In 2013, RZA had just gotten offstage at Los Angeles’ Bedrocktoberfest when he first revealed he’d been working with Interpol lead singer Paul Banks on a collaborative project. Looking back on the moment during a recent chat with Rolling Stone, he admits he was “high, drunk, feeling good” when he stated that it would take the pair a year to complete an album.
Now, three years later, the unlikely duo sits on a leather couch in a private room in NeueHouse, a communal workspace in Hollywood, discussing Anything but Words, their debut as Banks and Steelz, finally releasing via Warner Bros. on August 26th.
While the cross-pollination of hip-hop luminary RZA and Banks, an artist known for moody early-2000s indie rock, suggests experiment for experiment’s sake, their chemistry on record is palpable, blending Interpol’s icy remove with RZA’s disjointed flow. “We’re both hard workers in the studio,” explains RZA, who was first tipped off to Banks’ work when his manager suggested they duet. They clocked more than 200 sessions and crafted ideas for around 40 songs, meticulously landscaping the sonic terrain. “If I was to say I met someone who works as hard as me in the studio, it would be this young man right here,” RZA continues. “He’ll do it over 30 times. To me, that’s cool, because that’s how some of the best records are made, some of the best films are made that way. I respect him as an entity.”
The two artists will bring the record to life at a few festivals in early fall – FYF Festival, Life Is Beautiful, Austin City Limits – and have cleared their schedules for the rest of the year to focus on promoting the LP, which features guest appearances from Kool Keith, Florence Welch, Method Man, Masta Killa and Ghostface Killah, the latter of whom appears on lead single “Love + War.” The pair explained to RS how Anything but Words came together, and why this won’t be the last that you hear from them.
Why did this project take so long for you to finish?
RZA: I’ll just say that we went from conception of the idea to working with what kind of music and songs that’s going to formulate it. In the process, we’re both capable, busy men in the worlds of what we do, so we would put months together, take a look, sit back and revisit it, almost how a real movie is done. You get the chance to develop it, to structure it.
Banks: There was that and also since , I wrote and did a world tour with Interpol and RZA put out two records and three films and a TV series.
What brought you together at this point in time, and why was now the right time to put this project out?
RZA: As far as 2016? We actually wanted to put it out last year. We thought we were finished, but we didn’t finish. So that was another glitch. It was, like, wanting to aim it at a time, but at the same time, not meeting that deadline based on creative decisions and, do we have this package and how we want it to be?