Sahaj Ticotin – Guitar and Vocals | Ben Carroll – Guitar
PJ Farley – Bass | Skoota Warner – Drums
Under a Black Sun
There are not a lot of rock bands in the world like Ra. Musicianship and real vocals mixed with truly commercial songs that somehow manage to remain intense, mysterious, heavy and creative. Self produced and engineered. Self promoted! Self managed! Considered by many to be the most underrated hard rock band still releasing music today. The following is a step by step history of how Ra has both been lucky and through the ringer…
1996 – 1998 – Abandon Ent. Pres., Marcus Ticotin, finances his little brothers first record while Sahaj was living in Greenwich Ct. with his mentor and friend, Rob Jones. First step…find musicians. They hold open call auditions to find a drummer, guitar player and bass player. Many of NYC’s finest players show up to audition but it is Skoota Warner who absolutely bridges the gap between the funk and hard rock in Sahaj’s writing. Veteran r+b bass player, Kirk Lyons steps in and on guitar, Ben Mauro who goes on to play with Lionel Ritchie and Britney Spears. The band was amazing but the sound was all over the place. One track did manage to make it through to become the end title track for the movie “Carrie 2- The Rage”. “Crazy little voices” was Ra’s first commercially released track. It was released on the soundtrack via the American offshoot of the European indie giant “Edel”. When the time came to mix this unreleased record, Sahaj was given several people to consider. The eventual choice was an engineer named Dave Schiffman who had worked with Rick Rubin on several “Red hot chili peppers” records and “Rage against the machine” at that point and had consequently recorded “System of the down”, “Audioslave”, “The Mars Volta” and many others. he will come back into the story later on…at the end of 1998 there was a demo made of a song called “Do you call my name”…
1999 – 2001 – The moderate success of “Crazy little voices” and the eventual exit of Abandon Ent. from the music industry left the door open for Edel to sign the band. Sahaj meets and marries his first wife and while working with Rupert Hine, (Rush, The Fixx) Ra recorded many tracks including- Rectifier, Fallen Rock Zone, The Only One, End of Days, U Need Me, What I am, Sky, The Foundation and the first real version of Do you call my name. Edel, unbeknownst to the band, was on its last legs and was weeks away from closing shop upon album completion. John Mcnally, who had signed the band and was himself the drummer for Sahaj’s band prior, felt awful and personally shopped the record as well as the bands manager, Arma Andon (Cindy Lauper, Godsmack, Petshop boys). Many labels were interested but no one rushed to get involved with the band…then on a perfect day in sept., two planes piloted by terrorists flew into the world trade center directly accross the river from Sahaj’s Weehawken nj apt. He would stand there and watch the second tower go down in realtime. The emotional and financial effects of which he had no idea…
2001 – 2002 – Having grown up in NYC, Sahaj had a hard time facing the skyline filled with smoke and missing 2 buildings he had been in many times when he worked delivering CPR dummies for cpr training in manhattan. The impact of the event was surprisingly distressing for him considering no one close to him and died in the attacks. Somehow the feeling of greatness of his city and more importantly his country had been cut in half. After 9/11 many record companies simply stopped signing bands altogether so Sahaj found himself selling Hondas in Wayne NJ. It was very hard to give up on what seemed like his destiny. He would not. He placed an ad on the internet looking for musicians and got a response from Ben Carroll who was young, good looking and played 7 string guitar for years. Ben came down to NJ to audition for the band. He was flat broke. Ben understood how the music was both heavy and intense but required finesse and chops. At this point there was only Sahaj and Ben. It was Ben’s idea to play shows in his hometown of Boston Ma. He felt there was a stronger hard rock base up there and he also knew some people connected to the radio stations there, particularly WAAF. Sahaj and Ben grabbed a drummer from a friends band and headed up to play the 2002 NEMO music fest in Boston. Things were less than spectacular playing to a whopping 18 people in the middle of no where. One of those 18 was a firefighter from Haverhill Mass. named Jimmy Garrity. Jimmy was a strong singer in his own right and immediately recognized the bands potential. He grabbed one of the demos and brought it to his friend, the incomparable Mistress Carrie of WAAF. She began playing “Do you call my name” during the day and the phones went nuts. They released the ep “One” with the guidance of their then manager, Arma Andon, in the Boston area and sold 7500 cds in a month and a half causing Universal/Republic Records to sign the band to a two album deal without even seeing them live. Things seemed pretty good. Sahaj’s friend, Will Pendarvis (K-rock NYC, Sirius), introduced him to a friend, Hip-hop producer/engineer Paul Logus (Puffy, J-lo, 112, Notorious BIG, Pantera) and Sahaj and Paul set about doing a record for Universal but there was a catch… they had 30 days. Skoota was no longer in the band… in fact the band didn’t have it’s own drummer so Sahaj played drums for half the album and they used Skootas tracks from the Edel days for the rest. In fact of the recordings involved, 6 were recorded in 1999! Retracking bass and some vocals made it easy to meet the crazy deadline. The band spent over $170,000 redoing “One” and turning it into “From one”. Not the best use of money but they didn’t know that then.
