Although the dojo was traditionally an add-on to Japanese temples, they are used today as primary sanctuaries for all forms of training. The same could be said for its lack of use, as its purpose hardly included actual training (students did most, if not all, work outdoors). However, the upkeep was just as sacred as the performance from its housing students. Jack Preston x The Dojo, an up-to-10-piece band who blends hip-hop, funk and rock, do as students of a dojo do – perform outside their training ground. From progressing through Black music using various traditional American sounds to hosting monthly sessions at The Sound Table’s Space2 in Atlanta, JPxTD are a force that the baddest black belt couldn’t reckon with. Jack Preston took some time out to explain The Dojo, their newest album In The Land Of Wanderers, and music’s traditional progression.
SoulTrain.com: Why and how did you guys choose The Dojo Collective as the band name?
Jack Preston: As some may know, “dojo” is a term that describes the training place for various types of martial arts. As slang, our crew began to use the term to describe times when we were working on anything productive. Eventually, our actual training grounds became “The Dojo.” The Dojo Collective actually represents the entire creative collective which includes artists that are not in the core band. The musical band goes by Jack Preston x The Dojo.
ST: On the topic of how The Dojo formed, what really did it for you guys to create In The Land of Wanderers?
JP: As we performed, we really began to form our identity, even as big as our music and artistic community is. But, we wanted to really assert ourselves in putting together this project. We really wanted to show our creative direction. In The Land of Wanderers shows that we are not just wandering around but we do know our journey and our path.
ST: So it elaborates a little bit on you guys as “Wanderers,” so to speak? Does this project give your take on what it means to be a wanderer?
JP: I wouldn’t say that. We say the opposite. We’re not wanderers because we know what we’re doing and what direction we’re heading. We’re exploring the sound of blues and traditional American music but in a progress way.
ST: You touched on your inspirations slightly. Can you elaborate a little more on other musical influences?
JP: I can’t speak for everybody, but I can say that there are modern and more traditional, older influences. We are the generation of the iPod, where our influences come from practically everywhere. Like, you can hear hip-hop and soul, but you can also hear The Beatles, classic rock and Motown in our music.
ST: I would like to get your opinion on how you feel about traditional music like Americana, funk and the original blues being easily accessible, especially since we are in the age where we have digital music as opposed to the time of vinyl when that music came out. How do you feel about the accessibility of older music and how musicians like you guys can take it and make it your own while keeping it from losing its roots?
JP: I know there are people with opposing opinions because they feel like it’s not good for culture, especially if music is free and so easily accessible. Most people think that the less exclusive something is, the less it has value. However, it totally has value and to many it has great value. Throughout my personal career, I loved digging for records and finding a hook or a loop. But, I won’t just press play or take what I hear. I may not know that person’s real name at that time but I’ll learn more about that artist in many ways, from going to different record stores to looking them up on YouTube. In terms of our music, this generation will always have what came from our past generations. We have folks who constantly push the boundaries of sound but will still have music coming from what molded our generation. We’re a compilation of what came before, or each person’s interpretation of what came before.
ST: Although we talked a lot about physical and digital music, I still wanna know about your creative process. How long did it take to finish In The Land of Wanderers, and what was the creative process like in putting this album together?
JP: In The Land Of Wanderers took about 6 months to complete. We recorded it the old fashion way. Our creative process typically began with a band member presenting a song idea, and would basically work it out as a band. Some parts would be re-interpreted, some would stay true to the original idea. We recorded with a studio called The Wolves Den, which is run by a fellow Atlanta artist and engineer Kyle Dreaden. He also has a great ear for production, so what he added really helped capture the sound that we wanted.
ST: You were telling me once that in “Find A Way” you guys refer to everyone as “children,” regardless of age, and throughout the album The Dojo comes with a foreseeing message. What other content should folks listen for in this new album?
JP: I’d recommend that folks just give the album an honest and thorough listen. We hope to engage the listeners immediately with grooving rhythms and cool melodies, but we hope that they are intrigued enough to want to know what we are talking about. Some of the messages are open for interpretation, and some are more direct. As a whole the album is intended to be non intrusive, and hopefully contains relatable subjects. Overall, we strive to inspire and promote positive growth or change.
ST: Will you continue Dojo at ST sessions at The Sound Table’s Space 2 now that the album is out? When’s the next one?
JP: Yes, we plan to come back! We needed to take a little break from Dojo at ST to add some new features. We want to make sure the experience remains fresh. We plan to bring the event back in September. Be on the lookout.
– Starletta Watson
Starletta Watson is a freelance multimedia journalist on the quest for life’s answers in underexposed notes. Apparently kind of emo, she still manages to bring forth the best entertainment this world has to offer through various print, video and photographic outlets. Besides Soul Train, you can catch her on Frank 151, VICE, SlapStik Magazine and many other publications. Follow her on twitter at @_starburst88.