RAZE THE MAZE: Radical Creativity

Raze The Maze

Based out of Ashland in Oregon, Raze the Maze is a progressive rock duo featuring Tarik Ragab and Moorea Dickason, who previously worked together in MoeTar. The duo just released their sophomore studio album entitled “7am Dream“, a follow-up to the self-titled debut which was launched in July 2019. In an interview for Prog Sphere, Moorea and Tarik tell us about their work, the new album, and more. 

Define the mission of Raze the Maze.

MOOREA: The mission is in the name, Raze The Maze. We seek to raze the fear based corporate driven patriarchal colonial mentality pushed upon us in our culture and raise up radical creativity, deep connection and true expression in its place. We push ourselves out of the box with our music, we try to have no fear regarding its accessibility, will it sell or make the most people happy. Instead we dig deep to express in our purest form as best we can. We’re trying to bring something new into the world and to inspire others to bring their true life energy and creativity to the table too. Mainstream music has become more homogenized than ever and we’re trying to counteract that.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your new album “7am Dream,” and the topics it explores.

MOOREA: Tarik writes the song chords, lays out the form, a melody outline and lyrics. He records a basic demo in Logic and then hand it over to me. I then learn the melody and record a demo of my interpretation of it and start to craft the vocal orchestration and background parts in the demo session. The more dense the harmonies the better, most of the time. Then Tarik takes it back and adds in additional instrumental parts, and we go back and forth like that for a bit, giving each other feedback and fully fleshing out the song until we both love the entire arrangement.

TARIK: The lyrics on 7am Dream are mostly about the subconscious and dream states. This album also cover themes that are consistent with previous works of Raze the Maze and MoeTar; duality, spiritual seeking, questions of morality, questioning one’s purpose, mind expansion, the purgatory of isolation, absurdism, conspiracy and it’s current role in society, mythology, philosophy, and solipsism. The lyrics are both cerebral and emotional with bouts of word salad.

7am Dream

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

TARIK: I use my phone a lot these days. I record a lot of musical ideas in my voice memos and I use the Notes app for jotting down lyrics which really helps to cut down on having zillions of scraps of paper in my pocket all the time which is how I used to do things.

MOOREA: I can attest to the fact that Tarik is constantly writing pretty much every day. He’s in creativity mode most of the time. It’s fun to be around. We have very different minds that work very well together.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

MOOREA: We created demo recordings in Logic at our home studio and would get the the basic tracks close to completion. Then we’d send them off to our drummer, Terry Branam so he could record his parts from his home studio. Once we got those back then Tarik and I tracked all of the final instrumentation and vocal ourselves from our home studio. Other than the song Pax Arcana where we had the players from the live band all represented, plus Paul Hanson on bassoon is featured on 3 songs.

In the past we’ve always worked with other instrumentalists as a band to record an album and often have gone into amazing studio spaces to do it, but with Covid we didn’t have the ability to get into a studio together or the money to work that way. This process we used for 7am Dream ended up being an incredible way to record for us. It inspired me to develop significantly more dense vocal arrangements to fill in what would have been instrumental parts in the past. It afforded Tarik more time and space to develop sounds and parts that fill out these recordings. We’re really happy with how everything turned out.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

TARIK: I’d like to think so.

MOOREA: This album was definitely not pre-conceived as a single collection from start to finish before it was created. It really came together over time, and mostly during the pandemic, although some song ideas came before then.

TARIK: Yes, and there is still a through line with this album. The songs do work and flow all together with lyric themes throughout.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

MOOREA: Recent influences since our last album would be Dirty Projectors, Laura Mvula, Thundercat, Hiatus Kaiyote, Esperanza Spalding.

TARIK: And we are eternally influenced by XTC, The Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius, Hermeto Pascoal, Yes, Joni Mitchell, Duke Ellington, and hundreds of others who came before us.

What is your view on technology in music?

MOOREA: I love the current technology that we have available to us for developing parts, recording and performing music. It in no way supplements my music education, time spent learning about music theory and how to use my instrument well, but it definitely helps production and accessibility. It’s a huge gift to be able to record music in our own space on our own time without paying hourly rates, and like Tarik mentioned earlier, it’s how he organizes song ideas and compositions.

TARIK: Technology has always existed in music in one form or another whether it’s a piano or written music. Technology is just another tool for us to use in the tool kit to make the best music we can.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

TARIK: Yes, I think all creative endeavors have a purpose beyond their own mediums and music has always been a very powerful way to influence how people feel and inspire people to be their best selves.

MOOREA: Music can shake us up, it knocks us around a bit out of our shells and out of the mundane. Similar to nature, art, sex, dance — it opens minds and hearts. Our album is adding to the zeitgeist of musical offerings here to ignite a spark of joy, rage, curiosity, inspiration – whatever comes up.

What are your plans for the future?

MOOREA: We’re just gonna keep doing what we do, writing and recording music that we want to hear. We are currently working on a collaboration album with Paul Hanson (bassoon player for Billy Cobham) of his original songs. Tarik is writing lyrics and playing bass and I’m singing so we’re throwing a Raze The Maze spin on it. That will release in the coming months, perhaps early 2023. We’d love to do some touring. We’re still making a monthly music video on Patreon for our biggest fans and plan to keep that going at Patreon.com/razethemaze and you never know — maybe we will tour someday opening for King Crimson or take a left turn and record a pop album. The sky is the limit.

7am Dream is out now; order it from Bandcamp. Follow Raze the Maze on Facebook and Instagram.

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