The 21-year-old beatsmith goes left-field on his debut EP.
Lord RAJA is the alias of NYC producer Chester Raj Anand. The young talent crafts the kind of dreamy beats that we’re more accustomed to hearing on labels like Brainfeeder and Anticon, but his wide-ranging, experimental approach makes him a good fit with Ghostly International.
Rubies trades in the same lo-fi atmospherics employed by his contemporaries, but the EP’s kinetic energy keeps it compelling. The grooving ‘Pistol Syrup’ and stuttering ‘He Won’t Pay Me’ submerge hip-hop influences into windswept compositions; the latter features a appearance by jazz pianist Vijay Iyer. Meanwhile, ‘Dipteres Pt. 2’ has the aquatic unease of Balam Acab, while ‘Panthera Bengal’ incorporates the Indian music of Lord RAJA’s youth into the mix.
Along with the FACT premiere of Rubies (which you can stream/download below), we had a brief chat with Lord RAJA via email about his musical approach.
How did you get into beatmaking?
My brother got me into making beats when we were really young. We use to sample my grandfather’s Indian records with windows sound recorder and this program called Acid back in like second grade. My brother and I were constantly burning these split CDs of our beats. It got kind of competitive. He had this clean melodic sound that I was really jealous of. I just wanted to get better.
Eventually he just asked me to make beats for him to rap over. He was more of a poet. I was still in elementary school at the time. We were both really into The Neptunes. It got to a point where I’d make at least five beats a day everyday after school. By fifth grade I remember telling my music teacher I had exported over a thousand tracks.
How would you describe your approach to sampling and production?
In middle school I got really into soul music. I think The Whatnauts were like the first group I was actually obsessed with. I remember thinking stuff like ‘wow how did they make the drums sound like that?’. Some of the tracks would have these really mean grooves right before it got cheesy and I’d be like ‘damn I wish the track would just stick with that groove’. So naturally I got into the business of looping my favorite parts. It’s different with electronic music. I got to be a little more experimental with it. Put the mask on the sample.
Who and what are your influences, musical or otherwise?
Artists who rely on their intuition are my favorites. I like when the soul of an artist translates so well it’s like they are channeling a past life and sharing it with you. I dont know how to explain it. It’s a spiritual thing. It’s something you can see in an Art Blakey solo. There is a lot to take from everything everyday. Lately I find horror films really inspiring, like The Shining, or Herzog’s Nosferatu or even Frankenstein. It’s all really psychological. I like how Dr. Frankenstein’s creativity materializes in the form of this misunderstood monster. I don’t know… My pet dinosaur Franklin.