NYC production duo The Knocks dish on their creative process

The Knocks, JPatt, B-Roc

The Knocks. STAFF photo.

Even if you haven’t yet heard of The Knocks, chances are your favorite artists have. From 2010, when Chiddy Bang sampled several of their songs to various collaborations that followed, Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “JPatt” Patterson began a trek that turned them into one of the hottest production duos on the planet:

A cover of M83’s “Midnight City,” with vocals from MisterWives’ Mandy Lee, a HypeMachine chart-topping collaboration with St. Lucia on “Modern Hearts,” and remixes for Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Marina & the Diamonds, Flo-Rida, Sky Ferreira, Theophilus London and Ellie Goulding led to “Classic,” an original hit for them and collaborators POWERS in 2014.

This year has seen the long-awaited release of The Knocks’ debut album, 55, which includes collaborations with the likes of Fetty Wap, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cam’ron, Phoebe Ryan, Walk the Moon, Wyclef Jean, Magic Man and X Ambassadors. Ruttner and Patterson are also producing Jean’s upcoming album.

The album 55 is named for the New York Chinatown address where the duo has recorded for close to a decade. It also is the former practice space of the Beastie Boys, which Ruttner and Patterson said they weren’t even aware of when they signed their first lease. RIFF met up with both at Outside Lands, where the duo performed a daytime set in front of thousands at the Twin Peaks Stage, at times inviting POWERS and St. Lucia’s Jean-Philip Grobler to share the stage.

Ruttner, who outside of music is a fan of film, arrived in San Francisco a day before Patterson (the New York Knicks diehard) and had a chance to watch LCD Soundsystem perform Friday night. Also on their to-watch list: Chance the Rapper and Radiohead.

Expect the duo to return to the Bay Area next spring. “Last time, we did three nights at Independent,” Ruttner said. “It was fucking awesome. That was the best part of tour. It’s always really good for us here.”

RIFF: What do you enjoy more, writing original songs, playing live or remixing other artists?
My favorite part of what we do is the creative process. I have always been a musician, studio guy, and I just like creating new stuff.
Ruttner: That’s what I love so much about it. I love being in a studio. I love making new songs, original stuff. We like doing remixes, too, but there’s something special about when you make, obviously, your own song. I just love that process.

Do you have a favorite song that you have remixed?
I know. We’ve done so many. It’s like choosing your favorite kid or something.
Patterson: I like our “Chronic” remix.
Ruttner: Yeah. We did a remix of Phoebe Ryan’s “Chronic.” That’s one of my favorites, too, I think.

Do you have a dream collaboration? Someone alive who you want to work with?
Ruttner: I’d say Kanye. I just want to see how that dude works in the studio.
Patterson: Stevie Wonder.

How does your creation process differ between your original material, collaborations with others and working on remixes?
It’s different every time, regardless. It’s not like there’s one formula for each style or anything. It’s just however we feel at the moment. At least the way I approach it, because I don’t like to think of it as being formulaic or a process. Whatever I feel like doing is what I do.

Did you start a studio at the Beastie Boys’ old rehearsal place knowing what it was, or was that an accident?
We didn’t, no. That’s an awesome thing. Beastie Boys, for me, was one of my biggest influences growing up. I was a punk rock kid turning hip hop. For me, (there were) not many other bands that I was such a big fan of. A few years after we had built the studio, we saw this old MTV video of them being like, ‘This is where it all started.’ They’re standing outside of our building. We were just, “What? Fuck yeah!” We found out we’re on the same exact floor that they were on. To me, that’s just good juju, man. They’re really special to me, so it’s cool. The place has always meant a lot to us because we’ve (been) there for seven years and it’s kind of where everything started.

What are the best and worst things to do at any festival?
Best thing to do is just come with an awesome team of people. Try to stick together and don’t lose them, which is hard. Worst thing to do is too many drugs.

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