Photo By Dan McMahon
Ten years into a career, Ramble John Krohn - aka RJD2
- is still rolling out records; his latest, The Colossus
serving as yet another progressive step forward for the Philadelphia based producer and musician. A follow-up to his first truly solo effort ('07's The Third Hand
), The Colossus
walks a different sort of line this time. In his words, it's an "overview" effort; one that takes stock of the various working approaches (live instrumentation, samples, guest vocals, solo spots) he's taken to recording over the years. The result is a big, creamy blast of soulful music, ripe with head nodding beats, pocket horn sections, flawless rhythmic passes, sweet and sultry electric piano, and a variety of guest vocals and rhymes. Quite simply, these are tunes that are fresh, and street ready...perfect for packing with you as you tame the big bad city by the horns. Subways, busted alleys, suicidal cab rides...The Colossus
is your soundtrack. A big, bold piece of music that'll put the pep in your step.
Recently, we had the opportunity to bang some emails back and forth with RJD2. It was a revealing correspondence; one that details Krohn's approach to The Colossus
, his move into more independent realms, and his gratitude for having 10 long years of music making behind him. - David Pitz
I'm curious how you would describe The Colossus as it relates to other albums in your personal catalogue. Does it mark any kind of change in approach or?
In a way, I see it as the culmination of my previous records, if only because the techniques that went into this record were honed on those records. I don't know if I'd say change, but I would say that I think it's a pretty refined execution of some of the things I've been aiming at over the years.
The Third Hand marked a departure into more musically independent realms - live instrumentation to mock samples, you handling instrumental/production duties/etc. Is The Colossus a response to that?
Yes, in the sense that this album was intended to be as collaborative as possible. I knew I didn't want to do another record with me singing all over it, but at the same time, my records have always had a vocal presence, so having guests cut the vocals seemed to make the most sense. As far as the actual writing and tracking, there is a similar way of going about it to The Third Hand
, but stylistically, I was shooting for something different, by and large.
And this is the first time you've self-produced an album?
No. In fact, I've self-produced all of my albums, musically speaking. Or to clarify, all of my solo albums were recorded under my own sole direction. However, this is the first record that I didn't have to CLEAR the playlists and songs with a label. I just put it out, period.
Did you miss having the added perspective of a producer - another ear to sort through the album?
I have always used friends as soundboards about which songs I should use or not on an album. So I still have that going on, but I do kind of miss the validation element of a label head giving me the thumbs up. But I'm fine trading that in and losing the whole element of a label vetoing what turns I might want to take with my career.
Can you tell me a little bit about playing the drums?
Well, I must admit that I'm really not the most accomplished drummer. But if I warm up, and am practicing regularly, then I can at least pull off a decent pass on drums. Also, I'm not a Niel Peart type. I'm real bread and butter with it. But it sure is fun, and I think I had a big head start in that I spent so long thinking about grooves, and drum patterns and such. That definitely helped.
Do these songs live a little differently in the live environment?
OH yes. For one, I can't bring folks out on the road to sing one song. For two, we don't play to any prerecorded tracks, or click tracks, so they feel much more live. Lastly, I do a lot of overdubs on albums, so you have to dumb it down a little. But that's also the fun of putting a show together, in that you have to reach to make the songs sound as full as they can.
Tell me about your decision to start RJ's Electrical Connections? Any bad experiences with previous labels?
I wouldn't say that it stemmed from one bad experience. More from a general movement towards being independent, both creatively and financially. I had acquired my catalog records, save for The Third Hand
, and needed a way to reissue them. Also, I needed a home for my next album, and I had already funded it. So really, all signs were pointing to the starting of a functioning label.
What does your own label afford you that you are most excited about?
Really, the freedom to be able to put out albums as I please in the future is a big one. Also, this will finally give me some insight into how much an album actually generates. That's going to be nice. And having a way to keep my catalog in print, and retain ownership, for the rest of my life...that's pretty big to me.
You're ten years into your career. Did you ever see that coming when you started?
Oh no. This is a big surprise. I've always just been taking it one day at a time, and tried to work as hard as I could. Maybe those two things have contributed to me being able to sustain a career.
Anything else you can attribute to your successes?
Perseverance, discipline, lack of smoking weed, and keeping my ears open and my mouth shut. And luck. But you got to place yourself in the right place to get lucky, I believe.
What do you hope your fans take out of The Colossus?
I hope that folks enjoy it, however they can. I think that people listen to a lot of different kinds of music nowadays, and hopefully they can appreciate a record that is really constantly shifting. Mostly, I hope folks can see it as an attempt to pay tribute to soulful music, both analog and digital, vocal and instrumental, new and old.
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MP3:"Let There Be Horns" - The Colossus
RJD2 on Myspace