By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Without any formal education in journalism and no prior print experience, Raymond Roker went from L.A. graffiti artist to publisher of URB, the most respected underground music magazine.
New Times: When you were a graffiti writer, what was it that you used to write? What was your tag?
Raymond Roker: I wrote TECK. I wrote a lot of things, but that was the last name I took from the last year of high school all the way to a couple of years in college, and then I just, you know, couldn't get arrested anymore. I couldn't get in trouble. Once you turn eighteen, it gets a little serious. I wrote from about 1983 all through to like '90 -- pretty much through the heyday of L.A. graffiti. Had a lot of fun.
To most heads URB is the zine at the front of the future music scene. Who, in your estimation, is going to break next?
Unfair question. Our editors are more on point than I am at this point. Our "Next 100" issue covers every subgenre, and usually a couple years down the line a few of those people will be real players. There is a band called Kosheen right now that sounds real good. You never know though; some bands are really poised, and you think they are really going to do something, like Breakbeat Era, and it never quite takes root. A little surprising really. Then you have bands like Groove Armada, and you have Basement Jaxx. Both were in the Next 100 a couple of years ago and have really lived up to that expectation. I think it's less about specific artists. I would say that there are music styles that will continue to be exploited, like the whole 2-step movement. You know music that you can listen to at home is really the next wave. Experimentation. Groups like Air that make mood music. That's what I'd say is going to take off.
What is your take on the super-subclassification of all the genres that occurs in the music industry, from 2-step to jungle to garage to drum and bass to trance?
As a member of the media, and as somebody who is representing the industry that is responsible for all the subgenre classifying of music, I think it's idiotic, quite honestly. The thing that makes it so wrong is that if you are in the know, if you really know music, then the subgenres don't really mean anything. They are not accurate, and you know that. If you are not in the industry, or you are not savvy of the scene, then the genres hold too much meaning for you. They make it worse for you to explore new music. Case in point: trance. Everything they are calling trance nowadays, what is it? It is a mix of hard house. It is techno. It's house without the blackness. It's hard house without the Chicago. But at the same time someone like Timo Maas is playing a much more funky style of trance that really, in my opinion, is just techno. And then you look at someone like Danny Tenaglia, who is playing stuff that borders on hard trance -- but what is that? I think the genres really get you lost. I'd really like to just go back to house. But it's a way to just get the conversation rolling as to what you like or what section of the magazine you want to read. But beyond that putting too much weight on that is just silly. We, as in the human race, like to tribe up. We like to tribe up the music that we are involved in, and that's why we do it.
With his Grammy Award- and British Mercury Prize-winning New Forms (1997), Roni Size has been credited with pushing jungle into the mainstream.
New Times: You've said you don't consider yourself political, yet you've got Zach de la Rocha [former frontman of Rage Against the Machine] on your recent In the Mode with a pretty harsh message for Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York after the Amadou Diallo shooting.
Roni Size: I don't think it's harsh at all. I mean, if he were cussing and saying, "I'll fucking go there and kill you," that would be harsh. But he's saying, "Please, Mayor, may I please say -- [imitates de la Rocha screaming]."