A Conversation with Daru Jones

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Image Credit: Lloyd Bishop

2X Grammy Winner Daru Jones is one of the most respected drummers of his generation who has recorded, performed, and toured with an eclectic mix of renowned artists and producers, including Jack WhitePete RockGloria GaynorSlum VillageJamie LidellTalib KweliDwight YoakamNas,  Pee Wee EllisLorenzo JovanottiQueen LatifahBlack MilkSalaam RemiPharoahe MonchLiam BaileyRance AllenBlack Violin, Ski Beatz & The Sensei’s and Jon B.

A sought-after producer and boutique label owner (RusicRecords), Jones is currently touring with superband DMD the Vibes (with wunderkind Marcus Machado & legendary Living Colour bassist, Doug Wimbish) also currently performing with Hip-Hop producer Pete Rock and a member also the music director for his new live band, The Soul Brothers as well as powerhouse Rock-Hop trio called, Th1rt3en with Pharoahe Monch.

Joe:
What have you been doing this last year plus considering the current state of the world?

Daru:
I’ve just been maintaining. When the pandemic first hit, around March, I was on tour in the U.K. The tour was with Pee Wee Ellis; he was a saxophone player for James Brown. He wrote “Cold Sweat;” he is a legend. I was on tour with him until the middle of March. At that point, the virus had started to reach The States. They started really cracking down because of the pandemic. I thought it was going to end in April. Then they said July. Now it has been about a year. Anyway, I’m thankful. I was able to do some cool things and took the time to do some self-care. I learned to cook some more things that I like and worked out. I got some well-needed rest. I had to go back to New York because of a project I am involved in with a rapper named Pharoahe Monch. We were going to record and wrap up some loose ends on the album we just dropped.

Joe:
You mentioned the album you dropped with Pharoahe Monch. I am guessing you are referring to the Th1rt3een project and the album A Magnificent Day for An Exorcism. Another exciting project you were involved in recently was the newest Petestrumentals album with Pete Rock. Can you tell us a little about the latter?

Daru:
Like you said, I’m also a part of Pete Rock’s band called the Soul Brothers. We have a project out now from his series called Petestrumentals. It’s volume 3. As the musical director, Pete had me coordinate with the band to play the samples live. I had the role of making sure all of the parts, as far as recording goes, were up to a certain level. Came out late this past year. Because of the pandemic, the mixing and some editing had to be done remotely. A lot of stuff I couldn’t do in person. It had to be done remotely. I was mixing with Pete’s engineer, Jamey Staub, through the phone. Then we had to send the mixes to Pete to get his approval. We would make notes, and he would send me the mix. Sometimes he would even play it over the phone. It was challenging. It would have been done a lot faster if we were all in the same room. That is pretty much how that went. Jamey did an amazing job. I also wanted to give special recognition to Jaclyn Sanchez, who Engineered and recorded the band, at Electric Garden Studio, in Brooklyn, NY. She and I also had to do some re-editing through email and over the phone as well.

Joe:
Backtracking a little, we started discussing the Th1rt3een project with Pharoahe Monch. How did it get started? How did you get involved?

Daru:
I’ve known Pharoahe Monch for over 10 years. I had an opportunity to work with some of his Peers. I was Talib Kweli’s drummer and musical director for 5 years. I played with one of his groups, Idle Warship, as well. These guys, they rode together. One year at the CMJ Festival, Pharoahe Monch was on the bill. One of the artists I play drums for, his name is Black Milk, was also there. He is from Detroit, Michigan. He is a rapper and producer. I think Pharoah was on a track from the album we were touring for. Black Milk brought Pharoahe out for the set at South Paw in Brooklyn, NY. I also remember music directing and putting a band together for Monch to play with for a CMJ Showcase event. The project’s vision started 5 years or more ago, and this was during the time I was working and touring with Jack White. He (Pharoahe Monch) wanted to bring that type of vibe. He wanted to do a Rock ‘N’ Roll/Hip Hop project. Because of my experience, I had made an impression on him. So, he thought I was the right guy for the job. He wanted someone that could play the Rock stuff as well. Basically, my style worked for him.

Image Credit: Cayetano Ferrandez

Joe:
Do you have a favorite track on the album? My favorite track was “The Magician,” but I thought you shined the most on “Amnesia.”

Daru:
Those are two of my favorite tracks on the record. They were really done from a pure place, with the singing and the instrumentation. They have a heartfelt message. They are definitely some of my favorite tracks from the project.

Joe:
In the past, the general music-listening public seems to mostly think of drummers that play Rock or Jazz primarily. Why do you think they tend to overlook players that focus on Hip-Hop, R&B, Soul, and/or Gospel? Do you think that is still true today, and if not, why?

