Southern California is home to veteran international DJ/Producer Randall Jones, one of the world’s finest. Having made his Bedrock debut way back in the early noughties, Randall has continuously grown, developed and evolved as a much-respected global artist. A return to Bedrock has been long overdue and his just released immaculate ’53 Stickup EP’ is a perfect creative statement for 2019. Listening to the quality of this EP, it is no wonder that Randall is held in such high regard, and with the bonus inclusion of a collaborative deep and dark dub-style Tigerhook Edit (courtesy of the Wu-Tang type crew of like-minded DJs and Producers spearheaded by Randall) this is a package brimming with creativity throughout. So DMC thought it was high time we found out a bit more of what Randall’s been up to…
Randall, a big welcome to DMCWORLD and congratulations on the release of your ’53 Stickup EP’ on John Digweed’s Bedrock label. The first thing we’ve got to ask is what makes this label so special?
Bedrock is a special label from the standpoint of a leader in worldwide house and techno music for decades. They simply release world-class music. From a personal standpoint, I grew up playing ‘For What You Dream Of’ in my sets in the 90’s and I loved Digweed’s sound and was trying to check him out and so when Bedrock Records came along, they were influencing my sound and blowing my mind from the first release over 20 years ago.
Talk us through the making of ’53 Stickup’ and ‘Lucky Groove’? How does the creative process work when you’re in the studio?
Every track works differently. I started as a DJ in the early nineties. I’m into every type of style, so whatever influences me at the time I try to draw into the cypher. Recently, I have had the honour of working with DJ Ariaano from 16BL (previously 16 Bit Lolitas) where he introduced me to a lot of newer, modern production techniques and I think these techniques and programming styles are reflected in these tracks. I usually start with some sounds that are influencing me and get a fly loop going, then copy it out and start to arrange.
For anyone not already familiar with your music, how would you describe your individual style? Can you put your finger on the elements of your music that make it so distinctive?
Always low-slung bass, minor keys, moody stuff… House and Techno produced in the mind-frame of dub styles by artists like Sly and Robbie and Mad Professor, while also reflecting industrial and new wave music and the NYC mid-90’s House and Techno which I grew up on. It’s just an amalgam of flows.
The EP also features a Tigerhook Edit, courtesy of the Wu-Tang type crew of like-minded DJs and Producers spearheaded by yourself. Give us some insight into the history and who’s involved in this set-up?
My brother Agent Hito and I were playing at these huge Hip-Hop and House clubs in Philly and NYC, circa from like 1995-2000, and I was starting to see some success as a House DJ, playing at some big clubs in NYC like the Limelight, Twilo, Save the Robots… and I had a monthly residency in Montreal at Stereo, so we were into different styles and we met these cats from Atlanta who were in this famous House group called Wamdue Kids – Deep C and Udoh – and struck up a partnership with them. We were all getting busy in this studio in West Philly. Then, Hollis P. Monroe and Phillip Charles entered the frame – both of them, insane talents. Phil Charles was working with Miles Davis and The Roots and King Britt and he had a studio that everybody in the world salivated over – he had synths owned by Stevie Wonder!! Insane suitcase synths and big Moog modulars… it was bananas! We were all doing tracks together under different guises and it was such a rad time in my life, producing music hanging out with artists and friends. We did records on all the biggest labels at the time and we were DJing everywhere. I remember at one point, I would just fly to London to hear Deep C & Udoh play at Fabric and I wasn’t even working! I was just there to hear the music and be influenced. It was a radical time in my life and I’m lucky to have experienced the world with my homies in the prime of our lives.
What were your thoughts when you heard Nick Muir’s remix interpretation of ’53 Stickup’?
I thought it was a huge megaton bomb! I felt like the dude in that old Maxell cassette tape commercial that is sitting on the couch and has his whole wig blown back by the music cause it’s so fat.
You made your Bedrock debut way back in 2003 with ‘The Pathwork EP’. Do you remember that moment? How do you see yourself as having evolved and developed musically since that time?
Actually, it was before that. Chris Fortier gave John Digweed a single I made in 1999 called ‘Beautiful Thang’ and John signed it to Bedrock Records in 2001, I think? I can’t remember the year… But that had a Disciples Of Smoke Remix on the B-side that was me and Agent Hito and it did well so Bedrock was interested in a follow up. I had done like 8 tracks with Phil Charles on keys and helping with the programming and Phil got Ursula Rucker to flow over one of them and John signed a bunch of them for an EP which became the ‘Pathwork EP’. ‘Tonite’ was a big track at that time, Ursula had just released an album on IK7 so she was famous and the track was fire so everybody was playing it. As far as my style developing, over 20 years… I’m still into the same stuff – haha! I like what I like and have always liked. In order to be commercially relevant it’s good to stay focused on modern production techniques and styles, but I’m just going to keep making what I make and if people like it, great. If not, then it’s still a reflection of who I am.
