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Five questions about making music in the modern age with hip-hop producer RJD2


If you've ever watched Don Draper sling back an Old Fashioned, there's a good chance you're familiar with at least one RJD2 track. If you have a taste for instrument-infused breakbeat (and why wouldn't you?), then we assume you've been following his work since at least 2002's Deadringer. Whatever camp you fall into, you're in for a treat at this year's Expand. Not only are we going to chew the fat onstage with Mr. D2, but we're also getting his music into your ears, live. We're too kind. What's more, we've got a little taste of what you might expect from the stage interview. All you need to do is keep readin'.

On your most recent album More is Than Isn't, there's mix of sounds/styles, but can you give us an idea about the gear and technology you found yourself turning to most when making the record?

Sure, mostly I'd say an Akai MPC, Rhodes Chroma, a modular synthesizer and then my own little guitar/drums/bass setups. It's pretty all over the place, though. How deep do you wanna go on the oddball gear tip?! (RJ told me prior that he's rather into his oddball gear, as we'll discover at Expand).

What are some of the bits of kit that maybe you haven't got right now, that you're eager to get into the lab/studio?

Not much, really. If there was one thing on my wish list, it would be an Oberheim 8 Voice. I'm a super-big Joe Zawinul fan, so yeah, that! Also, an ARP 2500 would be pretty crazy. But I'm happy with the gear I've got, so I'm not for want of much right now, honestly.

What about beyond the studio? How do things like social media and sites like YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, etc. all fit into the process of recording and (perhaps more importantly these days) selling and promoting music?

I'm definitely into promoting and selling; recording not so much really. I guess I use them to discover new music and/or gear, which sometimes informs what I'm up to musically, but I'd say that's the extent of it. I don't force the whole discovery-of-music process; I stumble across stuff, or it finds me, and I internalize some of it.

You mentioned you're into circuit-bending/making your own synths. Where do you personally start with that? Advice for beginners?

It starts with DIY kits, nowadays, if I'm doing a ground-up build. There's a huge amount of info on the net if you just Google around a bit. Other times, it may start with the restoration of an older piece of gear I want to get working.

What about projects like Ototo? Do you think these are platforms that can compete for attention from newcomers compared with the glossy-box, off-the-shelf synths or, perhaps, more realistically, free/pirated VSTs?

That thing looks badass! I dunno; there's so much out there that I don't really know what seems promising and what doesn't. In a way, it was so much easier for my generation as you only had a few choices. You got an MPC, or an ASR-10, or you got a dodgy, cheapo instrument and just started playing. The limitations of choices expedited the whole process, honestly.

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