Daru:
Music has changed so much. Big Band used to be the popular music. That is what was on the radio. Eventually, you had Funk and Disco; out of that, Hip-Hop was born. Although Hip-Hop was starting to get popular, it was hard to get endorsements. All they wanted was Rock guys. That is the music that was popular. They didn’t consider Hip-Hop a genre. They didn’t think it was going to be around that long. They kind of downplayed it. I’m thankful to look at where Hip-Hop is now. As far as the drumming, in the 90s, when you had the producers like Pete Rock, DJ Premier, so on and so forth. There was an era where they were sampling James Brown music because of the consistency of the loops. In James Brown’s music, there wasn’t a lot of changes. Funky drumming. That particular segment. That drum part. It just kind of changed the scope of the Hip-Hop game. You had guys like Breakbeat Lou. He was a guy that, manually, went and found the breaks. Back in the day, when they would record, there would be a breakdown. The drummer would get a little part to shine in the record. Breakbeat Lou, he found all of those and put them on one disc. It was called Ultimate Breaks and Beats.

Image Credit: Damion Scott

Joe:
I know you have your own label called Rusic Records. Can you tell me a little about the label and how that got started?

Daru:
I basically just took the M off music. Because my name is Daru. I was trying to brand it with my name. So, that was the whole vibe off that. I had that vision as a teenager. At that time, I was Born Again Christian. Heavily Gospel influenced. I grew up where anything outside of Gospel was called secular. We were told not to listen to any of that. You know I went to school though, and a lot of my friends were listening to Hip-Hop. I was also trying to live a certain lifestyle. I still loved the Hip-Hop production. However, a lot of times, the rappers were using profanities. They were talking about the streets, drugs, and stuff. I was not into that. I didn’t want to give up listening to Hip-Hop. I was trying to find a way to still have a love for it. What I did is I gravitated towards the producers like Dr. Dre, Eric B, Marley Marl, The Bomb Squad, Erick Sermon, Kay Gee from Naughty by Nature, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Da Beatminerz, RZA, Q-Tip, Shaheed Muhammad, and eventually, Jay Dee aka J Dilla. I tuned out the vocalists. I thought, “if I ever start a label, I will just produce singers.” I would not have to worry about them using profanity and talking crazy. That was my vision for it as a teenager. I was learning how to produce using equipment like the Akai S-900 sampler. That was one of the first things I learned how to use. At the time, I just wanted to produce singers, which I did. I produced for my sister, Rena Jones. She’s a vocalist. We’ve done projects together as Daru & Rena. That was the vision. As a teenager, I started making beat tapes and doing projects with people. I just wanted the content to be positive. I kept branding and using the name. Eventually, I set it up as an LLC, in Brooklyn, in 2013. Basically, I just wanted to produce singers and put out a positive message. I had this thing called Soul-Hop. It’s Soul music and Hip-Hop combined. I wanted to produce records that had the same aggression as the Boom Bap producers but with positive vocals. Music with a spiritual message. That was Rusic Records. That was the whole thing. I wanted to be independent and put out records. I wanted to represent that lane.

Joe:
If someone wanted to get a taste of what you have been doing on your label, where would you suggest they start?

Daru:
They can check out the Daru & Rena stuff. We put out a project called #Honey through the label. I had to take a pause with putting out records through the label. It’s really hard as an independent label to get your music seen. There is a lot of things that the major label has, like a publicist. It takes a lot of money just to get people to see the stuff. A lot of stuff I have been doing recently, I have been giving to redistributors like Fat Beats. I also put things on my Bandcamp. I have a lot of Bandcamp records. If people check out DaruJones.Bandcamp.com, they will find a lot of promo projects and records that I produced. I produced some singles through Rusic Records. You can check out DMD the Vibes. That is a live band project I have. The initials are D. The first D is me. The second initial is M, for Marcus Machado. He plays the guitar. He is the guitar player for Pete Rock’s band as well as Pharoahe Monch. The next D is Doug Wimbish from Living Colour. We have a single called “After Dark.” It came out on my label. We are trying to shop the project to a bigger label so we can get eyes on it. Get the proper promo.

Joe:
You have played so many different styles of music and with so many different artists. What do you think makes you so adaptable?

Daru:
Even as a kid, one of my skills people spoke about was having a good memory. They said I would hear something one time and be able to play it. Also, I pay attention to detail. When I am hired as a musical director, they know I will do it like the original composition. I am not going to deviate. I made a name for myself. They know they are going to get a certain quality. Those are some accolades that I have been given. I do good work, and I pay attention to detail.

