“How many fingers am I holding up?” The tip of Roger Williams’ outstretched hand may well have been the first thing Rafay Rashid saw as he slowly, painfully, came to, staring up at Prospect Terrace where only seconds before he had been cavorting with friends. My guess is probably as good as his — Rafay had just plunged 25 feet to the ground below. He can now add extreme BASE jumping to his résumé. Extremely extreme. Well . . . falling.
At around 1:00am last October 13th, local musician Rafay Rashid, age 25, headed over to Prospect Terrace Park with friends to help shoot a music video. Rafay, frontman for hyperkinetic garage/pop rockers Ravi Shavi, was helping pals from another popular Providence band, Atlantic Thrills, with a video for their new single, “Bed Bugs.” Rafay’s role required that he wear a bug mask, one which unfortunately restricted his vision as he clambered and maneuvered about the monument. Rashid cannot remember exactly how he lost his footing, but off the edge he went, landing in the Intensive Care Unit at Rhode Island Hospital with nine broken ribs, a punctured lung, and some injury on two vertebrae.
The Providence Daily Dose decided it was time to get an update on Rafay’s condition and find out when the famously frenetic performer can get back to throwing himself around for our entertainment. I recently visited with Rafay at his parents’ home in Warwick where he is convalescing. He walks a little stiffly and his gait is measured, but it’s hardly noticeable. Rafay had just seen his doctor and gotten a sling off earlier in the day so he was happy about that.
So I had a few questions about the main event. For one thing . . . is there film of the accident?
BC: Can you tell us what happened on Prospect Terrace the night of the accident?
RR: We were filming a music video for a band called Atlantic Thrills . . . they are also Providence based and we actually share a label with them. What happened was . . . I had directed a music video for them because I’m also into that film-making.
BC: I have noticed that your videos . . . the production values seemed higher than with most local bands who may be working on a small budget. They are quite good.
RR: Thank you. I have always been aware that the visual element is pretty important and so we were lucky to work with some cinematographers who had some cameras that we could afford for low budget. But back to the night, I had previously directed a video for Atlantic Thrills, but they called on me as a favor the day of the injury, and Eric (Aguiar) who is their leadsinger and directing the video texted and asked “Hey do you want to go shoot fireworks and dress up as a bug and just like run around town acting like young hooligans?” That was the concept, basically these bug masks he had made.
BC: That was mentioned in the newspaper that you were wearing a mask.
RR: It was supposed to be this 80’s-themed look at these bad boys running around town having fun, which was very much in the spirit of the song, called “Bed Bugs.”
So Eric said “We’ll just basically roll up, film you coming out of the house with a bug mask on, go to the Gano Street bridge, throw rocks in the water, fake some graffiti, and throw fireworks at each other. Then to close out the night we just want to get a shot of you guys, end of the night, celebrating a good night at Prospect Park overlooking the city.”
I guess we were caught up in the spirit of the whole video and I got more comfortable moving about in the mask which covered my whole head like a helmet. Anyway, we were hanging out near the statue, I guess . . . it all gets pretty hazy here, because after the fall, you know . . . what happened prior to the fall is all pretty hazy.
BC: What do the other people say happened?
RR: So what they say happened is that we were filming and that . . . I believe they have this on video.
BC: I was going to ask about that.
RR: They do actually, I didn’t want to see it. But basically there was a shot where there are three bugs, or friends whatever, and we’re hanging out near the fence.
BC: Were you in the enclosed area with the stature, or along the flanking sides?
RR: From what I remember we were in front of the statue, where the fence is, and you can drop from there apparently. So there’s like a little area that you can sneak onto . . . you can lower yourself onto this other platform. Apparently I was just standing there in the shot . . . I don’t know if I lost my footing, or I meant to rearrange myself. Apparently it looked like my foot just slipped off and it was because I couldn’t see anything . . . I just went straight down. Mark (another actor in the video) at first thought I was joking, but how could it be a joke? They actually heard me fall, they heard the thud. And uh, apparently Mark just rushed down there and apparently I was unconscious, and there was blood coming out of my mouth and they called the EMTs.
Apparently I came to rather quickly and Mark said “You fell, you took a nasty dive . . . a nasty spill.” And I was saying “When? When?” [Laughs] I was seriously out of it. But apparently by the time the EMTs came I was pretty lucid. They were asking me what I was allergic to, and I was somehow able to answer amoxicillin . . . . next thing I know I was in the hospital, all just very weird, in the ICU.
BC: What were the injuries?
RR: I had nine rib fractures — two through eleven — broken clavicle on the same side [left] and two vertebrae [were involved somehow]. Once I heard nine rib fractures I was focused on that. But apparently there’s something spine-related . . . that’s not of much concern. The good news is, I just went to the doctor today and I probably won’t be requiring any surgery.
BC: Was there any surgery the night of the fall?
RR: The rib had punctured my left lung and there was a hole in it, and they had a tube going in there, sucking out blood and fluid, and I had a tube hooked up to my lung for four days.
BC: How long were you in the hospital?
RR: I was in the ICU for 3 or 4 days and then 2 more days in the regular hospital. Once I got out of the ICU, I was really determined to get out and back at home. So I just mustered up some weird energy and showed them I could walk to the bathroom and back.
BC: It sounds like you landed on one side . . . is your guitar-playing going to be okay?
RR: I was actually just playing and luckily the weight of the guitar is more on my good shoulder so more on my right. . . and I’m able to reach the far end of the guitar with my fret hand. My doctor said everything should be fine and good to go, and I even asked him if I would be able to play drums because I’m doing this solo record where I’m playing everything. So I asked him if I could play drums and he said, yeah eventually . . . just cool your jets.
BC: What happened to the Atlantic Thrill’s video? Did they finish it?
RR: Yeah they finished the video and it should be out in a month or so.
BC: What are you going to do with the footage of the fall?
RR: I don’t know. Luckily I’m not editing it. I’m just in it. I still have to edit their other video though.
BC: Have you taken advantage of this time to write more music? Has the event inspired you?
RR: I was already working on a solo album, hopefully I’ll release a solo collection of demos at the end of my stint here with my parents. A funny thing, in retrospect, when I’ve gone to mix all these demos that I worked on alone, a lot of these songs almost seem to predict this injury in a weird way. A lot of allusions to falling . . . or warnings to myself.
BC: What’s causing you the most pain at this point?
RR: My whole left side . . . essentially, getting out of bed is super difficult [laughs]. Dealing with pain has made me appreciative . . . being forced to stay in one place has even been a blessing in disguise for my own creative headspace, because it’s forced me to be still. And that’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do without this injury . . . and there’s something to solitude and slowness that can be healthy. It’s like a pit stop.
BC: What about the band?
RR: It will be interesting to see how the band comes back. We didn’t have to cancel too many dates, we were already taking a break for writing so it worked out really well. The one gig we had got canceled on their end! It will be interesting to see. I’ve always been a believer in stepping away from something, because I find it so hard to do it when I’m in the throes of it. I’m, like, every day, all day. Sometimes my bandmates will say . . . dude, give it a rest.
BC: Well, assuming that your stage presentation is a manifestation of that energy level, I don’t think many people would find that surprising.
RR: It’s very weird to say, but I’m almost glad that it happened. Taking a break from going out, and having to be on all the time. Or even like that pressure . . you know when you’re sick, you don’t have to do anything, or be productive in any sense, so that it’s almost fun. Getting a free ride for a month and a half . . . I’m going to sit on my ass and watch TV!
BC: Are you getting out go to shows to see your friends?
RR: Yeah I’m finally feeling like after this doctor’s visit that I’ve gotten the yellow light [sic] in terms of being able to go out places. I went out to one show actually, against my parents’ will. I went to AS220 to see the Rice Cakes.
BC: Roz! Was that the free show where they set off the fire alarms?
RR: Yeah that was good actually for selfish reasons, cuz I was pushing how long I should be out. Okay the alarm is going off, I’m going home now.
BC: Are you driving? Have your friends been coming down?
RR: Yeah people have been coming in rotations, playing chess, and whatever. I probably won’t be driving for another month or so. I know that when I do get better we’re gonna want to put on a really kick ass ‘Coming Back’ show.
BC: We’ll be there. No stage diving.
Some final thoughts: I was halfway home when I realized I had not taken a picture of Rafay for this piece! And he’s looking pretty damn good. Rafay is hoping to attend the Revival! Show at the Columbus Theatre this Saturday, or maybe it was the Pre-Vival! on Friday (with those Rice Cakes). Or both. But please resist the urge to give him a big hug.
Now . . . about that Atlantic Thrills video . . .