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Culture / Entertainment

A Music Star in Wait

This Under-the-Radar Act is Poised to Break Out — Meet Promiseland

BY // 09.10.17

Promiseland may be an under-the-radar name right now, but that should change soon. The one-man wrecking crew, whose real name is Johann Rashid, has recently signed to Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, marking a huge splash for the promising up-and-comer.

Fresh off the premiere of his thrilling “Take Down the House” single, an intoxicating mix of Nine Inch Nails, Crystal Castles, no wave, and ’90s industrial, PaperCity spoke to the man about his musical influences, linking up with the iconic Strokes frontman Casablancas, and the time he nearly split his head open while performing.

Promiseland will hit the road with Casablancas for a South American excursion (dubbed the “Hollywood Bolivar Tour“) before hitting Texas for the first time ever at SXSW in the spring of 2018.

How long have you been making music?
I’ve been making music for a very long time. I always made film, so in the very beginning I’d use my video gear to record. I’d mic up instruments with the camera mic, then use video-based editing software to cut and paste. It was a very, very slow process, as I was recording sound to mini DV tapes and everything was in real time. I then connected with a rad producer named Harmon and we upgraded to his back shed. We would drop his kid off at school and just make stuff. At this time I was playing in a band called Eastlink so Promiseland was just a fun side project.

“Take Down the House” has heavy ‘90s industrial vibes but crossed with a ‘00s bloghouse touch. Was Promiseland influenced by those sounds?
I definitely draw energy from some of those references. There’s stuff like that from the late ’80s through the ’90s I love. The power and intensity of the live performance also feeds back into the sound. I record similar to how I play live in regards to vocals. I can set up anywhere, in a living room, in an office. Use the space. Grab the mic and thrash around. I try to capture the energy of the live performance. 

My musical influences are in the DNA of my sound, but I get so excited by more tangential influences, could be photography or architecture or the total lack of art that sparks ideas. I’ve always been a cross disciplinary artist. Francis Alys is a Belgian performance artist living in Mexico, and he’s one of my favorites. He let a coyote loose in a museum as art. He walked through the streets of Mexico with a gun until he was arrested. In a video piece he runs into mini tornados. Realities are not stable. It’s a truth that comes up again and again in life and it’s better to run with it than away [from it].

How did Promiseland connect with Cult Records and Julian Casablancas?
The connection to Cult Records happened super fast… Over the last couple of years I began to have a collection of different videos from my shows, each one seemed to have something crazy happen, like being thrown into a pool and almost splitting my head open, being kicked out, falling on top of someone, giving them a concussion and breaking my toe. Getting smacked in the face. Somehow finding a way to hypnotize someone.

The list goes on… I hung upside down from the balcony at the Bowery Ballroom, legs hooked in the balustrade, blood rush to the head. Yelling out to an upended room. A video was sent to Julian Casablancas at Cult, we met a week later and hit it off.

Do you feel a great desire to be writing, performing, and making music amidst the backdrop of 2017? Do things feel more important now or is music an escape from that?
It absolutely feels different. I’ll always be making music and performing. So where I am, in a way, IS what I create. It’s more of an instinctive response though. I’m not overtly political. Any backdrop is a good backdrop as long as there is a backdrop to be climbed!

I do think any artist who’s channeling their unique point of view has to be challenged by an atmosphere of repression or truthlessness though, so that’s real. One important aspect of Promiseland is the visual output. I spend a lot of time conceptualizing the music videos. I like to make sure that the videos have the energy of Promiseland’s performance narrative. There’s this sense of breaking out and mastering the context. Of torture and rebirth.

The [forthcoming] “Take Down The House” video was very physical, and was one of the longest shoots I’ve done. The director Ismail Shallis and I shot it over 11 days, pushing ourselves to the limits! It’s a strong launch point for more of whats to come from Promiseland. 

Now that the single has dropped, what’s next?
I’m heading on tour with Julian Casablancas + the Voidz through South America during October. It’s Promiseland’s first tour and I’m super psyched about it. I’ll be dropping another single after the tour and preparing for 2018. There’ll be lots of shows and new music and films to be made.

Home, chic home.

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