So Evcat needs to get something out of the way: this may very well be the most important interview he's ever given in his life.
You see, J.Ralph is an NYU film grad who, in the late-90s, camped out in an abandoned silent theater in NYC to record an album. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, the resulting disc -- Music to Mauzner By -- proved to be an incredible musical tour-de-force, covering dance-rock, classical, jazz, mariachi music, gospel, classic rock, country, and disco in one go. During Evcat's musical development as a kid, this album proved critical, as it introduced him to whole new worlds and, after listening to and reviewing thousands of albums in his life time, it remains his unquestioned Favorite Album of All-Time. Hands down.
Given that Mauzner celebrated it's 10-year anniversary this past February, we figured it'd be a great time to catch up on J.Ralph, who's now busy scoring Oscar-winning movies, crafting music for Super Bowl ads, and -- oh yeah -- working on that follow-up pop album. Without further ado, the unquestionable, inimitable, and amazing J.Ralph ...
>>I remember my first introduction to you: the video for "Baby" when it was playing on The Box music video network. I even remember that video hitting #1, and even later finding out that it was you who directed it. Coming fresh out of film school, what did you find harder: working on your first album or working on a big-budget music video for your first single?
Both had their challenges but I would say working on the video. Seems like time was always running out. There were a lot of people to manage and we had this funny narrative that we wanted to convey.
>>I think the simplest question needs to be asked right off here: what compelled you to make Music to Mauzner By? I just find it fascinating how after NYU, you not only made an album, but you produced it yourself, played virtually every instrument, and wrote every damn note, even for the orchestral piece. It was a daring move, but it shows that Mauzner really was a big labor of love ...
The record was the synthesis of all the years listening to music and messing with samplers, FX's and instruments. I was fascinated with sound the deconstruction of it. I really wanted to make something that was different from what I've heard. It was important to me that I went beyond what I had been exposed to. Smash everything together and [see] what came out.
>>You were signed to Lava/Atlantic when Music to Mauzner By came out -- what was your major-label experience like? If you had to do it again, would there be anything that you would do different?
It was perfect. 100% very lucky. Jason Flom (the label president) was the most encouraging and supportive force there could ever be. He let us do anything and everything.
>>Though I remember much talk of you releasing Frame the Horse sometime after Mauzner, I find it fascinating that your official "follow up" was the largely orchestral Illusionary Movements of Geraldine & Nazu, later followed by the score to Lucky Number Slevin. What are the challenges you encountered in working in an orchestral context (aside from the much-publicized fact that you couldn't actually read sheet music during the Illusionary sessions)?
Just that you have to really prepare. The players do not play anything that isn't written. Everything must be on the page. It is very challenging and I really like that. The stakes are much higher. No room for error. When you have 75 people in a room at about $50,000 every couple of hours, you really need to know what you want.
>>Aside from your TV soundtrack work, you've remained relatively quiet in recent years -- what have you been up to? More importantly: what big projects can we look forward to from you?
Just did the music for the Academy Award-winning documentary Man on Wire (about Philippe Petits 1974 tight rope walk between the World Trade Center). Also we have been working on an album with Sizzla. And also, as always, still working on Frame the Horse.
>>Lastly: so far in your career -- what's been your biggest regret, and -- conversely -- what's been your proudest accomplishment?
No regrets and never thought about a finished product long enough to contemplate if it was an accomplishment or not. Not knowing what is going to happen next is more important.
Visit J.Ralph's official website.