The Knux: Finding The Groove
It’s always fun to talk to The Knux, a two man band comprised of brothers Kripsy and Joey (formerly Al Millio) who introduced themselves via their debut LP, Remind Me In 3 Days. The album, which was released in the fall 2008, was full of genre colliding jams that centered on the L.A. party scene, women, rock clubs, and a healthy dose of Hip Hop braggadocios. After touring extensively for their debut LP, Krispy and Joey began work on its follow-up, a new album that will see The Knux rock out harder than ever before. Where their debut album featured a couple of traditional Hip Hop records such as “Fire (Put It In The Air)” and “Cappuccino”, the new album plays out more like a rock album from the late 70′s, focusing heavily on guitar riffs, chord progression, and songwriting. The duo also enlisted the services of Rob Gordon who’s mixing catalog includes albums by U2 and Lady Gaga.
“For the last album, we recorded it from a studio point of view, the way most urban artists record their records,” Krispy says via phone. “Here we wanted to capture the energy of how we sound live, so we only kept the records that sound good live with our stage setup. That influenced the f**k out of this album.”
“Sonically, I think we hit that ground where we found the sound that we want to be at,” adds his brother and bandmate Joey, who decided to drop the Al Millio moniker he used during the group’s previous LP. “There’s not any deep thing behind it,” he says about the the name change. “That’s just my name, and on the album you hear more of me stripped down as myself. I can’t explain it. It’s not like before I wasn’t myself, but you know how just rapping in general we tend to put on this ‘rap guy’ kind of thing… I feel like I’m coming from a point of view of no rapper s**t.”
It’s not as though the Knux are completely turning their back on the Hip Hop music that they grew up listening to and loving, but as musicians, it’s not where they are at these days. Their sound is more centered and focused than ever before, and that’s something that both Krispy and Joey are happy and eager to talk about as they finish each others sentences and cosign each others sentiments regularly during the interview. Sometimes artists try to do too much, and showcase all of their skills at one time. For Krispy and Joey, their latest work is about doing what they do best. “In high school you played all the sports, and all of a sudden you say, ‘I just want to play baseball because that’s what I do the best.’ That’s what we decided to do, just play baseball because we’re better baseball players,” says Kripsy. “We can do all that other s**t. We can be Bo Jackson. But why be Bo Jackson when you can be Michael Jordan?”
RubyHornet: For a while you guys weren’t doing any press, or taking interviews. Why is this the right time to start? Are you ready to get back into the swing of press again etc?
Joey: Yeah man. We’re ready to come back in this American market. I think we were apart so long. We toured the states in ’08-’09, and then last year we toured internationally for almost the entire year or so. We’re ready to get back to the states and give the people some of what we’ve been doing all this time. For most people, if they don’t see you on TV everyday, they think that you ain’t doing s**t. But then they realize we’ve been all around the world. We’re here to do a few things, ready to get back and lay this hard ass music on y’all. How you been though?
RubyHornet: I’ve been great man. Things are going really well over here in Chicago.
Krispy: That’s dope. I’m glad to hear that.
RubyHornet: But I want to talk about what you said, if people don’t see you on TV everyday, or they don’t see you on the internet, they may think you’re not doing stuff. When I interviewed you last time, right around the time Remind me in 3 days came out, one of things you talked about was being secretive and keeping the music close to you and not leaking records just to leak records. You said, “we shouldn’t be chasing behind the fans, the fans should be chasing behind us.” With that in mind, was there an itch while you were touring, did you want to release anything or has there been an anxiousness?
Joey: There have been plenty of times when we thought about dropping stuff. We did a little EP or whatever, but it really wasn’t an EP. It was just random songs that we never really put out. So, we did that just to whet the palette a little bit and get that s**t out there. We thought we would never use those songs if we didn’t put that out there. But yeah. The most important thing to keep in mind is putting out quality material, not just quantity.
Krispy: There’s so much trash in the market, saturating the market with so much damn trash.
Joey: We just want to take it back towards when people would value the artist, value the music, and value that quality material. There are so many throw away songs that people put out that one it’s unprofessional, and two it damages the craft. This is our craft, dog. We take it as seriously as a painter, or any kind of artist.
