Razteria (aka Renee Asteria) is a multi-lingual singer/songwriter out of the Bay Area in California. Experiencing a diversity of cultures as a young girl in being of Bolivian/Dutch decent and also growing up in France, Razteria brings a variety of cultural influences into her music. Although there is a heavy reggae feel mixed in with the gumbo of her musical style... one thing for sure... it's catchy and unique. She is releasing her 5th album in early 2016 titled "Aventurera", and judging from the title track single, you're going to want this album in your collection. Her experience from performing all over the world as well as appearing in major festivals, really shows in her creative songwriting. Razteria is backed up by top notch musicians on this release, and the collection of songs will make you feel like you're part of the adventure. I recently corresponded with Razteria about the new album and her career.
R.V.B. - Congratulations on your musical career up to this point. I understand the new album with be out in March... What kind of musical journey is in store for us?
Razteria - Thanks so very much – it’s been a journey creating this album as a it consists of songs written up to 11 years ago (3rd track LIFE) together with some written in the past few months (noteably tracks ONCE AGAIN and ZONE) and this adds to the diversity of sounds and messages you will find on the album. It begins with a danceable tropical South American sounding track which gives title to the album AVENTURERA,a collaboration with Afro-funk band Sang Matiz, a song in Spanish about how the adventurer inside each of us has the power to heal. It is seconded by the trilingual (English, Spanish, French) single CHANGE, which empowers us to grasp our potential to Change without fear, a hip-hop/world music/rock track collaboration with rapper Rahman Jamaal. Those two tracks set the stage for the rest of the album, in which contrasting yet complementary music styles blend on each distinct track.
R.V.B. - Tell me about what inspired the concept of the album "Aventurera"?
Razteria - Well actually – originally the Album was going to be named after the single “CHANGE” – as this is also a central concept in each track on the album. However when I shared this with drummer Jayme Arredondo, who played on 4 tracks (AVENTURERA, TAKE MY HAND, ONCE AGAIN, ZONE), he was like – “I play with like 4 bands who have released an album called CHANGE or something very close” then he said “everyone wants to be an adventurer – you should call the album “Aventurera”. It was immediately evident to me that this fit the concept of all the music as a whole, as each track relates to one or more of my personal life adventures, and that this title made much more sense and would stand out more.
R.V.B. - Who were some of the people that helped out on the album? What did they add to the project?
Razteria - All of the musicians did an awesome job as well as my co-writers in crime :) Rahman Jamaal (Change, Once Again), Carolyn Smith (Zone, Can’t Touch), Yuriza Jared (Aventurera), as well as Seneca and Chatterbox (Take my hand). Not to mention the 2 sound engineers that I worked closely with – James Weiss from Live Oak Studio (Berkeley, CA) for the majority of the songs and Nicolas Duboux from Kinyama Sounds on tracks Change & Little Sister. The beautiful sound was mastered in full by Justin Weiss of TrakWorks (South SF) who has mastered the last 3 albums of mine.
R.V.B. - How is this album different from some of your earlier releases?
Razteria - I think it is more stylistically diverse and “POP”ular, in other words, has more of a mass appeal due to its catchy melodies, beats and the format of the songs. For the past albums I was the primary producer – as in this one- the difference lies in the fact thatI appropriated much more of the process myself as compared to the other albums. I took on the hats of sound engineer (recording and mixing), recording 90% and starting most the mixes at my home studio (Truffula Oak Studio). I also play much more of the final instrumentation on the album itself whereas on past albums - I created a preproduction with full instrumentation, which studio musicians then replaced their respective parts on most tracks. It also features more collaboration with other local musicians.
Razteria - I have been singing ever since I have memories, and one of the first songs I recall knowing the lyrics to is from the opera Carmen, the Habanera aka “l’amour est un oiseau rebel” (love is a wild bird which can never be caught), of course a tragic romance which has a unique Spanish sound (aside: I am one myself and much of the energy derived from a broken heart has been channeled into songwriting, and not necessarily only love songs – although there are a few of them of course)...
Going back to when I was in the womb, from what I know, my mom would serenade me with South American lullabyes (“Duerme duerme negrita, que tu mama esta en el campo” etc). My parents actually met over music, my father a young Bolivian medical student who knew how to play a few South American tunes, met my mom, a biology student at the University of Geneva (CH), at a student party, where one or the other was jamming out on a traditional South American tune (I wish I knew which one). They didn’t speak each other’s language – only shared the love of South American music at first.
I grew up listening to music my parents liked, from Mozart to the Beatles, Peter, Paul & Mary and much more. I developed a taste for bass lines being draw first to alternative rock groups such as Alice in Chains and Nirvana, then to rocksteady, reggae and dub, with Desmond Dekker, of course, Bob Marley, the Wailers, and Lee “Scratch” Perry, were among the names of music I listened to a ton. This helped to develop my love for the elements of bass and beat, after my first love of vocal melodies and harmonies.
