Daru Jones started playing the drums at four years old. Raised by a pair of musicians, the young prodigy grew up immersed in the sounds of gospel organs and choral singing at a Michigan church. Over 30 years later, his talent has taken him all over the world as Jack White’s tour drummer. Jones is currently on a short (but much needed) break from White’s Fear Of The Dawn Tour and at his home in Nashville.
But Jones doesn’t have too much time to rest. Just two days after releasing his collaborative instrumental album with veteran producer Kev Brown and legendary Gang Starr engineer Eddie Sancho — A Daru State Of Mind — Jones is getting ready for a Juneteenth performance at the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) block party in Nashville alongside Ray Parker, Jr.
As Jones explained on Instagram, “Had a blast rehearing today with the mighty legendary @RayParkerJr. Looking forward to playing [drums] with him and the crew tomorrow @TheNMAAM Juneteenth Block Party for Black Music Month. Shout to @Digiwest We’ll be at Food Assembly’s Skydeck at Fifth and Broadway @fifthandb starting at 11AM. FREE RSVP! (21+).”
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During a recent phone interview with HipHopDX, Jones talked about bonding with Jack White over their shared love of golden era Hip Hop, his experience working with Pete Rock on his first sample-free endeavor, Petestrumentals 3, as part of The Soul Brothers and how he wound up being involved on Smoke DZA and Pete Rock’s joint album Don’t Smoke Rock.
The conversation once again illustrates Jones’ strong ties to Hip Hop culture and appreciation for every element involved. Jones will link back up with White to continue the expansive Fear Of The Dawn Tour on June 27 in London. In the meantime, find A Daru State Of Mind via the Fat Beats website.
HipHopDX:Did you and Jack bond over your love of Hip Hop? Have you guys had talks about that?
Daru Jones: Yeah, that’s a good question. I met Jack White when I was touring with Black Milk. I was Black Milk’s touring drummer. And before Black Milk, I was playing with Slum Village in 2006.
Daru Jones: The same year that Dilla passed away, Slum Village had wanted to do the Essence Festival and a few things where you needed to have a live band, and I got the recommendation. Fast forward, I started being a part of Slum Village’s live band in late 2006. And then Black Milk would open up for Slum Village. Black Milk said, “If I ever got a band, I want to use you guys.” So Black Milk actually took Slum Village’s band, which was just a three-piece band, and I moved on to work with Black Milk.
And then I want to say in 2010, Black Milk came up with an album called Album of the Year. That’s literally the name of the album, which I played on. And there’s a track on that record called”Losing Out” with Elzhi and Royce Da 5’9.
Daru Jones: It has a rock and roll sample in it, and from what I was told, Jack White got a hold of that track. Jack started producing these two-sided seven inches through his Third Man Records label and Jack flew Black Milk and me down to Nashville.
We recorded at Jack’s home studio in 2011. And then we had a performance at Third Man Records and that’s when I made an impression because I knew he was a drummer, but I didn’t want to fan out like that, but I did something cool during the solo. To answer your question, I remember when I started touring with Jack White in 2012, before we would go on stage. We’re listening to ’90’s Hip Hop — Beastie Boys, DJ Premier, Wu-Tang Clans — before we on stage.
HipHopDX:[Laughs] I always imagined that. Yes!
Daru Jones: I’m like, “Y’all know about Wu-Tang?” I mean, I was bugged out that they were into the same stuff that I was into.
HipHopDX:Yeah, people probably assumed he was going to be listening to Led Zeppelin, folk music and shit.
Daru Jones: No, we literally listening to that along with rock and roll, obviously, before we were going on stage. It really made me felt at home. I felt like I didn’t have to come change my vibe. You know what I’m saying? I feel like …
HipHopDX: You could be yourself.
Daru Jones: Exactly. And then I felt like Jack brought me in because he wanted me to bring my Hip Hop background influence into his live show, which was a blessing. It’s a blessing. So yeah, to answer your question, we definitely bonded over Hip Hop for sure.
HipHopDX:I noticed your Kangol right away. Then the last song the DJ played was “Sucker M.C.’s” by Run-DMC, and I thought, “Mm-hmm, that’s the song you want to come out to.”
Daru Jones: Yes. And you know what, too? Definitely my style and my whole vibe is definitely a representation of everything that influenced me from Hip Hop I’m talking like the golden era, just from fashion, that’s how I was introduced to Hip Hop. A lot of times, even like, LL COOL J and Run-DMC, I didn’t really, really know about the content but I was just, as a kid, fascinated by how they looked. I was like, “Yo, they look cool.”
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HipHopDX: Yeah, they looked cool as hell.
Daru Jones: And Kangol just stuck out to me and I’ve been a brand ambassador. I’ve been a brand ambassador for Kangol for 10 years.
HipHopDX: I had no idea. You look cool, too [laughs]. The first time I saw Jack White play was in Omaha, and this is when [late keyboardist] Ikey Owens was still alive.
Daru Jones: No way!
HipHopDX: I’d been working from a Starbucks downtown that day. I leave to go get some lunch or something and apparently Jack comes in right when I leave, and this is when I was trying to get an interview with him. I was so bummed, but then I get a note that’s like, “Guess what, Jack White’s doing a secret show at the candy shop.” So we wound up seeing a really small, private show. Next time I saw him was at Red Rocks.
Daru Jones: I was on that! I was on the Blunderbuss tour and at Red Rocks.
HipHopDX:Oh you were?
Daru Jones: Yeah, that was me. I didn’t a mustache at a time. I changed my look. Yeah, that was me. I was on all the tours.
HipHopDX: How was working with Pete Rock on Petestrumentals 3? He’s one of my favorite producers. He speaks very highly of you.
Daru Jones: Before I did Petestrumentals, I did the Don’t Smoke Rock project with Smoke DZA. They were having sample issue clearances, and that’s how I started working with Pete for that project. I got recommended by Fat Gary, who was managing Pete Rock. I ended up getting some of the same musicians for The Soul Brothers, but it was a band called The Royal Farrows, which I put together with an artist by the name of Jamie Lidell, a London soul singer. But we were Jamie Lidell’s touring band of Royal Farrows. So we replay all the samples for that Don’t Smoke Rock project.
HipHopDX:Wow, I didn’t even realize that. How was that experience? I assume you were a fan of CL Smooth and Pete Rock back in the day.
Yeah, yeah. It was definitely a dream come true. He was definitely one of the people I’ve always wanted to work with, me being a beat maker. too. And he was an influence of mine, too. It was surreal. But it was just cool for him to kind of have that respect already. I got introduced to him through Fat Gary, so it was already a level of respect. And we hand picked the musicians together for The Soul Brothers. But Pete, he’s very meticulous. He’s very meticulous.
HipHopDX:Is he a perfectionist in the studio?
Daru Jones: Yes. Pete is just another level where even if you think you got it, you definitely …
HipHopDX: … don’t got it?
Daru Jones: Yeah, but I can appreciate that because we’re team players. This is his ship, but we all help. You know what I’m saying? We all help it be what it is. And he’s a team player. He’s not selfish where he just wants everything to shine on him. He shines light on all of us individuals as a band. So it was definitely a cool experience. Pete is different [laughs].