Ray Hayden / Opaz (Opaz Productions)

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Ray Hayden moved to England at age 4 where he was raised in East London's multiracial borough of Hackney... where he still lives. Hayden began his successful jazz/funk DJ life playing with sound systems when he was a teenager, later establishing legendary status working at Dalston's Cubies Nightclub.

 

But every DJ or musician tends to have a 'day job' lurking somewhere in their history. Hayden's first 'day job' landed him in a position as an insurance broker at Lloyd's of London where he learned to understand the legal lingo of contracts. Which in turn meant Hayden could help friends make sense of the deals they were being offered by record labels or managers.

 

As well as being a celebrated DJ & music producer, Hayden has a reputation for not mincing his words. He isn't happy about the state of affairs for many independent UK Black Music Artists. Critical about awards ceremonies, which he describes as 'a good night out but not doing enough for Black Music Culture in the UK', Hayden feels such events highlight hypocrisy in the UK music industry. Grateful for his own hard earned success Hayden talks about the difficulties faced by many artists.

 

He states, "I'm lucky & I'm very outspoken. I tell people the truth. I was fortunate enough to get through. But people won't say anything because they're waiting for a DJ on Choice FM to play their record.

"No stranger to controversy when it comes to challenging the establishment, Hayden won an out of court settlement as co-author of the original tune behind Will Smith's hit 'Boom Boom (Shake, Shake the Room)'. This extremely talented producer, songwriter & vocalist is an integral part of the UK R&B scene about which he speaks so passionately.

 

Hayden says, "Black Music, in every country, urban music, is always the music that's made by people who are struggling. It's more than music to them. It's a way of life. The music that spawned the likes of Soul II Soul has been cut right back. You're not going to get any record company to give you a budget. Because they think it isn't going to make any money. They sure aren't going to make any money off a black act when the whole black community isn't playing the music (supporting their own music)".

 

A long time associate of Artists like Soul II Soul & Caron Wheeler, supporting the music and the artists is extremely important to Hayden. So, he and his partners began Opaz Studios in 1996. Located on Mare Street between the Hackney Empire performance centre & Tops Caribbean Foods, the formerly unused basement that houses Opaz Studios has been transformed into a modern production centre.

 

A regular lecturer for the Musicians Union & contributor to leading UK Black Music journal Echoes, last year Hayden set up a school to teach others interested in production.

He has also established his own label called Opaz Records. Featured artists on Opaz Records include Ray Hayden, Martine Girault, Natasha Campbell, & urban gospel vocalist Patrick Jean Paul Denis.

 

Hayden has in the past run annual competitions on Choice FM & Star Search on Internet broadcaster Soul 24-7, where the winning unsigned acts receive a week's free studio recording time at Opaz.