Beatdigger, producer and DJ RJ Krohn aka RJD2 needs no introduction. With 3 studio albums under his belt and a whole string of productions and remixes for artists such as Massive Attack, The Go! Team, Aesop Rock and Souls of Mischief, RJD2 is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Right at the calm before the storm of launching his next album, The Colossus, WhoSampled got the man to talk about his musical development, vinyl and sampling, and the making of an RJD2 production from the beats up.
WhoSampled: What is your earliest musical memory?
RJD2: Records. I remember my mom’s record collection: Kraftwerk, The Beatles, Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass – things like that. I remember playing NES games and listening to those records. Both things played an important part in my development.
WS: To what extent did older records inspire you in your past productions? Is that still true today? Which artists do you feel have influenced you the most?
RJ: The tones that are found within records are constantly informing what I do. I think that my best foot forward is as a producer, not a DJ or singer or keys player. And obviously, when sampling records, they end up playing a direct role in a new song. Even if I’m not sampling them per se, it’s still true; I am constantly referencing things off records when I’m tracking live instruments.
I think the biggest things I’ve internalized are the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, The Impressions, and then the experience of things like a Meters or De La Soul record on a big system.
WS: When digging for samples, are there any specific genres or eras that you look out for?
RJ: Eras, yes. Genres, no. My roll-off years are around 1961 and 1985 or so. That’s my usual window. Otherwise, I’m just usually looking for the rarest things I can get my hands on; the least visible record I can possibly sample.
WS: What is/was your favorite 2nd hand record store and why?
RJ: The one that was a huge contributor to my first record (Deadringer) was a place called Robert’s Records on the southeast side of Columbus, Ohio. They had been a distributor throughout the 70’s, and then went out of business around 1999 or 2000. It was just an insane goldmine, when they had their going out of business sale. It was massive; about a basketball court sized room for LP’s, and another for 45’s. HUGE. All LP’s were $1, all 45’s were $.25. I spent 5 days going through a storage closet stacked top to bottom with boxes of 45’s; I was pulling things like Lowell Fulsom and J.B.’s 45’s, and thought I was doing well. I didn’t realize the 45 room was open as well at the time; we are talking 8 ft racks, 60ft long rows, and about 8-10 rows. Alvin Cash’s Keep on Dancin’, Incredible Bongo Band 45’s, that caliber of stuff, all for a quarter a pop. I probably clocked 50-60 hours in the store before it closed.
WS: What’s your forecast on the future of vinyl – do you think it will die out and if it does, will it matter?
RJ: No, I think it’s gonna do fine, cause it already is! Records are definitely making a resurgence. People will always love buying vinyl, even if it’s not a huge market.
WS: What rapper(s) would you like to work with if you could choose anyone you want? Whose style and voice do you think would go well together with your beats?
WS: How different was your approach to the production on The Third Hand from that on Deadringer and Since We Last Spoke? Did you use any samples on The Third Hand at all, or was it all made from live instrumentation?
RJ: There were some very minute samples, and all of the drums were samples, on The Third Hand. I was still going for “vintage” type of sounds, but trying to do it in a different way.
WS: You did a set for the BBC’s Breezeblock radio show, where you deconstructed some of your own beats using some of the original samples. It was interesting to hear you recreate some of the cuts by hand. What’s the initial catalyst or first step in an RJD2 production – beats, samples, instruments, inspiration from DJing or something else? When in the studio, do you often get ideas for sample combinations or tracks from “DJing on top of a beat”?
RJ: When I’m in the studio, it’s really all centered around the MPC, at least if I’m doing something that is inherently “beat oriented”, or if I’m just making a beat. There are things that can be done on an MPC that can’t be done on turntables, so when I’m doing those “redux” versions of tracks using the original records, it’s more reverse engineering a beat, rather than providing the germination point of a beat. On the MPC, I’m working at a more molecular level; DJ’ing is much more broad strokes, if you will.
WS: What can your fans expect to hear on The Colossus, your next album due in 2010?
RJ: BIG SECRET! Nah, I might end up talking about it closer to the release, but I don’t want anyone going into it with a preconceived notion of anything, stylistically speaking. Fresh ears and multiple listens, that’s all I ask of the listener. I always try to be as detail-oriented as possible with my solo records, and this one’s no different in that respect.
WhoSampled manages RJD2’s page on the site in cooperation with the artist. Look out for RJD2’s fourth studio album The Colossus, which will be released on his own label in 2010.