Ratarue on his single ‘Steam’, his love of ‘Star Wars’ and life as an indie artist

Star Wars, 16mm film, and the single ‘Steam’ are just a few topics covered in our insightful conversation with Ratarue

Having been active since 1993, it should come as little surprise that Ratarue’s single ‘Steam’ is as exceptional as it is.

The Austin musician has refined his artistry to the point of perfection, with the track traversing genres through instrumental samples and multi-layered beats.

Ratarue interview

With his spoken-word flows and the assist of collaborators Sloke One and Sharky, ‘Steam’ stands as the epitome of Ratarue’s singular talent, and we simply can’t get enough. 

Below, we caught up with Ratarue for a wide-ranging chat about the single, performing on the festival circuit, and being the child of fellow virtuosos. Catch the full interview below, and scroll down to listen to Ratarue’s stellar single ‘Steam’. 

HAPPY: What are you up to today?

RATARUE: I just heard back from the Brooklyn Wildlife Festival. I am excited about the prospect of playing in New York, for such a cool festival.

Being a person who is from Austin, TX that makes Hip Hop and to be able to perform in the Mecca of Hip Hop is not only humbling but exciting.

I have a couple of video projects in pre production and need to book some studio time for an upcoming single. I just got the final beat, from the homie Height and Keech.

I am excited about that project. The studio time will be for a collaboration with Ben Buck. He has been really holding it down, for Austin, TX Hip Hop. I am super stoked for the nod, to be able to collaborate. 

HAPPY: What initially drew you to the world of music?

RATARUE: My Mom has a beautiful singing voice and my Dad was a drummer. I jammed out on his drums or when my younger brother played on the drums, I would sing along. Later, I took violin and viola lessons at Montessori School.

I was always into writing and art. I have two cousins that are famous and touring musicians. Darryl Woolfolk is currently drumming for Gladys Knight and my cousin Andrew Woolfok was a saxophonist for Earth Wind and Fire and toured with Phil Collins. 


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HAPPY: What inspired you to create the song “Steam?”

RATARUE: I feel like I really hit a stride with my song Spent Blooms. I wanted to expand and take the production further. 2” Tape was used in the production of Spent Blooms.

They are very large and heavy tapes that sound amazing and were the industry standard, before Pro Tools. People still use 2” inch Tape today but it is not as accessible as digital means of song creation.

With Steam I took each track and ran it through 4 track cassette tape, overdubbing each track until I got the fidelity I was looking for, coloring the digital tracks and giving them this really nice saturation that emulated the sound of recordings I did when I made songs in my bedroom, as a kid.

I then dumped all the tracks back into Pro Tools before hitting a professional studio. Nick Joswick at 5th Street Studios is great, as well as Evan Kleinecke of Seize the Means productions, and Randy Avenell of the Brain Machine Studios.

Nick really let me get into my mad scientist bag, for Steam. I like to have different ears on my projects. If not, things can get a little off the rails, real fast. No pun intended. 

HAPPY: Can you walk us through your creative process? How do you approach writing a new song?

RATARUE: I am blessed to have an MPC 3000 and MPC 2000 classic. I usually start with the drums. I don’t quantize my tracks, by design. I ended up sampling my Boss DR 660, into my MPC 2000, for Steam.

I then dubbed the drums, tracked out, into Ableton Suite. I want it to sound very organic, that is why I don’t quantize. Later, I create ideas/rhythmic palates. I want my bass lines to sound as ill as possible.

Drums and bass are very important, especially in Hip Hop, even if the goal is to be experimental. I want the instrumentation to be glued to the rhythmical ideas.

I also want the instrumentation, although wonky, to be playable by actual musicians. My lyrics paint a picture, as well as the beats but I do want people to be able to vibe out to it.

The advantage of producing in Ableton Suite is that I can get a bit crazy with it. The hardest part is going into the Pro Tools session and making sure everything lines up as the original digital recording.

Things change when you go into the world of tape. You get analog feedback and other cool artefacts but you have to make sure it still lines up. The process takes a while. Tamed chaos.

Going in and fine tuning each wave in Pro Tools to match the digital tracks. It was surgical but a lot of fun. I lucky have a home studio pre production studio.

To have done this in a real studio would have taken forever and would have been insanely expensive. I would say this one song took months to make, not including the writing of the lyrics.


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HAPPY: Who or what are your biggest musical influences?

RATARUE: Thelonious Monk, Gil Scott Heron, J Dilla, Del the Funky Homosapien, Bjork, DJ Cornel West, to name a few.

HAPPY: What messages or emotions do you aim to convey through your music?

RATARUE: Authenticity, Experimentation, and Love for the craft.

HAPPY: Are there any misconceptions about the music industry or musicians that you’d like to address?

RATARUE: There is a lot of smoke and mirrors. My top priority is Peace.

HAPPY: What’s one thing you wish more people understood about the music community?

RATARUE: There is a lot of sacrifice, tussle and toil, smiles and tears that are undergone to bring the masses art. I am stoked to bring y’all good art.

HAPPY: You’ve been active since 1993. How has your sound and artistic expression evolved throughout your career?

RATARUE: The music I release is no longer sampled based. I am learning the art of composition. Expanding in my understanding of music theory. As far as the lyrics, I am trying to get better, while focusing on consistency.


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HAPPY: What are you currently working on, and what can fans expect from your future releases?

RATARUE: I just released this really cool song, called Floating, with Glossolalia Online. It is a group of very talented Austin, TX Jazz Musicians. I. really dig it, when I get to work with them. Very nice people.

I hope to collaborate again, with my homie Stef “Sharky”. Schultz, she is the one who appears on Steam as the singer on the hook. I want to shoot more music videos and do more projects on 16mm Film.

Undergoing Music Video production but using Film is difficult but really beautiful, as a result. I really want to do a project with Andi Avery and Kate E Hinshaw of Analog Cookbook, again.

They produced my video Time Heals a Broken Heart. I want the experience of working on more 16mm film projects, with them, as much as possible, to bring more of my Music Productions to life. They are amazing.

I am also in the process of updating my website. I am blessed to be able to work with Michael Scheel of Glory Gold and Glitter, he has done a lot of great art, for me. He mainly works with Exploded Drawing.

He is amazing, very professional. Also, a project with Height and Keech, Acclimated Assassin, and Ardamus are on the way. That is just to name a few.


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HAPPY: Lastly, what makes you happy?

RATARUE: Travel. I really like Hawaii. I took my laptop and just made beats while the ocean was crashing in the background, outside of this small condo. The thought of seeing the world. Relaxing.

Playing cool shows and making friends with chill and cool people. Having a dope girl by my side. Setting and accomplishing goals. Making Music. Playing Soccer with my homies. Finishing a good book. Making abstract art.

Dark Comedy, I am really digging Jordan Jensen. Fresh Media. Star Wars. 16mm Film, going to Austin, FC games or watching the U.S. Men’s National Team. I am stoked that we got a squad. The opportunity to do this interview is really awesome.

This is fresh. I am an indie artist. Love goes a long way. I dedicate a lot of time to my art, so when people support, it means a lot to me. Please, support.

Please, go to my website and buy a Vinyl or Cassette Tape or t-shirt. I have new merchandise already produced and will be available soon. People can DM me, for details, or buy at www.ratarue.com. I am a chill dude.

Thank you, it was nice meeting y’all. I appreciate the opportunity. Peace.