Most people in the music world hail the late, great Prince as a musical genius, but both James Patterson and Ben Ruttner (aka J-Patt and B-ROC from The Knocks) are geniuses, too. Now they’re getting the recognition they’ve long deserved, including a Grammy nomination last year and a coveted slot at this year’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.
Patterson’s new solo single “After Dark” sounds like the kind of music Duke Ellington or Quincy Jones would have made if they were born in the 1990s. The song is a moody, late-night spellbinder featuring jazzy chord progressions, unexpected sonic textures and fluid basslines – plus a fabulous, fall-off-a-cliff ending.
New Yorkers Patterson and Ruttner also have an uncanny ability to collaborate with famous singers and take their work to new levels. For example, their 2016 collab with Carly Rae Jepsen (“Love Me Like That”) is arguably the best work of her career. And on last year’s HISTORY album, The Knocks wrote and produced some absolute gems featuring singers like Dragonette, Donna Missal and MUNA’s Katie Gavin.
In addition, J-Patt is also a terrific basketball player who has strong opinions on how the Knicks can reach the NBA Finals. We spoke with him recently about his hoop skills and songwriting influences.
This feels like a career-defining year for both your solo work and The Knocks because of your recent Grammy nomination and your upcoming Lollapalooza show. Does this year feel different somehow?
Yes, it definitely feels like we are taking longer strides as The Knocks. We feel like we are probably in the best position of our careers. This comfort and freedom has opened up the door for the solo stuff, which I’m excited about because they all go hand in hand. If James Patterson does well, The Knocks do well and vice versa.
Will you be doing any solo shows this year to promote “After Dark”?
Yes! I am playing in Denver July 1 and Detroit later this summer. I also have gigs all over NYC.
Both you and Ben often don’t get the credit you deserve as songwriters. For instance, your 2016 song with Carly Rae Jepsen (“Love Me Like That”) is one of the best songs of that decade. Likewise, your collabs with Dragonette, Foster The People and other artists on HISTORY are really great songs. Who are some of your biggest songwriting influences?
Thank you! Some of my biggest influences as far as songwriting goes are rappers, just because I grew up listening to lots of rap music. As an older person, I’ve been lucky to be exposed to lots of different kinds of music. Depending on the session, my inspiration can vary from Nas to James Murphy to Dolly Parton to Quincy Jones.
You’re both a basketball fan and player. What position do you usually play (I’m guessing power forward), and how should the Knicks build around Jalen Brunson next year?
See…people assume I’m a forward/center because I’m KINDA tall with king arms – but I am a guard with elite vision, handles, plus you can’t let me shoot. Mfs be tryna stick me in the post with these huge guys smh. Anyway, I love Jalen and Josh Hart, and I think reuniting them with Mikal Bridges (who has shown he can go for 40) could be great since they won together in college. Julius Randle is not the answer.