VHF: When and why did you go vegan?
Ray: I’m coming up to a decade now, wooohooo!!! Before I went vegan in 2006, I was vegetarian for six years.
Back in 2000, when I was a music student in Los Angeles, I sat down one evening to eat my meat dinner. I turned the telly on, flicked through some channels, and landed on an interesting interview. If I remember correctly, it was with Eric Schlosser. During the interview, they showed footage from inside a slaughterhouse—and that was it for me. I got up, dumped my dinner in the bin, and threw out all the meat in the fridge.
I haven’t eaten any meat or fish since that night. It was totally unexpected. I hadn’t ever thought about being a vegetarian before that. When you see the suffering inside a slaughter-house, your life is divided into before and after that event. How you choose to move forward says everything about you. Then, exactly the same thing happened six years later, when I watched a PETA video of a mummy and baby cow being separated so the farmer could steal her milk. It completely and utterly broke my heart. Their cries will haunt me forever. In fact, our last single “A Hymn” is a lament for all the mothers in the dairy industry.
When you witness this degree of unimaginable pain, you’re faced with a choice, whether you were prepared for it or not. How you choose to live after seeing devastating cruelty, directly reflects your selflessness, or selfishness. I wasn’t planning on going vegan, but the facts were suddenly in front of me, and it was a no-brainer. I didn’t have to think twice about it. Easy-peasy, done deal, vegan for life!
Kate: I went vegetarian nine years ago after reading Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé and Diet for a New America by John Robbins. These books opened my eyes to the pain and suffering experienced by animals who become food. For the last seven years I have eaten a mostly vegan diet, until a year ago when Ray and I had a heart-to-heart about the horrors mamma cows and their babies face in the dairy industry.
For the past year, I have read books and watched documentaries exploring the relentless abuse and misuse of sentient beings for our own pleasure. It breaks my heart. Also, as a practitioner of yoga, I do my best to follow the ethical tenets of the tradition. One of those principles is that of ahimsa, or nonviolence. I believe ahimsa is not fully realized until one commits to a vegan lifestyle. Being vegan is an acknowledgement of our connection to all living things and a conscious choice to act compassionately towards sentient beings.
VHF: Tell us about your experience with the Vegan Global Run?
Ray: Firstly, thank you from the bottom of my vegan heart, Brenda (VHF’s Editor in Chief), for being such a brave trailblazer and creating the Vegan Global Run. What a genius idea! The way you’ve united vegans from all over the planet is truly inspirational.
When I ran both of the Vegan Global Runs last year, I was actually living on a tiny island with no vegan community, so it meant the world to me to connect with our global family of vegan runners.
I recently finished a one-year 5K-A-Day run streak, and both of the 2015 Vegan Global Runs were part of my running streak. Quick side note, I grew up running 100m sprints, so 5000m is a long-ass way for me! I live for running fast. I’m all about speed. I get bored if I don’t run full-throttle, which is why I look forward to my weekly hill sprint session. Yeah I know, I’m a freak, right? What sane runner enjoys hill sprints? Anyhoo, enough about my mental state, ha ha! So, the first Vegan Global Run was deeply meaningful for me, as not only did I win the 5K race, but it was my first ever sub-20. Running a sub-20 has been a dream of mine for years, and it finally came true on the 4th of April 2015. I was ultra-mega pumped after that, and it motivated me to go for a sub-19, which I achieved a few months later in June, with a time of 18:41. Yay!
My ultimate dream is to eventually run a sub-15, which I’m planning to do when I’m 40. I’ve got four years to shave off 4 minutes. The second Vegan Global Run in October was amazingly amazing, as it was Day 363, the third-to-last run of my one-year streak. I was desperately trying to run another sub-19, but I was running on a bruised foot that hurt like hell.