Krispy: And the thing about it is, not to cut you off Joey, it worked out for us because the people that listen to our music come to live shows and s**t. We don’t have fans that listen to mixtapes and s**t. It worked out for us in general. We were able to sell a hundred thousand records with really no radio push, and just us touring heavy, doing what we do live. I know people that had way more press than us, way more radio play, and didn’t do half the numbers we did. They didn’t debut half as high as we did on Billboard, didn’t do half the s**t we did. They didn’t headline half the festivals we headlined. We headlined festivals all over the world, toured countries three, four, or five times and these cats can’t go once because they don’t have any offers over there. I mean, by our music being so limited it’s such a definitive thing like, ‘they only have so many songs out, so I can’t get it everywhere. I’m going to have to go to the show and really experience it live.’ That’s the way it was for us.
RubyHornet: Going back to the last time we really talked. Before the last album you said, “we just want to get it out there and have motherf**ers hear that s**t… I guarantee that when they hear this, they’re going to get it.” How do feel people took to the album and The Knux with a few years to reflect on the album? Did people get it?
Joey: I think now they finally, finally, finally get it. When something is original, it always takes longer than if it is generic. Whether they like it or not, it is original and original music takes a little while for people to grasp the concept of what it is you’re trying to do. That’s just time and people really sitting and really starting to let it marinate and appreciate the music. You know, it may take a minute for some cats but I think they’re finally, finally understanding what we’re trying to do. Right now I think definitely, everybody knows, especially our fans, what we’re trying to do.
RubyHornet: Did you go back to the old album and the things that worked, the things that may not have worked? Did Remind Me In Three Days and the touring you were doing influence how you work or your process?
Krispy: We took the stuff that people took to the most and made an album out of that, instead of making an album out of the stuff that people didn’t take to. Our thing is, we made our records to play out live. We wrote a lot of songs for this new album, but if it didn’t sound good live, we didn’t use them… For the last album, we recorded it from a studio point of view, the way most urban artists record their records. They record it from a studio point of view. Here we wanted to capture the energy of how we sound live, so we only kept the records that sound good live with our stage setup. That influenced the f**k out of this album. In general, just doing records that really sounded good live. For example, “Bang Bang” always sounded better live than the rest of the records to us, so we felt like we need to have that kind of intensity on every song. So when we play it live it can be that intense for a whole two hours. Let’s be honest, rock records are more intense than Hip Hop records live. They just are. So we just try to stay with that format, which is more so what we do anyway. We have our own blend of the straightforward indie rock that we love, and the Hip Hop that we love and like from the 90′s.
RubyHornet: It’s interesting you mention that. The last LP had some tracks that really leaned more towards traditional Hip Hop like “Cappucino” or “Fire”. Is there going to be anything like that on the new album? Was there any pressure on the first release to make some tracks that would be easier for people to understand?
Joey: Yeah, you probably won’t hear a track like that on this album. Not because it’s straightforward Hip Hop, it’s just because one of the things we like to avoid is letting people guide our sound. Our sound is pretty much a middle, hitting all types of barriers. We didn’t make this album sound like “Fire”. “Fire” is a great record, but that’s one thing we didn’t want to do just sonically.
Krispy: This album is a sonic masterpiece. You put this s**t on now and compare it to anybody’s s**t that’s out now… This s**t’s big bro. This is big. From the mixes we used, we used Rob Gordon to mix the whole album. He’s the guy that mixed Lady Gaga, he mixed U2′s last record. Sonically it’s large. It’s large. You can’t compare it to anything that’s out right now. You put this new album against anything, and it’s way bigger it will swallow it. It sounds like it was recorded in 1979. It’s large. It’s huge. We wanted to focus more on that. We really came into our own as record producers. We produced other people while we were touring, writing stuff for ourselves. We did some stuff for B.o.B. for his record, which was nominated for a Grammy. We really just wanted to focus on producing and our song writing. As far as rapping goes, we feel like we have rapping in the bag. They’re ain’t really anybody rhyming that could f**k with me and this dude anyway, so we felt like you know what, let’s focus on our songwriting and really heartfelt songs. We stuck to that, and just stuff that we wanted to do as adults. Becoming songwriters, Joey focusing on his chord progression and things like that. That type of stuff.
