Skip the Blockbuster run of predictable action flicks and let an RJD2 album call the shots. The record may spin, but your mind will cartwheel with scenes of drama, horror and thrill of your choosing. Allow the blaring horns to signal a wild chase, the sampled soul to spur images of a powerful protagonist and the hip-hop bass to conjure up a dreary, urban setting: the music of RJD2 --playing Wed/7 at The Independent-- is a mind-driven movie reel.
Ramble John "RJ" Krohn has been making music as RJD2 since 1993, switching up his perfectionist tainted DJ process by not only sampling everything from '70s disco and movie themes, but by also using his own vocals and live instrumentation. Last year RJ took on the boss role and started his own label, RJ's Electrical Connections, putting out his fourth and latest record The Colossus in January.
Colossus begins with "Let There Be Horns", its hot Latin drum beat, humming strings, tiptoeing chimes and heavy synths immediately filling my mind's projector with images from an underground business deal. I imagined film flickering with shots of Miami mobsters, blaring brass begetting cash exchanges and the electric guitar solo warming of police presence. I heard the medley of Russian-style strings as an audible indication of a fight between the pastel suited-men and the story's dirty antagonists. The synth seemed to indicate when life was good in palm-laden city and the sampled clapping at the song's end wrapped up my vision with high hopes.
Each song on Colossus has a similar, industrial, urban story for me; I see factory workers, trains, smog filled cities and lover's quarrels each time RJD2's beats play. Is this weird? Maybe my over-active imagination should get back in the closet? I was hoping that RJ himself would understand.
Talking over the phone from his Ohio home, RJ was enjoying a small window of free time by repairing a broken synth, which he admitted was "pretty nerdy." Not as nerdy as my "visions", I thought. I asked him questions about owning the label and other slightly boring items, flirting around what I really wanted to ask. I felt like a kindergarten student with my hand-up, squirming with a question. And then, I just blurted it out.
SFBG: So...do you ever think of your music as a story? I tend to think of the sounds, instruments and samples as characters-- interacting, meeting, fighting, making love? Antagonists and Protagonists in a movie scene. Do you think of it like that?
RJ: (Giggle). I think of things in a similar manner, yes.
SFBG: (Sigh of relief).
RJ: The fun of instrumental music for me is the intention of release. The arrangement of the song is the most important thing-- how it progresses. The tension and the release. Building drama. The medium I work in is drama. Two things might be working with each other, or against each other, and thinking of them as characters or playing roles makes sense to me. There's a relationship between the two parts: between the drums and the groove, the intro and the base of the song. The bridge, the breakdowns, each section-- where they fall next to each other and the transitions between them.
SFBG: So if not in story-writting mode, where does your head go when you put together your songs?
RJ: I like to let things unfold on its own accord. I don't like to force it. I find it fun and interesting and rewarding to let it take me along for the ride. I'm not the kind of guy who starts with a blueprint, or gets lyrics, chords and melodies in their sleep-- I'm in total awe of that. Almost all of the time I'm recording, it's an exploratory project-- I don't know what I'm looking for, shooting for as I go. I like to get the sensation that the experience is like going along for a ride in someone else's movie, trip or story.
No need for a pill, puff or embarrassment-- looks like everybody gets a free trip from RJD2's music.
Wed/7, 8pm, $20
628 Divisadero, SF