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Gemma Ray's Caldera Character Popped Up Like A Comic Book Hero

18 April 2017 | 3:57 pm | Martin Jones

"She represented something to me that was fun to play with - this kind of strong woman emerging out of an extinct volcano."

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Anyone who just spent the week immersed (literally) in the flood clean-ups around Murwillumbah in Northern NSW, an area renowned as a giant caldera, might be compelled to ask Gemma Ray about the character named Caldera that opens and closes her latest album, The Exodus Suite. Turns out Ray was not inspired by her last performance at nearby Mullumbimby Music Festival.

"I watch too many nature documentaries I think, but in a lot of my records there's various natural disasters," Ray explains of the mysterious Caldera figure. "I basically went from my previous records having songs that relate to volcanos, and Caldera just turned into this goddess character that I developed. At 9 o'clock in the morning this is probably going to make no sense, but in my head she popped up like a comic superhero in my record. That's why I've got a separate 7" in there with the two Calderas [songs] together. She represented something to me that was fun to play with - this kind of strong woman emerging out of an extinct volcano but full of flames and having a kind of boxing match with myself."

"I watch too many nature documentaries I think."

Anyone who's witnessed Ray in all her glory on stage, made up like a '50s sci-fi heroine, wielding a huge Hagstrom guitar with a whopping kitchen knife sticking out of its bridge, will recognise more than a little of the Caldera goddess. You'll see for yourself when Ray tours Australia later this month.

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Ray confirms that road testing songs played an important role in the development of The Exodus Suite. "Leading up [to] The Exodus Suite I was doing quite a bit of touring and a lot of that touring ended up being as a duo, myself and my drummer [Andy Zammit]. And he plays keyboards at the same time and triggers strange sounds and that. And some of the songs were really developed over a year between the two of us. And really the new album was really about the two of us."

Zammit and Ray will be joined by multi-instrumentalist Gris-de-Lin on the Australian tour to help fill out the widescreen arrangements on The Exodus Suite. Ray said she's in the middle of working out her Australian setlists as we speak, but she's hoping to try out some new material she's been working on recently.

"Yeah I've been working... well I don't work record by record, really I just write all the time but I've indulged myself and had a month off and have been working quite hard on new material, which has been really great. There's a couple that would be nice to play so I'll see how I go. Gris-de-Lin is coming over [to] stay with me for a couple of days in Berlin before we head off and we'll see what works and if we can do some new stuff that would be really cool."