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RJD2 everywhere

Watch Mad Men? Then you already know this Philadelphia musician and producer’s fine cinematic beats.


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In early 2007 when American television network AMC released the first episode of the widely popular show Mad Men, a lot of people took notice. Sure, there was some fine acting and storytelling, but two things really stood out about the show. One: A properly tailored suit makes a bold impact in the workplace. Two: Mad Men has one of the best television theme songs of the past 20 years.

The song wasn't composed for the show, but is a lifted hip-hop instrumental from the song "A Beautiful Mine," by a moderately known producer from Philadelphia. Unknown to the majority of people watching the show's first episode, they had probably heard RJD2's cinematic beats before.

Since the release of 2002's Deadringer, Ramble John Krohn has gained critical praise and a cult following for his music. His song "Ghostwriter" was featured in Mosaic, a video for the skateboard company, Habitat. "Get It" was used in an episode of CSI: NY, and an unreleased track, "Wet Ankles," appeared in a Heineken commercial. After three more solo albums and an endless string of touring, which finds him hitting The Paragon Theatre on November 19, Krohn is humble about his career.

"My life hasn't changed all that much, surprisingly," Krohn says, calling from his home studio to discuss his growing acclaim. "It's not like I'm driving a Lamborghini of something."

But with the 2009 acquisition of his first three records' master recordings back from Def Jux and XL, and through managing his own record label, RJ's Electrical Connections, Krohn is in the rare position of having full control of his future as a songwriter. None of this would be possible without a strong work ethic, whether singing on his mostly rock-oriented album The Third Hand, or sculpting samples into beats on this year's The Colossus.

"The work process is important to me," he says about his songwriting, which involves heavy experimentation with analogue synthesizers and other vintage electronic gear. Although most modern musicians would rather purchase a high-powered digital program to craft their sounds, Krohn hunts down rare synthesizers, not just for their unique sound, but for their enjoyability as part of the songwriting process.

"It's pretty hard for me to sit down with an analogue synth and make it sound crappy," he laughs. "But in my experience, it's a lot harder to sit down in front of a computer and make something that doesn't sound like it is being made by a computer. The less I'm looking at a computer screen, the more important my thought processes are."

But all this work seems to be paying off, with three albums of new material in the works---one of which pays tribute to his favourite movie soundtracks---that he hopes will be released in 2011. He plans to one day try his hand at film scores, but with so many projects underway, Krohn can't find the time. But he agrees that none of these possibilities would even exist if he didn't enjoy the process.

"Guys like myself have to sit down for an extended amount of time to make a song or a record," Krohn says before getting back to work on his new solo album. "You can't really do that if you don't enjoy the actual process. You have to have some affinity for the means by which you go about creating." –Matthew Ritchie

RJD2, Friday, November 19, 10pm, The Paragon Theatre, 2037 Gottingen Street, $25,


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