Introduce yourself, where you’re from and what you do.
My name is Rajen and I’ve been living in Jamaica Plain for the past two years by way of Reno, Nevada. I am a teacher in the Boston Public Schools and builder of audio and visual things.
A lot of people know of you and your releases under the name rajbot, but more recently you’ve been using the name FRKSE. Why the change?
The original idea behind rajbot was to create a vessel in which to transport drop freestyles and various improvised mayhem both live and in the studio. “It” changed and became too much: I think the idea of what I wanted to do as rajbot became too mired in wanting to do everything all at once; from writing meaningful verses, kick them with flavor and rocking the production, it all became gregarious and super impersonal and contrived for me. In addition to being more fun to create logos and visual elements for, FRKSE represents a stripped-down, harsher, more focused and generally more grim sonic and aesthetic approach than rajbot.
Does FRKSE still rap or did you leave the emceeing behind with rajbot?
I’m not totally sure, yet. I do have some things written…
Tell me about Divergent Series, the new record label you started. Is it only for you’re own personal projects or will you have other artists on there?
The premise for Divergent Series is to release non-cd things in low, hella occult print runs. In addition to my stuff, I’ll be undertaking a few other outside projects. I helped fund a 7" with a few other labels from British grindcore freaks The Afternoon Gentlemen and I’m set to release a Nevada themed visual-art oriented 7" from my friend Omar Pierce. I’ll also be doing some silk-screened visual art projects and there’s also two cassette-tape releases.
I’ve always loved that your releases have included unique hand-crafted artwork, from sewing together you own disc sleeves to printing individual covers and inserts. Do you think there will be a resurgence of indie artists taking it back to their DIY roots in regard to limited editions and such?
Thank you! I think consequently as a result of being exposed indirectly to punk, noise, indie rock, etc., purveyors of underground hip-hop releases have gotten very creative with DIY releases given limited budgets. Maybe it’s necessity. While more labor intensive, processes like silk-screening, stamping, stitched cloth vinyl bags making, die cut cover chopping, etc. side step the otherwise more cost-prohibitive processes involved in releasing something you love. Arguably, the 7" format is a barometer for the market response to rising production costs and less lunch money, so I think people have to get more creative and more involved in the visual aspects of the release…and I can’t remember when the last time I paid less than $4.00 for a 7" release in a store.
It definitely sounds like there’s a strong non-rap influence to your music, what sort of stuff do you listen to when your’e not playing rap records?
Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Qawwali and dancehall. There’s some really interesting similarities between them that keep me reaching for them.
Give us a breakdown of the new projects you’ve been working and when we can except to see them to be released.
Two FRKSE 7"s are basically finished and just need to be committed to vinyl. One of them is themed around farmer suicides in India as a function/failure of big business and western-appeasing government. The other one is about India-Nazi connections (do a search on the phrase “Hitler’s Priestess” for a start). I’m almost done with the second FRKSE LP called Horseless which is a narrative: the word of God is issued to all of mankind and one human being is not able to experience/receive it. I’m also rocking a few beats and remixes for some folks. And there’s a few other non-FRKSE projects being kicked around. But the only thing that I can say for certain will be done by a sort of definite date, the end of April of 2010 to be sort of exact, is a digital only release called “Rosewater” which is full of various odds and ends and a few dope guest spots.
I remember you once mentioning an Anti-Bollywood themed project, is that still in the works? Why the Bollywood hate?
In South Asia, it’s very polarized along the lines of metal vs. Bollywood (Indian film industry). Generally, no self-respecting Indian head-banger would ever admit to liking a movie like Dil Chahta Hai (translated: The Heart Desires). Bollywood in alot of ways is the ultimate simulacrum, or the best representation of a South Asian reality without the qualities or substance of reality (read: doused in quixotic resolution). Metal is also completely ridiculous for its own sake incorporating fantasy and other stuff that’s flagrantly preposterous, but it’s unpredictable and unsafe and a more individualistic form of expression. So they say. And yeah I’m working on a project related to this. It will most likely be a boom bap mix tape styled project slightly similar to Bombay the Hard Way, but with some twists (like Iron Maiden samples)…I want it to play out like the metal vs. Bollywood battle that I internalize in my head…and I’m not sure which will come out on top because culturally speaking I’m conflicted. I own some dope old school Bollywood soundtracks (thanks, dad!) and I love killer riffs (thanks, Steve Harris!).
I know you play a mean MPC, what sorts of music making gadgets is your studio full of these days?
FRKSE is at its heart a break-oriented project which is why I like the MPC-60-it’s 12 bit capabilities and 16 pads do something magical to drum breaks. But because it’s stripped down and boasts no onboard effects processing, I bought a couple smaller samplers for processing: the SST ZOOM and an SP 303 more recently. I have a micromoog and a couple bass guitars which form alot of the heavy-end doom-glue for FRKSE compositions. I bought another MPC 60 and a Yamaha SU-10 for live peformances in addition to two AMPEG bass amplifiers to ensure maximum infernal stereo thudding. The bookend to all this mayhem are the handful of pedals I’ve been collecting. But, must have more fuzz.
Speaking of live performances, any shows or tours coming up that we should know about?
A tour is in the works but I don’t want to jinx it by announcing dates just yet The only thing that is for certain is a show at the 119gallery in Lowell, MA on June 5th with psychedelic knob twiddlers Barn Owl. Shows, music, and other info can be obtained at divergentseries.info.
What are the best things about living in Boston? What do you miss most about Reno?
It’s challenging at first, but I think for anyone interested in cultivating their self-culture, Boston’s a great place to live. Education, good food, record stores, good music, history…it’s a great work environment. Lots of solid people, too. In contrast, Reno’s interesting…I miss the sense of danger in Reno…it’s very wild west,,, the endless desert, gunslinging, backstabbers, divine nemeses, anti-intellectualism, casinos, the Truckee River, defeatism, unholy winters… I also miss my friends and family still in the 775 Babylon Leagues.
Is having to make you way into a new city’s music scene more motivating or intimidating?
While I like a good challenge, it is intimidating..thankfully folks in both the underground hip-hop scene, noise scene and punk/hardcore scene here in New England have been hella supportive. It feels good.
For making this interview possible, thanks to Noyz, Good Friends Crew, 617 Black Lung, Recyclone, Joe Berzerker Boulanger, Wugga Architects Worldwide, west coast powerviolence, and all the desi necromancers from Fremont to Mumbai locked down in the belly of the tandoor. And extra special props to Deeskee for helping with the post-production.