Get It Started' Livestream With Daru Jones, Now On Drum Network - Drummer's  Review
Image Credit: Elle Jaye

Joe:
Is there a band/artist/musician/producer you have not worked with that you would like to? Is there a style of music you have not played that you would like to give a shot?

Daru:
Not Really. I’m doing everything I feel like I wanna do. I’ve dibbled and dabbled. I’ve done Jazz. I’ve done Rap. I’ve done Caribbean. I’ve done Gospel, and I’ve done Hip-Hop. I’m doing pretty much the stuff I desire to do. I’m definitely a genre-bending drummer. I’m diverse. As far as producers and musicians, I would definitely want to work with Quincy Jones, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Dr. Dre. I had a potential opportunity to work with DJ Premier. He’s one of my favorite producers. In 2014, I was asked to join DJ Premier for a tour. I was the original drummer he wanted in his lineup. I was invited to D and D studios to have a meeting with Premier and Brady Watt. Brady plays bass for Premier. Premier, he asked me if I could join the band. I committed to joining for a short tour of Japan. I accepted the offer, but this was when I was on tour with Jack White. They hadn’t given out the schedule for the next run yet. Right as I accepted the offer from Premier, Jack White’s people sent me the schedule. It overlapped with Premier. I had to get out of the tour. I was heartbroken. Premier is one of my favorite producers, and I was finally going to have a chance to work with him. Me and Premier, we still stayed in touch. I ended up working with one of his artists, Torii Wolf. I wanted to work with Daft Punk…I heard that they broke up. I also want to work with Chaka Khan, Sting, Beyonce, and Jay-Z.

Joe:
I would love to see you work with Robert Glasper.

Daru:
Yeah, Robert! Thank You! Me and Robert have been talking about doing some work for years. It just hasn’t happened. I know timing is everything. When the timing is right, I believe it’s going to happen.

Joe:
If you could do a modern-day version of one of those Jazz Drum Battle albums, who would you do it with and why?

Daru:
Wow, that is a good question. Old school or like one of my peers? I mean…I have people that I admire. That are my heroes. I wouldn’t dare be in a battle with them, though. I would have to think about that. I would love to do something, not on the battlefront, with Vinnie Colaiuta. He’s an OG. He played with Sting and Frank Zappa. He played with Herbie Hancock. He is one of my favorite drummers. Will Kennedy…I like Will Kennedy. I would love to do something with him. Also, not on the battlefront, just as a collaboration; Dennis Chambers as well. Those are just a few people I could think of.

Joe:
Do you collect and listen to records, CDs, cassettes, or do you mostly listen digitally now?

Daru:
Lately, digitally. I’m not really a vinyl collector like that. I just always use the resources that I have, CD, vinyl, TV, YouTube. All of those things work. Anything I can plug into the sampler. That’s pretty much that.

Joe:
What does the future hold for you? Are there any new projects we should know about?

Daru:
I am in between a few projects. One of the projects is called Noxx Jones. It’s a collaboration between myself and an artist from California named Mark Noxx. He’s an amazing vocalist and instrumentalist. He plays all instruments. He has worked with DJ Battlecat, Snoop Dogg, and DJ Quick. We got a record coming out. We dropped a couple of singles. Another project to look out for is with T3 from Slum Village. That’s J Dilla’s group. We’ve got a project that we did with Amp Fiddler. Amp taught Dilla how to use MPC. That’s going to be a special project. Another project is with T3 and Jermaine Holmes. Jermaine Holmes is a vocalist from D’Angelo’s Vanguard. It’s going to be Hip-Hop and Soul. Also, I’m working on my solo project. Look out for that, hopefully, this year. I got a project with this cat called Bobby J from Rockaway. Rapper from Queens. We got a project called One Mic and Drum. It’s just all drums and microphone. It came out through Fat Beats. The vinyl of that just came out. So that is something you can check out. Bobby J from Rockaway and Daru Jones. That’s pretty much what I can talk about right now.

Personal social media links:
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Rustic Records
th1rt3en

Image Credit: Lloyd Bishop

Interested in learning more about the artistry of Daru Jones? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Records, Roots & Ramblings, by Joe O’Brien, here: https://vinylwritermusic.com/records-roots-ramblings-archives/

About Post Author

Joe O'Brien

Joe has always been a huge music fan. Growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Joe did chores and dumpster dove for bottles with his best friend Andrew to trade bottles for money to buy vinyl. Joe is a Registered Nurse in the ER by day, and a life-long music lover by night. Having been an avid consumer of all things music since he was a child, Joe’s diverse collection of over 3,000 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of a man who simply loves music. Joe’s goal is to write about what he is most passionate about and share new and exciting music. Joe lives on Long Island, NY with his beloved dog Scarlett.
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