february 5th 2006
interview with Ray Raposa by Barbara H
Barbara H: Hi!
Ray Raposa : Hi
BH: how are you ?
RR: I'm good
BH: How has the tour been going ?
RR: Very well, a lot better than a lot of the ones that we had in the states, for sure
BH: the audience is good ?
RR: they've been amazing so far
BH: could you introduce yourself, briefly ?
RR: I'm Raymond Raposa, Raymond Byron Magic Raposa is my full name, Castanets
BH: So when you were 15 you went on a trip on Greyhound buses ?
RR: it wasn't like I spent four years on buses, i got off quite a bit, but my friends and i were travelling around the country quite a lot, so you know... leave san diego and go to chicago and stay there for a week, then go to DC and stay with the sister... i wasn't in school, so i wasn't doing too much of anything else, so i had a lot of free time, when i came back i would do surf contests in San Diego, work jobs to make money and go back out for another trip
BH: you're a surfer ??
BH: did the whole travelling thing influence your music ?
RR: no (laughs) i got kind of... somehow it ended up in the bio at the label's site, it seems to be something that a couple of articles and reviews picked up on, but it's not any greater than any other influence in my life and certainly not on the kind of insular music i've been making.
BH: how is San Diego as far as music goes ?
RR: there's a lot of very good bands, when i left San Diego there was a lot of bar shows, not all bar shows, but i think a lot of the more creative and forward-thinking elements have been marginalized to these out-of-the-way places and no one is really picking up on it... a lot of people are circuiting into the big business indie rock or whatever... but there's a lot of people there doing incredible things.
BH: you're friends with the Black Heart Procession ?
RR: yeah, i love Pall to death, we recorded some of Cathedral at his house and i grew up on the black heart shows when i was 16 ou 17 years old, going to the Che Cafe, smoking a lot of hash and watching the... before that first record came out, those first couple of shows were just some of the most bizarre... i mean they were playing punk shows in these tiny little venues, they got their lamp set up and their little red beating hearts... but yeah, Pall, Pall... i like having him around on stuff
BH: did you play on their forthcoming album ?
RR: no, i think they've recorded it in San Diego, and i haven't been in San Diego for probably a year and a half, i think there's probably some friends of mine on it...
BH: Does the Californian set-up influence your music ?
RR: It's possible, i don't sit down and start recording with a fixed object, or like visions of the ocean in my head, but it's as much a part of my make up as anything else is... it might be in there somewhere
BH: before Cathedral you had already released an album, "What Kind of Cure", is it going to be re-released ?
RR: no, i'd rather it didn't
BH: you don't like it ?
RR: i've recorded it... at the time i was sort of making records, there's that, and a couple of eps and i would just give it out to my friends... i worked very hard on them but it wasn't somehting i wanted to push out in the public... asthmatic kitty heard that record and decided that they would like to put it out but we went with the next record instead... and they still want to put that out but it's not something i'm in too much of a hurry to revisit... and it's not what it was made for
BH: Cathedral is a very dense record, the production is very coherent, and i was wondering if it was some kind of experiment or if it was something you really wanted to achieve... to have the record sound uniform as far as production goes
RR: yes, very much so i mean, the aesthetics of the thing are as important to me as the thing itself, that extends to like preserving a songflow or systematic elements reccuring i mean production to me... i agonized crazy over that record... Rafter Roberts and i were recording it down in San Diego and we'd do a mix and i would take it home and listen to the mix non stop for a week and then we'd go in the next week and we'd touch up the tiniest bits just to get the perfect mix, so it's very much a conscious effort
BH: even though there are other players and more people than just you, Cathedral sounds more solitary than First Light's Freeze, which, to me, sounds more like a band-thing...
RR: it's much less of a band's thing...
BH: songs like No Voice Was Raised...
RR: it certainly does, at times sound like it, but it's much more of an isolated solitary effort... it's just Rafter Roberts and I overdubbing like crazy, all the parts, doing everything... records are pretty false... you try to make it sound like a bunch of people playing the same song in real time... but yeah No Voice Was Raised... it's a lot of Rafter guitar solos, there's bits where there's fuller things but it's still not all of us in a room going at it
BH: it does sound like it's a band playing the same song in a room...
RR: yeah, i mean, there's live playing going on
BH: Is improvisation important in the writing and recording processes ? There are the sax solos and the percussion solos on Cathedral, and the guitar solos on First Light's Freeze...
RR: i think it's the biggest part, it's really important to... it's not leaving things open to chance, it's having faith in your ability or the ability of your friends to find their own way to the proper place for a song... my favourite moments in anything that i've done, or anything that my friends have done is these bits where you'd constantly be set by surprises or just going to the studio and having someone pull out something that they wouldn't do so much with their conscious mind as much as they would with their sort of in-the-moment conscious mind... i guess it's improvisation, but that's the basis of my life (smiles)
BH: to me First Light's Freeze is about the relationship to the world, while Cathedral is about the relationship to someone, something more intimate, did you start writing First Light's Freeze thinking it was going to be maybe more universal, less intimate ?
RR: A lot fo the Cathedral songs came from a book that i was trying to write at the time, called "Cathedral"... and it was very much people realting to people or people to find faith or people relating to houses, or people creating sort of sacred spaces of houses and things like that... i don't know if i was trying to be more universal with First Light's Freeze but it was a different... i think i was living probably a less insular life at the time too, i was going out more
BH: it makes sense that Cathedral was based on a book, it has often reminded me of great American litterature, Fante, Bukowski...
RR: Dude! I love Fante...
BH: did you finish the book ?
RR: i'm not sure, it's been in a storage space in San Diego for about a year and a half now, it may only require some edits at this point, but it's, like a lot of other things in my life, not a thing that i'm too much in a hurry to get back to, i think i'm gonna let it sit for a couple of years, just to be safe. It might be done... it's possible.
BH: Asthmatic Kitty is turning very big, thanks to Sufjan Stevens' success, does this success help your music getting heard ?
RR: possibly, i don't know, i would have to look at soundscan charts or something (laughs) i mean, i imagine it couldn't hurt!
BH: you're doing this tour with Jana Hunter, how did you meet her ?
RR: Jana came to a show that we played with a band of hers in New York City over a year ago, and she sent me a very nice email that week about the show and about the record, and we played a show together about a week later, right before we were going to go on tour, i asked her to come on tour with us then. I don't know, she's one of my favourite songwriters, one of my favourite singers and one of my favourite people to have around
BH; What are the next plans ?
RR: i don't know, i'm gonna go to Athens make a country record with my friends, try to spend some time in Mexico, pretty soon i'll have to visit my family, i want to come back here as soon as we can, i think we'll put out a lot of vinyl this year, do a lot of 7"s if i can, not so sure, i don't know, improvise, day to day.
BH: Thank you