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Looping Guru FKJ Talks Improvising "Tadow" With Masego & Being "A Melting Pot"

FKJ at Lolla 2019

Photo by Daniel Mendoza / The Recording Academy

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Looping Guru FKJ Talks Improvising "Tadow" With Masego & Being "A Melting Pot"

"Many people just have their own culture, and they stay in their environment. But I don't really have my own culture. I just move everywhere," the French multi-instrumentalist tells the Recording Academy on-site at Lollapalooza 2019

GRAMMYs/Aug 2, 2019 - 10:28 pm

If you've heard "Tadow," the chill-house 2018 track that served as a breakthrough for both of its collaborators, Masego and FKJ, you already have a sense of the latter artist's love of electronic sounds with a healthy dose of experimental jazz. FKJ, which stands for "French Kiwi Juice," has an appreciation for a lot of music—an exploration that began at a young age digging through his parents' music collection.

"[My] first interaction to music was my parents' libraries. my mom is French, my dad is from New Zealand; there was a lot of English rock, Queen, Pink Floyd, The Police. There was a lot of '70s rock, Led Zeppelin. And then some jazz or Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis. And then a little bit of French music, but not too much, like Serge Gainsbourg," he tells the Recording Academy at Lollapalooza 2019.

Right before the French multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer took the stage—along with his four guitars, two saxophones, two keyboards and more—to offer big vibes at his debut Lollapalooza set, we sat down to discuss the magic that led to "Tadow," all the music that most inspires him and his love of going with the creative flow.

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You're about to go on stage soon. How are you feeling?

I'm feeling great. I'm feeling just like any beautiful festival I'm going 'cause I don't know a lot, at all. I've never been there before. I don't live in the States, so for me, it's just another festival that I'm discovering. I'm about to maybe understand later why people love it so much, you know? But I don't know yet. I'm just here discovering.

Do you have any rituals that you do before a show?

I just breathe a lot and I'm trying to ready to be as playful as possible. And as not serious. I want to seen not as a big deal at all. So, that's why I'm trying. My space is that this is nothing. This is just getting music to the people and there's nothing to be scared about. Nothing to be scared about what people will think or people will judge. And if I'm happy, a lot of people are gonna feel it. If I'm doing a very perfect set, but I'm very serious and I'm very concentrated, but maybe not going translate as much as if I'm just being playful. 

One of your really big songs recently was "Tadow" featuring Masego. How did that collaboration come about?

Masego was opening for me in Denver. It was back in 2016. On my way to Denver, I checked his stuff out on the plane. I had no idea who he was. I loved it. 

I arrived to the venue and tell him like, "Man, literally just checked your stuff and it's great." And so he told me, "I literally just checked your stuff too, and I love it too." And boom, that's the beginning of the story. And then I saw him perform and I was like, "Fk, this guy is like a real performer." He just smashed it. And then I told him, "I got a session booked in Paris." It was December 2016. [I said,] "Come by." And he was down, so he just came back, just for one day, he just flew from L.A. Landed in Paris, we did the session, and he flew back straight away the morning after.

We recorded 12 tracks. The first part of the day, we didn't really know each other. So, it was more like, "What are we doing?" We were just trying to make songs and figure out ideas. 

The second half of the day, was just like, "Okay, we're stopping doing this. If we want to finish it, we'll finish it, but now let's just have fun." We had a camera guy with us. We just did "one takes" every time. We didn't know what we were doing, we just like, "Okay, "one take boom." I would start with the piano, and then we loop things. We knew how to loop everything, so it was easy to build something on the spot.

So it was you guys flowing off of each other.

Yeah. ["Tadow"] was really truly just an improvised song. It was probably the eight luckiest minutes of our lives so far, you know? 'Cause it really changed everything for us. 

Is that the same approach when you're working alone as well?

[Yeah], no thought process. Just playing and recording everything, of course. And then I will listen back to it, and like okay, this part of this playfulness is gonna become a song. But the song is almost already there, it's just like or it's just coming to me. Not when I'm in the studio, it can come just for example; I'm hanging out here and there's a melody coming to my head and that's gonna become the song. 

I like conceptual songs where there's no hooks and stuff like this. But what makes a song successful is because there is a catchy part of it.

That's cool. Do you have any other collaborations coming up, or people you'd like to work with in the future?

I mean, there's a lot of people. I have a lot of idols. A lot of artists I really love. But for me there's no need for collaborating. I enjoy their music, I love what they do, and that's it, you know? And if we become friends and if there's a connection between us, maybe then we can collaborate. But it's always weird to me to have a pre-made collaboration. Like, my team is going to tell me, "Oh, do you like that artist, we going to put you together a see." That's for me weird.

I never do pre-made collaboration, even if I really love the music. I want it to be a relation between the artists firsts. So, if they tell me, "Oh, Daniel Caesar wants to collaborate with me," well, then I want to talk to Daniel. Because I love Daniel Caesar's music, I'm a fan. But, I don't want it to be a pre-made thing. I want us to meet and then if we get on well together, musically and mentally, then we make it happen. But, usually my idols, I just let them be. And I just listen to their stuff over and over. And that's it, you know?

What's some of the music that you're really enjoying right now?

The album I listen to most this week was Angel's Pulse by Blood Orange. [Before], I was listening to Four Tet [and] The Lion King soundtrack. I loved it. [I've also been listening to] the latest Solange album. I love it so much. [Also], the latest Steve Lacy album, the latest Ari Lennox album...The latest Duckwrth album...

What music did you grow up listening to?

My first interaction to music was my parents' libraries. My mom is French, my dad is [from] New Zealand. So their music library was a lot of English rock, like Queen, Pink Floyd, The Police... Then there was a lot of 70's rock, Led Zepplin. And then some jazz or so like Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and then a little bit of French music, but not too much. Like Serge Gainsbourg.

Then, it was my friends' music, which changed over the years because you have different group of friends, so. The group of friends I had when I was 10, we were, they were all into rock. So, I got interested to rock because your environments change. It was a lot of rap and hip-hop when I was 10, 11. That's when I got in to Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Pharrell... Then when I was 12, 13, it'd be a lot of rock—Radiohead, what else? 

What about electronic music?

That [came] later. That's why my music is kind of a blend, a weird blend, of all this together. You can't really put one thing on it. It's a bit of blues, a bit of jazz, a bit of electronic, a bit of hip-hop from when I was 10. I have a big big Jamaican musical influence when I was 15. So you can hear Dancehall in my music, which is weird. It's like a fusion.

Many people just have their own culture, and they stay in their environment. But I don't really have my own culture. I just move everywhere. I don't even live in France anymore. I change cities all the time. I have many groups of friends. They wouldn't get on together. But I love them. I'm just melting pot.

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Glenn Danzig

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2017 - 05:28 am

There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.

The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.

This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.

"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."

Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

Lady Gaga

Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program

GRAMMYs/Oct 12, 2017 - 11:03 pm

On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.

Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.

"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."

The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.

"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.