Joey: I wouldn’t say I don’t give a f**k about Hip Hop. But my thing is, honestly, the songs open up a natural progression of where we were going to take s**t anyway. And, I would say this, our sound is always going to be based in Hip Hop. I don’t think it should be defined by beats. That’s what I think a lot of people define it as. I think it’s more of an expression than anything.
Kripsy: Hip Hop is expression. I don’t understand this, people always say, ‘I got tracks to send you.’ Don’t send me the tracks, dog. I don’t want to hear your tracks. If you’re calling them tracks, you’re already not on the same wavelength. I’m a musician, I’m a record producer. I don’t want to hear your tracks, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to sound mad, dog, but I’ve been wanting to get this s**t out. Don’t send me your tracks, cause I ain’t gonna listen. Don’t send them to me. I don’t want to hear your MP. I don’t want to hear your f**king Phantom, don’t send me your tracks. We’re not even on the same wavelength. And we worked with other producers on this record. Producers. I don’t want to hear your tracks. It’s just small to me. Maybe I’m full of myself, but it’s just small to me.
RubyHornet: This falls into my next question. In preparing for this interview I read some reviews and posts of “She’s So Up”. One writer said that your “New direction fits like a glove.” Do you feel like this is a new direction, or more like a continuation on the path you started with the first LP?
Krispy: A little bit of both. It’s a continuation. You might have played all the sports in high school, basketball, football, run track, and you decide just to play baseball this time. You know what I mean? It’s like that. In high school you played all the sports, and all of a sudden you say, ‘I just want to play baseball because that’s what I do the best.’ That’s what we decided to do, just play baseball because we’re better baseball players. We can do all that other s**t. We can be Bo Jackson. But why be Bo Jackson when you can be Michael Jordan?
Joey: Sonically, I think we hit that ground where we found the sound that we want to be at. What I was talking about earlier, for it all to make sense, we just felt it out. We did shows and saw what our fans were taking to, what they liked, we found a unified sound on this album. I’m happy about that. I don’t know what to call it. If anything, I’m not disgusted with Hip Hop, I’m disgusted with the word “genre”. I don’t want to be in any genre at all, I just want it to be music at the end of the day.
Joey: If you look at a young kid’s iPod now, it’s full of all sorts of s**t. Even in the hood. Kids are listening to all types of s**t. They just like music. That’s the future sound. Music man. That’s not me trying to put down any genre or anything like that, but as far as we go, that’s always been in the plan to just make music. OK, if you can point us out as some sick ass emcees, great, but that’s not what we’re aiming for.
Krispy: We just want to make music, man. Just music… I don’t want to fall into anybody expecting anything from us. When we want to express ourselves creatively, people are going to expect something and then they hear something else, ‘ok, these guys are musicians, producers, and songwriters before anything.’ When you hear the album you don’t expect nothing. You just expect good songs. One album may take a trip-hop turn, one album might have more jazz-hip hop turn. We’re making music. That’s why we don’t take a lot of beats from people. I don’t even like to waste people’s time. Don’t send me those tracks. Send the tracks to somebody’s that looking for them. Don’t send them to me and Joey. We’re in this b**ch creating from scratch. You want to work with us, you got to come to the studio to work with us. Plenty of producers and artists came, like Kid Cudi. Kid Cudi’s on our album. He’s on our album, we did some s**t for him for his next s**t too. Artists that are real artists, people that are like “artists”. We all got to get paid from doing this s**t. You know, my whole L.A. life-style, I’m making money, I can’t front. But the point I’m making is, it’s about the music and the artistry first. If you’re doing what you love to your best potential, you got people that will love it and that’s enough right there. You’re going to make some money. You don’t have to struggle. You’re going to make some money, just let it be natural. Our album came out 3 years ago, and we’re still getting money.
RubyHornet: You guys talked to me about the title of Remind Me In 3 Days… and described it all as a 3 day party weekend, like it’s Friday, don’t tell me anything cause I’m going to forget it. That fit in with the music. Do you have any working titles or concepts for the new project? Is it going to be tied the same?
