Modernist vanguard and rock and roll visionary Hirakish Ranasaki gives us his views on art, ideologies and issues regarding modern music
Hailing from New Orleans, Hirakish Ranasaki is getting ready to show the world rock and roll isn’t dead, combining 21st Century production techniques with true instrumental prowess. Inspired by androgynous legends such as Prince and David Bowie, the model, actor and visual artist turned avant-garde musician and soon-to-be icon caught up with us to talk about his creed in a world bound by the chains of oppression.
The Hirakish we know is a rock and roll visionary, but how did your image and vision you possess today come about? Tell us about that journey.
Well I’m from New Orleans and my dad was a skater in the early 90’s, so he had a lot of different music around him. As a kid I grew up watching skate videos and was into skate culture. Where I’m from, the hood, there’s not a lot of kids doing that; you know skateboarding and visual art and all that shit. I had a lot of musical influence in my life, my dad was a musician as well, and I was a big fan of Prince and David Bowie and stuff like that. I wasn’t a musician first though, I was a visual artist, and then I just couldn’t create what I wanted with visual art because sound is the highest frequency on the planet; everything is created through sound. So I think the rock and roll way is the only way to get my ideas across.
Your music is, by definition, refreshingly avant-garde in the sense that it explores the boundaries of rock and pushes them whilst still being socially, culturally and politically relevant. It’s artistic and complex but is accessible because it combines fashionable trap/hip-hop elements with guitar driven rock. Can you elaborate on this?
Yeah that’s what I wanted to do with it, but it’s not trap it’s more like 808, because a lot of people don’t understand why 808 is so powerful. 808 is so powerful because people love to hear lower vibrations, frequencies and tone. That tone is very resonant in music and sound itself is in all things in the universe so I just wanted to make a tonal music where you had that [frequency] in it. Now I’m doing something a bit different from that because I was in a certain place when I made those songs.
Why do you want to be in rock and roll as opposed to R&B or EDM which are far more popular?
It’s a big question because all those genres are very accessible. They make sense, they’re very popular and they get people’s attention. But blues and folk music for instance is the American’s iconism of first popular music. When the British came to America like The Rolling Stones and they saw Muddy Waters and those guys, that’s when the big boom of the music industry started for rock and roll. All these derivatives of sound come from the blues men and those old myths about the crossroads, like Robert Johnson.
I mean rock and roll is just sexy, man. All the things these rappers want to be is rock and roll; they dress like rockstars, they want to do drugs like rockstars and shit like that but it’s not rock music.
EDM music is so far off the plate of natural sound. It’s all sample rates and it’s just noise. It’s very plastic, but then you have avant-garde; there’s this avant-garde bunch of kids who make this really extreme, eccentric stuff. Even with that it seems like everyone has the tools and programmes to create music, but the programme makes it so easy to make music people can create anything they want, so everyone’s a musician now. I want to do rock and roll because it can show technical skill in some matters and sexuality.
“I don’t want to work, I don’t want a job, I don’t want to work till the end of my life for anything on this planet. This is a free planet, this place was given to us for free. You’re growing for free so why do I have to buy into it?”
People always complain rock is dying and rightly so. It doesn’t top charts, the youth aren’t as interested and it no longer talks of meaningful concepts or ideas. It seems after grunge, rock was trying so hard to remain in the mainstream that it forgot about the poetry and stopped taking risks. As a result, it’s now withering. Why do you think this happened?
Not to be racist, but white people. White people take every form of music like jazz let’s say: Jazz was the rock and roll of its time. Can you imagine Thelonious Monk being the coolest person on the planet because he plays piano? Those guys were rock and roll. When white kids saw them playing jazz music, they started making jazz music, people start fucking with it, black kids start fucking with it. They think “this is corny now” because white people doing it now.
Blues was slave music and it came from the plantations, so forms of rock and roll started. All these white kids were doing it but there was no soul. Well, maybe not soul but what are they going to feed off? No one black is doing it as much. They shunned Chuck Berry and all these guys away so they moved to Motown, then Motown becomes a thing and becomes a vibe. So all these black Marvin Gaye’s and Michael Jackson’s are doing this thing called soul music, like Berry Gordy shit. Then that dies out and you have P-funk and shit which then goes to Hip-Hop. So now you have Hip-Hop which has gone from folk to blues to rock to punk to funk to soul to Hip-Hop. Now Hip-Hop is being introduced into white communities. It’s not a racist thing, there’s like a science to it – people who don’t create the music and culture want to get in to it and then they kinda crush it.
