A Brief History...  

Ray Wilson was born in Dumfries, Scotland, on September 9, 1968. In his early teens, Wilson quickly took to music, inspired by his older brother, Steve, a guitarist who was in a couple of amateur bands at the time. By the age of 14, Ray Wilson was in rock groups with his brother Steve and performed live for the first time on stage in front of several hundred children at a school related function under the band name Pink Gin. The adrenaline felt by Wilson from this experience left him with little doubt that he had found his calling as a musician. Wilson would be in other bands during his teens, including The End, which performed mostly David Bowie cover tunes, one of Ray’s early influences.

  By this point, Wilson was suffering from depression. He felt hurt, frustrated and angry with the Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford’s decisions. Especially, due to personal commitments, both financial and otherwise, that he had made to accommodate the band’s initials plans for a second album which had now suffered as a result. The late ‘90s and early ‘00s were a dark period for the singer and songwriter who had isolated himself while he attempted to deal with his personal situation. Despite his depression, Ray did manage to appear on The Scorpions’ Moment of Glory album, where he sang the band’s hit single “Big City Nights” accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic. The performance was later included on the band’s DVD of the same name.
In 1988, Ray Wilson met pianist Paul Holmes at a bar in Edinburgh where his then girlfriend performed.  The two musicians formed a songwriting partnership after an impromptu live performance of The Eagles “Desperado.”  Within two years, the duo formed the band Guaranteed Pure, which also featured his brother Steve on guitar and, eventually, bassist John Haimes. Guaranteed Pure recorded two albums, including Swing Your Bag, which was recorded at ex-Marillion vocalist Fish’s recording studio, The Funny Farm.  The title track from Swing Your Bag was featured on Fish’s Outpatients ’93, a CD compilation of various artists on Fish’s now extinct Dick Brothers record label.  Fish was instantly drawn to the band, and felt the title track from the album was reminiscent of ex-Van Halen singer David Lee Roth’s remake of “Just a Gigolo,” which had been popular in years past. Despite Fish’s personal endorsement, the band failed to gain any commercial recognition or major record label interest, and the Guaranteed Pure disbanded. Paul Homes, who had made a better living working in the piano bar where he and Wilson first met, decided to return to the circuit.  
We did not hear much from Ray Wilson for the better part of a year, until he decided to do some acoustic shows with his brother Steve and vocalist Amanda Lyon at Maddogs in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival in August 2001. The 13 shows booked consisted of cover tunes and highlights of material Ray recorded with bands like Guaranteed Pure, Stiltskin, and Genesis. To Wilson’s amazement, the club dates sold out quickly, and he began building a grass roots following based upon the popularity of these shows. Not as a former member of Stiltskin or Genesis, but in his own right as a solo act. Following his success at the Fringe Festival, in September 2001, Ray announced additional tour dates, building upon the momentum established a month earlier. One of those gigs, at the Kashmir Club in London, was webcast across the world on the Internet. It was during these early solo shows that Ray’s rapport with audiences first started getting noticed as was his gift for storytelling in between songs.

Following the shows, Ray Wilson independently released Unplugged, a single disc live album recorded during this series of sold out performances in August. The album was later re-titled Live & Acoustic when the project was picked up by Inside & Out Records in July 2002 upon the insistence of MTV who had apparently copyrighted the “Unplugged” moniker for acoustic albums.   