I ran my 5K in 19:23 and got second place, which I’m super happy with, considering my injury. I run exclusively in Five Fingers, or bare-foot, which has kept me injury-free for years. Ironically though, running on that little island where there weren’t sidewalks or streetlights, resulted in me landing on a sharp rock one day, which badly bruised my foot.
Doing a run streak doesn’t allow your body to recover from injuries, so when I reached Day 365, I stopped to give my foot time to heal. It’s great now, and I’m back up to speed, looking to nail a sub-18 this year. VEGAN POWER!!!
VHF: Tell us about how you and Kate found each other and a brief overview of your love story leading up to now.
Kate: In 2014, I was searching for a music teacher as I wanted to advance my career as a musician. I found Ray’s ad for music lessons on a local site and sent him an email. From the first lesson I knew I had found a life-long friend. We had so much in common, and I appreciated his passionate approach to music, veganism and life. My music lessons were the highlight of my week. I always left feeling inspired about music, theory, and life in general. He saw my potential, and every week would push me to believe in myself and my dream of being a musician. Before too long he convinced me to teach music, and within six months I had quit my job and was a full-time music teacher and musician! It was around this same time that we realized our friendship was destined for more than we ever dreamed possible. We fell in love. The kind where it’s hard to breathe and your heart pounds, and your spirit feels at home. We moved in together and I surprised myself by saying yes to a question I thought I would never say yes to! We are getting married in September, and are so excited to spend the rest of our lives together making the world a better place through music!
VHF: Tell us about your music
Ray: Kate has been playing the piano and singing her whole life, which is why she’s so damn good! It’s the greatest privilege to be in a band with my favourite singer. My musical journey started 30 years ago in Cape Town, when I first started playing the piano at the age of seven, and guitar at eleven. I spent my whole childhood studying classical music while playing in rock bands. This is how I understood from a young age that music is a universal language, and genres are merely dialects. That’s why it made perfect sense to apply the music theory I was learning from JS Bach, to the songs I was writing for my band.
Thanks to my formal classical music education from the Royal School of Music, I was able to start teaching music when I was 16. Then the following year in 1996, my band, Royd, got a number-one single on the national radio station in South Africa, which catapulted us into the limelight. “Interesting” adventure for a 17-year-old, ha ha, but that’s another story!
I’ve come a long way since those dark rock-star days, and I’m proud to say that in a few months I’ll be celebrating my 10-year Straight Edge anniversary. Back to the ‘90s now though. After reaching the number-one spot again in 1998, I was inspired to take things to the next level. So, in 1999 I relocated to Los Angeles to study music full-time at the Musician’s Institute.
A couple years later, armed with both classical and contemporary music qualifications, I immigrated to England. I spent a decade lecturing on music at the UK’s largest college, which is in London. I am forever grateful for all I learned there. It was an invaluable experience, and really transformed me into the musician and teacher that I am today.
Damn this is a long story, ha ha, okay I’ll fast-forward a bit. It’s now 2011, and I’m climbing on a plane to relocate to beautiful British Columbia, Canada, where I started doing my Revolution Harmony all-star charity singles in Vancouver, which I’m still doing. They feature multi-platinum Grammy-winning artists like Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine, Serj Tankian from System Of A Down, and many more.
In 2014 I met Kate, and that’s when my life changed. I finally met my match, literally. We opened the Revolution Harmony School of Music in early 2015, and started teaching together. I also started writing two music theory books, which share my unique methods of understanding the language of music, in a super-simple and fun way.
Now in 2016, we’ve moved into doing artist development as well. We’ve signed a couple of inspiring sisters, Olivia W. Rose who is 12 years old, and Sarah Serene who is 14 years old. We’ll be releasing their debut singles in the spring. You gotta hear ‘em, wow! And by the way, they’re both lifelong vegetarians, and soon-to-be vegans, if our secret plan goes well!
