Unlocking the Mystery
“As for what I stand for, I’d like to be a true reflection of what a woman should be. I feel that it’s pretty scary how women are generally represented now. Having been suppressed for so long, women have had to grow through this stage of rebellion. Yet now everything is really sexual and overtly suggestive, and in your face. I think it’s really obvious and boring. I think that women are so much more than that, they have all of the mystery and the sensuality and all of that, and maybe it will come around again, we’ll find out. But that’s what I stand for, the woman.”
Photographs by Esteban
Introduction and Interview by Theo Constantinou
What does it mean to believe? Or to understand the truth? By definition, to believe, is to have confidence in the truth, existence or reliability of something, without the absolute proof that one is right in his or her belief. What does Roxanne Tataei believe? In her music, family, and living but more deeply she believes that “whatever is your truth is the truth.” More importantly than those words her actions speak volumes to that ‘true reflection’ of what kind of woman Roxanne is … This is what I believe.
While I was listening to “Kryptonite” it got me thinking about my own life and how it has been a long time since I’ve been in, what I’d consider to be, luck. It’s funny how life is a cycle, almost a flowing river, of many different seasons. Do you think that it is just geography and time or luck and fate that we meet people who become our lovers?
I don’t believe in luck, I believe it’s timing. I believe that in everything we do we draw certain energies toward us. I feel like it does go in cycles. When I was much younger I thought that I knew everything that there was to know about the world. I also thought that there was one love that you could only ever truly fall in love once. When I wrote “Kryptonite” I was in a very strange moment where, for the first time, I had actually accepted that I was fragile and I was vulnerable because up until that point, having grown up with a single mom and always being independent, I had never really accepted that I was breakable… and I am.
For me, my life is bizarre, it’s not like a “normal” life – I travel a lot, I do unusual work, and I meet a lot of people, but I don’t know … I forget who said it, but he said that, “Sex is something you have until you fall in love.” I think that that’s really poetic, but I also agree with the statement. I think about my life and where I’m at, I’m a romantic at my core, but I’m also realistic as well. My time is my only asset, really. I can have these small, little relationships just because of timing and geography, but then maybe it’s wrong to do that…
I don’t think it’s “wrong” or it’s “right”, it’s whatever is your truth. Personally, I feel like I have two very extreme sides of myself – sometimes I’m too much of a realist, I see things very black-and-white and there’s no magic at all, but the other side of me is a dreamer – I guess I’m constantly battling with the two. But for me, this past year has been about balance, finding a place where I’m not tipping over to one edge too much. I really do feel like if you want to make it work and you believe in it then you can, no matter how stranger your life is and no matter where you are in the world. Like anything, if you want it you can get it and you can have it, but maybe you just haven’t found it…or you don’t want it.
It feels like that whole idea is materializing your thoughts, yeah? I think it goes for both men and women, it’s almost like hunting, where you see this thing that you want and you go get it, but then all of the sudden you realize you don’t want it anymore.
Bob Marley said something along the lines of… you can’t escape the suffering in a relationship; it’s about choosing the ones that you’re prepared to suffer for. I really do believe that, I think it’s life, and that things don’t always work out, it’s just how it is, it’s part of living in the world that we live in. Also, if you’re living a life based on fear, then it’s not really living, is it?
Yet, on the flipside, I really dislike people that are scared to be alone or scared to be contempt with just themselves and they always have to be in pursuit of a relationship. I think that it’s very important to be alone and to know yourself and to love yourself and to enjoy your own time. I believe that it’s about two wholes coming together, as opposed to two incompletes – I don’t think that’s very healthy.
I like what you said about suffering and being willing to be able to suffer for people.
I think that’s what it’s about. Any relationship, whether it’s romantic or a friendship, is a matter of how much I’m prepared to give up and how much do I love this person? When I look at my grandparents who have been married for 60 years, I think that 6 months of that was probably that crazy, can’t do without love, but the rest of it transcends, it’s like something else. I don’t know what it is because I’ve never had it yet, but it’s something bigger.
