Oh, The Aura!; An interview with JC Lobo of Ritualz

Mexico City’s Ritualz is producer/vocalist JC Lobo. Lobo launched Ritualz in 2010 and ascended quickly – by 2012, iconic streetwear brand Mishka had released his third EP, Hypermotion X, and heavy world touring followed, including shows with the likes of HEALTH and Prayers.
Six years after Hypermotion X, Lobo returns with an album that overshadows all previous work: the debut Ritualz full-length, Doom. Inspired by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, Doom was recorded and mixed entirely by Lobo at apartments in Mexico City and Paris, and mastered by Martin Bowes (Nine Inch Nails, Psychic TV, Front Line Assembly). The album’s eleven songs are a portal to Lobo’s world: a dream-state, shrouded in gloom, marked by minimal beats, synth hooks, and soulful vocals buried in the mix.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Lobo to discuss his career and the record, which hit the streets March 9 via Artoffact Records. This is what he told us.
(Editor’s Note: Presented unedited by request of Lobo.)
When did you first realize you had an affinity for music? When did you first realize you had an aptitude for it?
i started getting seriously into music when i was 11 or 12 i think. i was already familiar with a lot of popular music through the radio or my parents, who were always listening to music. i had my own cds and tapes since i was like 8 but it was just like having another toy. when i started middle school i discovered marilyn manson i got really into music, it was suddenly the coolest thing ever and i started consuming music nonstop, i was always looking for more, reading about the bands i liked on the internet, buying magazines, etc. i didn’t touch an instrument until a couple years later when i started a noise band with some friends but i had no idea noise was a thing we would just get together and make noise individually using rock instruments for fun. i had my dad buy me a bass guitar for that haha. from that came trying to play basslines or keyboard riffs by ear for fun, and then i found out about and downloaded music software. i think it was then that i found i liked making music, not just listening to it, which was also around the time i found about more extreme and underground music, which also shaped my tastes quite a bit. it was the era of napster, audiogalaxy, etc. i spent years after that playing in bands with friends and messing around with software, always for fun, i never thought i’d be making music for a living years later. i never took a music lesson. in a way i wish i did, but i don’t think i’d make weird music if i had.
Ritualz launched in 2010, but Doom is the first LP? What did it take to make this record a reality?
i’ve always seen albums as more complex, full works. for me, an EP you can release after you’ve done 5-6 tracks without having a concept or idea behind them. it’s like a sample of what you can do. albums should be more planned and carefully crafted. when i started ritualz, things were a lot different from now, even if it wasn’t that long ago. you either got a label or gave away your album on myspace or a blog. i was lucky that i got a label to release my first EP, and a popular one at the time. i found out about bandcamp shortly after and thought “nothing’s stopping me from doing this myself”, so i gave a shot to another EP. i thought i’d make an album after that but the EP did really well and i started getting offers to do a split, tours, etc. i spent a lot of time just playing shows and slowly working on music that became a very short third EP. by then soundcloud was the biggest thing online and there was a lot of pressure to put out new single tracks every other week. albums weren’t a priority for anyone and full works meant an EP at most. or at least it did in the circles in was in. i didn’t like that but i went along with it. and i kept touring.
it didn’t take long to get tired of touring, bored of playing the same songs, angry of not being able to work on music, etc. so i decided to take a break, and when i felt ready i started working on music again. i wanted, or rather, needed, a different sound but still true to the essence of ritualz. i still have a very solid idea of what this project is to me. it took a while to find the right direction for the new music, and even longer to be happy with each track. i only looked into releasing it only after i felt there wasn’t more i could do to it. if i was to make a full album i wanted it to be as good as i could make it. especially my first LP.
Part of Doom was recorded in Paris. What took you there?
i went on tour in europe and one of my best friends had moved to paris a few years before. i stayed with him for a few weeks after the tour and finished recording vocals and making arrangements while i was there. it was at his apartment, not a studio. i took my laptop and used his small recording setup to do it.
What were you hoping to communicate with Doom? Do you feel like you’ve done that?
i wouldn’t say i’m trying to communicate something specific, but rather trying to make you feel something. this project has always been about darkness (even if there’s a bit of humour in there sometimes) but overall about making music you can just enjoy, i think it has a certain mood to it, an aura. i remember a girl wrote to me one time saying how she loved just laying on her bed with headphones on in the dark just listening to my music getting lost in the sound and i felt really accomplished reading that. it’s not exactly music to dance to, it’s not political, there are no love songs. it’s different. the lyrics on this album are all like short stories, some completely fantastical, some a bit more grounded, maybe even a bit critical of the state of our world. it’s kind of like a black metal album in that way. the album’s concept is literally doom, meeting your doom, feeling doomed, bringing doom. that’s what the songs are about. it’s for people who enjoy their music dark. and yeah, i think the album is pretty dark, mission accomplished.
Earlier in the Ritualz endeavor you were recognized by Mishka, who released your third EP. How did you end up on their radar? What benefits did you see from working with them?
mishka used to have a blog on their website, which had a lot of good people writing on it. it sort of became the main outlet for darker, more experimental music for a while. i think a lot of people knew them from the blog first. my first EP ended up on their list of best EPs of the year or something of the sort and i think mollie from funerals wrote for them and they wanted to do a funerals/ritualz split, which ended up being two separate but related releases, and my third EP. i was already planning to release more music so it was just good timing. i don’t know about any benefits. i never got any clothes or money for it.
What is the music scene like in Mexico City? Is Ritualz an outlier or does it integrate with what others in your immediate community are doing?
there isn’t one music scene, there is a lot going on in mexico city. just a lot of what’s happening here is not for me, i still go to shows sometimes and frequent the goth clubs but i don’t consider myself part of any scene. there are only 3 or 4 acts i can play shows with anymore so i rarely play here. i do have a following so i’m trying to play more shows for them. i used to organize shows, throw parties, etc. but it’s hard to keep doing it when people just show up for the cheap booze, don’t care about the music and will block the door and argue for 20 minutes to try to avoid paying a (very cheap) cover.
my biggest involvement in the local music community these days i’d say is that i run a tape label. i started it some 5 years ago, it’s called MALIGNA and i release weird and experimental electronic music on limited edition cassettes. it’s very very small but i like doing it on the side.
You are headed up the west coast in March and April, but I imagine your support tour for Doom will be more extensive. What else are you planning?
more shows in north america through the year as well as another european tour hopefully in the summer.
What are you hoping people remember or recognize about Ritualz in 10 years? 20 years?
wow, i don’t know. i know i’ll be making music the rest of my life so i hope people will always enjoy it, i guess what every musician looks for. will they be able to though? i see people on twitter sometimes mention me and other bands, all of us still around, like something of the past when we’re still touring frequently and releasing new music. i think people in general have very very short attention spans and a general attitude that when sometimes flies off their personal radar it doesn’t exist anymore. will that get worse in the future? i’ll tell you in 10 years.
(Catch Ritualz live here:
Mar 22 – San Diego, CA @ Space Bar
Mar 23 – Los Angeles, CA @ Das Bunker
Mar 25 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Cid (DJ set)
Mar 29 – San Francisco, CA @ Elbo Room
Mar 30 – Portland, OR @ Lovecraft Bar
Mar 31 – Seattle, WA @ Timbre Room
April 1 – Vancouver, BC @ Astoria)