The Dark Raver.



Mexico City is the fifth largest city in the world, and it’s as dangerous as it is vast. There, an estimated 20 people are kidnapped every week. Even with a complete population of 21 million it remains a chilling statistic.

Somewhere amongst the sprawl is a small second floor apartment where a young man called JC lives, his windows covered by trees, not that he ever gets to see the green of their leaves – JC is a night-time kinda guy. “I make music at night, exclusively,” he says. “I wait until it gets dark so I can start working. I work until dawn and then I go to sleep.”

Composed and performed under the ominous name Ritualz – or the unpronounceable symbol †‡† – JC’s music is a direct product of the wee hours of a city charged with shady goings on. It’s dark stuff. Dark enough for him to thank Satan in the liner notes of this new split EP with not-too-breezy New Yorker Fostercare, alongside just ‘mum and dad’. “Everyone was like, ‘Oh, Ritualz is so dark and evil,’” he says, “so I thought I’d thank mum and dad, obviously, but also a lot of people started listening to my music because of the association to evil, so I thought I have Satan to thank for that.”

Like all electronic music trading under the banner of Witch House, Ritualz is one devilish experiment that combines lethargic hip-hop beats with down-tempo trance, industrial influences and tonnes of white noise. So far released via a CDR EP and a collection of tracks called ‘Ghetto Ass Witch’, the project has caught the attention of LA noise band HEALTH (“Jupiter emailed me to say they were coming to Mexico and that we should hang out. I ended up opening their show for them”) and the man who started the movement, Pictureplane. JC is over the Witch House tag though, which explains why he’s phasing out his  †‡† symbol. (Odd occult-ish logos are synonymous with the genre).

“The crosses symbol I only ever had because I’m really bad at naming things,” he explains, “so that was an online screen name and a friend suggested I use that to tag my tracks. I realised, though, that I needed a real name that people could pronounce, and the same friend once told me I was a ritualistic mother fucker, whatever that means, so I went with Ritualz, because it also looks like a hip hop name.

“At first I really liked being called Witch House,” he continues. “There were only a few bands doing it and I really liked Salem and oOoOO, so people appreciating me with those bands was cool, but after a while everything that was coming out that was a bit dark and lo-fi was called Witch House and it got out of control. I felt that it went from being a really cool art movement online to this terrible blog joke for everyone, so I’m done with it – I don’t want to be part of this joke!”

JC is hanging on to certain Witch House conventions, though – the slow-mo terror trance of tracks like ‘Misery Walks’, obviously, but also the stringent shroud of mystery. We’ve only been told Ritualz name is JC for the purpose of this interview; there’s no hope of finding out what those initials stand for. We’ve no idea what his face looks like, or if the second story apartment covered by trees really even exists. On Ritualz’ Tumblr page, every link (to his soundcloud, facebook page, bandcamp profile etc.) is named the same. Not even his Tumblr is willing to divulge the simplest of details. JC puts it down to the fact that “bands should be a bit more theatrical.”

“I think that that mystery and imagery is important,” he says.

Out in the night air of Mexico City, he tells me that hordes of clubbers unite through house and progressive dance music (“but I don’t like those”), or they come together in clubs specially for the growing cyber goth scene. “I kind of feel like I’m on my own,” he says. “There’s a new scene starting of experimental music, but no one is playing the same kind of dark dance music that I am.”

Despite the low BPM of your typical Ritualz’ track, JC still refers to it as “dance music”. He’s even coined Dance Music Forever, his own slogan to print on T-shirts, record sleeves and his blog.

Before he began creating electronic music on his own, though, JC liked guitar bands. Dark ones, naturally. From thirteen onwards he listened to Marylyn Manson and black metal, and his dark intrigue has clearly never left him.

Ritualz does have its light side, though; you just might not instantly consider it, just like you don’t consider Mexico City’s kidnap rate before anything else. JC explains it by saying that his isn’t “dark music” but rather “mood music”. He says: “If you’re in the right mood when you listen to it, it can make you very happy.”

‘The Dark Raver’ – as he’s also known – has a point, but varying shades of grey are not what makes Ritualz’ music truly intriguing. It’s his experimental bent that really fascinates, and next he’s planning on perusing the sound of the recently released ‘King’. “I see every track I do as an experiment,” he says, “and ‘King’ was me seeing if I could write a pop song, with me singing on it. That’s what I’m working on now… once the sun goes down.”

By Stuart Stubbs

Originally published in issue 31 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. September 2011.

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