Black musicians and artists are topping and taking over the charts like never before. The music is rap, grime, R&B, Hip-Hop and the odd dance record. Given black artists are so popular right now, as a black artist yourself do you think you can lead the masses on to new ideas and show them rock can be mainstream and what people refer to as being ‘cool’?
Yeah, I think. My whole thing right now is that there aren’t many musicians that involve science in their craft. So I want to be a Rockstar who doesn’t do any drugs. Right now I’m on a 12 month celibacy package. There are certain things I want to show people with my vision, like yeah I make this music, yeah I look evil, yes I look like whatever else; but I am making crystal pyramids. I’m doing certain things with sonics in my music so I can create the planet to be a better place.
Those are things that are massive which I pity on these black individuals who are making music right now; they’re not trying to uplift the people. Sound is a very powerful thing, so they’re not getting paid because they’re fucking rappers or singers, they’re getting paid because they’re producing certain sounds that can resonate through multiple people’s bodies to get them to do certain things. That’s why all these record labels are hiring these people. It’s because they want to have their sound resonance from certain bodies to alchemise certain things.
How important is it for you in 2018 to create art with strong social, cultural and political messages?
It’s very important. I’ve been reading this big book by Marcus Garvey. He has all these different opinions on things like racial matters, politics, the government, the world etc. A people that doesn’t have its own government and own their own land owe nothing to the world because they don’t have anything, so if I’m not making a political statement musically, what am I doing? I’m not saying preach to the choir, but if I’m not doing something to teach others or high alchemy with my body, and I’m not doing my best to show the masses you can be dope, I’m not doing my art. At the same time if you not meditating and not trying to study science, you’re not trying to study law, you’re not trying to study the universal principle of why you’re here, you can’t be a fan of mine. I want people to feel a need to find a deeper meaning in life and stand up for something that’s above what’s happening on the planet that’s keeping us all at a low beta.
I don’t want to work, I don’t want a job, I don’t want to work till the end of my life for anything on this planet. This is a free planet, this place was given to us for free. You’re growing for free so why do I have to buy into it? I’ve been trying to find ways to learn chemistry, crystals and other things to attract more opportunity.
If you notice all the social media kids, they’re on it all day. The radiation from the phone is going in to you all day, you’re staring at synthetic light all day. How can you truly be a powerful person if you’re constantly taking in synthetic light? You just dancing in front of the computer all day like “I’m at the store, now I’m modelling for such and such”. Who gives a fuck? I don’t understand this generation and this bullshit Instagram. It doesn’t really connect the dots for me as much as it should right now.
“Some people feel like they want to carry on with you and your experiences, like you have to create your world. Why are they not calling you for your world, is there something wrong with you? It’s just not for everyone to be the same body.”
What made you transition into music and acting from being a runway model?
I graduated late and left High School at 19. I had a year off and was painting but one day I thought fuck this shit I want to do music. I’m not going to paint anymore and I’m not making anymore visual arts so that I’m able to make music. I began meditating and acting on outside energies to help me out, then I found these group of kids who started doing music.
I met some guys out there like Shayne Oliver (founder of Hood by Air), not on the internet but face to face, and then from that point on it just all took off.
Modelling just felt a bit like slavery to me because you gotta wait in line, you gotta do what they want you to do and I was doing ridiculous shit, like I was running around on the runway. Everybody’s doing that now, running around trying to be eccentric and shit, but I hadn’t seen anyone do that until I did it. I kind of broke the New York fashion wave. I didn’t start releasing stuff after Hood by Air because I didn’t want my music to be attached to the Hood by Air Emblem.
Your music tends to have a beautifully disjointed feel to it, but ‘Liquid Geezus’ quite literally splits in the middle. What are you trying to portray with the whole song?
Well with ‘Liquid Geezus’ and before Prince and David Bowie died, I kinda had a feeling these individual spirits were about to pass away because this decade was not for them – this decade was not for them to live because they are so powerful in what they are. You have to move on, so I made Liquid ‘Geezus’ in the consideration of them. Before Blackstar came out by David Bowie I had made songs, he was saying the same thing: “on the day he died, spirit rose” cause someone had to take his place. “I’m a Blackstar”, you know?
