We had the opportunity to catch up with the multi-talented DJ and producer Desert Raven to find out more about his music career.
Check out the full interview below!
Tell us more about yourself & your music career?
1. A little bit about me: I am a nomad in many ways, and I love to travel. I have called Denver, Colorado, USA home for the last 18 years. I lived in several countries as a boy, including USA, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Iran, and Portugal. My parents met in Italy and married in Sicily. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. My brother was born in Isfahan, Iran, and my sister was born in Santa Cruz, California, USA. I later travelled on my own when I became old enough to several countries, and I lived in New Zealand during that time. I’ve lived in many states in the United States.
I am a family man, with a wife and three boys. I also have a career in logistics. Along with music, I enjoy woodwork (furniture making and carpentry), camping, hiking, fishing, wilderness survival, gardening, farming, raising animals, and more. I hope to have my own farm one day, with sheep, goats, cows, chickens, various crops, and an orchard with olive trees, lemons, and oranges. Being in nature helps me be whole, to stay healthy, and to grow spiritually.
2. A little bit about my music background and career: I was always around music as a boy. My father played guitar, and my parents listened to really good jazz, soul, funk, R&B, rock, disco, electronica, classical, and many ethnic sounds from around the world. When I was a boy, the electronica of the late 70’s and 80’s fascinated me and set me on my path to become the musician I am today.
Some of my big influences were from the great artists such as Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis, Hans Zimmer, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, Jaco Pastorious, Frank Zappa, Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, Parliament Funkadelic, Dire Straits, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush, Dream Theater, Jimi Hendrix, Gnawa Diffusion, Ali Farke Toure, Boban Markovic, various other traditional ethnic musicians from various cultures, and others from various genres who combined incredible sound, experimentation, innovation, with great thematic storytelling. All this set the stage for the way I approached modern electronic music.
In the 90’s, I went to a lot of live jam band concerts and festivals, and then also to raves, festivals, underground house parties, where great house music, techno, progressive house, and psytrance were being played. Also during this time I was listening to great ambient, psybient, downtempo music from Carbon Based Lifeforms, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Shpongle, OTT, and others.
In 1993, I bought my first instrument, a $50 Squire Pbass (Fender knockoff) at a flea market and also traded a pack of cigarettes for my first acoustic guitar. I still have both of these instruments. I took some guitar and piano lessons as a kid and young man, but unfortunately did not stick with the lessons. However, I began to teach myself some music theory and also started playing keyboards and modular synthesizers in the mid 2000’s.
In 2009 and 2010, I started DJ’ing parties with friends and also for ethnic community festivals and weddings. It was then that I started playing with truly organic and ethnic traditional music sounds, and this is when organic house, downtempo, slowtech, desert house, and Burning Man began to really get momentum.
Behrouz of Do Not Sit On The Furniture was a big part of bringing “desert house” to the scene. I was in love with it the sound that brought me to my childhood years. OTT’s remix of Shpongle’s “Around The World In A Tea Daze” and OTT’s “Smoked Glass & Mirrors” were massive inspiration for my sound.
In addition, there were others. Lee Burridge and Matthew Dekay released “Lost In A Moment” on Innervisions. Solee released “Pink Panther” on Parquet Records. Dee Montero’s “Halcyon” on Diynamic and his “Mandala (Chant Remix)” on Tale & Tone. Tebra’s “Zov” and “Rod” were big revelations for me, in that Tebra also shares a big psytrance/psychill background with me. All these and others from Satori, Viken Armen, Hraach, Zuma Dionys, Goldcap, Sabo, Sangeet, Lost Desert, Amine K, Iorie, and others sent me down the big rabbit hole of my own sound, which I share more about in the next section.
From the early 2010’s I started DJ’ing local Burning Man tribe parties and started doing live streams on Twitch. I would occasionally play a special event at a Denver bar here and there. My last one was opening for JaiHo production’s Desi Rave at The Local in Denver in Novemeber. I played a great downtempo, slowtech, organic house set with lots of super spiritual and Indian ethnic sounds. I definitely love playing in both outdoor venues, outdoor parties, and more intimate, organic indoor venues. I think having an “underground” approach to music is the only way for me.
