The Knocks Talk "Magic"
Tue, 28 Feb 2012 11:18:57
The Knocks don't just flip the script on dance music with their EP, Magic. They completely rewrite it altogether.
The New York duo—Ben "DJ B-Roc" Ruttner and James "JPatt" Patterson—seamlessly integrate hip hop grooves and grit as well as rock edge into undeniable dance tunes. Magic is like sonic pixie dust that will ultimately make you move on the dance floor, bob your head at the gym, or tap on the steering wheel in tandem with the beats.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Ben breaks down Magic, talks movies, and so much more.
Did you approach the Magic – EP with one vision?
It's funny because we were originally kind of stressed out about that. We come from being producers more so than being "artists". We're not going to sit down by candlelight and write a bunch of songs with a guitar [Laughs]. We come from producing other people's records and following their vibe. So, we hoped everything fit with our record. We'd make one song that sounds like a house record, one that sounds like Daft Punk, and one that sounds like Gorillaz. As we were making these, we found this little niche and stuck to it. Finally, when we were done, it was one of those "oh shit" moments where we thought, "This really has a theme to it". That was the coolest thing. When we picked those five or six songs, it actually sounded like one body of work. We chose those from about 25 songs. I'd like to think we went into that way, but we kept making records, picked this one direction, and it ended up working. It felt most comfortable to us, and it didn't feel like what everyone else was doing. We try to use Motown influences over these electronic influences, which hasn't been done much. We also had to think about the future.
What's the story behind "All We Got"?
James and I were both home for the holiday. He actually had that idea when we were on tour in Europe with Sleigh Bells. A lot of their stuff is hip hop influenced. It has the big beat vibe. We started making hip hop. That's actually how we got together in the first place. We used to be hip hop producers, and we'll always have that influence behind us even if we don't make it right now. James had this idea for that chorus. The vocals on the track were recorded on GarageBand in the basement of his mom's house. We took it back to the studio together. That song is obviously somewhat dance-y and funky, but it's not fist-pumping electro. We want to leave that lane open. One of our biggest influences is Gorillaz. How they transcend genres is amazing. We really wanted to make sure "All We Got" was on the EP so people know it's not all four-on-the-floor party stuff. That track shows there's more to it. We really loved it, and we're glad the label did too.
Where did the lyrics come from?
That was happening at a time when we didn't have that much stuff going on as The Knocks. We were doing a lot of remixes and living in New York City which is expensive. We were broke. The song was written over the holidays. That's the time everyone realizes how broke they are. It's a new year, and you've got to pay rent and buy Christmas presents. That's what that song is about. All we got is making the music. It's really about struggling and trying to make a buck through what you love to do. We're really lucky to be able to do that. It's relatable and came from a real situation. "Dancing with the DJ" and "R.O.Y.L." are fun. "Magic" is a little more serious, but "All We got" has a behind it that's true to our lives.
Is it important for you to paint pictures with the songs?
That's always the music that I like to listen to. I think it's important to paint a picture, but also to leave the paint there to let people make their own picture. We like to keep it open. You can interpret "Magic" a couple of ways. "Dancing with the DJ" could be a love song or something else. When we're writing, a huge thing for me is to come up with things that are visual. We call them "candy words". When you hear them, they really hit you and give you that image.
What would be the cinematic equivalent of this EP?
That's a good question. I'd say something like an '80s Steven Spielberg E.T.-type movie with the fun of The Goonies and a Blade Runner-style edge. Those are three of my favorite movies [Laughs].
Have you heard The Knocks yet?