Interview | RAC Opens Up About His ‘Ego’
Photo: Claire Marie Vogel
Many dorm room “projects” consist of MacGyver-ing something (apple, soda can, water bottle) into a bong.
For Andre Anjos, his dorm room project, RAC, has turned into a career that is bubbling into fruition. Back in 2007, the Portuguese-born Anjos, was just a college kid at Greenville College outside St. Louis, remixing songs with a couple faceless friends on the internet.
The group worked under the RAC moniker, which stood for Remix Artists Collective, reworking tracks by Phoenix, Lana Del Rey, New Order, and Bob Marley.
Ten years and a Grammy win later (for a 2016 Bob Moses remix), RAC, is now a full-fledged artist himself, releasing his second full-length, Ego, today on Counter Records.
Ego took three years to make and represents an exploration of self, allowing RAC the songwriter to emerge from behind the bedroom producer curtain, dialing back on the dance floor jams and delving into more organically crafted songwriting landscapes.
I chatted with RAC over email about his approach to remixing, the one song that got away, and formulating his own songs.
CRAVE: You’ve remixed 200+ plus songs. What was the one that you had a hard time cracking and why?
RAC: I had quite a difficult time working on my Bob Marley remix. Partly because he’s a legendary figure, but also because I had to re-create the song from scratch based off of an old 4-track demo tape. Apparently the original tapes were lost in a fire and this is all they had. It had different lyrics and certain sections were missing. It was certainly a challenge but it was something I really enjoyed despite that. I’m one of the few people that have actually heard those files so I feel very fortunate.
What’s the “Moby Dick” of songs that you want to, but haven’t remixed?
I don’t really have a specific song, but I’ve been trying to work with LCD Soundsystem for many years now. Maybe it’ll finally happen now that they’re back. They are a huge influence for me and I’d love to see what I could do with it.
This is your second album as a solo artist. What did you do on EGO that you didn’t get a chance to do or didn’t know how to do on Strangers (RAC’s debut full-length).
There’s a certain maturity that comes with a second album, but it’s also a very confusing time in an artist’s life. What made the first one successful? Does that even matter? Who am I as an artist and what am I trying to say? There was a lot of second guessing everything and one day it all just clicked for me. I think this new album is far more personal and much more in line with my own taste. I made a conscious effort to ignore the style du jour and just did my own thing. In a way, the second album is more important because it sets the tone for the rest of my work.
You’re a music artist who is very much linked to technology, which can help, but also deter an artist.
I’ve always been fascinated by technology because it’s made my job possible. I’ll never forget the moment I discovered Napster and the entire world of music opened up in front of me. Access to music shaped who I am. It was an amazing time to discover all kinds of weird subgenres and interesting artists before all the gatekeepers and playlist people came on board to curate our lives. I’ve seen the power of technology to disrupt my own life so I’m always looking to be ahead of the curve.
So how do you use that technology and access to make music that feels fresh and sound organic?
I personally try to achieve that by playing physical instruments and collecting vintage synthesizers. I just like the texture of it. It’s kinda gritty and dirty and that adds all kinds of layers to music. I like to use nostalgia and sounds from a specific period. I think it creates this intangible but familiar feeling.
Your collaborators on EGO are stellar. What did you learn or witness from working with upstarts like K. Flay to veterans like Rivers Cuomo?
Thank you! I feel so lucky. I like working with all kinds of people because they bring different things to the table. Younger artists take more risks — older artists know what they’re doing. It’s all about finding that balance.
What’s the one memory you will take away from recording EGO?
This album is different from my previous work because it was mostly done in the same room with the featured vocalist. This allowed for long conversations about life and music and all kinds of other things. This personal connection really had an impact on my writing process. STRANGERS was an album done over the internet.