Selling out The Roxy in Los Angeles for their debut live performance is not a bad way to get started. But, of course, this is Wu-Tang’s RZA and Interpol’s Paul Banks we are talking about here, both of whom are geniuses in their own right. They’ve been sparking the curiosity of fans since announcing they were working on music together.
When it comes down to it, true musicians—the kind that live, breathe and sleep their art—are able to transcend genres with ease and have a natural-born talent to engage listeners by doing what comes organically to them. Their adaptability, approach and raw talents all equate to any instrument they touch turning to metaphoric gold. Such is the case with RZA and Paul Banks’ new collaborative project, Banks And Steelz. In a way, the experimental project comes at a perfect time, with people craving genuine musicianship and artistry more so now than ever.
In advance of Banks and Steelz forthcoming album, Anything But Words, (due August 26th via Warner Bros. Records), the duo decided to warm up its material and perform for a live audience for the first time together on Thursday, July 21.
While the partnership is a bit unexpected and out of left field, with RZA leading the legendary Hip Hop outfit Wu-Tang Clan into its permanent, iconic place in the history books and Banks holding an important influence, as well by fulfilling the role of Interpol’s frontman, this works immensely in their favor. While fusing Hip Hop and alternative indie-rock is territory that has been explored before, no one has quite pulled it off in the way Banks And Steelz are aspiring to.
RZA and Banks first met at tequila bar, and each told the other they were a fan of the other. Their friendship grew over a game of chess, which eventually led to some studio time. The intention was never to make music together, but more-so to enjoy each other’s company in New York City, with the RZA stating, “New York’s that kind of town, kid.”
The therapeutic vibe playing chess brings to RZA was something Banks could also relate to. Despite their mutual love for the game, RZA shared that since he didn’t play a lot of chess during the recording process, which meant he wasn’t under a lot of stress. Their chemistry and appreciation for good people and good music is essentially the reasoning behind their formal partnership as Banks And Steelz. Good music simply cannot be denied.
During their performance, it became clear the two were having fun. Their innovative live instrumentation is what gives the duo their special powers, and even if genre-blurring alternative music isn’t really your thing, there’s something even the harshest critics can find to love about Banks And Steelz.
Considering they’ve already released several songs together, some of the audience members knew the words, but for the most part, it was an experimental type of show, with the pair testing the waters and seeing how the crowd would respond.
While, at times, the project is more rock-influenced than anything else, the emotional foundation of the music is what has so many intrigued. What RZA and Banks are doing no one can threaten, mainly because it’s a jam session that is as raw and gritty as it is polished, and these two simply are masters of their respective crafts. Citing early Rage Against The Machine as inspiration, it’s clear this is a musical experiment that needs to be experienced live (with a mental picture of driving down the Pacific Highway in the back of your mind, per RZA’s recommendation). Both artists hold such a commanding stage presence that it’s essentially impossible to not appreciate what they are building together.
In 2016, we simply crave authenticity, and Banks And Steelz deliver that with a coolness that proves magic does come from a very real place.