Also, I think that in this day-and-age it’s different, people are really scared to commit. It’s like…just in case something better comes around (laughs). So everyone’s seeing each other, but not seeing each other, or this one’s kind of in a relationship or not kind of in a relationship, this one’s doing this, but kind of doing that. It’s very different now.
And also there isn’t any answer to any of this, it’s whatever works for you. That’s what I believe: whatever is your truth is the truth.
Have you discovered in yourself what you stand for? And if so, what is it that you stand for?
In the past year I’ve definitely felt like I’ve become a woman. I’m just really enjoying what that means in every aspect of my life. As for what I stand for, I’d like to be a true reflection of what a woman should be. I feel that it’s pretty scary how women are generally represented now. Having been suppressed for so long, women have had to grow through this stage of rebellion. Yet now everything is really sexual and overtly suggestive, and in your face. I think it’s really obvious and boring. I think that women are so much more than that, they have all of the mystery and the sensuality and all of that, and maybe it will come around again, we’ll find out. But that’s what I stand for, the woman.
I believe that as women we have so many sides to us. I went to an exhibit recently of Helmut Newton and he said something so real, he said that the reason why he enjoyed capturing the female form and working with women was not only because they have all of these angles, but because they are the prey and the predator. I think it’s true, I think that women are very fascinating, and it’s not just because I’m a woman. I really find the female form and the mind and everything to be very mysterious, it’s just so complex and it’s something that I’m constantly learning about through myself and through other people. It’s something that I really want to explore more with my music because the album is very sensual and I want people to be able to listen to it, and to feel it, and smell it… I want them to experience it.
I respect what you stand for.
Thank you. I feel like also, it’s fundamental things, you know, just like so, basic. I think like this day and age we like are really basic, you know. It’s very simple. (laughs)
Women are simple?
(Laughs) I don’t know, just like, you know. What’s to love, what’s not to love?
“Bob Marley said something along the lines of… you can’t escape the suffering in a relationship; it’s about choosing the ones that you’re prepared to suffer for. I really do believe that, I think it’s life, and that things don’t always work out, it’s just how it is, it’s part of living in the world that we live in. Also, if you’re living a life based on fear, then it’s not really living, is it?”
I agree with you that it is simple. I mean I think that we’ve over complicated it with technology and things like that. Like this is a weird way to communicate. No but like so, when you interact with somebody, it’s a good conversation like this. I’m the type of dude that’s simple. I want that person to be in my life. So now I have to show up and respect that person. Cause I’m a physical dude; I have to touch, smell, see, hear. I communicate with my eyes. I have to look at you; I want you to see what I’m seeing. And I can’t do that this way, but we can’t still talk and I can still get that vibe and that thing. But the Internet is just a tool, and all of this complexity is just a tool to simplify things. However to me the simplest thing is real human interaction.
Yeah, but unfortunately people constantly are blaming the Internet, and saying it is taking away from all these basic answers that we have. It’s very sad when you go to something like a dinner and someone has their phone on the table. Or even worse, they’re on their phone or constantly checking their phone. People are constantly distracted. I feel like many people aren’t even living in the moment. Like you go to a gig and someone is spending more time taking pictures of the gig than actually enjoying it. I don’t understand it. But you’re so right; it’s a tool, one of many. But the problem is many people are living their lives through technology and real life has been neglected. A lot of people can’t have real conversations, or would prefer to have a conversation on like Skype. (laughs)
You can hold on to the old school and still be a new school cat as well, it’s a nice bridge, you know what I mean? A friend of mine who is like a really OG explorer, like he has gone to a lot of wild places in the world and lived and studied with shaman, he said to me once, “Theo, like look dude, I still like cheeseburgers and going to the movies with my son. If I just went and lived with these people, ok yeah. But I have to bring these stories back and I have to give it to the people through whatever medium that best fits.” You know we’re artist and we have this way to translate, and help people through it. Like right now, the Internet helped to bring us together.
