[Interview] RH First Look: Black EL X Durkin
RubyHornet: Who are Black EL and Durkin and where do you hail from?
Durkin: I’m the producer + DJ half of #ELxD. Hail from NH but living in the Boston area.
EL: I’m the emcee, originally from Jersey, but have been residing outside of Boston since ’97.
RubyHornet: How did Black EL x Durkin come to be?
Durkin: EL and I knew each other through Jelani The MC. I got EL a couple of beats early on and started rocking shows with him as his DJ + eventually hype man. Once we performed together a couple times, we decided to start releasing tracks as Black EL x Durkin.
EL: A lot of came from just Durk throwing me some beats, years ago, and making songs. Then we eventually just started hanging out more, started doing more shows, eventually we just decided we should just rock as a group.
RubyHornet: With Black EL on the mic and Durkin on the beats, you guys have a pretty dynamic chemistry. How do you guys work in the studio and what’s your creative process like?
Durkin: Songs come together in a lot of different ways. Right now we’re releasing joints from a series of studio sessions with Victor Radz. Victor and I would make beats in his studio while EL wrote, all on the fly. We never really work remotely; the songs really come together when we’re both sitting down in the studio talking stuff out. EL has a lot of input in terms of the sound and arrangement.
EL: It varies a lot, every song has been made in a different way. Sometimes I come up with an idea and Durk will build off of it, other times Durk will make a instrumental and I will just write to it. I’ve been more involved in the production side of things lately, and Durk has been recording me lately, so he has been more involved in the actual recording process. We used to just go back and forth in email threads, but now we work more in the same room.
RubyHornet: You came out with Color Commentary in 2010 and then you followed that up with The Collage EP, which came out earlier this year. How has your music evolved in two years between these projects?
Durkin: I’ve focused on relying less and less on sampling over the years. The Collage has a lot less sampling than CC, and the newer stuff has almost none. I also think we’ve also embraced a little more minimalism on the production side…
EL: Durkin and I have always been about originality and having our own distinct style. I just feel like we have a clearer vision of what we want our music to sound like now, than we did 2 years ago when we were trying to find ourselves.
RubyHornet: You guys clearly prefer quality over quantity, putting out projects that have fewer tracks while some other artists will put out numerous tapes full of hit-or-miss tracks. How did you get it right so quickly, and how do you know a cut is good enough to be dropped?
Durkin: We definitely take our time with our music. Bad ideas get scrapped early. Nobody wants to download a huge .zip file of mediocre shit anymore. We’re focusing on quality singles right now, “DOJA” being the most recent one.
EL: A big part of it is we don’t surround ourselves with “yes men”, people in our camp are real honest about our records. We’ve had people sit in on studio sessions and it’s pretty obvious when someone digs a song or not.