Triptych - RZA
What a Trip
After eight years of blowing minds with wild weekends of brave new sounds, Triptych will soon be no more. To celebrate the final instalment of the music festival, we talk to some of the most exciting acts on this year’s bill including soul brother Jamie Lidell, indie gods Sebadoh and a true innovator, Wu-Tang Clan head honcho the RZA. First up, David Pollock talks to him about growing up in the rap game, hip hop philosophy and his mentor, Quentin Tarantino
‘I got knowledge at a young age, but I didn’t properly accept it in my word and my heart and my actions until I was about 23.’ RZA is sermonising here, but that’s something he’s famed for. When he exploded into the global music consciousness in 1993, as leader of the ferocious nine-headed beast that is Staten Island’s Wu-Tang Clan, hip hop music changed for ever. The group showed up with a sound, lyrical attitude and RZA provided a cerebral and musical centre as producer and de facto spokesman, keen to espouse his ideas through analogies about chess or obscure marshal arts. A refreshing antidote to the booty and bling vacuity of the era.
On top of this he has earned plaudits as the scorer of cunning film soundtracks for the likes of Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and both instalments of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. He is, you should know, a man worth listening to.
‘It’s like kung-fu,’ he continues. ‘You could have a black belt at the age of 15, but you won’t be fully powerful for ten more years. That’s like life to me; I’ve been doing this since I was 18, but I’m still learning. It wasn’t till I was 23 that I decided I was going to live my life uphill, to chase that dream everyone has for economical freedom, for freedom to be myself. That’s when I started living righteous’.
Here, Robert Diggs – former ‘bad boy’ and now a father and successful businessman – is defining the difference between his RZA and Bobby Digital personas, the latter of which he’ll be appearing under at these dates.
‘My music’s intended to chronicle my life,’ he says. ‘You talk to me today as RZA, I speak about makin’ and scorin’ movies, and sittin’ out here in Malibu. But that part of me took years to get here, and when I go back to my past, I go back to Bobby’s world. The RZA is what I’m elevated to, while Bobby’s like a flashback in the movies, the bit when you see the guy when he was young and he was a fuckin’ maniac.’
An excuse to speak about gangsters and guns and all the vices the older RZA has left behind, ‘Bobby’ first appeared on 1998’s RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo album, and will be back on his currently-in-production new solo album. RZA doesn’t say much about the record, while he plays his cards close to his chest on whether or not last year’s 8 Diagrams will be the last Wu-Tang Clan record (the first since 2001’s Iron Flag, the making of which was plagued by rumours of internal strife). It’s a non-musical project, in fact, which seems to have him most excited at the moment.
‘I start directing my first feature film in November,’ he says. ‘It’s called The Man With the Iron Fist, it’s gonna be a classic. For the last six years I’ve been mentored by Mr Tarantino, the best film school you can go to. We became buddies and watched films together, I sat in on his last three movies, and I got the green light only a few months ago, I graduated class and I’m ready to go to work!’
The truth is, RZA has never really stopped, and this is just the next phase in one of the most seminal careers in hip hop history.
The RZA plays the Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Fri 25 Apr; Arches, Glasgow, Sat 26 Apr. He presents special screenings of Ghost Dog at Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 25 Apr; GFT, Glasgow, Sat 26 Apr.
View listings for more Triptych.