With hip-hop being constantly on the rise as a musical genre, it’s no surprise that the theories within it cross into other genres, perpetually retrieving ideas and assimilating them as it’s own. RJD2 is a prime example of that; as one of the leading independent producers of the present day, his latest release, Since We Last Spoke, has fearlessly crossed all realms of music to bring you RJ’s own version of the facts, in a remarkably tasteful and colorful way.
I recently had the chance to speak with RJD2 about the new album, the rigors of touring, and the new live show; here’s what he had to say:
Kaffeine Buzz: What inspired you to go this route, to make the kind of music that you do?
RJD2: It was pretty much just a hobby, my preferred hobby alongside video games, and it just kinda happened to turn into a job.
KB: Not a bad job to have at all. So, just a few weeks ago, I found a MGHz album in a record store while traveling. For this project, it was you producing tracks for Camu of SA Smash and Cage, and it was released on the Fondle ‘em label. What happened with that situation, and what brought you to Def Jux?
RJ: After the Fondle ‘em days, when Bob (the owner) was quitting doing the label, he was friends with El-P who came to [Bob’s] radio show all the time, and El was starting Def Jux at the same time that Bob was quitting. So all of us basically either moved over to Eastern Conference or Def Jux; I’ve worked with Eastern Conference and their artists before, but after getting involved with El-P, I’m just with Def Jux.
KB: Something that I wanted to touch base with you on is the whole sound of the new album; it really comes off like a full band, with a warm, live feel that isn’t heard in a lot of hip-hop production.
RJ: I’m glad that you get that out of it; that probably is one of the biggest goals I tried to hit, to sound like a live band, and approach songs the way that you would if you were playing in a band. I was really trying to recreate a band recording, using little pieces from here and there.
KB: It says in the liner notes that with a few exceptions, you performed all of the music on the album. How did that work out: did you play instruments, or is it all sample based?
RJ: Some of it was played live and recorded, most of it is sampled. I’d say probably 30 to 40% of it is live, and there’s one part on the album that’s not me, where my girlfriend played on the track.
KB: How is touring going for you now?
RJ: It’s going good; I feel better this year than I ever have before about performing a live show. This year is the first where I’m in the spot where I’m headlining shows, and it always seemed as though I had the excuse before of being the opener and that if nobody showed up, nobody gave a shit that I was opening for whoever, but now that’s really not the case, and the pressure is on. I’ve seen how lazily people approach a show, and I tried to be as prepared as possible, to think it out, to give the audience what I would like to see at a show, what I’ve seen from the artists that I like to watch perform.
KB: When I saw you at the Fox Theater with DJ Shadow on the Private Press Tour, I thought your DJ set was great – what’s different now?
RJ: That show was cool, but the tour was rough on me. I look back on me and (Mr.) Lif and two turntables in a rental car, and I think about how I didn’t have the resources then that I have now; I was totally unprepared and didn’t have the ability to do what I wanted to do live. It was a great opportunity, but musically, as well as performance-wise, I want this to come off as a lot more than just playing records, which is what I was doing on that tour. Before, I was just looking for some little club, some easy routine that I could do with just two turntables and some records, but now I’m using an MPC 2000XL along with four turntables, and the process is a lot more thought out that it ever has been. I’m actually sitting down and preparing whole sections of music that are totally exclusive to the live show, with live remixes of portions of songs from both albums and long planning going into how the bridge connects these two parts, and how the mix will sound between those two parts, and so on.
KB: What would you say about your live show now to someone who had never heard you before?
RJ: I don’t know, but I would hope that it’s entertaining, and that it’s more than just a guy playing records. There’s definitely going to be a more visual element, but mostly I just want it to sound good, and to be as interesting as possible.
RJD2 will be performing live with fellow Def Jux label mates Hangar 18 at the Bluebird Theater in Denver on Thursday, Oct. 28th and at the Fox Theater in Boulder on Friday Oct. 29th.