Since 2016, I have been seriously producing and improving my skills, vision, and focus every day. I feel that I am really hitting my stride now. Even if it is later in life, compared to some of the really big names, it is such a blessing. I am creating the best music of my life now and performing at a higher level each new event. You will see much, much more in upcoming months and years. I look forward to sharing all of these sounds and moments with you!
How would you describe your style of music?
I seek to create soundscapes with depth and layering of emotion, with extended build-ups and climaxes. I work with music that is primarily longer form and believe that, like our own deeper feelings, good, deep music takes time to surface. As a storyteller, I embrace the epic storytelling tradition, so my music feels epic in scope and very much like a story.
I seek the mystical groove in all sounds. My signature style has grown and matured into an organic, ethnic, psychedelic, trippy sound, with an ancient feel, evoking a mystical vision experience. I still seek to explore new soundscapes where possible. I am a versatile artist. I have released songs in several genres, from organic house to downtempo to slowtech to psybient to progressive house to melodic techno. Overall, I seek to bring the audience close, making even larger events feel like an intimate party among close friends and family, where trust, love, and freedom of spirit are paramount.
My personal approach to composition and production is to infuse deeper, more ambient sounds into all he does, to evoke nature and dreams. I believe ethnic, traditional instruments should be used as much as possible and that they can work beautifully with well-crafted electronic sounds. A bass player at heart, I seek to create rhythm and harmony that penetrates to the heart and brings the heart of the listener and dancer to a level of energy in sync with, as mentioned earlier, deep feelings.
I seek to find and bring the listener to a place of natural, spiritual illumination, where the listener encounters healing, encouragement, and divine purpose. I seek to unite people organically with truly organic sound and authentic human spirit and soul. Music comes from God, and it is truth, live, love…an eternal, timeless miracle that comes into our world through inspired musicians who carry the sound, message, and transformative experience as humble, imperfect, broken vessels, letting the mighty power of life radiate and burn through the music.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in many things: nature, relationships with my tribe (family, friends, and acquaintances in the music community), my life experiences (especially through suffering, which yields so much life, beauty, redemption, love, truth, peace, if one let’s it), history, various cultures, and noteworthy current events in the world immediately me and far away.
Probably as important as any of that is the master, mature musicians who are great storytellers. They do much more than simply make good music. They tell stories with power, which transform people to the core. There are many such musicians whom no one has ever heard about because they are not invested in the industry of modern music. They are the old path. Tribal ceremonies, family gatherings, local pubs and halls, street corners, and just spending time with friends. This is the root of where I come from and receive so much inspiration.
Describe how music is important to society.
As I said above, music is a part of the oral storytelling tradition and many religions. It is spiritual. It holds life, love, truth, healing, illumination, revelation, vision, prophecy, inspiration, edification, tribal and culture identity, meaning and purpose to our lives, and more. It has the power to transform human lives each and every time.
Musicians, in my opinion, should keep this as their motivation for making music. Yes, it’s nice to have a career as a musician, but it’s far more important to serve and heal and encourage and illumination mankind through passionate, loving, truthful approach to expressing music. My entire being is one with my sound now, and I will never look back. This is the path.
What is the best time to create?
My best time of day to create is absolutely in the morning. I rise in my spirit with the sun. It’s a very clear, clean, inspired, and powerful time of day for me to create.
What is the most difficult thing about being a musician?
For me, the most difficult thing about being a musician is more practical, in that I have a family of my own to provide for and have a second career logistics, in which I work many hours every other week. It is hard for me to travel often to perform. I have more limited time over the course of each month to create in the studio.
So, after taking care of my family and other work obligations, I have to put an intense amount of work in less time. I admire other artists who can do music 24/7, but I am not jealous. I love my path in life, and it gives me so much inspiration and energy and motivation to create music with all my heart, since time is at such a premium for me. Nothing less than 100% for me. It’s the only way.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
My biggest career highlight so far has been two things:
1. I was playing the Desi Rave event in Denver, when a middle-aged woman of Indian background came up to me and said, “I absolutely love the traditional and spiritual sounds you played tonight. They brough me back home to my life in India and really made my heart soar. There are not too many people like you, so please keep doing what you’re doing. It is amazing, and I really appreciate what you did tonight.” This meant the world to me. It was one of the greatest compliments and honors I’ve ever received in my life.