Ray Wilson, who was financially strained by this point, had been asked to join a band called Stiltskin led by guitarist and songwriter Peter Lawlor in January 1994 with a starting paycheck of 150 UK pounds per week. Stiltskin also included Ross McFarlane on drums and James Finnigan, formerly from the band Hue and Cry, on bass, piano and organ.   The group entered almost immediately into Water Music Studios in London to record The Mind’s Eye, which was released in October 1994. The debut single from The Mind’s Eye, “Inside,” was marketed as part of a major Levi’s Jeans campaign in Europe, which helped rocket the song to #1 in Europe and #37 on the Mainstream Rock Chart on Billboard in the United States (although it did not fare as well on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart). Following a highly successful European club tour, a few festival shows and two additional singles: ”Footsteps” which had moderate charting success, and “Rest in Peace,” which failed to dent the charts,  Stiltskin returned to work on a follow up album to The Mind’s Eye, which by this point had gone Gold in the UK and reaching #10 on the UK album chart. Unfortunately, tensions between the band members ultimately resulted in the disruption of the writing sessions for the much anticipated second album causing the band to disintegrate by early 1996. Once again, Ray Wilson found himself without a band.
  The response to the live album, while not commercially overwhelming, was very encouraging and led Ray to return to the studio for his first solo album.  It also lead to a collaboration with the German band Turntable Rocker, who co-wrote “Love Supreme” on their 2002 album, Smile, with Ray who also contributed guest vocals. Later in 2002, Ray re-recorded his Cut vocals for “Another Day” for popular Trance DJ Armin Van Buuren. The newly remixed version, called “Yet Another Day,” rocketed up the Dutch dance charts to #1 and had minor success in 20 other countries, including the United States.  The trance version of Wilson’s song would later surface on Van Buuren’s 2003 album, 76. While radically different than anything Wilson had done before, the success of the dance-pop single would eventually lead to an additional collaboration between Wilson and Van Buuren.

In April 2003, Ray Wilson released his first solo studio album, the aptly titled Change, and signed on to tour as an opening act for the popular Canadian ‘80s rock band Saga and select dates with Joe Jackson.  Change was a radically different sounding album than what fans might have expected based upon the hard rock of Stiltskin and his work with Genesis. Change was a strongly melodic, folk-rock driven record with an intense emotional edge clearly seething with heartfelt lyrics by Wilson. The album was well received critically, and Wilson toured rigorously through Europe in support of the project.  

Shortly after Stiltskin disbanded, Ray Wilson was discreetly asked to audition for Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford in Surrey, England to replace the lead vocalist role in Genesis left vacant by Phil Collins who had privately left the band three years earlier after a charity performance in 1993.  Wilson auditioned at Genesis’ private studio, The Farm, where he was asked to sing old Genesis classics like “Land of Confusion” and “No Son of Mine.” Ray’s confidence in the studio and vocal abilities quickly earned the interest of Banks and Rutherford and put him at the top of a short list of candidates for the lead singer spot.  A month later, after a second audition, Wilson learned that he got the job and returned to The Farm to complete the recording of the band’s Calling All Stations album, which was released in September 1997. As part of his deal with the band, Wilson was awarded a contract for two albums with Genesis. When he arrived at the band’s studio, Wilson did contribute to the writing of songs like “Not About Us” and “There Must Be Some Other Way,” but largely the album had already been written by Banks and Rutherford who had been working on the project for some time while searching for a vocalist. The new trio was joined in the studio by two drummers, Nick D’Virgilio and Nir Z, the latter of which was also chosen by the band to tour with Genesis on their 1998 tour in support of the album along with touring guitarist Anthony Drennan.
In October 2004, Ray Wilson released his sophomore studio solo album, The Next Best Thing. Again, the aptly titled project was another strong solo release with more sophisticated production values and even more diversity than his previous album, Change. Among its 12-core tracks, included a modernized remake of his #1 hit “Inside” made famous by his former band Stiltskin. Once again, Ray toured heavily in support of the album in Europe.  Ray also found time to co-write and sing on the song “Roses” with the German progressive rock band RPWL which would later appear on their World Through My Eyes album in January 2005.

In May 2005, Ray released the double live album Ray Wilson Live, a 32-track concert recording featuring 11 Genesis classics, plus favorites from his own solo catalog, Stiltskin, and more.  Amidst his other projects and his active European touring schedule, Wilson reunited with Armin Van Buuren to re-record a trance remix version of Cut’s “Gypsy” in August 2005 for Van Buuren’s Shivers album. Ray also performed live with RPWL, which later became part of their live album, Start the Fire: Live, released in October 2005.
The Genesis tour was planned for both North America and Europe in large venues as they had played in past tours. Unfortunately, the failed commercial success of Calling All Stations and poor ticket sales resulted in a rethinking of the tour. North American dates were scaled back to theater shows, but ultimately even theater shows in North America were cancelled due to lack of interest. The European leg of the tour did carry on as planned, but ticket sales in many cases did not meet Banks and Rutherford’s expectations.

