Q & A With Future Soul Producer RZN8R
RZN8R (pronounced “resonator”) is the moniker of Oakland-raised, Brooklyn-based producer and singer Derek Buckwalter. RZN8R draws from a wide array of influences, fusing his passions for singing, beats, and new thought spirituality to craft lush, deep, and hypnotic grooves. He released his debut album on July 1, 2022. I was lucky enough to ask him a few questions about his album, moving to New York, and creativity.
1. This is your first album. What is your album called and why did you name it that?
The album is called "Closing the Golden Gate". I decided to name it this, because I said goodbye to my home in the Bay Area after 27 years and moved to Brooklyn. The Golden Gate Bridge is the most recognizable symbol of the Bay Area so I chose that name because I'm closing that chapter of my life. All of the songs on the album were recorded in my San Francisco apartment and mixed here in Brooklyn. In that sense, the album is my last hoorah to the Bay Area.
2. How do you like New York so far and how does it compare to SF?
It's very different. When I was living in the Bay Area, I wasn't making the best life choices. I was partying and drinking almost every night and not staying on my path. I wanted to live somewhere that would inspire me to stay on my hustle with people more serious about their craft. The Bay Area is very creative and has a unique zaniness about it, but I needed somewhere laser-focused so I could develop my creative empire. New York provides me with that energy.
My own neighborhood, Bushwick, is about 2 and a half miles in size. I love going out on a Citi Bike during my weekend and just biking around he neighborhoods. It fills me with inspiration and joy. Last week, I decided to take a long bike ride home from work through the Wall Street area. It fills me with an electric energy seeing the triumph of the human spirit. The buildings are titanic in scope, and gorgeous and numerous. Then, I biked past back to my Bushwick home of graffiti, warehouses, and DIY creative ventures. New York really is the apex of the American experience.
I do love the Bay Area. It has a vivacious weirdness that attracts many people. However, the tech boom brought in money but decimated its energy. It was sad to walk around. I am excited to see what the people who stayed will do with it, and I have many friends who are excited to create something new after COVID dispersed the tech labor force but I really did need something new.
3. Your music is very eclectic. What genre would you categorize it as?
I would categorize my music as "future soul." It's grounded in soul music and R&B but it's made with the flexibility and creative workflow of technology and laptops. I create music for the now and for ten years from now. My music is both electronic and grounded in standard practices. I create with conventional instruments like an electric bass and a shaker, but also with synthesizer programs on my computer. I strive to create something new from the new and from the old. So, it has a "future soul."
4. What is your creative process when making a song?
I like to get into the mindset to create. The process of creation is allowing ideas to flow through us rather than needing to formulate ideas. "Writer's block" doesn't exist. Instead, "writer's block" is us not being receptive to the creative force. I developed habits to make myself more receptive to creativity. I meditate regularly, journal outside in my backyard to clear my head, and exercise to embody my physical existence.
When creating, I have sessions for editing and sessions to freely create. First, I freely create and try as many things as possible. I "throw paint at the wall" so to speak. Then, I have separate sessions where I edit and organize. I do not try to do both at the same time. My mind can only do so many things at once and it's important for me not to do too many things at once because I end up not making any progress. I focus on one thing at once until I finish, then I do the next thing until my goal is completed. First I try things, see what works, organize what works, then arrange, then polish until I'm done. I make the decisions under the realm of what will have the most impact every time. If the choice makes me feel something, I do it.
5. What inspires you to create and what inspired you to create the album?
I create because I have to create. It keeps me sane and it keeps me happy. When I create, I feel like I'm doing what I was meant to be doing. When I don't create, I am miserable and I'm hard to be around. I decided to create the album as a last love letter to the Bay Area. The songs were sitting on my hard drive. When I moved to New York, I tried to finish them and could not finish them because I was drinking. I decided to stop drinking to have a clear head and because I was noticing my alcohol intake was hurting my wallet, my relationships and straying me away from my path. Once I had the clear head from abstaining from alcohol, I had the mindset to finish the songs.
6. How did you find your guest artists?
I love going out and meeting people. Everyone has something unique and new to offer and something to teach you. Everyone on the album I met in a different manner. I met Kaeli because she lived downstairs from me in my dorm at University of San Francisco. She is a hustler and eager to soak up new creative processes and ways of creating her art. She really inspires me. Over the years, we've become quite close and continually create together. She's all over my music on various songs. Our creative processes gel extremely well together so we love to create together.
Xander I met because we shared mutual friends. He's an accomplished comedian performing at Punch Line and opening for many popular comedians. He connected with me because he wanted to start creating more music and liked my sound. We pulled an all-nighter where we recorded and produced "Love Right Here" in my apartment and decided to keep creating together.
Kris Grant/Idea Unsound I met through mutual friends and we were also signed to the same record label at the time, Popgang Records. We wanted to create more together so I decided to bring my gear over to his place and we created "Aphrodite In Chains".
Dakota I met as a customer of Guitar Center. I worked at the San Francisco location at the time and we instantly connected. I ran into him on the street and decided to invite him over to my place to listen to music. That session spawned the intro to the album and we decided to create more together after that success.
7. What are your future plans and projects?
I have an album of trap music nearing completion called "Water Under The Bridge." The album is the yin to this album's yang. While creating this album, I realized that I have a different sound that I felt the need to share and didn't fit with "Closing the Golden Gate."
I have some more creative ideas I've been toying with too. I DJ'd a cosmic rodeo and had a lot of fun so I hope to have more DJ engagements. Also, I am toying with the idea of live a cappella electronic music. I have a vocal looper, vocal effects box and microphone I've been experimenting with. I think it's the perfect way to bring my own voice and lyrics into my music more after the two producer-centric releases are out.
8. If you give us one piece of advice what would it be?
Only you have the power to determine your inner circle. Choose friends who inspire you and teach you something new and talk about ideas and future plans. Date the girl who inspires you to be a better man, a better version of yourself and holds you accountable. Your circle can radically improve your life if you choose the right people to be in it and raise your vibration.
Thank you, RZN8R! Follow his links here.
Listen to his music: smarturl.it/Rzn8rGoldenGate
Photos courtesy of @itsjoeyevans.