premiere: lord raja's detroit summertime dance banger, 'o.k.'
From the prodigious electronic artist's upcoming album 'Amadeus.'
Lord RAJA's upcoming EP Amadeus is an ode to RAJA's childhood identity and experimental process. The EP is an unearthing of old-school creative techniques and the eight tracks showcase an impressive fusion of hip-hop and techno rhythms. The Brooklyn-based producer and DJ (real name: Chester Raj Anand) made his first track at the age of six while using software like Fruity Loops and ACID to compose beats. Previous releases include ambient-infused A Constant Moth (2014) and PARA (2015). With influences ranging from P. Diddy and Busta Rhymes to Aphex Twin, RAJA's latest EP highlights a danceable universe of sound.
"Sometimes more experienced people in the field can sound jaded. They make it seem like the feeling goes away when things aren't as sweet. Maybe because people start thinking more about how they're going to make money," RAJA explains of the excitement he has sustained towards making music. Amadeus is a reflection of RAJA returning to the purity of creation, leading us into a rich soundscape of drum machines and synthesizers. Tracks like "O.K." are playful and light with injections of sound effects and enough electro bounce to seduce anyone onto the dance floor. We recently met up in Brooklyn to talk about producing his first track as a child, recording the EP, and his hip-hop influences.
You produced your first track when you were six years old. Can you take me back to that time?
It was crazy. My brother and I were really big on experimentation and technology. Every single microburst of technology was so exciting at that time, like as soon as we got a computer - figuring out dial-up and shit like that - and there was something that the computer came with. It was Windows's sound recorder and the computer would come with a little microphone and we would mess around - loop things, pitch things down and then we started getting different software like ACID and Fruity Loops. I just kept making beats.
What were you listening to back then that influenced your style?
Before going to kindergarten or elementary school we would watch music videos in the morning, or when my parents would drive us to see our cousins in New Jersey we would end up listening to a lot of P. Diddy on the radio or Busta Rhymes. All of that stuff is really exciting and also my brother would burn CDs of Aphex Twin and stuff. He really informed my taste and guided me how to make stuff. We would have competitions, like we would both make beats and make CDs and stuff like that.
With Amadeus you're returning to experimentation and openness. What made you go back to that space?
I think I needed to take a step back and remind myself why I do what I do, and also looking deeper into what innovation is, what does it mean to me. I realize it's more exciting, more innovative or I can be more inventive if I look to my past and look at the procedures of my past. My childhood was such an imaginative and exciting time, so I wanted to make something that had more of a personal process rather than my last albums. This time I was like: "Fuck all that. I'm just gonna think about my past, feel myself without being influenced by what's hot right now, what people want to hear."
You also mentioned that you used "micro-choices"?
I recorded a lot of things in a live way. It's like nuances, nothing too drastic, like maybe only I would notice. Maybe just slightly mute the kick drum at a random time and bring it back in. I can capture that live element and to me that's a form of innovation. It's kind of an inventive impulse.
When did you start recording this album?
It was last summer and I was really happy with it. I made it relatively quickly. One of the ambient songs is maybe a year older than that, but it was just refining things, like trimming. Those are more of "micro-choices" like making the song maybe 30 seconds shorter, knowing where to cut it, what sound effects to put in. It doesn't seem like a big deal but I feel like if I didn't almost take a year to make sure that's how I wanted it to sound, I would go crazy.
"O.K." reminds me of being at a summer rooftop party in Detroit. What can you tell me about this track?
I wanted it to sound swift, like playful with sound effects. I wanted to create a weird environment for someone to dance but go like, "Okay there's tennis sound effects and thunder." I wanted playful elements to get people feeling light. And a title like "O.K.", it's experiencing your day like, "Alright. Let's go." Something like that. To me the melodic element reminds me of a rubber band or something kind of bouncy.
You produced tracks at six and Mozart was composing at five, so where did the EP title Amadeus stem from?
I just think it's kind of funny. It's playful but it's also a stamp of confident energy, of knowing who you are but it's kind of like a mask, like having so much faith. For me this is faith in the way I was brought up maybe musically, or my childhood with my brother, trying to restore that and reposition myself in a world where things are at musically, electronically.
'Amadeus' is out May 19th via Ghostly International.
Text J.L. Sirisuk
Photography Evan Daves courtesy the artist