PAUL RODGERS MEETS STAX
photo credit: Jim McGuire
In conjunction with the release of the new album The Royal Sessions (to be released February 4th), 429 Records and Paul Rodgers supplied an exclusive EPK during which the artist talks about his new r&b album.
"It as taken me 46 years to get from Middlesbrough, England, to Memphis, Tennessee, to record the Stax songs that inspired me in my youth and really laid the foundation for my singing and songwriting career," explains Paul Rodgers. "American music schooled and influenced so many musicians on so many levels, performing delivery, phrasing and songwriting and I know enabled me to experience life through wiser eyes. It was an honor to be welcomed into the world of the music that the Reverend Charles Hodges Sr. and the band live and breathe."
A Conversation with Astro Raph
Mike Ragogna: Hey Astro Raph, rumor has it you have a new project coming out. What is it?
Astro Raph: I have a seven-track EP called Love Spells.
MR: What label will it be released on?
AR: Cold Busted.
MR: You've been with them for a while, right?
AR: Yeah, since 2008.
MR: So how was the creative process for this? How did you put this stuff together?
AR: This one was a series of seven tracks started in the springtime of 2013. Some of them I finished over the summer. Each song has a different concept about it. The whole album is a combination of things. It's not really a "comeback album" because I didn't go anywhere, but it kind of feels like that. I'm trying to outdo myself from last time.
MR: When was your last project released?
AR: I've had a few singles here and there but the last major project was called Master Bassers but that wasn't out on any label. It was out on SoundCloud and a couple of other places online. My last real album for Cold Busted was A Musician's Dream in 2012. That was the last serious one, so it has been a couple of years since I gave them a full album.
MR: Astro, take us on a tour of the record.
AR: Okay. "Ease On Me" was written when I was at rock bottom and the only way out was to embrace the darkness that consumed me. It's a hard song to listen to, but, hopefully, fans will enjoy it or get something out of it. "Love Zombies" has multiple messages to it--reincarnation is natural, love yourself and the people around you, don't believe propaganda, et cetera, et cetera. In the end, people will get from it what they will. Basically, it's about dancing, getting into the groove, enjoying the music.
MR: A metaphor for getting into and enjoying life?
AR: Yes, exactly.
MR: I interrupted the tour, let's keep going...
AR: Sure. "Touch Phone" is about falling in love with the people around you and getting more excited about your life and about them and about all of the good things you're doing together. You know, even more excited than about your new phone that takes voice commands and bakes cookies and stuff. "Vibration" is all about the music, it's all about vibration. "We Believe" is sort of a tongue-in-cheek classic acid jazz-fusion with a heavy-ass breakbeat dropped onto it from heaven or hell, I can't tell which. But it's from the heart, it's about loving life, the sunshine, the dance of life and my love for the style of music, of course. "Which Way" is about going through some sort of transformation from being a normal human to some sort of magical creatures. "Zen Hancock" is about meditation, peace with nature, reflection on life, and it's a tribute to Herbie Hancock. This one I actually wrote in the Summer early in the morning while the sun was rising out in the middle of nowhere in the forest with my laptop and my keyboard. It has a really nice vibe to it and it kind of brings me back there every time I listen to it.
MR: Is Herbie Hancock an influence?
AR: Oh, definitely. A huge influence.
MR: So is George Duke, right?
MR: Who are some of your other influences?
AR: George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Prince, Michael Jackson, too, oddly enough. There are also some great trip hop artists from the nineties like DJ Shadow. He still does stuff that's really amazing. DJ Krush...there's also Kool Herc, but that's a different style. I'm really influenced by a lot of different styles because I get into DJ-ing a lot of different styles of music, so I take a little bit from hip hop, a little bit from jazz and funk, a little bit from R&B, Soul and Blues... Of course, when I say "hip hop," I don't mean the rapping stuff on the radio. I mean the really funky underground hip hop with deeper, more meaningful lyrics.
MR: Do you trend that direction? You want deeper lyrics and meaning in the music you're making?
AR: Oh, definitely. Music can be all about fun and enjoyment and enjoying the aesthetics of it, but on the other hand, it's nice for it to give you the full experience of raising your mind higher. If you're going to take your mind anywhere in music, you might as well take it somewhere better instead of somewhere worse.
