Ray Okpara has played a key role in Germany’s flourishing house scene for well over a decade with releases on Cecille, Oslo, Get Physical and Area Remote cementing his place as an influential player in the local scene. After spending some enjoyable years in Berlin, he has returned to his hometown of Mannheim where he continues to make strides with his most recent release on Mobilee. His night with RAJO with Johnny D took off when Nick Curly, now boss of 8bit Records, joined the ranks back in 2001 teaming up to start a residency at The Loft in Mannheim. These figures have been ever present in the local scene and helped to cultivate a sizeable yet perfectly formed community which began to gain international attention. Ray then proceeded to start up his own Ama Recordings straight out of Mannheim. We caught up with the DJ and producer to get a taste of this Mannheim flavour, land of the infamous Time Warp.
Hey Ray! It has been two years since we last interviewed you. It is good to have you back on MEOKO again. How’re things at the moment?
Hey hey, wow great to be back on board! All is great as usual, I can’t complain. Busy working on music and still traveling the planet.
Tell us a track that illustrates the ‘Mannheim sound’. Can you describe what this is in a few sentences?
‘Mannheim sound’, I think it’s hard to describe because also label-wise, Mannheim has different genres, and honestly I don’t think that there is a ‘Mannheim sound’. If I had to pick a tune, I would say: Orbital Life by Johnny D. That’s when Mannheim was brought to people’s attention and will always be remembered.
Is it possible to say the city where you grew up has affected your music? If so, in what ways?
No not at all. Michael Jackson influenced me, as well as rap, drum n bass, house, techno, my friends, my family, my childhood, my life experiences. It’s all a part of me, myself and my music.
Can you explain what impact yourself and Nick Curly had on the Mannheim scene?
I was not only both of us, it was also Federico Molinari, Nekes, Johnny D, George P, Roberto Armormino, Jay Edit, A.M.M… a group of friends who had a mission. From never ending after parties, to residencies in our favourite clubs here. Individually, we had many of our own parties. We were the machine that kept our own groove and we were & still are strict when it comes to music. Now newcomers like from Valioso Records, or artists like Bunte Bummler are the new Mannheim. It’s all a part of everything.
What is your favourite record store in the city?
Unfortunately there are no more record stores in Mannheim 🙁 not where you can get the new shit. Rotation, Spacehall, Music Mitte which are ALL IN BERLIN!
Where is the best place for a cocktail?
For a bratwurst (or whatever is your favourite local dish)?
‘Mannemer Dreck’ (Mannheim Dirt) is a speciality made from marzipan, nuts & some other sweet stuff. A bratwurst you will definitely get on the Mannemer Mess (Mannheim Fair).
After living in Berlin for a number of years, how do the two cities compare? Is the scene in Mannheim as 24-hours as Berlin?
Yeah, I just can’t seem to decide where I want to live, but for now I will be staying in Mannheim. Two different worlds. Somehow you can’t compare at all. Just like you can’t compare New York City with Albuquerque. My heart still beats for Berlin and will always do!
Where’s the best place to spend a cold winter’s night?
At home on my couch with a funny cigarette. I´ve just been on some music in my studio, practised the guitar, now playing some videogames, later chillin´ with my lady…the perfect winter day at home 🙂
Does Time Warp live up to the hype? What recommendations would you give someone who was going to the festival for the first time?
I haven’t been in a long time. My recommendation would be to go at around 4/5am, stay until 2/3pm. Don’t miss the after party at Zimmer Club or find a crew which is aftering in the hotel. That’s my plan when I go 🙂
Why do you think Time Warp appeared in Mannheim? Was this due to the strength of the scene and the city’s infrastructure and facilities to host an event of this scale?
There are so many festivals it just happend to be here in Mannheim. Maybe one thing: that Mannheim was always in the centre of music. We had one of the first techno clubs in Germany called ‘Milk’. “Music City Mannheim” is a phrase they also say here a lot.
Apart from Time Warp, what is the city most famous for?
Our football club ‘Waldhof Mannheim’
What is your favourite nightclub there?
What is the thing you miss most about Mannheim?
I dont miss anythiiiiing! I miss my Berlin.
Do you find time to go back to Berlin regularly?
I never lose track of Berlin, I am there every 6-8 weeks.
Your label Ama Recordings is based in Mannheim. How’s that coming along and what makes Mannheim a good city to base it?
Simple answer: Because I live here! “My baby has to be with me”.
Finally, what have you got lined up for the winter season?
My new party series itsours.net. our music, our time, our life. Check it out.
Ray’s latest “Sugar Feel” EP is out now on Mobilee and can be bought here.
Catch Ray playing in London on NYE. Tickets here.
By Geoffrey Chang
Find us on Facebook
Find us on Twitter
Find us on Soundcloud