2. I am in a very hot phase of a lot of releasing a lot of great EP’s on great labels, such as Cafe De Anatolia, Kosa, trndmsk, Tibetania, Fruity Alfred, and more. I am targeting releases this year for Cafe De Anatolia, Kosa, Cosmic Awakenings, Sol Selectas, Baikal Nomads, Spiritual Nomad, and more. Stay tuned!
Are you working on something new?
Upcoming collaborations, in addition to the artists mentioned before here, also includes work with SoulPacifica and eXtreme 4 again.
I am working on taking my Odyssey podcast, which I started two years ago with my dear friend Dirlasion from Greece and turn it into parties around the world, for my Odyssey family. In addition, I am starting a new organic/downtempo/psychill podcast called Primordial. I hope all this can find good success and support with my tribe around the world: those whom I know, and those whom I will meet in the future.
What are your latest releases?
Hokkaido EP – trndmsk – January 2023
What is your connection with Cafe De Anatolia?
My connection with Cafe De Anatolia is through the scene in general and through my releases with them. I released my Surb Ughin EP and released my remix of “Sovngarde” for Veytik and Stephane Salerno on CDA. I have several friends who have recently released with CDA. I’ve recently gotten to know Nickarth and the rest Cafe De Anatolia family as well. It is a pleasure for me to have the support of such an incredible label and its global community. I love working with them, and it really feels like we share much of the same vision for music.
Are you working on something new?
I am working on several great projects, both solo and with other artists, such as Veytik, Audaks, Umannto, Eternal Moment, VadimoooV, Stephane Salerno, MI.LA, Purple Tape, Maris, DJ Ismailovic, The Mystic, Alfredo Botta, Sadam Seguya, ExitOnli, Rokeya, and Ahyoka.
Where and when is your next performance?
Currently, for my next performance, I am working on playing a big night at Beacon in Denver sometime in Spring. Most of my touring in 2023 will be in North America, especially USA. I hope to play many quality events in Denver, Colorado, USA, to help build the music community hear that my sound works well with. I look forward to travelling to more countries to perform as a musician, and hope to tour Greece, North Macedonia, and Turkey in 2024.
What’s the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?
One of the best pieces of advice ever was when I was starting to DJ more parties and starting producing: “Be yourself always in the sound and remember that it’s better to have 1000 fiercely loyal supporters around the world who are like family and your tribe than 1 million “fans” who don’t really care about your true mission and who you are.” This has served me well every single day since.
What’s your process for dealing with performance anxiety?
To close my eyes, breathe, and remember that God made me, has a plan for me, that I love life and love mankind, that this moment was meant to be for us together as family, for healing, joy, love, peace, inspiration, encouragement, new memories, and everything else good. There is NO reason to be worried about anything. Everything that is meant to be will be, and I can help that happen by having faith and giving peace to my heart and to others.
How Covid19 changed the terms of the music industry?
It did two things primarily, in my point of view:
1. It really hurt the music industry by killing many, many live event opportunities (which is where we truly must take music). Listening through headphones or watching on a computer is not how music was really meant to be played since the beginning. It hurt many professional musician’s careers and demoralized and depressed many, damaging many lives. It killed freedom and connection with each other.
2. It drove many into the studio to produce more, which, in one way is amazing, since so much powerful music has come out of this. However, this also saturated the market with music and artists, from the labels and release perspective. If you want competition, well you really have it now. I’m not worried, though. I have faith in my path and mission, and I believe in my sound and what I bring to the world with my music.
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
I would say the exact same thing as was told to me above: “Be yourself always in the sound and remember that it’s better to have 1000 fiercely loyal supporters around the world who are like family and your tribe than 1 million “fans” who don’t really care about your true mission and who you are.”