Editor’s Note: Happy New Year’s Eve everyone, and doesn’t it feel like the longest year ever? New Year means new beginnings and that brings a sense of vigor and hope to all of us. What I have a sense of vigor and hope about is on March 19th, 2021 hard rock band RA will be releasing their latest album entitled “Intercorrupted” via Wake Up! Music Rocks, and they’ll be including exclusive content if you sign up for their mailing list at www.raband.net In the 3rd installment of Madness To Creation podcast, Sahaj Ticotin of RA discusses working as a music producer, collaborating with Starset, and how the single “Intercorrupted” came to be, which already has over 150,000 views on YouTube. We also discuss the wretchedness that is social media and its honestly one of the more deep and meaningful philosophical conversations that I’ve had with a musician. Fans can check out RA at the following locations:
- If you want to read and listen to it, go to the 5:44 mark.
Madness To Creation: In terms of being a producer and stuff like that, what do you look for?
Sahaj Ticotin: I mean I feel like that I’m limited as a songwriter, because it’s one of those things where you start writing for other people, you start to throw away inefficient parts of the process, so the more I was writing and the more that I was working with other artists, the more that I started to trim more of the fat out of my writing style in the sense that there’s certain things that you do that might be more indulgent than others, and what you’re trying to do as a good songwriter is to minimize the indulgent stuff and maximize the effective stuff so when you do something that you know reaches the audience, you want to make sure that you maximize those moments more than the things that you do to satisfy your own artistic needs. I’ve learned a lot since those days working with other artists because you’re always trying to inject the most potent idea, not just your favorite idea. That I would say in a weird way, it’s become more limiting but also in a weird, zen way, it’s also way more freeing because once you do it enough, once you play piano for five hours a day every day, even if you’re not the greatest piano player in the world, you’re gonna get good at it at some point, if you just do it all the time, eventually the way you perceive becomes more micro in the sense that you see small changes as opposed to big changes.
So now when I write songs, I see changes in such small increments, but I see them as big movements, and being able to understand what subtleties actually result in sort of big changes, and the big differences in the way it emotionally feels or the way it connects viscerally, those are things that I think I’m way better at, and because I’m better at it, I think I can do it with a little bit more ease and a little bit more freedom.
Madness To Creation: All that you’ve said is why I love “Intercorrupted”, take us into that song and video and what messages were you trying to convey on there?
Sahaj Ticotin: The song itself, first of all the word “Intercorrupted” is a made up word, so “Intercorrupted” is not a real word, it’s something that I created. It solves two problems. One thing that I created it for is because in an algorithm-driven music industry, we have one arm tied behind our back because the band name is Ra, so if you search Ra on Google, everything in the universe comes up except us, and if you go on Spotify and put in “Ra”, Rage Against The Machine, Rammstein, everything that has “R.A.” at the beginning of it will come up before us, so one of the things that I’m trying to do to build our algorithm is by naming the song and naming the album by a word that doesn’t exist, at least when you search the word “Intercorrupted”, it’s literally the only thing that comes up, which we tested quite a bit to make sure, but if you go on Spotify and put in “Intercorrupted”, nothing else comes up.
As far as the actual meaning of the song, I spent the last four to six years just sort of watching social media and the United States in general has becoming obviously way more divided and way more polarized, and it was something that I was noticing more on a psychological level that wasn’t really being talked about a lot, and from my perspective, part of the problem is people’s unwillingness or inability to see their own role in creating the division, so we all know that we are all on one side or another in varying degrees, but we don’t know the choice that our side to create is being on the other side, there’s a causal effect between us saying, “I’m liberal, I’m Democrat or I’m Republican and conservative” or whatever choice that we are making, we’re actually facilitating the creation of our other side, our rival on the other side of the fence, and the energy that we are sort of putting out of being correct or being on the right side of whatever argument that we think that we are on, that energy is literally creating our adversaries and creating the division, and obviously it gets sort of blown up and magnified through social media and all the algorithms that sort of isolate and target you to make sure that you keep thinking that way.