I started songwriting as a way to express myself as a young person and I remember writing my first song at 12 years old, not knowing how to play the guitar, but plucking out on 4 notes total a guitar/bass line to accompany a melody. I still remember it… I then just continued to write, my rhythm guitar skills advancing little bit by little bit as I wrote more and more complex songs. I would write progressions I couldn’t yet play, then learn them fully once I completed and repeated the entire song.
My first live concert was Ben Harper at the Palladium in Geneva, Switzerland who I saw again at my first festival Paleo Festival Nyon (CH) in 1995. These experiences really shaped my view of live music.
R.V.B. - How have your world travels affected your creativity?
Razteria - Traveling and living in another place acts as a catalyst for change. It pushes you by challenging you to adapt and grow quickly. This combustion process in a sense can explain a ton of the energy that ends up being used in my song-writing. I learn lessons, observe, experience, the spectrum of emotions, gradient from “good” to “bad”, or “happy” to “sad”, or however else one can simplify the dichotomy, and translate this into a song, which helps me to let go, learn and grow in the process. I think that becoming a better songwriter - to a great extent - is dependent on one’s ability to relate the very personal experience, to an expression of music that everyone can make their own, that speaks to everyone, emotionally, spiritually etc.
R.V.B. - Can you give me an example of a gig that you may have performed in a different country, and how the experience was?
Razteria - Comparing gig experience in US versus Europe, Switzerland and France in particular, it is evident that the EU has a different valuation of the musician, I believe that, in general musicians, big or small, are better paid and taken care of in terms of food or accommodations in the EU. The US club scene that I have experienced is very cut-throat and all money-driven. The venues no longer help promote; only making money off of artists when they do door gigs etc. It’s too bad because a great synergy could happen if venues went back to the practice of supporting the acts that were to perform there.
R.V.B. - Your music seems to have a good message for people with songs like Mosquito, Risk, and others. What are your feelings about promoting good ideas for people?
Razteria - I just write about what I have experienced in life, and what I personally can say something about, the positive as well as the “negative”. I hope to share whatever knowledge I can through music, an alternative form of communication for certain themes of importance which need to be heard more, related to public health (songs Mosquito, Vinchuca, Risk) or issues of justice (Illegal).
R.V.B. - How do you enjoy the bay area music scene? You seem to mix it up with a lot of other artists there.
Razteria - I love working in the underground music scene here in the Bay area. There is so very much talent and diversity, you can find just about everything! For creating new original music this is ideal location. It also very hard live music market to breakthrough. I think that if you can get the music out to a critical mass in the Bay area, you are more likely to succeed elsewhere.
Razteria - Above all music production in general and the improvement from one disc to another. I have now completed 5 – and each of these experiences have been distinct, progressing into better and better music.
R.V.B. - Can you me how the "Empress Unification" came about?
Razteria - It started as Empress Meditations, as it was spearheaded by Queen Makedah, an independent reggae artist in the Bay area. She was looking to collaborate with female artists in a similar vein (positive uplifting reggae and world music) for a few shows. We did a tour of the West Coast and people really loved the concept – we were very diverse acts coming together and singing in up to 6 languages. The following year Queen Makedah decided to focus on her solo career and we wanted to continue (Razteria, Sol Atash and Irae Divine) so we ended up modifying the name to symbolize the change. We still perform every so often.
R.V.B. - What was a gig that very memorable for you up to this point?
Razteria - Just the last 2 gigs I had at Ashkenaz (1/23/16) and Angelicas (2/5/2016), together with Rahman Jamaal and Sang Matiz. We presented some of our best shows in terms of musical beauty and energy with the public :)
R.V.B. - Do you have any formula on writing songs? How do you get inspired to write?
Razteria - No real formula but a few techniques. I record my jam sessions and any song idea that may pop into my head at any point. I go back and listen to these – sometimes the song idea exists in its entirety – so I just have to relearn the jam and perhaps add a second/3rd verse – sometimes its just a melody line (instrument or vocal) which becomes a central part of the song around which everything is built. Once I have a musical idea, instrument and structure, I lay the pieces down to a click track in Protools, and the exploration through layering of all other elements begins…
R.V.B. - Any other hobbies?
Razteria - I loooove being outside and doing a ton of exercise, expecially trail running, swimming, soccer, yoga and hiking! I also love gardening, although this tends to suffer when I am in the obsessive mode of production.
R.V.B. - Good luck on your upcoming album release and thank you for considering answering these questions.
Razteria - Thanks so very much for reaching out to me!
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
This interview may not be reproduced in any part or form without permission from this site.
For more information on Razteria Visit her website www.razteria.com
For information or to advertise on this site contact musicguy247(at)aol(dot)com