RZA. Seriously, do I even need to write an intro for this? The man formed arguably the most legendary crew in the history of Hip-Hop and his impact is still being felt today through both his music in the traditional form and his scoring of movies. On September 8th The Protector, starring Tony Jaa, hits theaters in the US and with RZA doing the movie’s score he sat down with us at RapReviews for an in-depth two part interview. This week, in part one, RZA talks about The Protector, the differences between scoring a movie and producing a record, and the possible return of Bobby Digital.
Adam Bernard: Let’s start with the business of the day, talk to me about “The Protector.”
RZA: “The Protector” is a fat-ass flick, a good flick. Tony Jaa is back. From his first movie, “Ong-Bak”, I had a chance to work with him and kick it with him and hang with him. When the Weinstein Company had acquired “The Protector” and was going to release it in America I wanted to be involved in any capacity. Originally I was supposed to be in the film, the director invited me to Thailand to get into the film, but my schedule conflicted, so when they brought the movie to the America they knew I wanted to be involved and had a chance to re-score it and add my element to it.
AB: If you had made it into the film what would your role have been?
RZA: I don’t know, I maybe would have been somebody that got beat up. Tony’s beatin everybody’s ass in that film so I probably would have been another guy he’d whip up.
“If you see something good you want others to know about it as well..”
AB: I remember for his last movie in America, “Ong-Bak”, you did some of the voiceovers for the advertisements.
RZA: Yeah, exactly. I helped. I’m a big fan of Tony Jaa so to bring awareness to him and let the people in America recognize his great martial arts talent is something that I appreciate doing. If you see something good you want others to know about it as well, you know what I mean?
AB: Definitely. When did you first learn about him?
RZA: I learned about Tony off of “Ong-Bak”, that was two years ago, at least, maybe it’s been four or five years now. It was an underground DVD that was traveling through the martial arts circuit but didn’t really hit no mainstream shit. When they brought it to America I was already aware of it, one of my buddies had already put me on to it. When he brought it out there I thought it would be a good idea to get the world involved with this guy.
AB: And after all that you got the opportunity to score this movie.
RZA: And he’s kickin even more ass. Even when “Ong-Bak” was out originally I was gonna rescore it, that was one of the original ideas, but we didn’t have enough time so for “The Protector” we didn’t really have enough time but we made it happen.
AB: Is there ever really enough time?
RZA: There are some cases, like when I was doing “Kill Bill” I started from the script.
“Film has a lot of emotions to it and with that kind of approach it gives me more freedom to begin with.”
AB: What are some of the big differences for you when you go to score a film as opposed to when you’re making a track for Wu? Is there a different mindset you go into? Is there different equipment you use?
RZA: Yeah, definitely, both are different. The mindset I’m in (for films), there’s more freedom. It starts off with more freedom and what I mean is it starts off with no boundaries or what kind of template I’m gonna use. I don’t have to be stuck into any particular amount of bars or any particular repetition of sound because it doesn’t have to loop. Film has a lot of emotions to it and with that kind of approach it gives me more freedom to begin with. Of course in the end we’ve got to satisfy the movie companies and the director and that kind of retracts some of that freedom back away from you. That’s one different thing. As far as the equipment, when I’m scoring I basically use a lot of different keyboards because I’m looking for certain sounds, certain vibes, certain things and some of these sounds you may not hear in Hip-Hop. For this particular score I used mostly a keyboard called Korg Triton and used some older material, MV8000, which I use for Hip-Hop, as well, but I use it in a different capacity for the scoring. And not only am I using Pro Tools but I use Logic and other programs, as well. One machine may not have the right vibe for the scene and then you gotta try another machine or try a different sound that may not be available on SoundLink.
AB: Obviously you enjoy doing the scoring, so what’s your next project going to be?
RZA: A project that I’m currently in the middle of is Afro-Samurai and that’s with Sam Jackson playing the voice of Afro-Samurai. It’s Japanese animation and they’ve collaborated with an American production company. It’ll be shown on Spike TV, and there will also be a DVD and a video game. That’s my next one. I love making music, whether I’m scoring, whether I’m making Hip-Hop, or whether I’m just making beats to play in my house and turn up loud. It’s a part of my daily activity.
AB: And you’ve got Sam Jackson so you could have some “Snakes on a Plane” at any point in time.
RZA: Yeah, be careful, right! You gotta keep your feet off the ground.
“We’re actually are in negotiations right now for a potential new Bobby Digital album for second quarter of next year.”
AB: Yeah man. So when are we gonna see the return of Bobby Digital?
RZA: It’s interesting you would ask that. We’re actually are in negotiations right now for a potential new Bobby Digital album for second quarter of next year. I’m talking about it, I’m not 100% into it because I’ve been venturing into a lot of worlds and I don’t want to ping pong myself too much, but I got a little more Bobby left in me that I think I can share with the world.
AB: There’s gotta be a bo-doop left!
RZA: There’s gotta be another bo-doo-doop left in me, you know what I mean? Actually, you know what, I just came off a tour with Wu-Tang and that kind of gave me inspiration to maybe try it again because a lot of the fans were yelling Bobby and they were requesting some of the Bobby songs.
AB: Did you get to drop a couple of ’em while you were on tour?
RZA: I didn’t drop none. The crowd wanted some. I did a verse or two maybe, but I didn’t get a chance to really go into my own set because it was a Wu-Tang Clan set.
AB: Yeah, you have enough songs there to take up a couple of hours.
RZA: 400 songs I’ve produced for Wu-Tang Clan.
“That felt kinda low, but I think it was definitely slept on by the critics and the magazines that informed the public..”
AB: DAMN! With that in mind, do you think that “Iron Flag” and “The W” were slept on?
RZA: Well “The W” was more commercially successful than “Iron Flag“. I think “The W maybe did 1.9 in America, 1.2 in Europe and a little more scattered around the world. That’s not bad numbers, but with “Iron Flag” we didn’t even do a million in America. It was maybe 700,000 in America, another 600,000 foreign. That felt kinda low, but I think it was definitely slept on by the critics and the magazines that informed the public of it because I think that “Iron Flag” was a super album. It’s tough for me. I think also the climate of Hip-Hop was changing, the political part of Hip-Hop really changed. Loud Records fell under in the middle of the campaign. There were no videos, there was no campaign on “Iron Flag“. The record label put the record out in December and in January Loud fell under Sony. Sony took over Loud and Sony just fired everybody, so we got caught in that political game and then we never really returned back from that. Workin with Loud was a real comfortable opportunity for us. We didn’t get along with a lot of industry people based on our aggressiveness and just the Hip-hop vibe that we walk with, sometimes people don’t really want to tolerate that on a day to day basis and especially with so many guys in the group there’s a lot of it to deal with, but with Loud we knew the staff, Steve Rifkind was a buddy of mine, we grew together.
AB: And you got that unique contract.
RZA: Yeah, but we had a relationship. If you don’t have a relationship with your business partner, a good relationship, business won’t ever be well. I think that’s what happened. Once they got rid of Loud they got rid of Steve and there was nobody there that really could relate to us, we kind of fell back and things of that nature.
AB: Could you see yourself linking up with Rifkind’s new label, SRC?
RZA: I don’t know, but he’s my buddy, anything he needs me for he can give me a call and he’s got it, and I think vice versa for me. I needed some help a couple months ago in a situation where his help would help out, I gave him a call and he did the favor for me. We’re still buddies.
Come back next week and check out part two of this interview where RZA discusses Quincy Jones’ unique influence on him, “The Protector”‘s nearly four minute steady cam shot, and why he almost never came home after his first trip to China.