Yeah, but I don’t know, like if there was a chance for us to meet face to face, I would hope we would and not choose this other option.
Totally I’d like to meet you one day; I’ll make it happen, cause that’s how I roll.
(Laughs) But like I said to you, for me, my life is about balance. Everyday I try and bring balance to my life…in my emotions, in what I eat, in the people I surround myself with, in love, in my career, like everything. But the problem is, a lot of this is unbalanced and it’s just breeding these very strange kinds of people. I think also there is just no mystery anymore, you know too much about people. You know?
That’s why I keep journals, private ones. There’s so much shit I don’t show people. And if I do, it’s only because they’re here with me. Like I’ll show you thee journals one day, but I don’t know, I won’t show you until I meet you. It’s a mystery; I don’t need my life exposed like that yet, maybe one day. Yeah, I like a mystery, that’s why I’m fascinated with life. At the times in your life when you were asked to compromise your music, how have you stood strong and created exactly the music you wanted to create?
Well, I have been on both sides. I’ve compromised and not. But I guess you know I first signed a deal when I was nineteen or twenty. I thought I knew everything, but I’ didn’t know anything. I still don’t know anything now, but I really didn’t know anything then. I was surrounded by people who supposedly knew a lot and had a lot of experience. They were advising me on and off. When I was promoting my album and I was doing interviews and certain other shit I didn’t really want to do, I had to compromise. I did and a lot of the time it was to the detriment of myself because every time I did I felt like a part of my soul was being destroyed. In hindsight, I am very sensitive to that. Now I wouldn’t think about doing it, but with having this experience I can do that now. Back then I was making music for different companies. I made music within that environment and with the label because I wanted to be successful. I wanted to impress people with my voice and I wanted to be liked. I guess we all want to be liked, but I really wanted to be liked. Now I don’t create things like that anymore. I make music now because I know I can’t really do anything else. I make music now because it’s something that always makes sense when everything else doesn’t. I’m not really interested in compromising, when it comes to my music, because that would be compromising myself…compromising me. I don’t want to do that because I know what it’s like doing that and it’s not nice.
So now you’re coming from this raw, more pure place. Do you think a more honest expression of your music is a more honest expression of you?
Yeah, I think everything is relative. I think as much as I probably denied it afterwards and said that the first album wasn’t me, of course it was me. I co-wrote the songs, I sang the songs, I played in the songs. It’s not like it was someone else, it was me. It was me, at that time. But yeah, the way the music now is written, the way it’s recorded, the way I sing it and where I am at now, mentally, feels very real, feels very me, feels very undiluted, very un-filtered, very organic.
I want to hear more of your music right now, man.
(Laughs) Yeah so, three weeks ago I went to Cologne to work with my producer. We worked on the songs for ten days and next we have another ten days to finish everything. It’s very strange to hear the music now because the music I do now is, in fact, the music I did in the very beginning before I was signed. I started off as a jazz singer, and was always really interested in that combination of break beat hip-hop with jazzy vocals, and weird electronic shit on top of it. That always really worked for me. But over the course of time working with sound people and co-writing, I kind of lost that. It’s like I kind of went full circle again, which is really cool. It’s not like a new sound, no; it’s like what I was doing before. So it’s quite nice, I mean I guess it’s new because I learned a lot of stuff along the way.
We live in a culture that constantly popularizes excess as the “good life”. We are pushed to climb an imaginary ladder of success to reach that pinnacle of the “good life”. To create a life that follows our values and indulges our souls is very rare because our worth is measured by the number of clicks our YouTube videos get or how many followers our Twitter accounts have. Can you discuss your thoughts on this topic and how it impacts the current state of art?