The reason why I use the term “Intercorrupted” is because in order for us to evolve past this divisiveness, we sort of have to accept our own role, we have to accept our own flaws and our own corruption, our own personal corruption in order to even evolve to a point where we can address someone that we disagree with, we can’t come at someone with the idea that we are 100% right all of the time, and if you do that, there’s obviously no way to have a real conversation. Being “Intercorrupted” is sort of an admission of our connectiveness, in all of these interviews, I keep repeating the last phrase of the chorus in that song. The last phrase in the chorus in that song is, “it’s too dark for the world to see the light between you and me”, that’s literally how I see this whole situation, the light becomes so dark that we don’t even realize that we are connected, that we have this commonality of human existence, social existence and family and we want the same things and we care about the same things, but we’ve been sort of soldierized in terms of our ideas to dehumanize the people on the other side of the fence, and the only way that I see that ending is that we start to accept our own flaws, so in that way we are “Intercorrupted”
Madness To Creation: It’s so important to acknowledge our flaws and all that, given the pandemic, do you see the process that you mentioned continue to accelerate or do you see the pendulum swing back the other way so to speak?
Sahaj Ticotin: I think it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better, but I do think that it’s going to get better. The reason that I think that it’s going to get better is that I think that there’s a growing amount of people that are fed up with the extremes, extremes on the right and extremes on the left and extremes of any kind, and I think that there’s sort of a middle, gray common sense road that is eventually be able to articulate itself. Right now, the problem with the people in the middle is that they don’t really articulate, they can’t be heard over the noise over the crazy extremes, whatever extreme that they’re on, they’re making the most noise, when I talk to people, I live in Indiana but I’ve lived in New York City and I used to live in Los Angeles, but I live in Indiana right now, and I get to talk to people who are very conservative and when you talk to them individually and what you realize is that they’re not making all the noise on the right, they’re not people screaming their heads off about this or that, it’s literally a small percentage of people that make all of the noise, and that’s on both sides of the fence, you have the crazy liberals and the crazy right-wingers and if you’re common sense and are more centrist in your own mind, you’re not out there yelling and screaming, so I think eventually what will happen is that there will be a voice, there will be a voice for common sense and things that seem to be. In a weird way, and I’m going to use a very strange example, but in a weird way, Joe Rogan sort of is, because Rogan leans right on certain things and he leans left on other things and he’s very vocal and very clear about how he expresses his personal convictions and obviously he has a loud voice, he reaches a lot of people, so I think that’s going to become a little bit more prevalent now, but I don’t think that it’s going to happen anytime soon, I think it’s going to be 20 to 30 years before social media has some sort of regulations put on it that basically limit the way that it’s allowed to manipulate the brainwaves.
At the moment, there really is no rules, and it just manipulates you all day long. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, whatever it is, how educated you are, you’re literally being manipulated emotionally by everything, every post you put up, everything that you read, every ad, every news story, it’s all crazy!
Madness To Creation: Definitely! It’s crazy how we are being bombarded with advertising and stuff like that, and do you think it plays a role in our mental health as well?
Sahaj Ticotin: Yeah, I think it’s a huge, huge thing. I think we’re actually entering the part of it that it’s going to get really bad, when you think of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington and Robin Williams, and you think of these guys having these charmed lives, then they end up killing themselves, some of it is substance abuse, some of it is medications that are misprescribed, all of that stuff, but what I really think is happening, Russell Brand talked about his quite a bit when Chester killed himself, is about the disenfranchisement of mental health in men in modern society and the real sadness of social media is that first of all, the perception of your own people is that you’re only seeing what they’re advertising, you’re seeing the best of whatever they’ve got. You’re seeing the hottest pictures of the hottest girls, the happiest pictures of the happiest family and it’s all about how much they have and how good their life is, which of course in most cases it’s false, and then there’s the other aspect of it when you put your picture up and if you don’t get as much love or likes or as much attention as someone else, you literally start to worry about your own value as a human being, and on top of that, there’s an enormous amount of pressure to succeed and to be noteworthy and to be relevant.