Shortly after the conclusion
of the tour, Michael Rutherford informed Tony Banks that the lack of commercial success of Calling All Stations, which had sold only 109,583 copies in the United States, had caused him to rethink carrying on with Genesis, which ultimately led to Banks and Rutherford having confidential discussions of ending the band with the new line-up.
  In 2006, Ray Wilson and Stiltskin reformed with a new band line-up after a deal to use the name had been struck between Ray Wilson and original, now ex- Stlitskin member, Peter Lawlor. The new Siltskin line-up included: Wilson, Ali Ferguson, Lawrie MacMillan and Ashley MacMillan along with Ray's fellow writer/guitarist Uwe Metzler. The group released Stiltskin’s second album, She, in October 2006. The band quickly embarked on a 2006/07 European tour to promote the new album, and received rave reviews from magazines such as Musix, Melody and Rythmus and CRS.  The Stiltskin tour was commemorated with the release of Stiltskin Live in April 2007. Stiltkin’s 16-track live album was recorded on October 25, 2006 at Bonn Harmonie in Germany in front of a sold out crowd and marked the group’s first official live recording.

The year 2007 also saw Ray’s participation in the first ever official Genesis biography, Chapter & Verse, which was released in September of that year and reissue of Genesis’ Calling All Stations, which was remixed, remastered, and repackaged with bonus audio and video content as part of the 1983-1998 Genesis box set released in October in Europe and November in the United States. In addition to the added inclusion of former non-album tracks, the new package, released just over a decade after the original Calling All Stations album, included new interviews with Ray, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford on the project.
Wilson was initially asked about participating in the band’s remake of “Carpet Crawlers” for the Turn It on Again: The Hits compilation album, which was to be released the following year in 1999. The initial concept was that Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, and Ray Wilson would each sing a verse of the song; however, in the end, the band chose not to include Wilson and to stick with the popular early to mid-70s line-up of Genesis that originally recorded the song in 1974.

Wilson, who did not know of Banks and Rutheford’s decision to disband the new Genesis line-up, shrugged off his lack of inclusion on “Carpet Crawlers ‘99” with Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins and went off to work on another project while he awaited a call to return to record the next Genesis album.
In November 2008, Ray Wilson will release Propaganda Man, a new studio album, followed by a European tour. While some may say his two years in Genesis are only a footnote in Genesis' 40+ year history, Ray continues to write, record and tour, proving repeatedly that his career is just beginning and his star is still very much on the rise. Wilson has turned his adversity and past successes into a positive vehicle for his craft and, in many aspects, his future success is among the most promising in the world of Genesis...
In 1999, Wilson along with Genesis drummer Nir Z and former band mates Steve Wilson and John Haimes formed the band Cut and released an album in Germany called Millionairhead. The recording contract for Cut with Virgin Records had actually been obtained by Wilson prior to joining Genesis, but the project had been shelved due to his commitments to Banks and Rutherford (which Virgin had no issue with since Genesis was on Virgin Records as well). Despite a couple of singles, some critical success, and a string of well-attended club dates, Cut ultimately disbanded by 2000 due to lack of commercial success and Virgin’s decision not to renew Cut’s record deal. Band members parted ways with Nir returning to work as a session drummer and others returning to other projects and commitments. It was at this time that Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, via their management, contacted Ray and informed him of their decision not to carry on with another Genesis album and his contract was paid out by the band.                                                              Dave Negrin,
                                                           December 2007


The Official Ray Wilson site

The Official Stiltskin Site

The 2001 World of Genesis Interview With Ray Wilson

The 2005 World of Genesis Interview With Ray Wilson

World of Genesis.com - Ray Wilson/Stiltskin Album Reviews

Ray Wilson & Stiltskin CDs available On-Line For Purchase

Special thanks to Ray and Tyla Willson. This Ray Wilson biography is © 2007-08 by David Negrin and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.


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