MR: Astro, what is the relationship between you and your fans? Do they participate in or add to your creativity and do you have the intention to include them when you're making music?
AR: Yeah, definitely. It's an interesting relationship but there's a lot to it. There's a huge feedback loop between me and any audience that I'm performing for. It has to be there. These days, it's always there. I've gotten to the point where I know how to trigger it one way or another, even if I'm really tired or I'm not getting paid for the gig or whatever; you've got to find ways to trigger it. In the past, there'd be times where it was either there or it wasn't there. That's live performance. As far as people I interact with on a daily basis or online and their reactions to my music, I get these really life-changing reactions from people that cause me to go into introspection. It's really cool. It's really deep. I appreciate it.
MR: Is that the secret behind a lot of successful DJs?
AR: It's one of the secrets. You have to keep it exciting. Taking chances is how you keep it exciting.
MR: And you find yourself constantly taking chances?
AR: Exactly. Not only do you have to intuit what to do next, but you also have to be brave enough to do it. That was a huge block for me for a long time, being brave enough where I was like, "Okay, I know the tried and true formula, la-di-da-di-da, but what if I'm like..." [scat sings]
MR: Okay, if you opened up a school to teach DJs what to do, what would the number one instruction be?
AR: Just do what you love. That's the number one rule. Find the music that really just moves you, makes you go, "Oh, yeah!" Even if it's something really obscure, or maybe it's a combination of things or you're into a bit of everything, don't be scared to do that either.
MR: Is that also the advice that you'd give for new artists?
AR: Oh, definitely. It's a slightly different take but it's kind of the same thing. A DJ can mix up a lot of different genres just like an artist could blend a lot of different genres or be influenced by a lot of different genres. There are a lot of similarities. As a DJ, I find that I can blend a lot of different genres and then I'll start finding songs that kind of fall in between those genres. They become this rainbow of sound. It's really cool.
MR: And you straddles many worlds as an artist who creates original music the old school way plus you're a remixer, a DJ, a producer...
AR: I also jump between a lot of different genres. I try to be as flexible as possible and go deep with each one. I really get into drum and bass, I really get into house, I really get into chillout and downtempo, I really get into underground hip hop, I really get into soul and funk and hip hop and disco and R&B and blues and all that.
MR: Do you feel, at times, like you've come up with a unique variant of dance music and even genre with your music?
AR: Yeah, recently I was playing around and I started speeding something up--that's always how it starts, you start speeding something up like Moombahton, which is really hot in the underground scene right now. This guy slowed down some of the more Latin-y electro, and he got Moombahton. But I also think he was speeding up some of the reggaeton stuff. Then you have break beats and jungle and that came from people speeding up slower break beats. I started speeding up older funk tracks to not quite Mickey Mouse level, so you still get that soul, but it's a bit of a helium effect.
MR: So do you casually listen to R&B and soul music that hasn't been tweaked yet for enjoyment?
AR: Oh yeah, for enjoyment and oftentimes for inspiration, too. In electronic, I'll find a lot of times where artists are like, "Okay, one track is just the beat," and it's the same beat and then a breakdown and then the beat with a couple of things added, and I like that, and I do a lot of that but sometimes you wonder, "What if I use electronic music to do something a little more abstract based on a soul song from the seventies and what formula they use?" I never go all the way with it, but sometimes I do. I like to remodel the formula a little bit and play around and get experimental with it. I'm not saying that it's good or it sounds good, but that's what I like to do.
MR: Do you ever find yourself listening to your older recordings and realizing, "Wait a minute, if I put it into this genre, it will make it that much better," then completely flip the song?
AR: Yeah, all kinds of things like that happen. I learned that I have to be open to things like that happening. Oftentimes, though, when it comes to redoing songs, I go through hard drives so fast that I end up losing my work so much of the time, sadly. A lot of the time, I don't have access to songs that I want to redo. Sometimes I do different versions, like a video or something.
MR: How intense do you get with videos?
AR: I'm starting to try to make videos for at least a couple of tracks on every release now. That's my new thing.
MR: Are you doing anything experimental with these videos?
