In 2010, The Knocks were named as one of the "20 Hottest Producers In Music" by NME Magazine. This was just the beginning though for the New York City duo, and since then they have developed into one of the most forward-thinking crossover groups in modern music. Consisting of members Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “JPatt” Patterson, The Knocks recently brought their electric synth-pop vibes to a sold out crowd at The Echoplex in Los Angeles.
They rocked the house with all their biggest hits including “Collect My Love,” which featured a stunning live performance by vocalist Alex Newell. In the encore, The Knocks brought back the fan favorite single “Magic” from their 2011 EP of the same name, and the crowd went wild. It was a night full of great energy, exceptional music, and really cool people.
We were able to exchange a few words with The Knocks that night, touching on their love for Madeon, hip-hop, and Michael Jackson. We also got to hear more about their upcoming album, which is set for release later this year. Check out the interview below, and dig into their addicting creations.
I read in a previous interview that your upcoming album 55 will be “more mature” than your other releases. Can you elaborate on that?
James: Yeah it’s just like more grown up, more about us personally. You know, you just grow up as a person. The production's better, the content's better, everything’s better.
Ben: Yeah we’ve just gotten better and we’ve had a lot of time to kind of do it. We thought we were making an album 2 years ago. That was gonna be our first album, and now we made one this year that’s actually our first album and it just feels a lot better.
One of my all-time favorite remixes by you guys is "Not on Drugs" from Tove Lo. It’s a lot more melancholy than most of your other stuff. How’d that remix come about and what reaction did Tove Lo have to it?
Ben: Yeah. It actually came about because we know Tove just from being on the same label as us (Neon Gold), and also from just having mutual friends and partying. She’s kind of a party animal, and you know we like to party. But I think I just asked her, or no. They reached out to us about a different song that we were gonna do and we didn’t end up doing it.
We ended up doing that one instead though. And I mean yeah, she loved it. She posted it, and she’s awesome. She’s like the most normal person. Super cool. It’s always good when the artist supports the remix though, versus the remix just going out and they don’t even say anything about it.
James: Yup that’s about it. We were friends so it just worked out.
I know you guys have been writing together for around 8 or 9 years. Do you ever have to work through creative differences to create the final sound that you’re both really happy with?
Ben: We’ll definitely work on a song and there’ll be parts of it like "Ehhh." But it always works out.
James: Yeah. We’re always just down to try stuff, so there’s really no disagreement. We just try it and if it works it works, and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work.
Ben: Or we’ll do something that I thought was tight and he’ll just let me do it and then the next day we get back in the studio and he’ll be like "Okay yeah. Let’s like not do that.” And it goes both ways. But it’s more often than not that we are totally on the same page. Like I’ll start telling him to do something and he’ll be already doing it. That’s another great thing about having worked together for 10 years.
If you could choose one great lyricist and one great composer from any time period who has influenced your work, who would you choose?
Ben: For songwriters, I’d probably say Bruce Springsteen, and I’m not a big classical music person but I really like Phillip Glass.
James: Michael Jackson. Or Philip Bailey from Earth Wind & Fire.
Besides hip-hop, do you guys ever play around with different electronic genres in the studio for fun? I know some DJs who do this and it’s fun to hear the stuff they experiment with, as well as the stuff they play at shows and release online.
James: Yeah, I’ll do some fun stuff. I’ll do some house and play some tracks out, but nothing serious. Maybe I’ll put some of that stuff out someday. I don’t know.
Ben: Yeah, I haven’t really messed with that much. I mean, when we were working on our album we’d go off on tangents and make songs, like weird house shit that we’d never put on the album just as a way to get things out. But I mean, hip-hop is the other thing that I really love. I wanna get back into doing more of that. Hip-Hop is getting good again in my eyes. It kinda got shitty for a while, but I’m excited by the new stuff.
Are there any young artists today that you guys are really excited about but haven’t had a chance to collaborate with yet?
James: I’d say Madeon. Even though he’s not new, he’s been making music for what, like ten years now? But he’s young, I think he’s a prodigy. He’s really smart.
Ben: I really like this guy Post Malone. He’s this new rapper/singer dude. I really liked the song "White Iverson." We did a remix to it and he’s pretty cool. I also really like this band Wet. I know them personally, but they’re awesome and I love her singing. I don’t think we’d ever work together because they’re just a very different genre, but she has an amazing voice.
James: I’m kind of in a down wave of listening to new music right now. I go through phases of listening to new stuff. I’ve just been listening to our album so much, it’s kind of all I’ve been focused on. Listening to different mixes, different masters, and new remixes. But then when I’m DJing and playing other people’s music, it’s different. I’m not necessarily scouring for new stuff right now, but that’ll change soon.
Do you guys have any classical vocal/composition/production training or are you both self-taught?
Ben: Self-taught. I’m not really a musician. I’m not gonna pick up a guitar and play anything, I’m more of a producer guy. But I’ve been tinkering around with production for a while. I used to play things on my MPC when I was like 13, so I’ve just always been really into the recording side of music and production.