Also, Kate and I are making music together as the Revolution Harmony duo, at our studio in Victoria BC. We’re also making loads of solo music. Between the two of us, we’re releasing a single every month. Sign up for our email list at RevolutionHarmony.org to receive free MP3 downloads of all our music, yep, ALL our music. We ain’t in this for money, we make music for music’s sake, and we’re happy and honoured to share it with anybody willing to lend us their ear. We are overflowing with gratitude for this meaningful life of ours that has us spending our days making music together, and empowering others to make music.
VHF: What other athletic things do you and Kate enjoy?
Ray: Kate is a yogi, and did her teacher training at Yandara Yoga in Baja, Mexico. She also runs with me sometimes—when it’s not raining.
As for me. I grew up in dojos and gyms. I started Goju-Kai Karate when I was six, and by the time I was 12, I was teaching in the dojo where my father was the sensei. Then when I was about 13, I started weight-lifting; and by the time I was 17, I was training with a former world champion powerlifter. I almost went into competitive powerlifting when I was 18, as my deadlift was 200 kg (440 lbs), my squat was 180 kg (396 lbs), and my bench was 120 kg (264 lbs). However, my music commitments always held me back from pursuing athletics on a higher level, and that’s okay, as first and foremost I am a musician.
There’ve actually been a few sports careers that I could possibly have ended up in, and skateboarding is another one. I grew up on a skateboard, and even had a half-pipe in my backyard. I started winning competitions when I was 12, which led to me almost going semi-pro a few years later. But sadly, I also had to give up skateboarding for my music career. It was way too risky, as one fall could have resulted in a broken wrist and my income disappearing. I’m still a skateboarder in my mind though, and everytime I see a sweet handrail or half-pipe, I pay my respects.
While I grew up running and winning 100m sprints in school, I only picked up running again in my mid-20s, when I was living in London. I didn’t have time to get to a gym, so running seemed like a good solution. I was so busy with my music and my lecturing post, that the only time I had to run was 5am. Madness! I’m so frickin’ happy that I don’t have to do that any more, as it’s safe to say that I’m not a morning person. Come on, I’m a musician. We don’t do mornings!
Running was love at first sweat, and although I’ve had on and off years, running is in my blood, and I can’t function properly without it. Also, the older I get, the more serious running becomes to me.
In 2015, at the age of 36, I finally took the plunge and began running competitively. Other than the medals from the Vegan Global Runs, I also placed 3rd in the MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) 5k race. Racing is definitely addictive, so I’ll be back for more this season, for sure. I want that sub-18 in a 5k!
Right: To celebrate completing a 5k everyday for the entire year of 2015, Ray got a celebratory tattoo. We love the green “v” on the runner’s leg to symbolize this vegan runner’s commitment!
VHF: Do you have some favorite healthy vegan recipes?
Kate: A daily staple in our house is a fruit smoothie with vegan protein powder, whipped up by Ray. Having had lots of experience cooking in vegetarian and vegan kitchens in my pre-musician life, I am the cook of our household.
Since we are very busy creating, teaching and producing, I appreciate meals that are nutritious and quick.
One of my favourites is super simple and delicious; in fact we had it tonight! I make quinoa or brown rice and steam up a pot of veggies consisting of whatever happens to be in the fridge, though it’s usually root veggies, broccoli and kale. Once tender, the veggies are removed from the pot and I use the remaining steaming water to prepare a sauce with miso, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, Braggs or tamari, curry powder and pepper. The grain and veggies are dished out and then about a 1/4 cup of sauce is poured on, and to top it all off I add black sesame seeds for decoration and texture.
Once a week we treat ourselves to a meal out on the town. We head to one of our favourite vegan restaurants in Victoria. Green Cuisine is a local vegan restaurant that’s been around for 25 years, has a delicious bufett of soups, salads, entrées, and the best desserts ever! Lotus Pond is another favourite. They’re a local Chinese vegan restaurant. Our favourite dishes are the spring rolls, won-ton soup, and their famous sweet and sour soya balls. Yum! Now I’m hungry.