AR: Yeah, I just see videos like playing around, but I definitely get experimental in that sense.
MR: Astro, who are some artists you would love to get your mitts on for a remix? Any popular artists that you'd like to shake up a little bit and show them what you think their music should sound like?
AR: Well, of course, Justin Bieber, but I would probably only use little pieces like "Eh- eh- eh-" and just make it sound really pretty and put a lot of strings behind it and a heavy beat and some good bass.
MR: Is there a single from the album yet?
AR: "We Believe" came out on a Bust Free release, so you can get it for free on Bust Free 14.
MR: What's your next single?
AR: Next single is "All My Honey," and that's about giving all my life to music. That's what it's about.
MR: Do you see a future for this rascally thing called "remixes"?
AR: Oh, definitely. A couple of things are coming up in that area, so that's quite nice.
MR: Any surprises or announcements?
AR: I recently did a remix for the group Control. Control is really incredible, they're like freaking awesome.
MR: [laughs] yeah, I've heard that about them.
AR: I could go on for a long time about them but let's just say check them out. You've got to check them out. I had a lot of fun doing a remix for their song "Hardwired." I really enjoyed doing it and they seemed to enjoy the result, so hopefully in the future, we may be doing some work together.
MR: Do you have any musical partnerships? Anybody you've been teaming up with?
AR: Yeah, actually, a good friend of mine out in Los Angeles, he goes by +Bias, he also does a group called Audio Diplomats and we're doing a lot of things together as Astro Raph and Audio Diplomats. Check them out. The stuff they're working on I'm quite impressed with.
MR: Nice. By the way, who are some of your label mates that you've been listening to lately?
AR: There are so many good artists, I hope I don't forget some of the best ones. That being said, there's Green Street, Poldoore, ESK, Liberty Klaud, Evil Needle, Vitamin D, Krystian Sheck... There are other good ones and a couple of new guys who just joined, so basically, check out Cold Busted and you'll find some good stuff.
MR: Cool. Astro, that about wraps things up and I wish you all the best. Thank you for your time.
1. Love Zombies
2. We Believe
3. Ease On Me
4. Touch Phone
6. Witch Way
7. Zen Hancock
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
Think Kings of Leon meets Imagine Dragons and you get Nashville rockers MODOC. Not only were they named Fox Sports' Band of the Month, but three of MODOC's recordings were used in Esquire Channel's White Collar Brawlers and their track "Devil On My Shoulder" will be used on the CBS series Reckless. The group has a new single, "Runnin'," and presented here is the lyric video exclusive to the track "Exceptions."
"It's just a song justifying the actions and decisions made both in my youth and as an adult," says MODOC's Clinton Culbertson. "Good or bad. It's an unapologetic jab at hypocrisy. Throughout life, we're told to look, act, live--and ultimately die--a certain way. I'm not going to play by your rules if you don't. F**k that. You wanna play dirty? I can play dirty."
IT'S "BEEN A LONG TIME" FOR CHRISTINE ROSANDER
Vocalist Christine Rosander's latest single, "Been a Long Time," celebrates her grandfather, Ray Rosander, and the need we all have to connect with each other.
"I was asking questions about who anchors us," says Christine, "to family, to love, and who connects us to the earth. For me that person is Grandpa Ray. He was a simple man, a farmer, but he taught so much about life by his example. He had a friendly, easy-going way and a deep spiritual love of life. He wasn't tied to material things. He was proud of his small domain and the ability to provide for his family.
"I went through some tough years, lost myself in an abusive marriage and was left filled with self-doubt and fear. Connecting with grandpa's memory has been healing. I've been reminded of what's really important in life and that I am surrounded with love. Grandpa was someone who could always be counted on to be himself and writing this song allowed me to connect with my authentic self and remember who I am.
"Producing the music video for 'Been a Long Time' brought the song to life in an even more powerful way. We used old film clips of Grandpa Ray interwoven with current shots of my dad as the farmer. The story, location and music came together effortlessly. I truly felt Spirit at work.
"I'm open to new possibilities and excited about how God will use my music," she says. "Been a Long Time" is my prayer for listeners. I hope they experience the healing power of music and are reminded of what is really important in life--the people we love and how we can make a difference in the world."