Going back to the question you asked me before this one, about compromising…at this point in my life right now, and I can only talk about this point because I don’t know what’s ahead, I can only make music and art in a way that is comfortable for myself and in a way that represents me that is unaffected by what anyone else would think and in a way that’s natural and true to myself. So in respect to how many hits or likes I have, I can’t really live my life like that because it’s like a form of slavery. I don’t want to be a slave and I really mean it, as long as I can eat and pay my bills. Eat good food, drink good wine, travel around again…that’s my life and as long as I can make my art, I’m good. Really it’s like people really want to be liked a lot, people want to be admired and I think they always have but due to all these things like Facebook, Instagram…all of this shit it’s just magnified and amplified. People will do anything or say anything to be more liked or to have more followers or to have some sort of validation. It’s very sad. You don’t really need that validation from anyone but yourself. It’s weird; a lot of things that have to do with this subject make me feel very uncomfortable. I know how it feels like to do something in order to please a group or a set of people and it’s a very sad way to live, especially when it comes to art or anything creative. I mean it’s not really coming from a true place when you have to think about those things.
Roxanne, what was beautiful about it to me is that you were exposed to that life and to that compromise and you acted in the rawest most honest way not only to yourself, but also to the people who love your music and that to me, that’s art. You have to live; you have to experience things to understand the world. Now if you went back to making that stuff you use to make… I’d be upset with you, ya know? (laughs) I might discredit you a little bit (laughs) but if you keep real to yourself and you continue to live in the way you just said then I want to listen to your music, always.
Yeah, I don’t know…hopefully it will get better.
It will. So last question, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work of Thoreau? He’s from the northeast in the U.S; he spent a lot of time in nature. He was part of the Transcendentalist movement that was concerned with reaffirming the power of mother earth and putting yourself into nature to find God in yourself and these things. Anyway, so that’s a little preface of who this guy was. He said “Knowledge is real knowledge only when it is acquired by the efforts of your intellect, not through memory. Only when we forget what we were taught do we start to have real knowledge. What things that you were taught have you forgotten on your way to real knowledge?”
I believe in that whole-heartedly, I’ve thought a lot about how what you think you may know or what you think you may feel and what you stand for and how a lot of it is based on what you’re taught. I mean I know all about that, I was brought up in a very very religious household. I was brought up with my grandparents and my grandpa was a pastor, a denomination of which was very extreme. So come Friday night it was just like lockdown –
no TV, no cooking, no speaking to friends. We would just read the Bible and sing songs until finally it was Saturday. It was very intense, very restricting. I guess, growing up for me…while there were obvious things in my life that I thought about or I stood for that I knew I was taught, there were other parts of my life I wasn’t even conscious of. In order to regrow as a person and become you entirely, you don’t forget it but you have to almost un-learn it. I think you can’t forget it because some things are so heavily ingrained in you that there’s no way to forget, but you can un-learn things because a lot of things are habitual. So yeah, I think we have the ability to do that and it’s very hard, but once you manage to do it… that’s when the good shit happens. The perfect example for me is the first time I took drugs. I don’t really take drugs, I smoke now and again but I was so against drugs for such a long time and I think that was definitely due to how I was brought up. Maybe a year ago…year and a half ago, I tried MDMA for the first time and it was one of the best experiences of my life, truly, because where I was at at the time and why I did it was to magnify that moment and it was incredible. I was at a festival and I was with all my friends and we were singing and playing guitar and it really ridiculous, the whole situation. I feel like now I wouldn’t have taken drugs but then I did and it was such a great experience for me because I just surrendered to the moment even though I learned all that other shit before. So I recognize what he’s talking about. It’s important to know where you were or where you’re from so you can really appreciate where you are now. You can’t forget it.
I like what you said. I don’t forget it either. I remember it all.
Well of course, how the hell are you going to know where you’re going if you don’t? No matter what kind of past you’ve had, appreciate it because without it whether you like yourself, hate yourself, love your situation, hate your situation you can only really progress and move forward when you take everything in. The past, now and whatever happens – it’s all relative and it means something. So to forget it would be forgetting a part of yourself.
For more on Rox be sure to head over to her official website.