All Articles
All Articles
CULTURE

Interview: The Knocks

CULTURE

Interview: The Knocks

The New York-based electronic music duo on their debut full-length album, Endisco

by Nara Shin
on 26 June 2013
interview-knocks-2.jpg

The Knocks—Ben "B-Roc" Ruttner and James "JPatt" Patterson—are infiltrating the electronic music world with their distinct style of driving synths and disco grooves. Starting their music careers as producers by day and DJs by night, the duo began to develop a loyal following that clamored for the Knocks to produce their own music.

Since their first single release in 2010, the Knocks have toured with the likes of M.I.A., Ellie Goulding and DJ Shadow and have performed, as a duo, in venues that aren’t considered traditional for electronic music artists. In the last year, they were the first live act ever to perform inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, attended the White House Correspondent’s dinner as guests of NPR and performed at the National Geographic headquarters for their 125th anniversary. The Knocks possess an aura of down-to-earth approachability to electronic music—for them, their music is purely about having a good time.

interview-knocks-8.jpg

Despite their extensive work to date, the Knocks have not yet released a full-length LP. Much of their success stems from their ability to be self-sufficient, demonstrated by their own made-from-scratch recording studio and independent record label HeavyRoc Music. We met B-Roc, JPatt and David Perlick-Molinari (of dance-funk band French Horn Rebellion) during a mixing session for The Knocks' upcoming album at Perlick-Molinari's You Too Can Woo studio.

interview-knocks-6.jpg
How different is the new album from your previous EPs?

Ben "B-Roc" Ruttner: It has elements of that, and then elements of our new sound. I think overall it’s just a lot more mature. It’s just better produced.
James "JPatt" Patterson: It sounds better, quality-wise.
B: When we first put out that first EP, it was kind of rushed. We hadn’t figured out exactly what we were doing yet and now it feels like we know exactly what we want. This feels like our first real statement as "artistes," so to speak.

Who is collaborating on the album?

B: We have a track with Sneaky Sound System, Dragonette, a song with St. Lucia, Sam from the X Ambassadors, Adeline—she’s the lead singer of Escort—and this girl Rozzi Crane who is Adam Levine’s artist. JPatt is not singing as much as he used to.

What do you look for in a collaborator?

B: If you work with someone who does something pretty similar to you, the output is going to end up being something that's pretty similar to whatever you usually do. We like to work with people that work in completely different genres of music or production and are open to trying new things. We've learned a lot from collaborating with so many different kinds of musicians and artists. The best way to get better at music is just by making and listening to it a lot so we try to do as much of that as possible.

interview-knocks-4.jpg
What’s your process for composing a song like?

B: There is no process really. It’s the most asked question and we always have the worst answer. Sometimes I’ll have a sample or something and bring it in and start looping it up or sometimes JPatt will have a hook idea—I think the answer is that there is no process.
J: It’s really free-flowing. There's no set formula for any of this. You just have to be open to trying things even when they are outside of your comfort zone.
B: It always involves us in the studio. I guess we can say what the process isn’t. We’re never like, on the road and JPatt will pick up a guitar and say, "This will work." That never happens. Even when we start ideas on our laptops on the road they never end up being album songs.

interview-knocks-7.jpg
What was it like working with Chris Caswell last summer in Los Angeles?

J: We were in the studio with Chris for about six to eight hours a day. A typical session was him playing and recording as many random simple ideas as he could. The purpose was so that we could take his version of the ideas and rearrange them to make them our own versions. One of them is on the [upcoming] album. He's a great composer/arranger/player—definitely one of the best I've seen.
B: I feel like we could go back to visit a lot of the stuff that we did with him and then finish that up even for a second album or something. We literally left with like 15 weird ideas. We just had already figured out a lot of stuff that was already going to be on the album at that point. But he’s such a legend. If you open up the Daft Punk album, he’s like the third name on the composers' list.

And you guys are producing your album?

B: It’s just us and we have a little bit of co-production on a couple songs; it’s more co-writing than co-production. We produced everything though. The album is called Endisco.

interview-knocks-1.jpg
Since you're mixing the album, David, what do you think about the process? How can you translate electronic music into live music?

D: This is what I love about the process. It feels like it’s all in-step. You take one step, you go another and it feels like we’re walking, and then we’re going to run—and then we’re gonna freakin' dance. That’s been the trick these days: getting the sounds that you’re doing in the studio and then making it alive, instead of just doing a DJ set. We’re making these tracks—the ultimate blend of dance-party goodness and also having that spontaneity of what a band is. Not that DJs can’t be spontaneous, but there’s a certain groove that you can get into as a DJ over a long period of time vs the power you can get out of a song.

Tell us about the artwork.

B: It’s the same guy we worked for a couple of things, Stefan, from this band called Sound of Arrows, from Sweden. He did the Modern Hearts artwork, his artwork is fucking incredible.

interview-knocks-5.jpg
You guys interact differently with your fans than a lot of other artists, especially in your genre. Your presence on social media is always super-engaging. How would you describe your relationship with your fans?

J: Open. Transparency is the best way to approach fan relations so that they never feel like there's a gimmick. Being as real as possible is the key.
B: That's important. Sometimes you want to keep a little bit of mystery but I think people who take it too seriously—we’re also just not those kind of artists. And the whole thing of having fans to us is still such a new thing; it’s still so cool to me. We’re also just fans of music, so we like to just talk to people about it.

The Knocks’ debut full-length album Endisco is slated for release later this summer. For now, you can listen to their first single off the album via Soundcloud.

Images by Nara Shin

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem