Rilla Force talks transforming his hometown’s music scene, the Soundcloud era, and life ahead of his forthcoming album “Fiesta”
Boston-bred electronic producer taps in with ELEVATOR for a Q&A prior to the release of his debut album
Boston’s very own, Joshua Major-Paschal aka Rilla Force, has undoubtedly set himself apart from his peers over the course of his career as an producer, a DJ, & as an artist. From being introduced to Krump at a young age, Rilla began then making music that meshed with that culture as a whole. Of course over the years, his grasp & knowledge on different styles of music & production would only expand as he progressed. Beginning producing as a teenager, Rilla quickly learned how to balance the logistics that come with each facet of his. Taking such influential genres in music such as hip-hop, R&B, & even electronic music to then creating and laying the foundation for his own distinctive sound dubbed as “RNBDM”, his sound is one that straddles between bass-heavy and ambient tones.
In 2016, Rilla released the official “R N B D M” EP which was the moment that he had ever introduced the established sound. Over the years, Rilla has continued to elevate, growing his outreach by performing as an artist & as a DJ across the span of Boston’s top-tier venues. From a production standpoint, Rilla has also been featured on Soulection Radio and BBC Xtra Radio in the UK. Known for his original drum patterns & melodic arrangements, Rilla Force is definitely a house-hold name you should get to know if you haven’t just yet. Just a week ahead of the release of his newest album “Fiesta“, we were able to catch up with Rilla to chat about his journey over the course of his years in the music industry, how he built up where he is now musically, & even being nominated as “Best Dance/Electronic Artist of the Year” for the Boston Music Awards 2019.
Tell me about the moment music changed your life forever.
Music changed my life forever during the end of 2016. September of 2016 was when my “R N B D M” EP was released commercially on all platforms. By December of 2016, that was when I started seeing that I was getting featured on Spotify & Apple Music playlists. I thought to myself, “Damn, this is really cool”, you know? The following year in February, I got my first royalty check from my distributor. That was the first time that I was able to pay my rent strictly off of my music, which was crazy to me. Later that year in September, I was able to quit my day job as a butcher at Whole Foods & I haven’t looked back since. That moment really opened my eyes. It impacted who I am & the way I approach things in my life so heavily. Music was never secondary for me, it was always primary. It feels really good to know that I can focus on music 100% of the time now, collaborate with other artists and travel more all just doing what I love to do.
What was it like coming up or making a name for yourself so to speak in a town like Boston, MA?
I always felt like I was considered the “black sheep” in the crowd. Boston is a melting pot of different cultures and sounds but at the time, it seemed as if people were solely focused on making hip-hop – especially around the time of my “R N D B M” EP. I’ve always made electronic & experimental music. I’ve also always been a record producer so when people started to see that I was actually releasing music of my own, it was definitely cool to see. I wouldn’t say I felt “alone”, however, I definitely felt like “I’m really the only one out here doing what I’m doing”. It totally set me apart. Being a record producer for 13 years at the time, you would think I’d have peers who are also in music supporting me but I didn’t have that. I had my my inner circle & that just so happened to be enough. Producing hip-hop is what got me into making electronic music. Fun fact: I also used be in a krumping squad back in 2006 when I was in high school. That also influenced me to start making these specific beats so we could dance to them.
You have this ambient soundscape going on that also possesses this club-like feel to it. Is that something you’ve always been able to do or did you build up to this sound?
As far as understanding the intricacies of making a record, I’ve always kinda naturally known how to do that. When I was growing up, my mom was super religious so she didn’t let me listen to secular music. I would listen to a lot of instrumental music or underground music that just wasn’t on mainstream radio. I kinda gained an understanding for other types of music before I even tapped into hip-hop & R&B. I feel like I did build up to my sound though because once I discovered different genres such as future bass or Jersey Club, I realized that I could experiment by combining them all by using the practices that I studied of each specific genre. Over a 2-3 year span, I took time to understand the craft and the arrangements of each one that I incorporate. Music theory also played a role in my development as well. You definitely have to do your research before develing into something like this.
You’ve recently been nominated as “Best Dance/Electronic Artist of the Year” for the Boston Music Awards 2019. That has to be an amazing feeling to be able to put on for your city like that. How does it feel to be nominated?
It feels so awesome. I’ve definitely made a lot of friends through producing, writing, & engineering over the last few years. I feel like people are finally recognizing what I’m doing. Whether they’re receiving me as an artist or a producer, I feel as if people are realizing how multifaceted my creativity is in regard to what I’m actually pursuing. I feel good. I feel like I’m finally being accepted in this community. I’ve always had more of a fan base outside of the city, whether that be internationally or even nationally. For example: my fan base in Los Angeles is bigger than the one I have in Boston. So, to be nominated for something so important, it’s such an honorable feeling & experience.
When you’re beat making or producing, what are you thinking of? What inspires you in those moments or, where do you “go” mentally, so to speak?
When I’m producing for other artists & musicians, it really all depends on the vibe. Say for example if you were a singer, I want to hear most of your discography, unreleased music that is more experimental or a sound that you haven’t touched on yet. I want to get to know everyone that I work with in that way. I want to know what the goal is & how we can get in touch with that in the closest way. When I’m working solo, I always set the tone for my mental space. I’m big on video games & anime so I’ll either listen to some music, or watch an episode of My Hero Academia. It really clears my mind, & gets me into this euphoric state. I love to go through the motions. I’ll hear out what I want to create beforehand as well. I’m also huge on percussion & drum programming. I believe those two things are what drives a record forward. We as a people get attached to the rhythm, vibration & overall feeling associated with a record before we do anything else. People want to move & bop their heads. If a record can involuntarily make you feel good & make you want to dance, you’re winning 100%.
I listened to “Youth”, “Swank” & your most recent single “Amen” & personally, I feel as though those tracks highlight the true distinctiveness of your sound, those being my favorite tracks right now. Who or what influences the overall sound of your music to the highest degree?
Soundcloud opened my eyes so much in regard to the different types of music. There are people with full-fledge careers that started on Soundcloud. You know that song “Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes? That song was produced by production duo Take A Daytrip. I remember discovering them a long time ago on Soundcloud. Early 2012 & 2013, there was this super transformative wave of music that really shaped a lot for the music industry. Back in those days, you could literally start an online record label, sign whoever you wanted, & then next thing you know, it’s an actual label. Soulection is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. People like Kaytranada, Mr. Carmack, etc. man, the list goes on. If it wasn’t for this era of Soundcloud, that pocket of music where it was great but didn’t necessarily fit the mainstream category, would not exist. Soundcloud absolutely helped me evolve into who & what I represent as a producer, an artist & as a DJ. With my upcoming debut album, “Fiesta”, it’s all new. This is the first time I’m singing on my songs or using my voice as an instrument. The first half of the album has deep Latin-American influence & that is something I’ve never done before. I’m portraying what that looks like to me FROM me, without remixing or anything. It’s still very in touch with who Rilla is, though. I really love what I made so I’m very excited to see/hear what the general response when it comes out.
What does a normal day look like for you? Take us inside what that looks or feels like.
I usually wake up at 7am to feed my cat. Then, I’ll go into my studio and get on Youtube to watch either a podcast or a documentary. For a while, I was watched this podcast called “Producer Grind“. They would bring in producers that are up & coming or already have placements such as Zaytoven to talk about their experiences or even drop knowledge-bombs. When I’m done with that, it’s about noon. I’ll make lunch then I normally have a session daily with another artist or producer. I’ll either go to their studio or they will come to mine and we’ll just create all day. If not, then I’ll just work on my own music, check emails or do interviews like this. By that time, my girlfriend comes home. We’ll watch TV together & decompress from our days. I don’t feel like I’m living what someone’s ideal “dream” would be, but there’s PLENTY of people out there who would love to live off of their music. It’s very interesting to sit back and think about what my day looks like in comparison to someone else who is in a similar position as me.
Do you have any words of advice for the young artists, producers, & DJs out there who are just beginning on their journeys?
Don’t let people sway your creativity. For example, back in 2017, I had a bunch of record labels reaching out to me such as Atlantic Records. All of that fizzled out. They wanted to sign me, then they declined. They told me that I needed placements (which I didn’t have at the time) or that I needed to break an artist. That really messed me up, because before I was solely focused on doing me as an artist & as a producer. Once they said that, I got brainwashed into thinking, “Damn, okay I need to do what they tell me because I want a record deal..” So I took all of 2018 to focus on producing, engineering and managing other artists. When it was time to look at numbers, no one had dropped any music. I looked at my royalties & residuals over the course of the year and had realized that they were going down because I wasn’t releasing anything of my own content. I definitely needed to go through that to see how that would work in my life. It’s crazy to me that I really let one or two people’s words dictate how I moved in my career and that is not good. You cannot let someone have that much control over what you do. Of course, you’ll obviously have loved ones & people who you trust to be honest with you but, you can’t let them even get to you. At the end of the day, you are your biggest asset. You need to understand that what you’re doing is important, your ideas are important, they are valid. Don’t cut yourself out & always trust your gut in everything you do. Always look into your contracts & agreements. READ EVERYTHING. It’s 2019 & the internet is everywhere. Do your research. Invest in those legal resources because it can get crazy out here.
Press play on his his latest album “Fiesta” below: