Volume 91, Issue 32

Friday, October 24, 1997

cliff hanger


Raggadeath funk with the genres

By Carey Weinberg
Gazette Staff

"Love the life to live, live the life, cuz after life there's death – Raggadeath." And after two albums, amidst a third, Raggadeath is coming to London to strut some stuff in the Toronto style.

Although Raggadeath is definitively a Toronto-born outfit which blends music in the same way Toronto blends its people, bassist/producer Walter Sobczak discusses some problems inherent in the Canadian music industry and its effect on the band's international success.

"We have trouble in Canada – the industry and audiences have been pretty supportive, but there's fewer radio stations than in the U.S., for example, and if you don't fit into one of the few formats you won't be played on mainstream radio," states Sobczak. "Yet, in places like Germany we're getting played more."

Raggadeath is starting get some overseas attention, but can't help being disappointed by the lack of airplay by some of the radio stations here in Canada.

"I'm a bit perplexed by that. I thought [radio programmers] would be getting it by now," he said.

Now the rest of the musical jungle may be ready for a little Ragga-time music. Members of Raggadeath are looking into U.S. distribution as well as releasing the albums in Hong Kong and Japan.

Raggadeath has its roots firmly planted in Toronto. Being born in Toronto adds a certain diverse musical flavour which characterizes Raggadeath's sound. "You can't separate the environment from the writing," states Sobczak. "It's probably the most multi-cultural city in the world. Toronto's like a microcosm of the world, if you look at the elements of Raggadeath we're like a microcosm of Toronto." Sobczak cites having Toronto's Jamaican population – the second largest outside of the country itself, as a major influence which comes through on the records.

In the early '90s, Sobczak worked in production with Toronto rap artists Maestro Fresh Wes, Dream Warriors and Beat Factory Records. Sobczak is destined to stay in Toronto and appreciates the production elements of songwriting. "I am totally happy doing the production. Production itself is where a lot of ideas come for the songs. I don't think our band is one that you can separate the two."

Raggadeath is a high-impact, energetic band that combines elements of rap, hip hop, metal and ambient techno. The last two albums have seen a plethora of singers including Toronto rap heroine Michie Mee.

With a band that possess a great deal of innovation, there is always a compulsion to move forward. Somehow, between a fairly grueling tour, principle songsters Sobczak and drummer/producer Stephen Kendall have written enough material for half a new album. The process of writing and touring has given them the material to hone their craft as writers.

"We felt more focused with the second album. This album is very direct and if you extrapolate that direction, you can find where the third album will be coming from." Finding that direction is a skill on behalf of the listener since they employ a multitude of genres.

"I think we're going to be narrowing down the number of vocalists, we had four or five on the last album – the new one will probably be one or two."

The bugs have been ironed out through constant touring across the country. Raggadeath is in fine form and is ready to give London a taste of death – Raggamuffin style.

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997