KEXP Q&A: J. Pinder

photo by Tracy Clayton

Seattle artists often talk about the beauty and inspiriting nature of the Emerald City, that leaving town for a while is understandable but there is always that hope of returning home. This is no different for Seattle native J. Pinder, but it’s not every day a young rapper has the chance to work in Los Angeles with the legend Dr. Dre. Recently, Pinder began working with the former N.W.A. member to produce tracks from his L.A. studio. The change in scenery has been an adjustment for sure, says Pinder, but, he notes, there is exciting new work on its way!

You’ve been in L.A. for a little while now working on music - what do you notice that’s most different between there and Seattle, in terms of inspiration?  

There’s definitely a huge difference. I like to close my eyes and pretend I’m in Seattle when I make music anywhere other than Seattle. Anyone that’s from Seattle knows that the creativity there is unmatched. Not just because it’s home but because of “The Grey”. Something about the overcast that brings out the best in an artist. I suppose science would call it “grey matter”. It’s too sunny in L.A. to tap into the rawest of emotions, which make for the best kinds of music. Of course, you can always write songs about beautiful women, weed and sunshine!

Since being in L.A. how has your level of out-put been affected? Is this even something you’re concerned with?

I made a lot of music in Seattle. Not all of it was quality. I haven’t made as much music in L.A., but I have made more quality. Nothing to be worried about at all.

What are the three most important factors that have influenced the quality of the music you’ve made lately?  

Beat selection - I’ve always had incredible producers in my corner, now it’s about owning and understanding my style. It’s always been about that but now more than ever. It means less experimenting.

Emotion - I feel like I have pretty emotional, yet non-emotional songs (“Lenore”, “Three Words”, “Upside Down”, pretty much all of them). The music I’m making now is a little more angry, animated and humorous.

Execution - You can have all the greatest ideas in the world but if you can’t execute them and make them as easy to comprehend by the simplest listener as possible, then they are limited.

What’s it like working with Dr. Dre? Have you two completed any projects? What’s the cast of characters coming in and out of the studio?

Dre is a true professional. Having someone with his kind of talent, experience and expertise in your corner is an amazing thing. He’s very meticulous. He knows exactly what he wants and he will make you do it until you get it right and if he doesn’t know what he wants, he’ll make you do it until he hears what he wants. Without being long winded, it’s everything you’d imagine it is.

I can’t really talk about what’s in the works quite yet, just know that there’s work. And I’ve seen lots of familiar faces and names come thru the studio. Most surprising was Mateen Cleaves (former SuperSonic). It’s very random.

What was the introduction like between you and Dre? How was the connection made?

It took a whole year to happen. I moved down to L.A. when I hired my manager. My manager is pals with him, now works for him. We knew it would happen. When it did, I just had to play my part. It was actually my second time meeting him. First time was with Jake One in 2008. We were working on White Van Music in Oakland. We went to Vegas to meet him and hear some of the songs he did over Jake’s beats for Detox. It was pretty cool. He doesn’t remember that really though (ha!). The second time meeting him I ended up writing and doing vocal demos for some songs he was working on. He liked what I was about.

What are you listening to now that inspires you? Anything from the Seattle scene? 

Royce The Choice. Other than that, a bunch of beats.

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