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Royce - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

The Tuff Love Of Royce

September 2006

MVRemix: What is the main thing that every good DJ needs?

Jamie: Good records.

Justus Roe: A reason to make people celebrate.

MVRemix: Favorite song on the 'Tuff Love'?

Justus Roe: I think the one of the ones I listen to most is 'Vladimir'. That's up there. I also like 'Milwaukee'. It was my favorite one to work on and the most lasting one. It's tough to say.

MVRemix: On the new album, which song took you the longest to do from conception to completion? Why?

Justus Roe: 'Milwaukee' took a really long time. I felt like Brian Wilson long to get it done.

MVRemix: What is the meaning behind the name Royce?

Justus Roe: Well, the band grew up together. We were always friends. I got a bass and the drummer, Conor Klaus looked in a local paper for a drum set. He went and bought the cheapest drum kit possible, which was a Royce kit. We got to f*cking around. When it got time to figuring out a name, I was like, 'It says Royce on the kit already. It will save us some time.' As a joke, we called the band Royce and it just kind of stuck. It was a high school move. We were going to call it Nakatomi Plaza or Die Hard.

MVRemix: How did you meet everyone in the group and decide to form Royce? Was there a philosophy behind the group?

Justus Roe: Me and the lead singer grew up together. The band and I all went to the same high school. That's basically when we came together and started doing music. I was already into music. I was way into recording.

MVRemix: How have your parents influenced your music?

Justus Roe: My dad was kind of a rock star in the 70's a little bit. His story is real interesting. He was in a band, The Messengers, which was going to be the first white band signed to Motown. He was so young and he needed his parents to sign the contract. My grandfather read over it and he was like, 'No. We're not going to sign this'. It was basically a raw deal. My dad went from that. He did an album in L.A. on Asylum. This was before it became Elektra/Asylum. He played with a lot of people. He moved to Chicago, did a couple projects. He's basically a singer/songwriter. He does music a little bit. It's pretty crazy. He was always ahead of the game. He was trading in all of his instruments and analog stuff to go digital, before anyone went digital. He had one of the first digital converters. There were always drum machines around. That's how I started doing music. I definitely got my hands on drum machines pretty early in life. He was always pushing me to do live music too.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite instrument?

Justus Roe: Not really. I love playing the bass, but I like to play a little bit of everything, definitely. I'm playing more guitar these days. I do like the MPC.

MVRemix: When creating a track, do you have a set theme or idea first or the music first?

Justus Roe: It will usually come out of us just trying different rhythms.

MVRemix: So, the music of Royce is based on improvisation?

Justus Roe: Yeah. We'll come up with a little hook here and there. We'll overwork it and reform it so many times that we will come up with different sections and grooves. I bought this cheap Hammond organ and a lot of the tracks, like the backing tracks, came from that.

MVRemix: On the song, 'Power, Money And Influence' from Guru's 'Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures' album, Talib Kweli remarks that Pro-Tools made producers lazy. Do you agree?

Justus Roe: Yeah, I abstain from Pro-Tools. I don't use it ever. It's kind of changed now, but I don't know. For a while, I've worked with many engineers. Did you ever hear a really great record that you want to hear forever that was done on Pro-Tools? A lot of people will say, 'No.' If you ask someone their favorite rap album or rock album or whatever, the album was usually done on some really simple equipment and done on tape. That forces you to look at it in a different way. Pro-Tools is like cut and paste. You can do great things. I've heard great things from that style of recording, but there's something about analog that forces decision making.

MVRemix: There have been actual scientific experiments between the analog and digital recording.

Justus Roe: Oh yeah! In digital recording, you lose a lot of the frequencies. For digital, it's not the same thing. It's not the same warmth. There is something to be said for digital recording. You can do a lot of cool shit. It's making it acceptable. I'm waiting for people to do something really cool with it.

MVRemix: Who are some artists or producers you would like to collaborate with in the future?

Justus Roe: Geez. I don't even know. I want to work with The Zombies. I'd love to do a beat for MF Doom some day. I want to work with Stereolab!

MVRemix: I also love the collaboration between Common and Stereolab called, 'New Wave'.

Justus Roe: Yeah. Awesome! That guy's the sh*t. I'd love to get in their studio for the day.

MVRemix: Galapagos 4 is mainly a hip-hop label. Royce has hip-hop roots, but there is a strong electronic and pop element. How has this been an obstacle?

Justus Roe: It hasn't been an obstacle at all. It's been a great vehicle to get us out to the world. Especially, the Galapagos 4 fan base is pretty open to everything out. I don't think they are pigeonholed into just hip-hop. Occasionally, we'll do hip-hop shows where people don't know Galapagos 4. They don't know how to react to us. They think that they are going to a hip-hop show and it is implied, but when they get something different, it's kind of hard to accept it right away. If you go to a total Galapagos 4 show which includes all of the DJ's and different groups, it will all make sense. Then, they will be like, 'Oh! I get it!' Then, they can recognize that Royce is doing fresh music.

MVRemix: Many hip-hop groups, like Atmosphere, are working with live bands on stage.

Justus Roe: There's something about the energy of actually doing something live on stage. The emotion that it brings out? An iPod can't hold that. Although an iPod can do great things.

MVRemix: How did you get the deal with Galapagos 4?

Jamie: Did you ever see 'The Muppets Take Manhattan'? It was kind of like that. Just a lot of persistence, Tombstone pizzas, and falafel. Also, we raced Huffys together, which led to a deep bond never to be broken.

Justus Roe: Threatening phone calls, creditors, repo men, and everyone pulling together to make it happen.

MVRemix: What are some major misconceptions do you think people have of you?

Jamie: That I can dunk. Sure, I look like I should be able to stuff a fool 180 degrees from the base line, but I prefer to pop the 3 point.

Justus Roe: That I like hip hop- when it is clearly rap that moves me.

>> continued...

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"My dad was kind of a rock star in the 70's a little bit. His story is real interesting. He was in a band, The Messengers, which was going to be the first white band signed to Motown..."