“As a society, we must continue to stay connected to the arts and each other. I feel creative expression allows that connection to happen.” – Michelle Castillo

Michelle Castillo is a local artist who has been hosting The Coachella Valley Art Scene’s Open Mic on a monthly basis for over a year.  Each month she helps to open up our doors to any musician, poet, performance artist, and/or anything in-between that wants to share what’s on their mind for 5minutes.  In addition to an open mic offering to the community Michelle has also gone on to develop her program by featuring ‘featured performers’ every month.  These designated artists are first to perform and set the tone for the evening.  Often energetic, insightful and magnetic – these local talents are often breakthrough artists that eventually go on to headline other festivals and music venues within the Coachella Valley.

This week Michelle Castillo has handed the microphone over to poet, rapper, musician and much more… Razor J. In this interview piece Michelle and Razor J take a moment at Koffi to discuss the finer things in life such as art inspiration and aliens.

open mic

Get CONNECTED: Q & A w/ Razor J

Interview conducted by Michelle Castillo


Name: Juan Espino

Stage Name: Razor J

Age: 23

Hometown: Indio

Listening to: Jack Garratt, Hopsin, and BT

Influences: Pinn Pannele, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, Buckethead and technical rappers like Big Pun and Eminem.

MC: If you could describe your musical style in 4 words or less what would it be?

JE: “Live. Technology. Hip-hop.

My goal here is to combine the beauty of the classics, intelligence of jazz musicians and to create sounds typically not found on the guitar. If you can imagine EDM produced on a guitar, it would be similar to that vibe. When you hear our music, you will find yourself listening to a melding of textures.

MC: A fusion of sorts?

JE: Yes!

MC: Why the name Razor J?

JE: Every artist has a trademark symbol that people can pick out.

For example, when one sees the color purple they automatically think of Prince. I wanted a name that was modern and edgy. So one day I was walking on the street and saw a coupon for Gillette Razors in a Food 4 Less ad, and that’s where it started. Then I named the band, “The Blades.” On another note, there is also a synthesizer brand called Razor. I just added J to Razor thus came Razor J!

MC: For real? That’s great!

Humorous story, but it works! Clever move calling the band, “The Blades.”

MC: What inspires you to create?

JE: Music has a way of invoking emotions, but I just like the pure sound it makes with no elements or special meaning behind the lens. I like to look at creating music through an intellectual lens. Textures and sounds are definitely part of it. But there is also another part of me where things happen in my life and become stories, and I use music to tell those stories.

My backing band, The Blades, is another inspiration. Everyone in the band is trained in jazz, classical and other genres of music. When it comes to our musical creativity, they get me, and we get each other. I feel it is important to have a sense of trust with your creative partners.

The Blades consist of Louis Alexander on bass and Tomas  M. Granillo on drums.

MC: What are your future aspirations as a musician?

JE: It would be great not to be tethered down by money or resources. My current setup is mostly DIY. I have 2 laptops, electronics along with all our instruments. I want to continue to keep on expanding our musical expertise and technological resources. One day I hope to play with a full band or orchestra.

MC: I love it! The orchestra would be a beautiful addition.

MC:  So what do you think is out there? I mean like in outer space?

JE: (Laughs)

I believe there could be a fair chance of aliens. But these aliens may not look like your typical greys. They may exist as slime, moss, some big plant or another entity.

MC: Agreed. Thank you for your time. We are looking forward to having you and your band perform this Saturday at the open mic!

Connected - a community open mic

Join us every 3rd Saturday for CONNECTED: Community Open Mic! Each month we will be featuring local artists on the CVAS blog, so you can get to know your local creatives a little better.

Michelle Castillo is a local teacher/writer/musician who hosts and collaborates with The Coachella Valley Art Scene to present CONNECTED: Community Open Mic series every month. She has been creating experiences through poetry, music, the senses, and the arts since age zero.

Find her here: