Listen to RJD2 on Rhapsody...

By: Chris Pacifico

Ramble Jon Krohn, better known as RJD2, is a master of DJ and producer techniques. From his early mix tapes like Your Face or Your Kneecaps, where he blended obscure funk rarities, to his first two full-lengths, Deadringer and Since We Last Spoke, RJD2 has thwarted pigeonholes of every kind, creating a heady brew of beats and rhythms that channel hip-hop, downtempo, ambient funk and threadbare electronica. It's a mélange that leaves many scratching their heads but still digging the grooves. After last year's collaborations with Blueprint on Things Go Better With RJ and AL, RJD2 has gone "hip-hop free" in 2007 with The Third Hand (available March 6 on XL Recordings).

The Third Hand diverges into nouvelle vague terrain that has RJD2 playing all the instruments and even singing. Some have heralded it for having the adroitness of a singer/songwriter while others call it a pop itch that needed to be scratched. Regardless of what your take is The Third Hand shines with bubbly grooves, space pimp shimmies and an icy pop knack for miasmic melodies. Now touring with a full band, RJD2 joins JamBase for a tête-à-tête about his new creative direction, jumping ship from his longtime record label and how he remains like Teflon in the face of negative reviews.

JamBase: The Third Hand has an obvious pop friendly angle to it.

RJD2: It kind of just happened, if that makes any sense. I've always had an interest in trying to do all kinds of records, be they instrumental, vocal, pop, ambient, whatever. So, I guess in that sense it's just another stop on the train. I don't think that the new one is completely out of the blue.

JamBase: Would you say that Since We Last Spoke (RJD2's 2004 studio release) was in any way a segue into the vibe of this new album?

RJD2: To put it that way would be for me to say that this is kind of the destination point for any particular progression, which I don't particularly agree with. I feel they are all just like stopping points.

Would you say that you went thorough any sort of rebirth or do you just see it as a form of creative evolution?

Personally, I just see it as creative evolution.

When you were in the process of making the record were you aware that there might be some longtime fans that could be like "Whoa! What is this?"

Oh yeah. It's not something I'm thrilled about but at the same time you got to do what you got to do.

Were any of these tracks road tested before the release?

Oh no, I didn't have the band with me during that time and it's really the only way that I can do those songs. It would've been really hard to do these by myself.

How long did it take you to record it?

I recorded it at my home and it took me about a year and a half.

Listening to it all the way through one can tell these tracks have been most aptly sequenced. Is that something you saw as a big part of giving it that album feel?

I worked a long time on that. There are a few little bridges, intros and outros I placed on the record that hopefully give it the feel of being a cohesive project.

What's the origin of the new album's title?

I played and recorded everything on this with my own two hands; so really, the third one is that of the listener actually holding the record.

How would you say that the crowd reception has been touring this album?

I feel like it's been good. Sometimes people are initially a little bit like, "I didn't know what to expect," but overall I feel it's been good.

When I was in Austin at South by Southwest last month some of my fellow writers and colleagues were wondering why you played the Pitchfork party after they had trashed your album.

Well, it was set up beforehand and already organized. I didn't read the review, which came out a couple of days before the festival. I'm not in any sort of buddy-buddy world, and I felt it would've been tactless to let it get to me. At the end of the day, it's just a review and I don't think that [Pitchfork] is any more or less important that any other journalism outlet.

What was behind your move from Def Jux to XL? Was it an amicable split?

Yeah, it's just that I felt like this album, in a lot of ways, was sort of closer to a rock record, and I guess that I wanted it to be on a label that had experience with that kind of thing. I felt like XL is a good place because they've got their feet in a couple different arenas, musically speaking.

At what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to start making beats and music and sampling and whatnot?

It was when I was younger, after I'd been DJ'ing for a while. I kind of fell into the DJ'ing thing and that sort of led to my being fascinated by how the records that I was playing were made, and that led to getting into producing and stuff.

Throughout all of your albums I've really noticed a cinematic vibe. Would you say that film influenced your music in any way?

Yeah, definitely. I'm really into film scores. I'm an Ennio Morricone fan, and I really like the stuff that Giorgio Moroder did for Battlestar Galactica and Scarface.

Looking down the road, do you have anything lined up as far as side projects, collaborations or anything of the sort?

I've got a couple of things that I'd like to do but I don't talk about things until they're definite. I'm not going to say that I'm going to do something until I've already done it.

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[Published on: 4/17/07]

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cuttyfives Tue 4/17/2007 03:54PM
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Lakai Tue 4/17/2007 04:48PM
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The1AndOnlyDJCT Tue 4/17/2007 06:26PM
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happydestiny Tue 4/17/2007 08:38PM
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have heard some intrestin stuff from this guy, but nothing off te new album... worth a listen?

happydestiny Tue 4/17/2007 08:39PM
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the "potential pop star" line kinda throws me about the content of this album.... sounds possibly lamish?

Atlien Tue 4/17/2007 09:42PM
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msb696 starstarstarstarstar Wed 4/18/2007 05:25AM
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deadringer is still an amazing album. Get it and see what all the fuss about RJD2 is about.

jr2037 Wed 4/18/2007 09:01AM
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Hey its all opinion, but I think the new album is great. The guy spent alot of time on this album and you can tell. At least hes confident and has vision, rather than just doing what people expect of him. Keep an open mind and give it another listen, hes just trying something new so the style doesn't get stale.

mrsean420 starstarstar Wed 4/18/2007 09:02AM
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i love rjd2, but the talk of "bubbly grooves, space pimp shimmies" gets me wondering....ill check it out.

