Sage Rader - lead vocals, electric violin, synths
Shaun Morris a/k/a Stakka - synths, beat programming
When you’re literally willing to take a bullet for your art, chances are you’re dead-serious about making a statement-either that, or you’re just plain loco. Singer, poet, author, actor and political commentator Sage Rader is probably a little “all-of-the-above,” but where such an apparent contradiction in emotional states might throw the average bloke into a helpless freakout, Sage seems to thrive on it as just another empowering duality. In his world, demons and angels co-exist on an equal footing, all that is beautiful can easily turn hideous and everything you ever believed can fly out the window on the wings of betrayal. In the quite otherworldly aural experience of Ready Fire Aim-Sage’s latest beat-laden collaboration with DJ and producer Stakka (Shaun Morris)-music is the medium that communicates all this and more with the finality of a death-dealing weapon.
Sure, it sounds a little heavy-handed, but This Changes Nothing (Expansion Team Records) is the kind of album that commands such attention and RFA is the kind of group that comes along just when it seems like the blahs have completely overtaken the underground. Melding sensibilities rooted in techno, synth-pop, art rock, avant-classical and straight-up indie electronic dance music, RFA have come up with a stealth concept album that conjures shades of Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, The Postal Service and even Pink Floyd, but with a twisted, hyper-processed and hypnotic sound that truly sets them apart. And you can dance to it.
“Both of us are really very much into sound,” Sage observes. “I tend to go with the emotion of a sound, where it’s like, ‘Here’s how I’m feeling-how does this feeling sound?’ and Shaun comes from a place that’s a little bit more clinical, like a technician or someone scientific. His approach is, ‘What would sound good here with what we’ve already got and what are the exact processes that I need to get there?’”
History lesson: Sage first got into music through the violin, which he picked up as a child while living in London. Then in high school, he studied violin performance at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, under the tutelage of Stephen Clapp, now the Dean of the School of Music at Julliard, before chucking it all to roam the earth. Along the way, he became a poet, (he was reviewed by The Guardian as the “Michael Moore of poetry”), writer and actor, grabbing a choice role in the film Beyond the Ocean (nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize), publishing an illustrated confessional called Sex Drugs and Sunday School and performing his poetry and political standup in venues around the world. He now lives in Brooklyn and taught himself programming on Pro Tools over the last few years.
Meanwhile, Shaun “Stakka” Morris came up in Brighton, England, where he began DJing at an early age. As a fan of everyone from Jean-Michel Jarre to Just-Ice, he developed a wide-ranging palette and eventually got into making beats of his own just as acid house and big beat were giving way to London’s hardcore rave scene and, eventually, drum ‘n bass. He adopted the name Stakka and teamed up with Keir Tyrer to produce a string of progressive dance tracks for the Liftin’ Spirits label (as Stakka & K. Tee), while also working with Nathan Vinall under a litany of aliases. After moving to New York in 2002, he and DJ DB began collaborating as Ror-Shak and released an album, Deep, in early 2007.