I have to say even as a guy of my age, who for eight years of touring and playing in a hard rock band and being on a major label and all of that stuff, there was a lot of pressure, honestly I feel like right now, just stepping into the arena of being on a constant monitoring stage of social media and trying to figure out what to post and how am I going to get people to engage and to hear the song and to be ready to buy this record, there’s so many elements that in the old days, the record company sort of took care of that and all you had to do was to take some pictures, get on stage and play some shows, now there’s this whole other where you got to figure out what part of your personality do the people like and does anybody want to see pictures of you and how do you talk and make sure that you’re not offending anyone, but to be “offensive” just enough to make sure that you’re interesting, it’s a crazy amount of pressure.
I think that the human mind is just not designed for a combination of 24-hour information, news information of all kinds, constant anxiety building things like posts and likes and all the aspects of being assaulted by your phone 24 hours a day and having to see not only the chaos in the world, but the chaos in your life all of the time, never having a moment to escape it, that’s going to lead to a lot of depression, a lot of people on Prozac or on medication because how do you handle all of that, I mean I’m a pretty confident dude, I have a nice family and a decent life, but because of social media, I find myself with struggling with, “oh shit, I gained a little bit of weight” or “I’m not going to the gym enough” or “I’m getting older” or “this hurts”, and it’s not just the normal pressure, the “I’m getting older and my feet hurt”, it’s the weird pressure of “oh my God, I gotta make sure that I look cool or to be cool” and to not let it effect anything else, and I’m sort of one of the lucky ones.
I mean, I can’t imagine regular people who are using the Internet as a mirror for their regular lives, it’s very, very, very difficult to navigate and I understand it because I feel for them on all levels and plus I happen to be friends with a lot of really successful people, way more successful than me, and I can tell you that when they’re on the phone, it feels like you’ve been in a therapy session because they’re also going through it all, because they’re under a microscope, it’s a seriously weird way of living that just sort of sprung on us in the last 15 to 20 years, especially in the last 15 years, it just became this massive shift in the way that we deal with information, it’s very, very, very scary, and I think it’s going to be bad for awhile.
Madness To Creation: I see the pressure of it as well and I can’t imagine constantly being under a microscope like that. I agree that social media leads to mental health issues. Let’s say you have a bad day, do you turn to music or your family, how do you get through, how do you cope?
Sahaj Ticotin: I say the honest answer is my five-year old son sort of grounds me. It doesn’t matter what is going on, I see that kid and he sees me and we haven’t seen each other all day, whatever it is, and he just makes everything feel awesome, like I don’t care how bad of a mood I’m in or how messed up I feel, when I see that kid, I’m smiling, and that’s a huge thing. The other part of it for me is that I’ve sort of been lucky but part of it is how I’ve constructed my career so I’m not always doing the same thing over and over again. I really like hard rock but I also really like pop and I really like EDM and I really like rap, so I try to do as much of everything that I can, so I don’t feel that I’m in a prison or bogged down by any particular sort of label or style. I mean I predominantly work with rock artists, but even rock artists of today are trying to pull from pop or pull from hip-hop, there’s stuff that flies. But keeping my sanity a lot of times, exercise keeps me from feeling physically bad but I also play around with video games and I sort of like to erase my brain after a long day. Once I’m done with a work day, I’ll go on and jump on my Playstation and crush on some Call of Duty or I have a lot of racing games, I have a lot of Formula 1 and Gran Turismo or racing on my PC, stuff like that.
Madness To Creation: You plan on releasing the new album March 19th of next year?
Sahaj Ticotin: Yes, the presales are going to start February 1st, so people who buy the record during the presale are actually going to get the record two weeks earlier, so they’ll get it the 12th or 13th and the album will drop on all the DSP’s on March 19th.
Madness To Creation: With Covid-19, are you guys going to be doing any livestreams or anything like that?
