I have been Raz Chaoten, on and off, for 7 and a half years now. The name ‘chaoten’ was taken from a caption underneath a picture of me in a German newspaper after i first got arrested. I have never actually been sure how you are supposed to pronounce it, or even if it makes grammatical sense. I just know it was supposed to mean something like ‘chaotic one’ or ‘rioter’ and i thought that was cool at the time.
I don’t want to glorify rioting or chaos though, that’s a very small part of what i am about. I think riots are inevitable under present conditions, and that given that fact we may as well try and use them to some kind of advantage by politicising them and using them as a cover for actual direct action such as occupying land or other means of production, but it doesn’t mean i think they are actually good things in themselves. They are sometimes exciting and empowering but also often traumatising, and i don’t really want to be seen as someone encouraging people to just rush into rioting and stuff willy-nilly.
Not because it is illegal or whatever, i don’t really give a shit what the government think about what i write on this blog, but i just actually don’t think rioting is in itself something worth going on about all the time from a revolutionary point of view. There are an awful lot of dickheads and undercover cops around in the activist scene who glorify violence and try and push people into violent stuff when it doesn’t actually make sense, and i am not one of them. I want people to THINK about what they are doing.
Anyway, i am mostly just a musician trying to raise awareness and funds for the Interzone Voices project and for revolutionary causes in general, and for that i need a stage name that people can remember and pronounce. Changing my name from ‘Meldau’ to ‘Chaoten’ was not a very sensible move in this regard, as they are both obscure Germanic words that most English speakers can’t pronounce, spell or remember.
I still use the name Meldau quite a lot of the time. It’s a perfectly good name and a perfectly good family. I’m actually quite glad to have a weird name, and i hope the Meldau clan goes on forever. My cousin Albin Meldau is actually a successful gigging musician in Sweden under that name, and good luck to him.
But, let’s face it, O’Connor is just easier for people to remember. There’s Sinead O’Connor. Des O’Connor. People like that, you know. It’s a name that’s out there already. When people hear it they just go ‘oh, yeah’, rather than ‘what?’ as they do with Meldau or Chaoten
Plus, it’s Irish, and i play a lot of Irish influenced music these days, so it makes sense. Also, talking about my Irish-Australian family history helps people to understand why i spend so much of my energy on campaigning against borders and in solidarity with people from formerly colonised countries.
The British ruling class fucked over Ireland. We all know that. There’s loads of songs about it, for one thing. Damn catchy songs too. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Catchy sing-a-longs about how the ruling class are bastards?
It’s what i’m about anyway. I have already played my first gig as Raz O’Connor, at the Bearded Theory festival in Derbyshire, last Saturday, the 23rd of May.
People say the number 23 is magic or something. Others say that’s just bollocks and there is no magic anywhere. I mean, which is it more fun to believe in? That’s my question.
The gig went well. I played the mandolin and sang some of my songs and some folk songs. It was the first time i had played a whole gig just with the mandolin by myself. I also ranted quite a lot, but in a way that the audience seemed to react to well. I guess it was the right kind of crowd.
Basically i talked about how if we don’t control the means of production we are slaves to others, and how we need to occupy the land etc, but that to get the confidence to do so we need love for one another and positivity. Nothing about rioting at all.
Afterwards i had some really nice conversations with people i”d never met, putting the world to rights. Some guy said i had reminded him to be more radical, which is pretty much the best thing someone could ever say to a radical musician after a gig.
So yeah. This new name thing seems to be working.
Please, please, if you like my music and can remember my name, get me a gig!