[Interview] Interpol’s Paul Banks and Wu-Tang’s RZA Talk New Project ‘Banks and Steelz’

Listen to their new single "Giant" now

By Cody Black / KROQ.com

A few weeks ago, Interpol’s Paul Banks and Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA released the video for “Love + War,” which effectively announced the duo’s new project Banks and Steelz.

Yesterday (June 8) they revealed that their new album Anything But Words will be released August 26th (via Warner Bros. Records) and will feature guest appearances by Florence Welch from Florence & The Machine, Kool Keith, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, and Masta Killa. Earlier today they debuted their second song “Giant” (which RZA refers to as their “Side A” track), as well as a handful of tour dates – including their inaugural show at the Roxy July 21st (get tickets here). They’re also set to perform at FYF Fest, Life Is Beautiful, and Austin City Limits later this summer.

To find out more about the new project, I headed to luxury clothing designer Ermenegildo Zegna’s showroom in Beverly Hills where the guys were being fitted for Spike TV’s Guys Choice Awards. In between jacket alterations and shoe shines, I managed to squeeze in some questions about how the project began, production responsibilities, Pauls’ 2007 mixtape, and more.

KROQ

Paul Banks and RZA at Zegna (Photo: Cody Black / KROQ.com)


How’d you two first link up?

RZA: Me and him first linked up in New York at a tequila bar. That led to a noodle bar, and that led to a club. We found out different things about each other. He learned more about my music knowledge, not just as a Wu-Tang producer, but a gear geek. I learned that he was a chess player, and then we kind of became cool dudes. We decided to hook up a few more times and get to know each other over some chess.

Chess, huh?

RZA: Some people play online, but it’s nothing like a human experience. I think certain artists – I can speak for myself and pretty sure I can vouch for Paul after knowing him for all these years – you don’t mind breaking bread with somebody else that’s cool, that doesn’t interfere with your space. Sometimes as artists we’re around most people that need us. I think many artists are the essential focus of their peers. But you get two guys who are just cool, it removes all of that.

What was it about Paul’s music that led you to him?

RZA: Interpol is a name that rings bells throughout New York in the indie rock scene, being guys who are leading the way in their own right. The album that has my favorite song by them is the 2007 album (Our Love To Admire) that has the song “The Scale.” So me, being a guy that was venturing into electric guitars and having my entry into rock late in my career, having someone like him be a guy to help me further that has been real cool.

How different has the reaction been with the hip hop community and dabbling into the rock crowd?

RZA: I don’t know yet, I haven’t gotten a chance to get in front of that audience yet as far as performing. We will be performing a few festivals starting third quarter: Austin City Limits, FYF Fest, and Life Is Beautiful. We also want to put some shows in between, so I think we’re slated to hit DC, slated to hit Boston, and a few other places just to go out there and spread our collaboration. I haven’t gotten the chance to see what that’s going to be, but I love the excitement of uncertainty.

Paul put out a mixtape shortly before you guys linked up. Did that help kickstart the idea?

RZA: I didn’t hear that mixtape. I barely even know that name of that mixtape, it’s like ‘Everybody’s On My Dick and You Know It.’

Paul pokes his head out of the fitting room he’s currently in and chimes in

Paul: No, it’s ‘Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed To Be.’ Rick Ross said it. It’s a Rick Ross quote. I’m not shy to pay homage to one of the greatest things a man ever said in an interview, but it wasn’t me who said it. It was Rick Ross, I’m paying respect.

Paul, was that your first dabble into hip hop production?

Paul: When I was going to make my first solo record I taught myself how to use Logic because I needed to know how to do that to make a record by myself. The way I learned how to use it was by making beats and electronic vignettes.

How did you bring in artists like Talib Kweli and El-P into the mix?

