Raja Ram Interview: “I’m in the fun Business”
People often think parties are not important or they’re frivolous but they are so much more than that!”
Raja Ram represents all that is good about the global psytrance movement.
And psytrance is a movement. Because no matter how many cries there are about it becoming commercial or mainstream, psytrance is still the most insular and self-preserved scene in electronic music today. As big as psychedelic trance is worldwide, it still exists partially off the grid and certainly does not pander to big brand sponsorship and mainstream ethos. It’s this common thread that exists globally, that draws individuals with a certain mindset to psychedelic music and to the ancient ritual of dancing for hours and hours lost in a trance with your fellow human beings.
Ultimately it is the magic of this music and the ritual of brotherly and sisterly love that draws us back again and again. No matter what our age…
As a man who will celebrate his 75th birthday in December this year Raja Ram must surely confuse and surprise many conformists. Who still DJs at 74? But this of course is what makes this global psy scene so absolutely priceless too; Trance dancing has no boundaries; everyone with the right intention is welcome.
So when I think of Raja Ram I am reminded of everything I love about psytrance. His effervescence is contagious and talking to him feels like a 5 hour trance dance session; ritualistic, meaningful, entertaining and inspiring.
I had that very privilege recently…
The TIP Festival in Israel a few weekends back (6-8 March) looked stunning. We hear so many conflicting reports about the psy scene in Israel. Did the event meet all your expectations?
Raja Ram Interview: I’ve been going to Israel for 20 years now but we’ve just started doing these festivals where we get all the TIP artists together and do it under the TIP Records brand and we keep a really tight ship on it all ‘cos parties in Israel can really go off the rail quite easily. I’m very happy – this was our third TIP party and, Dave, it was an absolute stunner! It was just one of those ones – they got 10,000 in, they could have got another 5,000 – the police were super heavy, they made us close the one stage, put another fence up, stop the music every four hours – the police were hell…. BUT – we went for 15 hours, everybody got to play… it was just a [pauses]… a sizzler!!!
It was fancy dress so everybody was dressed up like maniacs… a whole gamut of madness and I did three sets there; I did a Shpongle, I did a 1200 MICS and I did an Infinity Project set too. It was a real family affair. Faces came out that I haven’t seen since Goa in the 90’s so it was a really wonderful feeling to come home after that.
I am sure it was a fantastic affirmation for you considering your devotion to psychedelic trance these past 20-30 years…
Raja Ram Interview: Yeah, it sort of built up to this. It’s been a long slow rise to where we are now and I’ve gotta say it’s never been better for us; just so much music, so many new projects, but it’s also great to keep in touch with your old friends and play next to them and see them play and see how the whole scene has developed over time… and the ones that have stuck with it and are still in the party scene so to speak. So yes, it was a great satisfaction on so many levels – not only were the people all smiling in front of us, but they were forgetting their troubles, forgetting the wars and for those 15 hours they were in a refuge… a blissful environment.
I am really, really excited about South Africa – it’s the only place that people come back and NEVER say they’ve had a bad time.”
You are well traveled and it seems you have a specific affinity to India & Asia. Aside from Morocco have you ever explored any of Africa or had the desire to do so?
Raja Ram Interview: Yeah I left Australia when I was 18 years old at a time when no one was leaving. I hopped on a ship and got off in India. Got to Ibiza when I was 19 and continued to travel ending up in Greenwich Village, New York, then to London… back to Australia which I found was not working out for me. So yes I have always been a traveler. I can’t really explain why I’ve never done Africa. There’s no actual reason for it; it just somehow never did unfold on the tapestry. I’ve always had a big connection to India, in fact I’ve just come back from there after two months. I have a house on the beach in Goa and India is sort of my Motherland, it always gives me a spiritual recharge and shows the next direction of what I’m gonna do.
But I am really, really excited about South Africa – it’s the only place that people come back and NEVER say they’e had a bad time. I mean like Brazil, Mexico or whatever there are often stories but with South Africa it’s always “it was a blinder, it was the best party, the best decorations, the best people… WOW!” So finally at this late age – at 74 I’m gonna make my debut and I can hardly wait!
You’ve been referred to as the ‘Godfather of Psychedelic Trance’ in promoting your visit for Easter but also as the ‘Ringmaster.’ Which term resonates with you more?
Raja Ram Interview: They’ve actually just advertised me as that for Antaris in Germany too. I really don’t like being called that. I mean I am a grandfather but I never saw myself as the Godfather – there were many people before who taught me, who helped me – Goa Gill and many, many others and of course everything changed for me when I got to Goa in ’89. But I like your concept of ‘Ringmaster’. When I do the Shpongle I come out in my red jacket and crack the whip and gather all the forces and that’s sort of my role – to sort of bring the circus to town, so to speak.
You seem really well read and are are renowned for your poetic rhetoric. In this digital age of selfies, YouTube and social media that delivers (or demands) instant gratification, is the youth missing out on some of the magic of books, gurus and the journey to knowledge or are they creating their own new magic via bits and bytes?
Raja Ram Interview: I can thank my mother for being a voracious reader. She was a beautiful, intellectual lady who believed in the arts and she always said ‘Ronald I want you to be an artist’ which was pretty unusual in Australia in those days. So I always got involved and took an interest in art, literature, music, they were my buddies wherever I was in the world. If I went into an art gallery I would know all the paintings and in our own small way with this music, we’re radiating out this energy to people and getting it reflected back at us and it’s a beautiful synchronicity – sound makes the world go around, that’s fore sure!
But today I love all the new stuff, social media and all that – it’s what pushes the bird along but of course you gotta read and if you meet people or a guru who can show you shortcuts on this difficult, thorny journey we call life then that always helps.