2003 – 2005 – From One gets released sells 180,000cds and “DYCMN” goes to number ten in early 2003. the band had been touring steadily without break since Oct. 02 and have toured with Seether, Stone Sour, Powerman 5k, Doubledrive and others not to mention dozens of radio shows with Trapt, Sevendust, Korn, Mudvayne, Shinedown, Staind, Disturbed and alot of the hard rock elite. Things are good but there is inner turmoil going on between the band and original bass player Sean Corcoran. What really amounted to a clash in personalities mixed with Sahaj’s controlling needs led to the firing of Sean, who was a close friend to Mistress Carrie. Needless to say the firing resulted in the loss of support to Ra by WAAF. From there things just got harder. As Ra came off tour in early 2003 and Sahaj prepared to create the next record, his then wife developed a disabling illness. Originally slated to Co-produce the next LP with Sahaj was super-engineer Dave Schiffman (Rage against the machine, Audiolave, The red hot chili peppers, The mars volta) but with the condition of his wife he was forced to produce the record at home alone. While the resulting album was unique and well written, “Duality” in it’s first form would not satisfy the taste of Universal executives. They would recommend using Bob Marlette (Saliva, Seether, Shinedown) to record an additional few songs to give the album more radio potential. With a $400k plus budget there would be no need to skimp on production. With Bob, Ra would record “Got me goin, Take me away and Say you will” and would submit these songs to Universal only to receive yet another luke warm reception. Desperate and very unsure of the right course of action, Ra goes out to LA to make one last attempt at a first single for “Duality”. The outcome would be “Tell me”, a huge arena rock anthem shouting out to the world for guidance. The song is submitted and approved by Universal but it is too little too late. Universal executives decide to leave the record unreleased, rather than lose more money on top of what is already an expensive record. It looked very bad for the band but in the winter of 2004 Universal/Republic hired a hungry radio promotion director named Dave Downey. One of his first activities was listening to all the records that he might potentially work. After listening to “Duality” he made the execs upstairs aware that they may have made a mistake with RA and that they were missing out on a potentially great record. Unfortunately Ra’s original drummer, Skoota, felt that he couldn’t put any more time into the band and moves on amicably in order to make more stable income. Universal reconsideres releasing “Duality” and the album hit stores in late June of 2005. Promotion for the album is light but the record sells 80,000cds on the strength of tracks like “Fallen angels” and “Every little thing she does in magic”, a Police cover that both helps and hinders the band.
2006 – present – As the “Duality” album cycle winds down the Ra wonders whether there will be a future at Universal and opts to leave the label before the label leaves them. Sahaj now divorced from his wife is looking to producing and composing as a back up to a career in a band. Ra records the live album “Raw” on their own and include the single “Don’t turn away” as a bonus track. At this time there is no label to release it nor any clear path to take. Dave Downey comes to the bands aid once again and connects them with LA Dvd producer, Dan Catullo and Cement shoes records. On the surface everything looks good and Dan seems to be an aggressive and motivated businessman. He offers to have the live album mixed by Andy Johns (Van halen, Godsmack, Led Zeppelin) and put out both the live album and a new studio album. The band accepts the terms and awaits it’s contract. The fall of 06 brings the “Congress of corruption tour” featuring Ill Nino, Godhead, The dreaming and Ra. The band tours in luxury with all the bells and whistles but the numbers are not adding up. Huge productions in tiny 300 cap. clubs and the label is losing buckets of money fast. Meanwhile there is still no contract for Ra. “Raw” is actually released with no contract but the band gives Cement shoes the benefit of the doubt. 14 months later there is neither a contract nor is there a follow up studio album. Most fans had already figured that that band has broken up and that the new record would never see the light of day but Sahaj has never been one to let anyone hold him or Ra back. With his own money and the money of independent promoter Elizabeth Hodges, Sahaj opens Sahaja Music Records or SMR, going back to his friends at Universal to make an exclusive distribution deal. “Black Sun” featuring the single “Broken hearted soul” will be released in late Sept 9th 2008 and stands to be the best collection of songs they’ve ever put out.
This time the sun will shine for Ra without the misguided priorities that have made one of rocks unknown treasures live in the shadows. This time the sun shines on it’s own terms.