Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers, one of the most amusing bands in the Pacific Northwest, is touring Western Washington this month, with stops in Port Townsend, Gig Harbor and Seattle.
Two years ago, when writing about how fishermen can save rockfish from barotrauma, I featured a video by Ray and the band in Water Ways (June 22, 2015). This video includes a rockfish puppet and an original rap song by Ray Troll and Russell Wodehouse telling all about the problem.
Besides music, Ray is well known for his “fin art,” which is mostly about fish of all kinds, especially salmon. Ray prides himself on the realistic images of fish, produced with scientific precision, which he combines with humor to create some edgy posters.
Ray is based in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he owns and operates the Soho Coho Art Gallery, filled with all kinds of amusing artwork, as shown in the second video on this page. If you can’t make it to the gallery, you could spend several amusing hours looking at his online gallery of art and events, including all kinds of visual puns. The entire website is a kick. Check out a sampling of his style in the third video on this page.
The tour, called the “Great Northwest Whorl,” begins Saturday at the Port Townsend Shipwrights Coop, followed by a Tuesday performance at Gig Harbor BoatShop in Gig Harbor. The band will perform at Seattle Aquarium on Thursday before moving down to Astoria, Ore., for a Saturday show at the Columbia Theater as part of the FisherPoets Gathering. For details and ticket information, click on the link to the venue. Tickets are limited in some locations.
For the Seattle event, Ray is quoted in a news release:
“We’ll be playing in front of the big Window on Washington Waters exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium, one of my favorite places on the planet. This promises to be a truly magical evening, not only because we’ll have salmon and rockfish looking over our shoulders but also because my son’s band ‘The Amish Robots’ will be opening for us! And it’s right in the middle of Octopus Week!”
Ray Troll met Russell Wodehouse in 1985 in Alaska, where Ray moved after playing in a band during graduate school at Washington State University followed by a few gigs with a different band in Seattle. In Ketchikan, Russ was performing with The Squawking Fish, a band with Shauna Lee and Brandon Loomis when they invited Ray to join. After adding Craig Koch and Carolyn Minor, the group performed for a few years before disbanding. Ray continued to write with Russ and did a few gigs as The Ratfish Brothers until Ray was inspired to bring together some of his old musical partners to form The Ratfish Wranglers.
Through the years, Ray has blended science and art to produce a series of traveling exhibits, including “Dancing to the Fossil Record,” which opened at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 1995. In addition to Ray’s drawings, the project included giant fossils, fish tanks, an original soundtrack, a dance floor and an interactive computer display. In 2009, he teamed up with Russell Wodehouse again to produce music for a traveling exhibit for the University of Washington’s Burke Museum. The paleo-themed exhibit and later CD were called “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway.”
In 2007, Ray was awarded a gold medal from the Academy of Natural Sciences for distinction in the natural history arts. In 2011, Ray and Kirk Johnson were jointly awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to develop a book project, “The Eternal Coastline: the Best of the Fossil West from Baja to Barrow.”
Ray has appeared on the Discovery Channel and has lectured at Cornell, Harvard, and Yale universities. His work has been on display in the Smithsonian, and a species of ratfish, Hydrolagus trolli, was named after him. To read more about Ray’s eclectic life, along with those of his fellow band members, check out the bios on the Ratfish Wranglers and Trollart websites.