‘Liquid Geezus’ is about an individual like myself taking leadership of the role placement of a spirit like a Prince or David Bowie, or Lenny Kravitz. Sometimes you don’t necessarily know when your time is, like I may have done modelling, been in a movie and had a couple of songs out but I still don’t feel like this is it. I’m still looking for that moment where I feel I’ve found my calling. I feel like I’m in the woods and that song is more about trying to find that feeling of “this is it”.
‘Flesh’ is your most full sounding song, did you work with a producer on that? There’s some great guitar playing too, is that you?
Yeah I worked with my friends Brandon Ares and Lil Jodeci on it.
Some people feel like they want to carry on with you and your experiences, like you have to create your world. Why are they not calling you for your world, is there something wrong with you? It’s just not for everyone to be the same body.
I play guitar but the guitar work is an old friend of mine, though.
You know Maggot Brain by Funkadelic? I got some vibes of that in there.
Yep. That’s the one that’s it. That’s great you caught that, and it’s crazy because I actually said lets used Maggot Brain as inspiration.
Do you play any other instruments?
I can play guitar, a little bass. I can play synthesizers and you know a little bit of everything. I play guitar more than anything now but I can dance and shit too. I think if you don’t want to play an instrument, how can you create music for yourself? It’s stressful – I thought fuck it I’m going to pick this shit up and finally learn guitar. So now I can play fluently enough to record. I’m more of a multi-instrumental artist in that I have the visual skills, I have the fashion skills, literature skills, like a pulse.
You said on Instagram you are going through an Identity Crisis. Can you tell us about that?
Well with the whole identity crisis, some people look at an identity crisis in negative ways or positive ways a crisis is a crisis, you know? I came back to New Orleans to have time to myself and I wanted to draw back and take time to think about life. I kind wanted to just shed my skin, stop being around everyone and dressing like cool and shit for a while; just go home and wear slippers. So I’ve come here to my dad’s house to chill and just strip down everything, and then I can rebuild.
I gather you have an album coming out, is that correct?
Yeah I’m doing a release with NYX Unchained in London who want to press 200 copies of a record I want to make. I’m doing a six track L.P which will include ‘Flesh’ and ‘Liquid Geezus’ because people think those are great tracks and there’s another song from that batch called ‘Looking For Love’ which is more of a dance song but It has the same energy almost. The other three I’m making now should be finished and released around April time.
Do you have anything exciting such as gigs, tours, art exhibitions etc. coming up?
Yeah I want to do some touring but I haven’t reached out to anyone yet. I’m doing a show in March where I’ll perform the songs off the new record. It’s really interesting, because I haven’t planned anything – all the shit you know about me, I haven’t planned it. I didn’t know it was going to happen, like the movie thing and everything else, this all came naturally to me. So what I’m trying to learn now is how the fuck did I do that without doing anything. All I did was stay home and do certain things like meditation.
There’s a big difference between what influences and what inspires someone. What or who influences you?
The thing that influences me the most is not art, it’s not music. My whole thing about travelling and trying to become this person I want to become, that influences me the most. It’s like a magical thing, most people don’t understand. Some people leave high school and stay there – they’re the same person when they left. Or some people marry one person and stay with that person for the rest of their life – some people can never understand higher knowledge. For me, it’s very influential for a person to say I want to play guitar now, I want to play piano now, I want to learn science, I want to grow crystals. That influences me the most because it’s a science – alchemy. Alchemy influences me the most.
What or who inspires you the most?
Prince. Prince and Lenny Kravitz man. Prince was Prince. I like Tracy Chapman and stuff like that too, Alice Coltrane, Theolinous Monk, Miles Davis. I like Bob Dylan sometimes, Jimi Hendrix. I like a lot of people but Prince was the highest – nobody has done what he’s done. He’s like the Tesla of music. He had sexuality, he had bitches, he had swag, he had movies. He was well thought out and a genius.
You look at Prince and Bowie when he was doing Ziggy Stardust and shit. They were changing the world. Who’s doing that now?
When I go on tour, I want to align the dates with star patterns, like perpendicular star patterns. People are always fucking high! I want to play 432 resonant frequency before my show and get everyone to put their hands in the air and sing the same hymn. That’s the kind of shit that people aren’t doing in music anymore, that’s what we need to do.
Rock is associated with the devil. Why? Why does it have to be the devil? Be a God, be from the heavens, heaven is stronger than Satan.