My anger grew. I was mad at her. At them. At Trump. At the Republicans. At Fauci. At the Democrats even. I was mad at how screechy everything had become. It didn’t matter if you were ideologically on the same fucking page, as long as you had a slight difference of opinion on a subject, you were ‘the enemy’. Everything was political now, even wearing a mask. The virus was a ‘hoax’, as clearly evidenced by a world class ‘documentary’ that debuted, first on YouTube and after it was repeatedly taken down (by the truth deniers on the left of course), on more ‘intelligent’ forums. Like 4Chan.
I was mad at liberals too: everyone was a racist, everything was toxic masculinity this, mansplaining that. America was a racist homophobic, unfair hellhole, according to rich CNN prime time newscasters wearing suits that cost more than your biweekly wages. Everyone was monolithic: blacks, Muslims, minorities, women. Everything was politics. And on the right: a slightly different version of the same: filthy rich, polished conservatives (and by ‘polish’ I mean the kind you put on your face to make it extra glossy), lying to millions of pretty decent folks (you have to call them ‘folks’ if they’re conservative) too lazy to actually do a fact check. The message on the right was a variation of the ‘America is a shithole country’ message heard from more liberal pundits: America is the greatest country in the world. The shining city on the hill. As long as we don’t discuss income inequality and the lack of actual opportunity, or emphasize the ‘minimum’ in minimum wage, you too can be great again. It was the same message. Same but different.
And for the first time, the noise, the sheer madness of our fractured politics, the insanity of the Orang Utan in the Oval Office, the overwhelming numbers of dead from a virus that we knew was coming, the jobs lost, the businesses shuttered, the protests over poorly trained, often uneducated and fascist cops using sick amounts of force in even the most routine street arrests, the sense of fucking doom, man. For the first time, I felt it in my heart. In my life. For the first time, what was going on the world, fucked up mine. And how!
Everything was politics. I hated it all.
But most of all, I hated me. For not having been kinder. To her. For not keeping my own toxic masculinity in check. For not appreciating what I had when I had it. For breaking apart, or at least not preventing the breaking apart of something I truly believed in: our love. All because I wanted to score some intellect points: “you’re wrong honey, this makes you sound uneducated!” I became that liberal hack I despised. Everything was politics. So on that day on June 20th, when I found myself completely empty, angry, desperate and hopeless: the music came back.
And 27 years later, the name of that silly action movie I made up in my mind (complete with bullshit ‘critics reviews’: “must watch, Raza is on fire! The next Van Damme? Even better”) came back to me. After Vengeance. That’s the album. Those songs? The ‘ultimate’ this or the ‘ultimate’ that? Yes, they’d still be electronic genre tunes, but the themes had changed: war, refugees, immigration, extremism, the poor, the plight of the black man on the street, the lack of opportunities, the total disaster we decided to elect in 2016. You know, because Hillary was gonna be such a corrupt witch. Lock her up. Etc.
I’ve channeled all that anger and frustration, my heartbreak and almost complete disinterest in even living, into each and every one of these 16 tunes. Songs about loss of love, regret, a young girl pleading with her family to leave a land torn apart by war, an old man wishing to return to his true homeland, a boy growing up in a crime infested neighborhood spending more and more time at Roger’s House and so many more. Making this album almost drove me insane. But it also kept me going. All through the damn pandemic (damndemic), through the madness of losing my home and family, losing myself, wanting to have her love again, hoping, losing hope, but somehow managing to stay committed enough to bring it to you.
Each and every one of these songs has a story to tell: Stories of undying love, rebellion, futility and triumph. These songs have secrets too: if you listen closely, they might whisper them in your ear. There are songs of darkness, and songs of hope and light. It’s still electronic music, but it’s more of the world, more of today, of what matters, or should anyway. I’ve used a lot of wonderful sounds from the traditional instruments of the Middle East and Western Africa. I’ve also used a lot of wonderful sounds from the synthetic instruments of Moog, Arp, Korg, Roland and Oberheim.
There is humor too. After all, whistling past the graveyard is how a lot of us lived through 2020. How a lot of us still do. After Vengeance is my confession. The confession of my sins, my failures as a man, a musician and a singer. It is also my hope that those failures might carry me further. As a man, a singer, and a musician. It is a wake. For all that we lost in 2020. But, it is also a celebration, for what we might accomplish. Together.
Time to say: screw politics and dance.
What follows then, is a brief story of each tune. What it stands for, what it tries to say, and how it was made. When I was a kid (I am 42 now in case you didn’t do the math already from how old I was when Lee was accidentally killed), most albums had pretty extensive liner notes. Who wrote what, how and, if you were lucky, some anecdotes and behind the scenes pictures. Since no one buys CDs anymore (my car doesn’t even have a CD player) this is my version of that. And hopefully more value added.