Paul: That was the idea of my manager. I said ‘No one is ever going to hear this music, but it’s actually pretty personal to me and I like it so maybe I’ll just give it away.’ When I had that idea my manager said ‘Why don’t we see if we can get some MCs to rap on it?’ I’m a huge Talib Kweli fan, and I got Mike G from Odd Future. He’s one of the lesser known characters but he’s f**king awesome. El-P is an old buddy of mine and then High Priest is one of my all-time favorite rappers from Antipop Consortium. That was actually a really fun thing to do.

How much different is this album going to be in comparison to that one?

Paul: I don’t know. I did learn, I would put a couple of hooks on songs on that mixtape, so I guess it was kind of preparing me for some of the format of what we’re doing here. The songs that are really hip hop production are coming exclusively from RZA – that’s a whole other world compared to what I was doing. But as far as dressing a hip hop beat with a vocal, I guess it was my first time.

How did you guys split up responsibilities in the studio? Did you each take certain songs or was it whatever felt more natural?

RZA: It’s similar to this interview. I’m here rockin, then he comes right in and adds right in. We kind of compliment each other in a sense. I think the time that Paul spent learning how to use Logic, as well as Pro Tools, he knows the equipment beyond the guitar and all the foot pedals that come with that. Him having that knowledge really made this process of us making this record extremely comfortable, fun, cool, and added an extra layer of confidence for me because if I did fall out on the couch or got drunk that night, it’s still getting done. Somebody was always flying the plane and that’s something special between us.

With both of your crazy individual schedules, was it difficult to get in the studio together to work on this? Or is that why it took 3 years to come to fruition?

Paul: That’s a big part of why it took so long. Interpol was writing El Pintor when we first got this deal, and then we wrote a record and toured the world for like 18 months. RZA made 2 films and 2 records maybe? So it was really about when we had time between tours and projects to get together.

RZA: How we did divide the time was like ‘Okay, fourth quarter. Your tour is over and I had a break in my schedule.’ We’d spend a month together focusing on Banks and Steelz and we’d do that. We’d spend that month and then while we were away, even if he was on tour, he may come across something one night and say ‘I actually thought of another idea’ and he’d record it on a laptop and send it to me. It kind of kept the energy going, but the busy schedule definitely kept us from getting that focus. I would say the focus… I’m a focused dude, but this dude is a focused dude.

Is ‘Love + War’ a good indication of what the rest of the album will sound like?

Paul: I think it’s a good indication.

The song at the end of the video, is that a preview of another song on the album?

RZA: Actually our official first single is called “Giant.” So you could say “Love + War” was our underground single. If it was hip hop that’d be your underground single, your Side B, and “Giant” is our Side A. That was a little snippet of the sonic and the tempo of what that song is gonna be. That song, from my point of view, is one of those stadium rocking songs. It’s a song that’s telling the underdog…we like representing the underdog. The underdog is the giant. So when David was fighting Goliath… no, no. Goliath wasn’t the giant. David was.

Does the current political landscape affect your music or lyrics?

Paul: In a song like “Giant” it’s got layers and you can definitely look at it from a political thing. There’s some outright semi-political statements. I think it goes beyond this election and I think there’s a cool sort of social consciousness aspect to “Giant,” but it can be interpreted as like you’re going to go into a boxing ring and have a fight, or you’re going to climb a mountain that day, or if you’re an NFL team. It’s sort of an anthem for any kind of obstacle that’s in front of you.

RZA: One of the cool things about the song is that even prior to us having an official release, it was heard by the guys who make the game Ghost Recon, the Tom Clancy Ghost Recon game. They actually are using it now as the song in their trailer. That was pretty cool to get that head start with the song. It fits perfect.

What’s the deal with the LA (410 N Fairfax Ave.) and NYC pop-up shops?

Paul: If you go there and Shazam it you get a download of the song and a free t-shirt.

RZA: I didn’t know that. I’m about to go head over there and Shazam!


KROQ

Pre-order Anything But Words now: iTunes | Amazon | Google Play

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