Earlier this year, electronic hit-making duo The Knocks released their single "Trouble" in collaboration with singer Absofacto. It's a piano heavy, Daft Punk-flavored dance track that features high pitched, manipulated vocals and of course, a groovy beat. Since the duo, aka Ben "B-Roc" Ruttner and James "JPatt" Patterson, is based in New York City, we thought we'd stop by their studio to learn about the writing process behind the song, and the two were super excited to take us into their world of Ableton.
After training up to Chinatown, we were greeted by the two who were ready to show us how to make a sample. "At first we just wanted to write a slow song, and then we resampled it and turned it into this dance thing," B-Roc shared on the beginning of the song. "When we went in with Abso, we didn't really know anything about him, I actually heard much of his production... And the second he started singing I heard that he had these really cool inflections in his voice where he has this cool vibrato and kind of delicate voice, which made me think we should do something slow to show off his voice," B-Roc began talking about working with Absofacto.
After figuring out the vibe they wanted to aim for, they laid down some gospel-influenced piano chords. "It's kind of a sad dance song," B-Roc said, explaining why he liked it.
Then they sped everything up, which resulted in a cool sound. They had no idea what was going to happen with the song but then an hour in, they realized they were on to something.
On just producing in general, the duo had a lot to say. "A lot of people look at instructional videos... We never look at those things. We have our own formula of doing everything in our own way that we created, which is what gives us our own sound," they said, and then proceeded to show us how informal they are with making music, and that they don't even label their tracks in Ableton. "When you get to a point in your career where you trust your ear enough, the best stuff happens quickly and you're not sitting on it forever, which we used to do."
B-Roc and JPatt had lots of good advice to give for aspiring producers, and you can listen to the full song "Trouble" featuring Absofacto now.
The Knocks met at 19 in a studio at The New School. Ben B-Roc Ruttner DJed clubs while James JPatt Patterson played the organ in a church outside the city. The two later became roommates in a Lower East Side apartment that soon turned into a bootleg studio where they remixed Jay-Zs entire American Gangster album in two days. Called American G-Funk, the remixed album garnered an early 60,000 downloads. In 2008, JPatt and B-Roc took out a loan and opened the HeavyRoc studio at 55 Chrystie, in the same broken-down building where the Beastie Boys used to rehearse. It was here that they produced their first big hit in 2010 the filter-house party anthem Dancing With the DJ. B-Roc is the founder and CEO of Heavy Roc Music, earning a GRAMMY-nomination with Sofi Tukker and gaining critical acclaim with releases from St. Lucia, Viceroy, and more. The Knocks debut album '55 featured a star-studded cast including Alex Newell, Camron, Carly Rae Jepsen, Fetty Wap, Justin Tranter, Magic Man, Matthew Koma, Phoebe Ryan, POWERS, Walk The Moon, Wyclef Jean, and X Ambassadors. The album earned a 8/10 score from SPIN Magazine, with Noisey declaring it ...bombastic, funk-finagled, and fun. In addition to working on new music for The Knocks, the duo also cultivated new projects in the form of The Mary Nixons a collaboration with London born, L.A. based producer Matt Zo, lauded as a true supergroup by Billboard. Their debut single Adrian landed at #7 on Spotify Global US and #8 on the Spotify Viral charts. Shortly afterwards, they followed this success with the psychedelic track New York is Red Hot with Skylar Spence via their collaborative sample-based side project, Amelia Airhorn. Currently, the duo can be heard on Wyclef Jeans lead single "What Happened to Love, which they also produced. House Party features co-production from Captain Cuts comprised of Ben Berger, Ryan McMahon, and Ryan Rabin (Grouploves drummer & producer). Previously, Captain Cuts co-wrote the inescapable triple-platinum hit Shut Up and Dance with Walk The Moon and Grouploves platinum hit Tongue Tied, alongside songs for The Chainsmokers, Halsey, Tove Lo, Bebe Rexha, Tegan and Sara, and more. The trio released their debut single Love Like We Used To at the end of 2016, accumulating over 12 million streams and a brief run at Pop Radio. Recently, their new single Cocaina hit #1 on the Spotify Viral Chart. House Party caps off an incredibly productive year for The Knocks, beginning with the release of their TESTIFY EP in February (featuring MNEK, Sam Nelson Harris of the X Ambassadors, Absofacto, Delacey, Tayla Parx and JERM). Most recently, the duos collaboration with Sofi Tukker, Nervo, and Alisa Ueno Best Friend debuted during Apples Keynote address and is now prominently featured in advertisements for the highly-anticipated iPhone X.
They have since produced original material and remixes for Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Marina & the Diamonds, and now their own music. With heavy rotation on Australias Triple J, their single Make It Better was released on Neon Gold Records and their hit Dancing With the DJ was #1 on both the Hype Machine and Japans iTunes. The Knocks have been taking their energetic live dance party all over the world, including their sold out NYC Bowery Ballroom debut, Tammany Hall headlining show and their European tour with Sleigh Bells and M.I.A. Theyve shared the stage with acts like Big Boi, Chromeo, and just finished a U.S. tour with Ellie Goulding. Be prepared, because The Knocks will be knocking at your door and stereo very soon.