Fun Fun Fun Fest Artist Interview: RJD2

Photo courtesy of RJD2 and The Windish Agency.

Ramble John “RJ” Krohn, more commonly known as RJD2, is a musician and producer, known equally for his solo works and collaborations. Having formed his own label in 2009, he has since released three solo albums, the most recent being “More Is Than Isn’t” in October.

Krohn recently spoke with Longhorn Life about his influences, the benefits of having his own label and what it was like having his music in the opening credits of AMC’s hit drama “Mad Men.”

“More Is Than Isn’t” was released on Oct. 8. This album features more jazz-inspired melodies than his previous offerings.

“I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz music in the past year and a half or so,” Krohn said. “Lee Morgan, Oliver Nelson, guys like Chick Corea are kind of staples that I listen to. Going backwards, this stuff has influenced how I approach music — it’s frankly hard to get away from.”

In pursuit of further creative freedom, Krohn started his own label in 2009. Calling it “RJ’s Electrical Connections,” he has benefited from being able to circumvent the label-approval process.

“I can’t say that I was entirely hamstrung by the other labels that I was on. It’s just a process of having a label verify a record before I put it out. It’s time-consuming and it’s also thought-consuming,” Krohn said. “You know, there was a little bit of back and forth on my previous labels. Having none at all is certainly beneficial. I think the benefit has been on the logistic and business side of it; I can put out a record whenever I want.”

RJ’s song “A Beautiful Mine,” from his 2006 collaboration with hip-hop MC Aceyalone, has been used in the opening credits of AMC’s “Mad Men” since the show’s initial airing in July 2007. Krohn had no idea how big the show would become when he first agreed to license his music for it.

“You have to remember that when the show first started it wasn’t the cultural tour de force that it has become; the things that were more surreal were what it grew into, culturally speaking,” Krohn said. “The fact that it became a sort of a staple — The Emmy’s will use a version of it, they made reference to the opening to ‘Mad Men’ in one of ‘The Simpsons’ episodes, they had a studio band play the theme — things like that were more surreal than seeing the show.”

When asked about the state of vinyl, Krohn sounded cautiously optimistic.

“Things have turned around in the sense that vinyl sales are rolling incrementally, whereas sales of everything else are shrinking,” Krohn said. “It’s good, but it hasn’t been enough a change to warrant massive change in decision making.”

Krohn has to gauge the demand for a record he plans to release before deciding whether to press it on vinyl. For his recent project, a collaboration with Aaron Livingston entitled “Icebird,” Krohn didn’t end up pressing a vinyl because “it was still a close call if we would lose money on it.”

“It’s moving in the right direction, but it’s certainly not enough to make any kind of financial dent in the macro-perspective of a label,” Krohn said. “Hopefully it will get easier for when to decide to press things on vinyl.”

RJ has had his fair share of eventful performances. From people throwing bottles to equipment falling over, he has seen it all.

“The ones that go horribly wrong are the ones that get seared in your memory,” Krohn said. “Things like the whole power getting shut off in your room or, you know, a bunch of people jumping up on stage. I’ve had bottles thrown at me — people get so hammered where they want to throw everything.”

Krohn has even had illicit substances handed to him by generous fans. But don’t worry; he doesn’t plan to pop a molly anytime soon.

“You know what happens a lot? People hand me drugs in the middle of the set,” Krohn said. “That happens all the time to me and I don’t really know what to do — I’m not really much of a drug user at all anymore. I’ve let that part of me out in my youth. And even if I were, I don’t know if I would want to ingest something that some strange man hands me.”

Krohn will be performing Friday night at Fun Fun Fun Fest. Music festivals provide a break from the norm of playing at clubs and small venues, with the added advantage of performing in front of people who may have never heard his music before.

“The benefit is probably that you get in front of a lot of people, and you get in front of a lot of people that necessarily aren’t there to see you, which I like,” Krohn said. “It’s a fun environment; it’s a fun break from the norm. In the sense that you sit down and you pack up and you’ll be seeing an artist on the same stage that you were just on by the time you are done breaking down.”

If you’re lucky, you may even run into Krohn on the festival grounds.

“There’s a bunch of music around and a bunch of food around; I had a blast last time at Fun Fun Fun Fest,” Krohn said. “You get to walk around and eat food. It’s a lot more fun than playing in a club, in that sense, in which you do sound check then wait around for five hours for your set. Sometimes there’s nothing to do.”

RJ plans to perform songs from across his discography. As for surprises, don’t expect anyone huge to walk out on stage.

“There’s going to be new songs and old songs. [I’ll be] doing my thing in terms of turntables, and the timbre, and all of that,” Krohn said. “You know the surprises that I have planned are more in the musical nature, not in the sense that I have plans to bring out Jay Z or something like that,” he laughed.

RJD2 will be performing at 8:45 p.m. on Friday at Fun Fun Fun Fest, closing out the Blue Stage for the night.