Joey: Yeah, it’s going to be tied in the same. That’s what is taking us so long. We have the title but we need to sit around the round table and confirm it. It’s going to make sense with the album. This album has a lot of songs about girls on it, but it’s not like a generic sort of surface… It’s a lot of real s**t. It’s a lot of real scenarios that we went through.
Krispy: You’re going to like it.
Joey: It’s personal, and it’s a little more vulnerable. Of course we make vulnerable music, it’s a little more personal but in an artistic way, not in a ‘we’re going to bash women’ way. It’s art. It’s art the way we did it. You’re going to dig it. Everybody can relate to it, females and males.
Krispy: I feel like these songs, a lot of them are about putting women in a position of power, but not in a negative light. Dealing with relationships, women always have the power cause they have the power of the pussy. They always have the power, so a lot of these songs have scenarios where you’ll see us on the down side of the stick, and the women on the upside of the stick. It’s good we lay it out, because it’s all stuff that men don’t really talk about. All the stuff we do for ass and for women, all the s**t we do for it. We never really talk about it. Our whole world is driven by it. Take all the women out the world, you got a lot of happy fat motherf**kers just jacking off and watching football and playing f**king video games. That’s what the world would be like without women. I’m not saying I want that world, but I’m saying, that’s what the world would be like. Add the woman into the equation and you get these songs… These songs that you get right here.
RubyHornet: Iff for the first album, the goal of it was to get the music out, get the Knux brand out and get people to understand. Is there a goal for album number two, or things you feel like internally, ‘this LP needs to accomplish, this, this, this.’?
Joey: Aim number one is really understanding us as producers, understanding us as songwriters, and understanding us as individuals. Me and my bro are different people. We have different types of views, different things that happen, we’re just different people.
Kripsy: That’s funny because I felt like Remind Me In 3 Days showcased me a lot more, they got Krispy a lot more. I think this album Joey brought his songwriting game, and his songwriting game was just… I’m gonna tell you, were just better than my songs. He brought them to me and would play them on acoustic, and there are some that we wrote together that are amazing that I let him take the lead on and this album came out beautifully… I’m doing my thing on there, but this is definitely going to showcase our songwriting together, but also showcase us as individuals. This will allow people to know who Joey is and he’s coming into his own a lot. We tried to accent the guitar as much as possible. There’s guitar on every song, every song. When people see the Knux they expect to see guitars. So we went heavy on the guitar, heavily guitar-driven. If you don’t like guitars, you probably won’t like this album. I’m sorry. I’ll be honest with you. He did his thing though. As a poet, this is the most beautiful poetry that he’s written and he converted it to songs. Beautiful stuff. It’s just quality music, man. I listen to it and I hear music more than anything. As an artist, you listen to music that you may have done a year before, or 6 months before and it’s time to do an album and you say, ‘damn, I want to change that. I don’t feel like that anymore..’ I don’t feel that way about none of these records. These records are quality.
RubyHornet: So Joey is the new name? Not Al Millio anymore?
Joey: It’s just easier. There’s not any deep thing behind it. That’s just my name, and on the album you hear more of me stripped down as myself. I can’t explain it. It’s not like before I wasn’t myself, but you know how just rapping in general we tend to put on this ‘rap guy’ kind of thing. I can’t really explain it, but I’m more just, I feel like I’m coming from a point of view of no rapper s**t. There’s no rapper name. It feels the most normal. There’s no gimmicks, no bulls**t. That was my whole reason of doing it, and it really started this new shift of songs that I was doing on the side that was just some rock s**t. Well, not on the side, but that I could hear in my car while I’m riding. It grew from there and I thought, ‘I’m gonna just roll with this cause it’s the closest to who I am really, which is just myself. I think everybody hit that road like, ‘damn, I’m tried of putting on.’ As rappers we put on like a motherf**ker… I just don’t want to come that way. I don’t want to be that way. I’m just one of those people that don’t feel comfortable putting on a character… You’ll hear it on this album, I can’t really explain it… Just call me Joey, nothing else to it.