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Ras G: Outerbody, Outerbeing, Outerbass

Ras G (aka Gregory Shorter Jr) is one of the many fruits to grow on the ever-bountiful Brainfeeder bush. His afro futurist influences and a natural love of dub and heavy bass music all contribute to his extraterrestrial take on the American deep jazz tradition, with the odd airhorn punctuating each track (naturally). Think the BB C Radiophonic Workshop playing over a rather destructive bassline. Past releases include Brother From Another Planet, Ghetto Sci-Fi and El-Aylien Part 1, not to mention his Beat Soup mixes, which showcase some of the best musicians and producers to come out of LA at the moment. We enquired about the influences behind his Afrikan Space program moniker, during which a lot of his personal take on black consciousness seeped into conversation. Can you tell? It took a bit of a nudge to get Ras to complete the questions put to him but he came through, in the most cryptic and unorthodox way possible. Oh Ras. What's your musical history? Well, my musical history started from before I was ever on the planet. My mom said when I was born I came out not crying, so that was my introduction to sound. When did you start making beats and what prompted you to get involved in music? I started making beats in 2002-3.What prompted me to start creating music was that I always knew what I wanted to hear. When I would go to friends' houses I would hear productions that were subpar to my ears at that time. I was a DJ and my mind frame was 'make some shit'. Some boom bap shit or whatever - just something dope. I wasn't hearing it so I eventually got my own drum machine/sampler and have been going ever since. There's the obvious influence of Sun Ra and afro futurism on your music. Your project Afrikan Space Program for one is a giveaway. How were you exposed to this? I was exposed from birth. I am born into the being that I am. Everything you hear and see, that comes from I-Self, is. What's the relationship between the music and the philosophy? Am I right in saying that you're Rastafarian? I'm everything to those who know nothing and nothing to those who know everything. I have many names. Check my melanin, it never changes. Rastafari is my Enlightenment. Rastafari is I Natural Being. Rastafari is what it says RA`S TAFARI. It's no religion thing. 'Ra' meaning the sun, 'Tafari' mean awe inspiring mystical youth. And what am I you ask? Haha, from slavery to now, I am not supposed to know what I know. As an African in the West to know that about Horus, Isis, Osiris, Maat 42, negative confessions, the Olmecs, the Moors and certain things, I am taught to just be a believer in whatever is - told not to ask questions or I'm told that I am a sinner. I am from a people that's taught I am a nigga and that Jesus is the son of God and that it's alright to eat pig guts even though it will give me high blood pressure and kill me off. So for me to come into myself or I-Self as Rasta Man, to say that all that is wrong and to acknowledge a certain identity with my past, is a divine thing to a person like myself. And like I said: We have many names of enlightenment. Check the melanin 'cause that's what never changes. You seem to really take the mentality of the DIY deep jazz musicians. Who would you like to collaborate with in terms of live performance? If it were five years ago I would have said Sun Ra, but I have accomplished that with the Art Yard/All City release. The being I would like to work with the most on this planet right now is the creator of the culture that comes from ancient nothingness. That being is the Amon-Ra of hip hop - Afrika Bambaataa. The emcee I would most like to work with is Brother J of the X-Clan. The vocalists I would most like to work with are Erykah Badu and Baaba Maal. All is happening in due time. Stay breathing. Brainfeeder seems like a pretty tight musical family. Did this relationship exist before you were brought together under the same umbrella? Yes, it did exist. Before Brainfeeder I was cool with Steve El (Flying Lotus), Daedelus, Samiyam, Gaslamp Killer, Teebs and Matthew David. So when Steve created Brainfeeder it was really a natural thing for him to gather a cast of outer minded artists. Do you feel as if you're part of a strong musical family tree or do you feel pretty independent? I myself have always thought of what I do as a creative artist as a continuation of what my ancestors in life and music have demonstrated, which is why I represent and celebrate that I'm the future and the past. I'm everything they said I would be back then till these times now. I'm the defender and offender of that root, you know? They're my root, they're my tree. I'm their fruit that holds the continuation seed in likeness and being, creation wise, sight, sound and overall being. They're always there as I will always be here because we are the same. Can you tell me a bit about Poobah records. Any recommended releases coming up? I'm just an artist on Poo-bah Records and an employee at the Poo-bah record shop. I've helped on the label end choosing artists that I think people should know about, like-minded artists within the creative community. Our newest release is by Dakim, a transplant from Detroit. He's one of the most productive artists I know, who takes all routes in creativity which is what I love personally - the unexpected in music. He's done well in demonstrating that. You've been known to incorporate 'healing tones' and white noise into your music. What is it about the physicality of the music as opposed to just the audible effects that makes you want to include these? Are there any other effects, hidden tones that you tend to use? I don't think - I feel... How does all this translate into your live shows? They have a pretty good reputation. What's the difference between Ras G live and on record? It's the same. I and I go everywhere musically, so I and I try to demonstrate that, in a live setting as well as in the spacebase, it's all an outerbody, outerbeing, outerbass experience. In a recent interview, you said it 'feels good playing for the community. They don't know the songs but they feel it'. Do you still feel that way about playing music to certain audiences? Yes I do! People in my area where I live know 'everything' that is presented to them by the people who know 'everything', so it feels good to present them the best nothing they would never hear. It's their music which they don't know is theirs, but then again there are a lot of things on this planet that are theirs in origin that they know nothing about. What's influencing you at the moment? Are there any sounds, art, films, developments in technology that you're really into? I've been buying and reading more books than ever - Dr Yosef Ben Yocanon, Ivan Van Sertima, John Henrik Clarke, Francis Cress Welsing, Dr York, Sun Ra, E A Wallis Budge. I'm listening to lots of different AfriKAn rhythms - Sun Ra (as usual), Khalil El Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Phil Kelan Cohran. And music that I grew up listening to - early 90s hip hop like Native Tongues, X Clan, Divine Styler. Hip hop records that were creative, educational and fun. Crazy electronic records. Any last words? VIEWS ON SATURN VOL. 1 (ALL CITY/ART YARD RECORDS) SPACEBASE IS THE PLACE 10" (POO-BAH RECORDS) C.RAZY A.LIEN cassette (LEAVING RECORDS) RAW FRUIT cassette (LEAVING RECORDS) BLACK JUPITER LP (BRAINFEEDER) )

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