Strap on your thinking caps, ladies and gentlemen: Brooklyn band Prince Rama just released a new album and there’s a whole lotta concept. Their third effort, Top Ten Hits of the End of the World applies an unusual amount of metaphysical back-story to complement the exotic, trance-inducing freak pop that is Prince Rama. According to the album’s release, Top Ten Hits is to be conceived as a compilation of ten songs by ten imaginary pop acts that died in the apocalypse, in which Prince Rama “filters each sound through the destroyed lens of a post-apocalyptic future looking back at the wonders of its sonic past.” Confused? Let’s break it down: Taraka and Nimai Larson, the sister-duo behind Prince Rama (who, by the way, were raised on a Hare Krishna commune in Florida), have “channeled” the identities of the imaginary dead to create a genre-bending departure from their standard output. These bands include: I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.F.E., a London sex cult; Rage Peace, angry disco hippies; Hyparxia, easy-listening music robots, and so on. Still baffled? We were too. So Taraka (pictured right) answered some lingering questions, schooling us on life, death, and the power of repetition.
What made you decide to pursue such an ambitious experimental agenda with this record?
I guess it never really felt that ambitious or experimental to us. It just felt necessary.
Top Ten Hits of the End of the World has, like much of your previous output, bewildered its fair share of critics. How would you respond to the haters?
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
You recently published a controversial manifesto on the “Now Age” that speaks to the not-so-basic concepts behind your work. Tell us about the “Now Age,” and how it relates to this album.
The Now Age cannot be named, for once named, it becomes part of a fixed moment in time, and is thus lost. The more I talk about it, the less it exists. The more you think about it, the less attainable it becomes. I’m fascinated with the idea of a “now age” album, because trying to recreate a heightened experience of “the now” is almost as illusive as trying to create an experience of “the apocalypse.” Both exist in a suspended moment which links the End with the Eternal. But if the end of time is linked to an Eternal Present, then it seems that making an apocalypse album is the same as making a NOW album, doesn’t it? Worth a shot anyway.
In previous interviews, you’ve spoken a lot about the idea of utopia, and on the other end of the spectrum, Top Ten Hits is actively speaking to an apocalyptic mindset. How do these two extremes relate to one another?
They’re two sides of the same wormhole. You can’t really have a proper apocalypse without a proper utopia, and vice versa. Utopia, by Thomas More’s definition, is a “No Place.” So according to this, paradise can only exist in an absence of “place,” or a destruction of material identification with space. Throughout history, most utopian communities also have millenarian undertones. Look at Heaven’s Gate for instance. Or Christianity. Or any religious communities which espouse a belief of death as the only gateway to eternal life. Destroy the land to save the church. Destroy the flesh to save the spirit. Pop music to me is the ultimate wormhole bridging the two extremes because it is all about the destruction of place and the destruction of the human in order to create a universal portal into the utopian void. In its obsession with hi-fi, it strives to eradicate all traces of place, and creates an alternative reality where all sounds are polished and isolated in an echoless paradise. In its obsession with image, it strives to eradicate all traces of aging and mortal imperfection and strives to create an iconic ideal; replicable, untouchable, immortal. This is the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
You grew up on a Hare Krishna commune in Florida. What was that like? At what point did you decide to start making music together?
Well, sorta. We actually grew up mostly in Texas in the middle of nowhere, and only moved to the Krishna community during high school. It was a pretty surreal transition. Going from being the only vegetarians within a 300 mile radius to being greeted with”Hari Bol” on the streets instead of hello. People are really sweet out there, but me and Nimai never quite felt like we really fit in. I think making music together was our way of making our own spiritual language. We started a band in high school, then we both went off to art school and I tried to become a monk, and after that failed we started Prince Rama.
According to the album’s press release, you’re introducing some pretty crazy new genre, which begs the question: what, exactly, is “ghost-modern glam”?
Ghost-modern glam is a pop cultural byproduct of ghost-modernism, as all the bands present on the recording are ghosts of various imaginary pop bands that died in the apocalypse we channeled and resurrected. The concept of ghost-modern glam is nothing new, we’re just riffing off a long legacy of bands who channel the spirits of bands past…you know, like Lady Gaga channeling the spirit of Madonna or Creed channeling the spirit of Pearl Jam. I think in a way we are asking the world if this is the end of history’s creative output and are we now just ghosts with phantom limbs doomed to recapitulate the gestures of our past? Jean Baudrillard and Simon Reynolds posit that perhaps we have reached an “end of history” somewhere down the line and now the past is just being consumed by the present like a zombie feeding on the flesh of the living. What is really more alive? The past that’s considered dead or the present that feeds on its relentless resurrection? Answer: Who cares? Throw some glitter and lipstick on that shit. Let’s dance!
For Top Ten Hits, you constructed a fairly elaborate backstory. How did you come up with these fictional duos? What is your relationship with them?
They kind of just came to me, honestly. I don’t know how to explain it without sounding crazy, but there wasn’t much pre-planning at all. I started writing a song and was instantly like, Oh this is the I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.F.E. jam. They were a British underground sex-cult from the ’80s who believed the secret to eternal life lay in the lovemaking act and wrote dance tracks hymnals to invoke sexual activity and prolong their longevity. They concealed their identities by donning neo-colonial attire and 17th century powdered wigs. And bam. That was it. It really felt like the music was a medium, an earpiece for listening in on strangers talking in the other room—each song held an earpiece up to a different chamber. I just listened and dictated. When I first came up with the idea for “channeling” ten fake bands, I had no idea that was actually going to happen. I don’t know who any of these bands are, but I do know they’re coming from a place beyond just purely fictional invention. It’s pretty eerie.
When you perform live, what kind of experience are you trying to give your audience?
We’re just trying to give them their own experience. That’s the most I could ask for!
You mentioned EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) in an interview a while ago. Can you speak more to that?
It happens quite often in our recordings actually. Strange frequencies or sounds that just show up on the tracks and no one knows where they come from. Maybe we’re asking for it by recording in all these haunted old churches. I’m into it though. It’s like we’re giving the dead a chance to be divas.
Your music tends to stop just shy of a hook. Is there something to be said for repetition?
If you want to create a hook just put something on repeat. Even white noise. I’m all about repetition. It makes the mundane into mantra. If you want to hear more hooks in our music, just put it on repeat.
Describe your ideal apocalypse.
Right here, Right now.