GrantedProductions starstarstar Wed 4/18/2007 09:26AM
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yo... usually love jambase articles, however there is a mistake in the intro bit! his album "things go better w/ rj and al" is not w/ acey, doom, etc... the only artist on that album besides rj is BLUEPRINT! check the man out and give him cred where cred is due! zikomo!

austin3 Wed 4/18/2007 10:14AM
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austin3 Wed 4/18/2007 10:16AM
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Innaheights starstarstarstarstar Wed 4/18/2007 10:32AM
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RJD2 is an amazing DJ and yes he plays with a LIVE BAND on his current tour. He is a true musician/composer. Just because he got creative on his new album doesn't mean he can't still can't tear the top off a muffin with his DJ skills. A lot of people on this page don't know shit about hip-hop anyway. fuck all yall haters RjD2 rules. And yes his first album Deadringer is perfect. If you ever meet RJd2 he is a really humble down to earth person. I wanna hear some input from someone else who got to see him live this tour, his show at the paradise was sold out I couldn't get a ticket. This site is about live music anyway. A lot of good live bands have albums that don't necessarily represent. Go see live music.

cuttyfives Wed 4/18/2007 10:54AM
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jimsan starstarstar Wed 4/18/2007 10:56AM
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C3PNuts is way better, check out his new album "Gold Balls". Also, Luke JamWalker is pretty sick, they play some crunchy tunes. But my favorite is Darth M. Bater. The M. stands for master.

keithrichardsforpres starstarstar Wed 4/18/2007 11:29AM
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The guy is trying to do something new here, it's not a hip-hop album, I applaud him for trying to think outside his normal spectrum

peaceanlove Wed 4/18/2007 12:30PM
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i agree with keith, it may not tickle your tastebuds, but there is nothing wrong with experimentation. I'm still psyched to see him at the fox in may

ryan621 Wed 4/18/2007 12:41PM
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That Darth Bater is the funk!

breckenridgejam starstar Wed 4/18/2007 01:09PM
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RJD2 need not sing, just cut and splice those heady tunes like you did back in the day... Sounds like he might taking the Trey train to creative evolution, which in my opinion is like taking the subway into the ghetto.

Innaheights starstarstarstarstar Wed 4/18/2007 03:26PM
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Don't worry cuttyfives I wasn't challenging your knowledge of hip hop, but this page as a whole is geared toward live music. I'm sorry that you caught a short/weak set by RJD2. and imo Blockhead is not as versatile. The dj Greyboy shades of grey album is also worth checkin out if you like the early soul 45 sounds of RJ's your face or your kneecaps.

As far as singing goes, I enjoy lots of other bands with terrible vocals like the disco biscuits.

jtpanic Wed 4/18/2007 04:16PM
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ghilliesblunt starstarstarstarstar Wed 4/18/2007 06:15PM
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ill reserve my comments until i hear the new shit, but until then ill attest to the fact that rjd2 is dope live and in person...i actually saw him open up for UM in chicago, yes thats right umphreys mcgee, and he threw it down...i was disappointed at all the kids there talking during his set bc i just dont get how UM would only wanna make you boogie...just shows how elitist and closeminded some fans are are nowadays cause you cant deny how funky this man is live

defjukieallstar starstarstar Thu 4/19/2007 08:15AM
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I love all of RJS albums including the Third Hand. Lord Have Mercy is the cut.

saba Thu 4/19/2007 01:40PM
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the only time i saw him live, i liked it.

harryphunk starstarstarstarstar Thu 4/19/2007 03:47PM
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RJ blows my mind!!! Seriously, we all know RJ's old stuff is so on point and still so fresh, and we all know his new album is on a different tip than his other shit. I personally love his new album. It really has made me realize how much of a genius this guy really is. I will have to admit, that when I first listened to it, it took me a second to grasp. A few more listens, and I was hooked. When I saw his Cats Cradle Show it blew me the F away. It was so phenomenal, that I think it was probably one of the best musical experiences of my life. This was the 3rd live show I have seen of RJ...1st being a DJ set, 2nd being with Blueprint, and now with a live band. He also had his breakaways throughout the show where it was just him "tearin the roof off the muffin" (love that line). So anyways, to each his own, but again RJ blows my mind. Its worth a listen if your not too much of a hater...peace!

taterboat starstarstar Sat 4/21/2007 03:49PM
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i saw him in atlanta with this tour and i will have to say it was not what i was thinking. at first the whole band thing seemed like a odd shift for this dj but after a while you do start to enjoy/appreciate what he is doing. if you like dj/production music like our friend rjd2 here, check out this guy who goes by Quantic, good stuff and he too has a live band version that plays out as well.

Hhood01 starstar Sun 4/22/2007 07:13AM
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New album isn't really my taste. I was hoping for something a lot better, but nothing i can do.

oversilence starstarstarstar Tue 4/24/2007 04:01PM
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this album is great and expirimental for him, atleast he is growing musicaly

Scoobysty1 starstarstarstar Mon 4/30/2007 06:49PM
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I thought the new album was a little weak until i saw them play it live. Hearing them play it live made me respect the way they put every track togethter on the third hand. Definatly check him out with his band if hes in your area. Rjd2 still takes time to rip it up on the turn tables without the band.

djt33nis Mon 12/3/2007 03:26PM
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RJD2 turned into a little emo fairy and this album is proof...dont get me wrong "the horror" and "ghostwritter" and earlier stuff is awesome but this new album and new sound is garbage...it sounds to me like his girlfriend broke up with him n now hes cuttin his wrists with the broken shards of his heart...GAY