Raz graced us with our current feature mix, so we asked him a few questions about the state of music today, Japan, and life in general. Here are his highly entertaining and informative responses.
Percussion Lab: You recently played Japan, can you tell us a bit about how you got over there, what that was like, was it your first time in Japan, etc.?
Raz Mesinai: Last time I was in Japan was about 4 years ago, and there were a lot of opportunities afterwards but it was a bad personal time for me so I didn't go. Then more recently I was contacted to perform on the anniversary of the devastating disaster of 3/11. I immediately said yes because I was intending on going anyway just to be around to do benefits, maybe film some demonstrations against the nuclear issues around the disaster in Fukushima, which still to this day hasn't been resolved. In Japanese main stream society demonstrating against the government is pretty much unheard of, so I wanted to be there for that.
This trip wasn't about getting paid and being a rock star, I played a benefit in Osaka and at a club called Unit in Tokyo. Japanese music fans have always been supportive of music from all around the world, and have been incredibly generous, so any opportunity to help, even if it's only a little, makes it worth while. American musicians should be flooding the place right now and playing for free to raise money for some of the causes out there, as long as they're valid ones.
PL: What is the function of the label in the contemporary musical landscape? Do artists still need labels?
RM: Do artists need labels? Hmm, I had an interesting discussion with Shackleton about this a few years ago. He's a guy who's got his head on straight. To me a good curator is what makes a good label, because labels are generally galleries with a specific esthetic. Without a clear esthetic and vision the label is pretty much going to fail. With a good curator you know that you're going to get something consistent, yet might be surprised along the way by the sudden change of choice by the A&R person, who is essentially the curator.
The problem with this is more with the artists than the labels because there are tons of younger producers creating tracks tailor made to fit into a label's esthetic, which might add up to some kind of temporary success but will dwindle down the line, and then you got to face the facts and realize you're compromising your music and are basically a bucket with a hole in it.
For me it's slightly difficult. I can honestly say that I am not much of a team player. Since 1993 I've been on a lot of labels, Instinct, ROIR, Asphodel, Tzadik, the Agriculture, BSI & now my own label with DaveQ , The Index, among others.
The issue I've had with labels is that they don't know what to fucking do with me. I have way too many sides in my music to the point of schizophrenia. Every record I make is like a suicide bomb dropping, killing my career as well as a good amount of my fan base with it. Of all the labels I've been on though, ROIR has been my best experience as they are wide in scope, working with artists like GG Allen, Suicide, Skatalites, Lee Perry, Bad Brains, Adrian Sherwood among many others. We've done 5 albums together and probably more to come. They've stuck by me throughout my many ups and downs of styles and concepts. That being said it's also harder to pin point the esthetic of ROIR which might be why it works.
PL: How important is the idea of the club environment - i.e., making people dance - to you when you're making tunes? Your music sounds 'serious', how do you reconcile it with the notion of a 'hedonistic dance culture'?
RM: Dance music is important to me because of the early B-Boy era which is what inspired me to make beats back in the 80's. But when I make dance music, I make it for people who know how to dance, not people desperately looking for that downbeat. I see this woman every time I've played at Cielo and at Love as well back in the day of Dub War. She danced so well to everything you threw at her, amazing. She's the one I make dance music for. For the ones who can't dance to it, well they can wait till the next DJ comes or they can sit down and think about it a bit because there are plenty of soundscapes in there to keep you occupied.
PL: This type of music - post-dubstep, while lazy, is the best descriptor I have heard - sort of remains nameless. Do we need genre names? What do genres do for music?
RM: Yeah, this is a tough one for me. I make DUB, period. I've been making dub before dubstep and I will continue to make dub after dubstep. Dub in the sense of a strategy, a practice, not as a particular genre, not even related to Reggae anymore. It's very hard for me to except that people see me as a dubstep producer, and I hope I'm just imagining it, which is definitely possible.
But to answer your question, do genres need to exist? I guess so because they won't go the fuck away! They are like governments, foundations for people to follow and show allegiance to. Gives them something to 'believe in'.
I made a little joke online about guitar players in Indie Rock bands and I got this thread of pissed off Billyburg hipsters asking me what my problem was. Firstly, my problem is people who can't take a joke, but my other problem is when this kind of tribal mentality turns into humorless fanaticism. There's not much of a difference between "God Bless America!", "Allah Akbar!" and "Where's the drop??"
Well put. Check the mix here.