“I’ve heard that the most effective way to control the opposition is create it – thus the reason for the conflict. It’s political theatre in full swing, and divide and conquer at its finest,” muses Ras Isaiah, the mastermind behind the R.M. Isaiah solo project.
We’re discussing the explosive political climate in his home United States, and his insight is both dark and engaging. “Historically, politics has always been volatile. It’s important to remember, though, that it’s the ‘leaders’ of the world that start the conflict, not the people they represent,” he adds. Indeed, dark and engaging are one-size-fits-all adjectives to describe the Californian, whose outlook, music and personality are all mired in dusk, enigma and mystery.
These are qualities that translate seamlessly to his music – art that always challenges the listener to dig a little deeper; like the sprawling Day of the Dead or Spaghetti Western-inspired Beauty to Burn. “It’s a bit dark, and cryptic, with a cinematic thread running through it,” he explains, while admitting Isaiah the artist is a somewhat different beast from Isaiah the man: “I know that when I’m making music, I am more myself than ever in some ways, but the music sounds a bit darker than I usually am. I laugh a lot.”
But while his influences prove similarly mysterious – old Italian Westerns, soundtracks and obscure writers – that’s not to say all his qualities and experiences are so awash in darkness. His life in music has proven both exciting and chaotic, noting tours with Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains as a real high (“We played near my hometown, and I was able to make an old friend’s dream come true by introducing him to Cantrell!”) and a NYE party with the infamous Hells Angels (“It was at a clubhouse in San Francisco… that was surreal.”).
“I actually had a dream one time that I was producing Tom Waits… he was singing ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’.” Amongst all this, he remains an exceptionally busy artist in every sense of the word; beyond his R.M. Isaiah solo project, he is working on a film called Janus, developing a new High Witness and an EvilAfter EP, producing a Craig Vail EP and playing in the underground band, An American Movie Music. But ultimately, Isaiah makes for an insight as undeniably intriguing as his art: “I love to create something from nothing, to challenge myself in some way, and communicate an idea or feeling, but not directly… once it is ‘alive’, it can reveal itself, more or less. I like to leave things buried. If I can accomplish any or all of this, I am happy.”
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