The gift of retrospection: An interview with Raven Artson

Music — 14.07.20

Editor & Intro: Silken Weinberg
Interviewer: Sophie Hardeman
Photography: Mila van der Linden

Raven Artson has emerged as a bright spot within the LA music scene with his purely enigmatic performances and deeply personal approach to his version of the pop genre. His newly released EP notice me is a result of several years, lessons learned and comes full-circle with the gift of retrospection. 

In this exclusive interview with Teeth Magazine, Raven discusses his influences and how he is internalising today’s ever-changing landscape with friend, collaborator, and designer Sophie Hardeman.

What was the underground music scene like in your teens? What did you wear for your first show?

My early teens were dominated by 70s garage and 90s stoner rock. Think The Stooges and Kyuss. My high school friend Starsky and me started a band and we’d see as many shows as possible. I was heavily into the emo aesthetic, so my hair totally covered my face. My favourite outfit consisted of black skinny jeans with pink machine guns, a striped long-sleeve and All-Stars with additional holes that had laces weaved throughout. To top it off, I wore two belts: one silver pyramid studded around my waist and another Iron Maiden-ornamented one that dangled around. This was my go-to for all shows.


What music do you listen to now? Is there still a strong community in the music scene in Amsterdam?

For the past week Arca’s “Time” has been on repeat, along with a lot of 90s trip-hop songs like Sneaker Pimps “6 Underground”. I’m still processing the last Yves Tumor too. My friend and producer Garrincha, with whom I’m working a lot at the moment, just introduced me to Cortex, an amazing 70s French jazz-funk outfit.


How does your process change from being in a band (Moses) to being a one-man-band?

Being in a band is like running a creative democracy. Decisionmaking is a consistent group effort. Doing music on my own terms allows me to move without having to convince others. The challenge is to avoid lingering around decisionmaking too long. I’ve created a soundboard of friends and creatives that I bounce ideas with. They question my ideas if necessary and make sure I don’t take things too seriously.


How come you are so photogenic? Is it something you (can) practice?

Lol thanks, love! I think looking good visually is about being confident, about knowing and owning yourself. To me, this means being in constant dialogue: Where do I stand at this moment? Where do I want to go? What excites me? It translates visually when I feel comfortable. I put this into practice by talking about the concept behind my visuals with photographers and directors.

Does your sound change vary per city? Where are you currently situated?

Totally! The music I make is a direct translation of my surroundings. Compared to Amsterdam, Los Angeles has a laidback feeling that directly translates to what I make there. My Los Angeles-based friends are all pushing creative boundaries, which motivated me to experiment more. At the moment, I’m re-experiencing Amsterdam, as my one-and-a-half week European trip turned into a four-month stay due to closed borders. It’s weird because I didn’t anticipate being away for so long and sometimes I feel ungrounded – which is also a good thing. It helps me question my identity and reflect on my role in what’s happening in the world right now.


How does it feel to bring out a new EP and not be able to perform live? How are you connecting with your audience?

It’s sad that I’m not able to connect with other people through events that I (co-)curate. These moments, like our last New York event at The Dance, have been such important emotional peaks. They were always about collective growth through a combination of music, art and fashion. Right now, I’m finding in-depth connections with my audience online. Under the influence of the current Black Lives Matter movement, dialogues have become more personal and more political. 


You are in love! How does your partner influence your work?

Jea! My partner Mila keeps sending me musical gems that hit my sweet spot. I love dissecting these songs and will repeat them for weeks. Currently, I’m turned on by Olive’s “You’re Not Alone”. Other than that we talk about what’s becoming visible in the world right now and challenge each other’s responsibilities. In this light we started New Cycle, a book club to hold ourselves accountable for long-term growth by reading progressive texts. 


Do you vocalise what you internalise? Does that also include the political climate?

I’m used to vocalising what I’m sure of, things I thought through. My music is an outlet for premature and contradicting thoughts that are necessary for this process. Here I can vocalise what I’m not comfortable with. My recent notice me EP is a moment in time about experiencing that discomfort in order to find comfort. It’s about a very personal struggle with my identity, love and changing relationship dynamics during my move to Amsterdam. I was never too interested in politics and realise now that that is a privileged position to be in. When I moved to Los Angeles last year, I witnessed extreme social injustice and became more aware of my personal responsibilities. I’m glad to reside in Amsterdam at the moment because I get to see institutional racism as a Dutch problem too. 

Has your love for Kanye changed during the BLM protests?

It’s definitely made me more cynical. Instead of going into detail on things he has and hasn’t done, I’m spending energy trying to understand the link between racism, capitalism, individualism and fame-chasing – and how that impacts the world. As an artist that travels the world, I’m unavoidably going to be a hypocrite in some way, but I should at least understand why I’m doing what I’m doing.


Any dream collabs?

Sophie! I think you and me should do a collaboration… A capsule collection called ‘Harderave’, the modern-day interpretation of our favourite teen outfits. The pieces will launch simultaneously online and offline through a cyber rave. People can join the online presentation of DJ sets while their avatars will be projected at illegal venues in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. Think about it!

Listen to Raven’s EP notice me in its entirety below: