Month: May 2020

Rjd2: Since We Last Spoke

The major labels are crumbling. The deficit soars. Your neighbor came home with SARS. Teenage youth are more armed than Ted Nugent. There will never, ever, be a new episode of “Friends”. Clay out-sold Reuben. Odds are you are about to enter another 4 years of Bush-brand terror. Not to worry, though. Rjd2 has a new album.

On his breakout solo debut, Dead Ringer, Rjd2 sent listeners on a musical foray into instrumentalism, feasting on styles both old and new, and in the process creating a sound that’s emerging as one of the most interesting and exciting new voices in instrumental music. In a genre filled with ambient spacemen and droning techno fromage, Rjd2 brought a sense of song structure and vitality that was sorely missing, evening harkening back to when instrumental groups like Booker T. and the MG’s got radio play (not a joke). And the accolades rolled in. From industry luminaries like Chris Blackwell, to members of Radiohead and The Strokes, to ?uestlove of The Roots (who nominated Dead Ringer for the prestigious Short List awards in 2003), to Dj Shadow, Rj soon became a favorite of those in-the-know. Dead Ringer was an incredible success globally, appearing on many a year-end list, including Spin’s Top 40 Albums of 2002. In ’03, he followed up the success of his debut with The Horror, an EP of B-sides that played closer to an entirely new album than a collection of leftovers, and cemented Rjd2 as one of music’s most talked about new artists. Touring from Japan to Amsterdam, Rj caught wreck with a dizzying 4-turntable reconstruction of the album for fans worldwide, sharing the stage with the likes of DJ Shadow, El-P and the Def Jux crew, David Lynch, The Roots and Prefuse 73.

While Rj soon became the name to drop in hipster circles, he made his bones in the underground, playing a major role in that mid-west power surge better know as Columbus hip hop. After setting it of in 1998 with the Mhz crew on Bobbito Garcia’s legendary Fondle Em Records, he caught the attention of El-P and in 2000, he locked in with the Definitive Jux camp and soon made his DJX debut on Def Jux Presents I, co-starring with Company Flow, Cannibal Ox and Aesop Rock. Then came the now classic “Good Times” white label 12-inch and the rest has been indie hip hop history. Over the past few years, Rj’s profile as a producer has grown immensely as he’s clocked time on the boards producing or remixing Mos Def, Massive Attack, El-P, Aceyalone, Polyphonic Spree, Elbow, Cannibal Ox, and others, wielding a versatility rarely seen in music today. His prolific nature has brought him the unique accolade of ‘freelance producer/remixer extraordinaire’ in Urb Magazine’s Best of 2003 issue, amongst others. As one half of the duo Soul Position, he’s the ultimate team player, taking a back seat to his MC, Blueprint, and letting him do the talking, while RJ’s music keeps the heads nodding. Their 8 Million Stories LP was received in 2003 to rave reviews and continues to nod, and turn, heads.

2004 brings a new, self-titled album, a more focused and cohesive effort than Dead Ringer, while still maintaining the vitality and soulfulness that made is debut so enjoyable. Like a modern day Quincy Jones in the abstract, RJ truly orchestrated his new record, creating a multitude of new songs from all angles, writing music and lyrics, arranging vocals and melodies, auditioning singers and even experimenting with a vocoder. He cut out any fat or filler, and in an industry virtually afloat on the concept of the guest appearance, the album features none. Its strength instead lies in the meticulous programming, lush instrumentation and solid song arrangements. In many ways, an artist’s sophomore album is when their true colors are shown (or exposed), and when their real career begins (or begins to end). In the words of Jimmy Castor, its just begun.

  • Artist: Rjd2
  • Title: Since We Last Spoke
  • Label: Definitive Jux
  • Release date: May 18 ‘O4
  • click to download CD cover
  • Track Listing:
    • Since We Last Spoke
    • Exotic Talk
    • 1976
    • Ring Finger
    • Making Days Longer
    • Someone’s Second Kiss
    • To All Of You
    • Iced Lightning
    • Clean Living
    • Intro
    • Through The Walls
    • One Day

The Stands

Despite songwriter Howie Payne’s Liverpool pedigree–from the congenial ‘pudlian lilt of his voice to his unwavering dedication to pop-craft–his band, The Stands, sound downright American. Their debut, All Years Leaving (Echo) instantly recalls the dirty blue-jean-clad folk-rock declarations of the Byrds, Bob Dylan and Neil Young–or the contemporary reverb-drenched jangle of bands like My Morning Jacket or Beachwood Sparks.

Is rainy Liverpool trying to soak up some warm California sun? Not exactly … but turn about is certainly fair play. “Everyone thinks all the bands from Liverpool are trying to sound like the bands from California,” explains Payne. “The Byrds were playing folk music but eventually tried to sound like they were from Liverpool after the Beatles came along and went electric!”

Payne, 28, is a musical sponge who writes songs without boundaries, constantly in search of the ineffable elements that make a tune truly meaningful; finding inspiration for his ageless pop from the masters: Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Woody Guthrie, Burt Bacharach, Charles Mingus, The Beatles, Fred Neil, The Band, Curtis Mayfield, The Buzzcocks and countless others.

The Stands are a part of the ever-erupting “Scouse” movement, a tightly-knit posse of bands congregating at Liverpool’s Bandwagon club and creating new creatures with song-based stitches. But while bands like The Coral, The Zutons and The Bandits have one foot turned towards the Beefheart/Zappa school of avant-pummel, the pop-oriented Stands are a strictly melodic affair–becoming the outsiders in a scene made of outsiders. Their meticulously constructed tunes, however, are far more intricate than their giant, gratifying hooks imply.

“There’s a great Brian Wilson quote, when he said that Beach Boys harmonies were so confusing and so complex that it took them months to learn them–but the trick is to make it sound easy. My brother, the drummer for The Zutons, thinks we’re the most complicated band out of everyone. But it just doesn’t sound that way. The only time people notice that ‘The Way She Goes’ is in 5/4 is when they try to clap along.”

Payne honed much of his eclectic, elusive and exceptional tastes when he left his “draconian” Liverpool school at age 13 and moved to America, getting by on demolition jobs, delivering groceries and spraying perfume. He devoured Smokey Robinson and Nirvana on American radio and returned to Liverpool seven years later–gigging around with a few groups, slowly building his on-stage confidence and eventually finding people to start a band of his own. The Stands stood tall once Payne hooked up with drummer Steve Pilgrim through a mutual friend, met guitarist Luke Thompson during a football game in the park and was approached by bassist Dean Ravera after he saw an early Stands gig with a spare Zuton holding the low end.

In fall of 2002, a Scouse epidemic had Brit labels signing anyone with an accent (“You just had a drumstick and they’d give you a record deal,” says Payne). The cautious Stands recorded demos on their own time and on their own terms–holding out as long as possible so their songs and creative inertia wouldn’t be compromised by label demands and executive requests. The band convinced people to lend them money for studio time and fan/tour-mate/Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher invited The Stands to record in his magical, mysterious Wheeler End studio. The band laid tracks with whatever spare time they could wrangle–bouncing between some of their 2003 tours (The Coral, Oasis, The Libertines, Jet and The Vines) and some 250 gigs in 2003 alone.

“Every time we’d get a day off, we’d come back from Switzerland or something, I would run to the studio and start trying to do some tambourine tracks or something,” says Payne, who ended up recording the majority of All Years Leaving before signing with Brit indie Echo (home of Feeder, Moloko and Ray LaMontagne)

Since the album’s release in February, The Stands have garnered critical accolades and fan adulation. And on January 25, 2005, in a slightly remixed fashion, it will finally appear in America. Just like those songs on American radio that burrowed into an adolescent Payne’s heart through some indescribable prestidigitation, he hopes The Stands can capture the same mysterious wave that turns great songs into timeless ones.

“It’s all just playing with music, isn’t it? Chord changes that go where you don’t think they’ll go-or doing the obvious thing. But I really don’t understand what I’m doing. I just write songs and sing over them… If I could pinpoint it, I’d be a musicologist, go to university, study,” Payne laughs, “which I’m not gonna do.” Late last year The Cribs signed to the highly regarded Wichita label. The first fruit of this relationship was the very limited edition single “Baby Don’t Sweat” / “Another Number”. Both the single and the album were recorded at East London’s now legendary Toerag Studios with the band producing. The sessions were completed in eight days with some chemical assistance.