Lynn, too.