Sahaj Ticotin: At the moment, we have a tentative plan but it looks very very likely because I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana and there happens to be a place in Fort Wayne called Sweetwater Sounds and Sweetwater has a massive Guitar Center, they’re really, really, really successful and they have a really fancy recording studio, they have three, and they also have these really massive soundstages and since I’ve moved here, I moved here in February, I’ve gotten to know the guys there and we’ve started to work together on a regular basis, not only with Ra, but with several projects that I will be bringing in there and we’re very excited and hopefully going to be able to livestream a concert on March 19th, the day that the record drops.
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add in regards to Ra or “Intercorrupted”?
Sahaj Ticotin: I would like to say a little bit about the record itself. “Intercorrupted” is sort of the introduction to it and in writing that song, I was trying to be mindful of where the band has come from and also where music is today, but I think the record itself is very adventurous and has some really, really, really good takes on modern music, but sort of a Ra take on the modern universe, I’m really happy with it, I’ve never done a body of work where I’ve been so motivated and it’s not even 100% done yet. It’s just so accurate to my vision. I originally had a vision of what this record could be like, and to be able to get all of the original band together to make this, really made it sound authentic to the band and also allowed me to make these sounds sound newer without losing the flavor of what we had.
Madness To Creation: How have you grown from your very first record to now, take yourself from “Do You Call My Name” to now, what is the biggest lesson that you have learned?
Sahaj Ticotin: Weirdly, I was a little bit older when I got signed to Universal Republic, it was sort of weird, sort of a mixture of thinking that I knew everything and actually not knowing anything, a lot of people may not know this, but a lot of the Ra records were either co-produced by me or produced, mixed and engineered by me, so “From One”, a lot of those songs I did we sort of co-produced and written together and all of that stuff, then “Duality” and “Black Sun” and “Critical Mass” and this record “Intercorrupted”, they’re all produced, engineered, and mixed by me by myself, which is sort of a crazy thing to do, the reason I did it was because I was more interested in it sounding unique than it sounding good, and now what I realized along the way is that I really want it to sound good too, so I needed to learn how to do that, and once I did “Critical Mass” in 2013, I realized certain things that I have become good at, but I also realized certain things that I wasn’t incredible at and over that seven year period, I got to work on those things, one of which being mixing and a little bit more about how to build up production, with Ra there was always a little bit of luxury because I was one of the better singers, so because I could sing good, and some of the mixes and production could be shitty and it wouldn’t matter too much because the vocals were always cool but as soon as I started working with other bands, I realized that formula doesn’t work if their singer isn’t incredible, so I had to become better at mixing and better at this and of course technology became better, so it’s a little easier to make records that sound good, so ultimately from then to now, the definition of what the band is is far more clear to me and I’m also more fine tuned as a producer, writer and engineer, I have a very, very clear picture of what I’m looking for every time that we do something, so decisiveness on a different level. The old days, I was very decisive with how I wrote the songs but sometimes I didn’t have the right priorities and I would sort of mix and match things with what I liked without necessarily caring about whether or not it would’ve worked, here it’s more about making everything work, making it sound cool and it being well mixed and be well engineered, there’s sort of a growth curve in terms of making everything sound good.
Madness To Creation: I know that you just released “Intercorrupted”, do you plan on releasing another music video or is that all under wraps?
Sahaj Ticotin: So what’s going to happen is as per the new rules of releasing new music in 2020, you release a single and you promote it to radio to make money, but now you have to release a song as just an Internet song and just a song for your fans, and we’ll have one for the presale and we will have another video when the album drops, so I’m looking at it realistically, I’m going to put out another song an Internet only post online song closer to Christmas, then there will be a song that will come when you get the presale, when you buy the presale, you will get another song as a free digital download, in order to get it, you will have to buy the presale, so that’s three total. And on March 19th, we’ll have the second video and single ready to go based on whether or not “Intercorrupted” is still climbing the charts, if we’re lucky enough that it’s doing well, then we will hold off obviously until it falls off or it starts to slow down and in that case, we’ll go to the next single, but if “Intercorrupted” is already on its way down by March 19th, then we will go to the next single then.
And there you have it! If you’re inclined, check it out on Soundcloud, it’s also available on I-Heart Radio and Podcast Addict: