The band RA has been on a journey since 1996, and continues to bring it’s listeners a sophisticated brand of music that’s very unique. Their newly released (2021) “Intercorrupted” had blown me away. It was cool to see LJ from Sevendust featured on a track. He’s one of my favorite vocalists. Now, through some blessing of sorts, I had an opportunity to sit down with Sahaj Ticotin, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, and all around amazing talent and producer. Let’s dive into the interview… shall we?
You’ve been doing this since 1996. What started it off, and what got you the national notoriety?
S: Well the band sort of existed since high school, honestly. I didn’t call it Ra, and I worked with one dude for about 10 years from like 88 to 98. We had a very, very intense creative bond, where he was an exceptional guitar player and I learned a lot from him. His name is Nadi Johannes (I apologize for the possible mis-spelling), and we really sort of dove headfirst into a lot of new music. He brought a lot of music to my attention that I had no idea about. In the late 90’s, we split up, but the sound we have created was something that I was pretty committed to, so by 1998, we had released a song for a film called “The Rage”. It was the sequel to “Carrie”. We had the end title song called “Crazy Little Voices”. That sort of set off the public awareness. We ended up getting a record deal with a company called Adal America, which is a small subsidiary of the German company called Adal. They were owned by Sony. So, we made the entire record, and then the company folded. The record never came out. I was sitting on these masters for a while. I had some nibbles from companies. Then, 911 happened. Nobody was signing anything at that point. The world just stopped. Then in 2002, we took the masters and started selling them and promoting them in the Boston area. New England just embraced us. We ended up selling a lot of physical products, and ended up getting signed to Universal records, and that was the big push in 2002.
Can we fast forward to the more recent signing with Wake Up Music?
S: Sure. Julie and Waylon from Wake Up have great enthusiasm, and there is a level of sort of commitment and fluidity that a lot of smaller labels don’t have. A lot of times, smaller labels are sort of shoestring, and it’s hard to make quick moves when things happen. So far it’s been very, very supportive and the environment is all designed to focus on things that are not status quo. Or trying to reach beyond what the regular things are. Waylon has a certain authenticity and is the driving factor in how he runs everything. He’s real when it comes to how he sees music. He doesn’t take that corporate perspective on it. He’s an A&R guy. He balances what he does in his band well, because he’s able to express it. So there’s that expertise when you’re in a band, then when you’re not.
With “Intercorrupted”, how was the response so far?
S: I think there’s two sides to this. There’s how I feel about it, and then there’s the reality of a band that’s been away for seven years. We have some challenges on the algorithm side, which we have a great name for, if you’re a band in the early 2000’s. But in 2021, we get creamed in searches for Rheumatoid Arthritis on a daily basis. Even on Spotify the searches are hard. If you’ve ever looked at Rage Against the Machine or Rammstein, everything else will come up way before we do. And can’t change the name of the band at this point. Our Instagram is “Official Ra Band” and, oddly, on Facebook we are verified as just “RA”. And I’m not upset about any of that. Once we asked for verification, it came right away.
So, to answer your question directly, to hear the response from the people who I had thought would love it, loved it. And the people who got exposed to it loved it also. I think that the challenge with a band like ours, is that, first of all, we’re not making the same record that everyone else is making to get on “Octane”, even though we got on “Octane”. We are also trying to keep our identity, which I think is more important than how many people we have listening to it. I think that when people find it, they are always taken back by how well it’s put together. And that there’s a high level, in my opinion, of skill that was put into the album. There’s a high level of artistry that was designed on purpose to make this kind of a record, and I think very much so that we succeeded in that. But I also feel that the limitation that we were away for seven years and with the social media frenzy, needs to be looked at.
Looking at the generational gap between metalheads and rock enthusiasts, what is your stance on the social media and digital frenzy output of music as it stands today? And do you feel that the original principles of discipline, practice and marketing your wares fall short now, because of the Youtubers etc.?
S: I think that it both ends of the spectrum. I just finished working with Johnny from Nothing More. They are extremely detail orientated, extremely sensitive to change and extremely sensitive to the artistic vision. There aren’t a lot of bands, in my opinion, that are that sort of detail oriented.
To answer your question in a more general sense, I think the big difference between the past and now, music is more disposable, not that I mean that it’s worse, I actually mean that it’s designed to be disposable. The branding is made that way. We all know the bands, like, “Oh, that’s that band. And they do that thing”. The songs seem not as important as that thing they do. There’s a brand that they’re selling, and the song is the delivery system. There’s not necessarily this artistry going on, but this brand that’s there. And I’m not afraid to mention it, but MGK is one of those. I think he’s not saying anything interesting musically, but the brand is intriguing. The way he delivers it, the music doesn’t hold that value. It’s the brand. I also used Lady Gaga as a perfect example. The brand is more important than the music. I find that is happening more, and because of the digital universe, and the amount of music that’s competing for brain space, songs just have a much shorter shelf life. When I was listening to Metallica’s “And Justice For All” in 1989, there wasn’t any more music I needed at that time. Nowadays, kids won’t listen to an album for more than a year. Artists are putting out more singles and music all the time, and the attention span is way shorter. But it’s also the mathematics of music. There’s only 12 notes in a scale, and there’s only so many rhythms and lyrics in popular music. So what you’re trying to figure out is what makes a singer unique, and how do I take the background music and make it feel as new as possible. These are the only real problems that are being solved. How do I create something that no ones’ ever heard before? As a producer, my struggle is with guitar sometimes. I love this, but I also feel like I’ve heard this a thousand times. So, it’s one of those things that, like with the Nothing More record that’s not out yet, that I have been a part of, a lot of the guitar approach hasn’t been done before. Or really is just unique. For me it’s stimulating. The hot chick at the end of the bar may not care, but at the end of the day, we hope she likes the singer and the vibe, enough to like the music.
Do you have a favorite literary reference or composition “Easter egg” in any of your songs that pay homage to your influences?
S: There used to be a lot more, in the old days, because I was much immersed in Shakespere. From the age of 14 to 21, I worked at the Delacorte Theater in Manhattan. I used to watch all of those plays. All the time. It would be literally the same play thirty times. Then another one thirty times. I became obsessed with the music of Shakespere’s language. So, I do feel that the better lyrics that I have, have a nod to some Shakesperian phrasing. But, I wouldn’t expect anyone to pick up on it because of all my “Sting-isms” and my “Peter Gabriel-isms”.
What defines “Intercorrupted”?
S: So, the best way to define the song, just so you know, “Intercorrupted” is a fake word. It fixes our algorithm problem (laughs). If you search, we’re the only thing that comes up. I think that the state of the world, specifically the US, is so blame ridden, there are literally entire factions of people that are just wholly focused on who to blame. So, if you can blame the other side for something, or say that’s messed up, or “Obama did this”, or “Trump did this”, everyone has a person that’s their scapegoat. But the fact is that we exist in a world where we need our enemies to justify our position. So, we need that other counterpoint, that other person, to feel valid. To feel reinforced in that position. And in that way, we are intercorrupted.