RAJA is the latest musical project from the New York based producer Chester Anand. Despite being just nineteen years of age, Anand has developed his musical output profusely since he began melding beats together for his brother to rap along to. He’s released music under an array of moniker’s, most notably InfinitiRock and Slowlight and is also the founder and curator of the Guns Of Kingston collective, made up of musicians, artists and film makers.
In 2011 Chester released ‘The October Series’, an epic trilogy of LP’s named ‘Red’, ‘Witch’ and ‘Color’ on Astro Nautico. Each LP portrays very different sounds, ‘Red’ features classic hip hop beat’s overflowing with jazz and soul samples. ‘Witch’ is packed full of thunderous noddable crunk, whilst ‘Color’, a dedication to his late grandmother is steeped in low end sub dives and piano.
Please can you introduce yourself tell us who you are and where you’re from and what you’re currently up to?
Hello I’m RAJA. I’m a 19 year old musician from New York. I’m currently working with other vocalists and instrumentalists, doing remixes and shows here and there. I recently started up my own Imprint, Guns Of Kingston. I’m also working on a solo Dance EP called “Nostalgia For The Light”.
What’s your musical background? When and where did your passion for music stem from?
I always looked up to my brother and imitated everything he did. He’s a great rapper now, but he started with production. He got me to make beats and loops on our old PC when I was six. I kept with it and eventually I became his main producer while he focused on rapping. It was pretty wild. When I wasn’t making rap beats I’d make a lot of techno. I was obsessed with Aphex Twin.
Your music is a combination of hip-hop, crunk, jazz and soul. What is it about these styles of music that intrigues you to incorporate them into your music?
I am in love with so many different types of music. I have a bad habit of emulating whatever I’m into. I also have ADD. Some days I’ll make loads of sample based rap beats and the next day I’ll make crunk and later that night I’ll make insular one man band Atlas Sound type of music. It’s kind of a problem.
I’m trying to tame my spontaneity a bit. I’ve been really inspired by Theo Parrish lately so I guess you can expect to hear some influence on my new EP. I guess you can notice my ADD in this mix I did for you also.
How has living in New York influenced your sound and approach to electronic music?
Living in New York is the best. I get a bit jealous of all the LA cats, but there’s something charming about the beat scene here. It’s more hidden and fun to seek out like minded people. As a kid I was completely inspired by east coast hip hop. The grittiness of Wu Tang and RZA’s production really flipped the script for me.
What 5 records define your personal music taste and current sound explorations?
I’ll tell you the five most influential records that I’ve had on rotation lately.
1. Madvillain ‘Madvillainy’
2. Jonti ‘Twirligig’
3. Radiohead ‘The King of Limbs’
4. Thom Yorke ‘The Eraser’
5. Grizzly Bear ‘Veckatimest’
Whilst still at school you used to produce under the name ‘InfinitiRock’ – please can you expand on what that projects aim was and why you decided you needed to shift to your current moniker ‘RAJA’?
I changed my name from InfinitiRock to RAJA because I felt like I needed space from my prior releases to develop more as an artist. A lot of people were familiar with the record I did for Sufjan Steven’s label, Asthmatic Kitty… but I felt like it was time to do my own thing and rediscover myself. I still get happy when I hear people are still listening to my old stuff. I’m really grateful for that release with Asthmatic Kitty, It was a great experience. Also my InfinitiRock Boiler Room set was a bit embarrassing haha.
You’re also part of the Guns Of Kingston collective, made up of musicians including Lapalux, Starchild and Aviator – When did the G.O.K. collective formalize and what was the initial vision behind it?
The Guns Of Kingston collective started up with my best friends freshman year of college. Originally we were a band but we kinda separated and became our own solo outfits. We decided to give ourselves a name and produce separate music. We needed a platform to put our stuff on so I designed the site myself.
We are all friends and delve in different art. We have painters, photographers, film makers and musicians. Yes, Lapalux was originally in the collective when we started up, but obviously he has moved on to a better place. He is still in our hearts. RIP. We still love us some Stuart.
How has the collective grown and what does the future hold for it?
The collective is still growing. 2012 just began, but there are a lot of surprises in the works. As the head of the imprint, I have some tricks up my sleeve. I’m working on three separate rap albums at the moment. I’m producing for Aviator and Starchild.
There’s another MC that I’m working with but I’m going to keep it a secret. It’s gonna be an interesting collaboration. The other outfits on the label are working on new material also. We are also planning on starting a skit web series called “The Douglas Show”, which should be interesting. Honestly we’re gonna keep everybody on their toes. 2012 Is Our Year. #GOK2012 NY NY NY
Slowlight’s ‘Copper Mirrors’ is one of my favorite music videos and acoustic songs – Who’s behind the video and can you explain how it was created?
Copper Mirrors was a song I made with my best friend, Bean when we were freshman. We were bored and made the song and video in the very same day. We made the song in my dorm room and then we ran to the library and put some raw footage to it.
We are working on an EP called “Linocut” and I’m really excited to wrap it up. We were completely surprised and excited when our video got up on Yours Truly. Thank you YT.
In 2011 you released a trilogy of themed mixtapes called ‘The October Series’ – What provoked you to pursue this trilogy and how did you go about creating each LP?
I don’t know what made me want to put out three expansive tapes for free, but I’m happy I did it. I think I wanted people to know that I changed my name and my style, but I wanted to remind them that I’m still extremely productive.
People always complain about me releasing “too much material” but I don’t make it for them. I don’t really care about what people like that have to say anyways. The last tape, Color, was dedicated to my grandmother that passed. I did it for her.
During the making of these tapes I was pretty alone. I spent so much time working on them. I’d abandon my friends and schoolwork and I just pumped out a bunch of material. After all that it feels great to proud of something even though its old. I guess that’s why I did it. I get so happy when I see people sharing my music videos and still listening to my tapes. It’s a very validating thing, to feel love.
Red reflects my heavy love for Stones Throw. I’ve been hesitant to admit it because I don’t want to invite a Madlib/Dilla comparison. Obviously they inspire me like they should to every other budding producer. Witch is more dark and electronic. I was inspired by the trap beats Rick Ross would Rap over and A$AP Rocky. Color is just emotion and landscapes.
Who is the subject in the photograph that fronts each LP cover?
The woman in all of the LP Covers is Queen RAJA.