Legendary producer RZA a.k.a. Bobby Steelz is making his return to music in a big way collaborating with Paul Banks from the band Interpol. An interesting fact about these two is that they are major parts of groups that have made an impact in music. RZA is arguably the backbone of the Wu-Tang Clan and Paul is a major cog in the machine that is Interpol. However, these two broke have put their other music ventures on hold to form a new group. That group’s name is Banks & Steelz which is derived from their artist monikers. Their project titled Anything But Words slated for release in August 2016 is building anticipation in the public because it’s the first collaboration from these music icons. So far, they have released music and dropped videos from the album to heighten awareness on their project. The group has received a lot of press on their collaboration which is highly anticipated.
They spoke to the Source about their upcoming release Anything But Words, where they delve into variety of topics and showcase their lyrical skills over musical production curated by Banks and beats supplied by RZA. Banks & Steelz are currently on a promotional run and have some performances lined up.
Where did the name Banks & Steelz come from?
Banks: The name came from my actual last name Banks and the Steel part comes from Bobby Steel, which is one of RZA’s monikers. We kept it real simple.
RZA: Steel was a character in the Wu series and I wanted to bring that back.
Why is the album named Anything But Words?
Banks: A lot of thought went into the Anything But Words title. Words inspired by the imagery and the vibe the music gave off it fits. The title speaks for itself. Anything But Words spoke for what is going on in the world.
RZA: Sometimes words don’t hold no weight so I’d rather anything but words.
Artists collaborating fusing different music styles has always been cool, but seems to be really popular now. Was there any pressure to make this collaboration one of the better collaborations out there?
Banks: There was no pressure; we have our own barometer on what’s cool. I’m a fan of hip hop. I studied examples of where collaborations like this have worked and not worked. I knew what I liked and didn’t like. I didn’t want to compromise what I didn’t like. If we didn’t like what was happening, we could have bailed out with no pressure. RZA is a great multi-instrumentalist and that worked in our favor.
RZA: We did a good fusion of live instrumentation and programmed music as well.
Anything But Words has a very reflective tone to it in terms of the lyrics and message. Was that done on purpose or just how the album turned out?
Banks: I think we are both reflective people. Some of the music is kind of playful and some touch on some heavier topics and others touched on deep emotion. We definitely had fun making the record, the studio sessions were fun.
RZA: A lot of music being released now is coming from a boy’s perspective. We are men, we already did that in terms of life. With this album, you are getting a man’s perspective.
Why is Anything But Words only twelve tracks?
Banks: As debut artists, we didn’t want to exhaust the listener. For me, 60 minutes at a concert is enough.
RZA: We want the listener to give us the 52 minutes that we asked for. The album is a listening experience. We want to keep them engaged as it unfolds. I want the album to be an experience like a musical journey for the listener.
New York City played a huge part in both of your musical careers. How if at all did that common bond help you two in the collaboration?
RZA: New York City is the home of hip hop and is a strong hub for independent rock. That energy is part of our collaboration. There are overlapping spheres. There is a certain rawness to our lyrics. The sound of our music is the sound that NYC developed. The New York vibe is a common denominator.
Paul, your childhood background is very diverse in terms of being born in England, traveling to the United States, going back to Europe, and living in Mexico. How did all those experiences play a part in your music career?
Banks: Being multilingual makes you interested in word play. Learning two languages unlocks your brain. I like words. I gravitated to rap music. The best musical genres to me are rap and folk. I studied literature and rap is all about words. So when N.W.A. came out I was on that shit.
Other music collaborations like Rob The Jewels, Wiz & Snoop, Velvet Underground seem to be en vogue these days. Where do you see your collaboration ranking within those collaborations?
Banks: I have been a fan of EL-P since 2000. Both Killer Mike and El-P are legit as fuck. I have been in the business long enough that I don’t care about framing. I don’t feel or worry about how people react towards my music. I just worry about how I’m feeling.
RZA: I’m just happy artists are collaborating.I learned to respect all artists. Artists are different man. Think about how many people are in the world and then think about how many of those people artists are. It’s rare to be an artist.
You guys are both producers. There is an old saying about two chefs in the kitchen. What was the relationship between you two in the actual production of the album?
Banks: RZA produced some of the best records ever. I have produced some solo records. A lot of the songs came from beats produced by RZA and curated by me. RZA doesn’t need a producer, but he is a producer.
RZA: In hip hop, some people make beats, but the producer has to bring it all together. An engineer may have knowledge of the equipment, but a producer has the ability to bring a sound in your mind out. It’s good that Paul has skills. Adding movement, changing the dynamics, we took songs from good to great working together has been really cool. A peanut butter sandwich is good. A jelly sandwich is good. Put them together they make a great sandwich.
On the collaboration aspect, Paul you are part of a band where one would assume democracy ruled. One would assume the same goes for RZA with Wu-Tang Clan. Was it like only dealing with one other person in this collaboration?
Banks: A band is sort of a messy democracy. This collaboration is more stress free, a smoother collaboration to be a part of. The difficulty of being in a band is what makes it great. What makes this great is two people making a decision.
RZA: You don’t hear a lot about the difficulties old musicians from those big bands had. In those times, everyone got a solo. It was magical. That’s my mentality. Wu-Tang used to be like that where anyone could jump in on a cipher, it was unpredictable. Our relationship is great because we both when to shut up, it’s less people.
To promote Anything But Words, there were some popup shops and specific performances. What are the future plans that fans can expect?
Banks: We plan on dropping a few more songs and videos. I’m in live mode right now. The show is going to look good. I’m of the mindset now of how we can make it the best it can possibly be. There isn’t going to be a way to predict it. Live instrumentation is interesting to RZA. All the elements of musicality will be on display. The stage can be our playground. I’m a perfectionist. I want the music on the stage to sound like the live record. But there are going to be reinterpretations.
Music has reverted back to the live show in a major way. What can fans expect from a Banks & Steelz show?
RZA: That’s the last thing a musician has, the ability to see, touch, smell, taste, and feel, you in concert. People who love your music have a love for you.
RZA, you seemed pretty comfortable with doing movies. Why go back to the music?
RZA: I love music, it’s in my DNA. If I’m on a movie set, I make music in my trailer. I love music and film. It’s the total expansion of the narrative. For me, film is a great medium but it’s very taxing. Most directors skip making films every two years including myself.
Any last words on Anything But Words?
Banks: I don’t see this as a one off thing. It’s a band. If there is a demand for more, we will supply it.
RZA: Rock On & Bong Bong!