How necessary (or therapeutic) is getting high? Are people who oppose it, missing something in life?
Raja Ram Interview: It’s very necessary. That’s been my life since I got to Ibiza all those years ago. But yeah drugs are a difficult domain. I’ve never really been a proselytiser of it because I think people have to pick their own path and be very discriminate and careful. Drugs have got stronger and more impure so people have to have knowledge about what they’re doing. I’ve only always been interested in mind expanding stuff.
Are people missing out? It’s not for everybody and who’s to say? For some people they definitely shouldn’t be taking them. You’re dealing with dangerous substances and there’s a lot of abuse rather than use so one does feel a certain responsibility to talk to people and get the knowledge out there and to make sure people know what it’s all about. But I do think that if someone has never turned on [gotten high] it’s kind of like going through life without having sex. I mean you can go through life without having sex but maybe you’ve missed something along the way.
When you reflect now, in 2015, on our massive global psychedelic trance tribe – are you ever in awe of it all?
Raja Ram Interview: When I went to Goa I’d been in bands in the 60’s and when I got there in ’89 – it was down in Disco Valley near the Arabian Sea and I heard this music for the first time and I’d never heard it before – in England they were into house, but I heard this music and it was absolutely life changing and I just wanted to find out who made it, how did they make it, where did they make it, what sort of drugs did they take to make it and how did this phenomena, suddenly like a fungus, just appear all around… and as I say there were only thousands in the beginning but it just grew so quickly, like a world bonfire that just exploded around the planet. We then started doing parties in London and now there are literally millions and millions of people involved in psytrance.
I don’t particularly want it to become a world event – I mean it’s never gonna be as big as House music or other forms of music – we’re sort of in our cage in a way, we’re sorta trapped but there are frontiers and barriers that have to be broken down and music… we’re only playing in the same notes – all of us, 12 notes around the globe , so what we’re dealing with here is very intangible and very spiritual…. it is a link of spirituality like a piece of string in a maze, guiding us to this place we want to get to and that place is a blissful place; it’s a magical, wonderful realm that everybody is invited to.
It’s a world party, it started a little while ago but it’s rocking and it’s going to continue to grow and grow.”
The thing is we’re all brothers and sisters. You can go to the most remote place on earth and you’ll see a guy with a TIP t-shirt and if you go up to him and say ‘hey man,’ everything else dissolves and there is that common bond immediately.
People often think parties are not important or they’re frivolous but they are so much more than that!
Isn’t ALL music psychedelic given the right dose of hallucinogens? How does one define what makes music psychedelic?
Raja Ram Interview: Well I wouldn’t say all music is psychedelic – I mean a lot of music is ‘un-psychedelic’ but of course at parties you hear a lot of different music whether it’s dark or one of the 26 genres of psychedelic trance [laughs] and for me it’s whether I can dance to it.
But more than that psychedelic means everything is enhanced, not only the colours and the sounds and the feelings but your whole being, your heart, your chakras all governed by this sound. Sound is the most powerful thing in the universe, it puts you in a good mood, puts you in a bad mood, it can heal you, it can depress you, it’s this wonderful invisible thing, this drug that we pour into our ears which no one can see, no one knows what it is, it’s just this combination of notes and sounds that have been going for thousands and thousands of years and we’ve got to this point and this point IS the most psychedelic point on our planet!
In the end you’ve gotta be psychedelic – you’ve gotta speak the language to appreciate psychedelic music!”
Raja Ram Interview: That’s a really difficult question, which I’m gonna answer because recently I sat outside my house in Goa with my best friend, Chicago, and we lay in hammocks and listened to the 5 albums without speaking which I’ve never done before. He suggested we listen to all 5, then chat about it the next day and them listen again. It was a monumental mind blower!
Anyway at the end of it all I decided I liked the last album [Museum of Consciousness] and why I say the last album is because it’s probably the most mature of the five – we combine an awful lot of things into one hour of music and there’s a lot of layers – we do up to 300 different layers per track and if you listen on headphones you may hear different things at different times and it’s a voluptuous trip. On first listening you might not get that, you may like some tracks more than others but I like all the tracks. The whole thing sort of takes you right up to the Amigdor story where it becomes Tibetan gongs and such, but it’s the transition… how Simon [Posford] takes the listener from one sound or beat seamlessly into another within the space of 6 minutes.
I remember Albert Hoffman – a friend of mine [Nick – Doof] played him some Shpongle when he was 96 and he said ‘I can see why this album is psychedelic because it is like a trip [acid], there’s no edges to it.’
It is the pursuit of the absolute and that is LOVE and it is why we are still going to parties and why we are still making this music!”
But when I’m DJing I play tracks from all five album because each one has some real ‘raspers’ which I consider high points – tracks that have sort of pushed us forward and taken us where we haven’t gone before.
What is it that you hope people are left with when they take psychedelics and dance to trance all night?
Raja Ram Interview: LOVE!
Without love we’re nothing. Without giving love you’re nothing, without receiving love you’re nothing. There are so many ways of loving; loving the world, loving yourself, loving your brothers and sisters… going through life with that attitude and it’s amazing because that’s what the parties are about.
They’re ‘love-ins’ – they’re ways of meeting people, like-minded people, people get married at parties, people forge lifelong friendships from parties and what you’re left with after you go home – when you turn out the lights and you’re left quivering, with this wonderful ecstatic, blissful feeling that you’ve had a glimpse of this world of love and you’ve given love and taken some love and there is nothing like it.
It is the pursuit of the absolute and that is LOVE and it is why we are still going to parties and why we are still making this music!
RAJA RAM is playing at Vortex Parallel Universe this Easter.