Do you find it easy to express your deepest emotions when you make music, or is this something that finds an outlet only in certain, special moments?
At this point in my life, I’ve been building a legal cannabis distribution empire for the past 8 years and that takes up a lot of my time. But, now I have people that are doing a lot of the work running the business, so I’ve been able to focus on the music that has always gone hand in hand with moving bud. When I do go into the studio, I have to be productive, so I try to get something going whether it’s expressing my emotion at the time or not, I just might be tweaking a loop or something.
Can you give some key essential tips for the youngsters who are just starting and learning the art of music production?
In this day and age you can watch anything on YouTube, so it’s pretty straightforward to learn to produce if you apply yourself. I would advise them to concentrate not only on the music production side, but get a DJ gig. Start playing out, meet people and keep your eyes open for any opportunity you can. I’ve made a good deal of money on making music for TV, which is an opportunity that landed in my lap because I had my eyes open to anything I could do to make a living doing what I love.
What piece of studio equipment couldn’t you live without?
The sexy answer is my Oberheim OB8, but the truth is probably a computer.
Let’s rewind for a moment, what are your earliest musical memories?
Listening to Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, then Van Halen, The Cult and The Cure, Depeche Mode, Front242…
How did your musical tastes develop? When did dance music come into your life?
We were skating and surfing in the late 80’s and 90’s in Houston and one of my homies suggested we go to a club called House of Eden one night instead of skate. I was appalled by the suggestion at first, but as soon as I walked into that club I was like “WHAT is this music!” Dude was playing a mix of New Wave, Industrial, House… everything… and it all blended together! It blew my mind! From that moment forward, my number one goal was to get a set of Technics 1200’s.
At what point did you get into DJing and making music? Who were big influences in those early years?
We were DJing in our bedrooms in the summer of 1992 and going to clubs in Houston. Andrei Morant (Jack Mackerel) owned a record store called Megazone in Houston and we would go in there and trip out cause he would mix without headphones by just listening to the record on the platter and watching the groove. In 1992 I got a job at this record store called Noo-Beat. They paid me in records and it was rad! I moved to Philly in 1993 and immediately keyed in to King Britt and Josh Wink and I would go hear them DJ every chance I got and I would bring a bunch of chicks and get there early and it stoked them up and they saw I wanted to learn the craft more and they ended up helping me in my career tremendously.
In what ways do you think your particular journey through life has influenced the electronic music you make now?
The music I make has always been a reflection of whom I’m working with at the time. I try to learn new techniques from people that inspire me or artists that I’m into. I try to listen to recordings that I like and emulate what I like about them. Speaking of that… listen to Billie Eilish’s album. My current studio goal is to get my bass to sound as good as the bass on that album.
Having grown up through the evolution of the US underground dance scene, what’s your assessment of things now? Is the scene healthy? What could improve it?
I live on the beach in a little beach town 30 miles north of San Diego. I know SD is popping off. You got the Crssd guys throwing sick festivals and jams and my boy Bert at Siesta does dope parties all the time. I used to tour the world non-stop from like 2000-2011, I played at clubs all over the world and the USA and it seemed like the scene was rocking. But touring is a lot of sleepless nights and unhealthy living, it’s fun but after you do it for a long time it starts to catch up with you, so I changed my life. I started making more money off of music for TV and then I took the weed game legal. Nowadays, I get up and surf at 5:30am in the morning and I only do the occasional tour date, usually international because they pay well. I don’t go out a whole lot in the USA, so I’m probably not the best guy to answer that question.
Any upcoming talent you’ve been tracking that we should watch out for?
I don’t really know who’s new and who’s old. It seems like there’s good records out all the time from people I have never heard of, so I think there’s a lot of people making music because it’s easy to enter the zone. You used to have to own all these expensive synths, samplers, compression gear, EQs, tape decks, everything… tens of thousands of dollars of gear just to make a track. Now, all you need is a computer, so the ability to create music is truly in the hands of the people, which is cool.
After this superb release for Bedrock, what new projects should we watch out for from you in the coming months?
I just released something on Little Helper’s, which is cool and I have a Transitions guest mix coming out soon for John’s radio show. I’m also hitting the road for a little tour of South America. As far as tracks… I need to get back in the studio!
And finally, what’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Musically, it was a piece of advice from John Digweed himself in the early 2000’s. He told me that it’s not about having the biggest kit or the newest gear, but rather, it’s about squeeeeeezing the best sound out of what you have that really brings out the creativity. Great advice. For general life advice, a wise man once told me to always keep my spear in my hand, so if I have to deal with adversity, then I’m prepared.
Randall Jones – 53 Stickup EP (Bedrock) BEDDIGI142
1. 53 Stickup (Original Mix)
2. 53 Stickup (Nick Muir Remix)
3. Lucky Groove (Original Mix)
4. Lucky Groove (Tigerhook Edit)
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