Jun 30 2011

Khris Royal and Dark Matter

By: Dionne Charlet

[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

New Orleans Khris Royal has it all: talent, drive and work ethic, and he's not too hard on the eyes of any beholder listening to a set of his at the Maple Leaf.
Khris caught up with us to talk about growing up New Orleanian, his music, all things Dark Matter, and the band's album debut.

Where Y'at: Khris, Where Y'at Readers want to know all about you and your band, Khris Royal & Dark Matter. I understand you began playing the saxophone at seven years old, and producing and writing music at fourteen. What led you to select the sax as your instrument of choice?
Khris: Originally, I wanted to play the organ and trombone. My older cousin marched in high school and played the keyboard at church. I would follow him to all his services every Sunday. When it was time to go pick out a horn for band camp, my parents took me to a music store and I told the guy I wanted to play trombone, but he told me my arms were too short. I tried to explain to him that they weren't, my defense was that Trombone Shorty played and we were in the same grade at McDonogh 15. Eventually, I said, 'Whatever, give me a trumpet. It's like a small trombone', but my mom said, 'No, you're gonna get a Sax. Girls love the saxophone.' LOL.

WYAT: What musicians inspire you?
Khris: There are so many. I have always listened to piano and trumpet players more than sax players. I love harmony and I love the way a trumpet player can play one note and get everyone's attention. Right now, I have been checking out a lot of Aaron Parks. Nick Payton has always been a huge influence along with Donald Harrison. Herbie Hancock is ridiculous and so is Kenny Garrett.

WYAT: New Orleans is a great many things to a great many people. What is New Orleans to you, and how do you honor the city with your music?
Khris: New Orleans is the greatest city in the world. I honor the city by bringing its culture with me everywhere we travel. It's amazing to me that everywhere I travel there are so many people who love New Orleans so much. Every time they hear a band from New Orleans it's like taking a trip back for them.

WYAT: What local musicians have you performed with, and who would you like to perform with in the future?
Khris: Right now I am playing with George Porter Jr. a lot. I've been on tour with him and the Runnin' Pardners since Christmas 2010. George has been a mentor and I've already learned so much from him both on and off the stage. I have played with Herlin Riley, Big Sam, David Torkanowsky, and Trombone Shorty. I also had the honor of working with some greats that aren't around anymore such as Alvin Batiste and Clyde Kerr who were both my instructors at the Armstrong camp and at NOCCA. I would love to play with Nick Payton.

WYAT: Kudos on recording with famous names like Mary J. Blige and Ashanti. What other artists have you recorded with? What artist(s) would you like to record with?
Khris: I would like to record with Jill Scott. I love the control she has. She uses her voice like a horn. I'd also love to record with D'Angelo and Prince.

WYAT: How did your band, Khris Royal & Dark Matter, get started? Would you like to give a shout out to the band? How would you describe the band sound?
Khris: I went to Brazil two summers ago with Glen David Andrews. The trip inspired me to write, so I wrote a few songs. When I got back home, Britney at Blue booked me to play a show on a Wednesday night. At the time, she was booking a different band every week. I took the gig, called up a few friends, and sent them the music. The gig went so well she so asked me to play there weekly...and Dark Matter was born.

As for our sound…
At the bottom, you have my fellow Runnin' Pardner Terrence Houston laying down the Funk on the drums. Then, you bring in DJ Raymond holding down the bottom and bringing in some of the church flavor on bass. On guitar, we have Danny Abel, who adds a rock element. He's an important part of the group because, like me, he also plays jazz and that adds a lot to our sound. On keys, we have we have Kyle A. Roussel, who went to NOCCA with me. Hey plays a lot of Jazz but also plays at church, so he understands how to groove and play parts. When you mix it all up and add the sax you get Dark Matter.

WYAT: Please tell Where Y'at Readers about the track list for your upcoming debut album, "Dark Matter."
Khris: The album is comprised of 10 original songs. There is a bit of something for everyone, Funk, Jazz, Rock and Hip-hop.

WYAT: Do any of the album song choices have any special meaning for you or fellow members of the band?
Khris: LOL! D.D. ...but I have taken a oath to never tell anyone outside of the band it's true meaning.

WYAT: Can you describe your feelings as front man of KRDM, anticipating the band's first Jazz Fest performance?
Khris: It's really exciting and frightening at the same time. This is my first time doing so many of the things I am doing right now. This year marks my first time playing jazz Fest as a band leader, and my first time putting out my own record. I'm excited about what the future holds.

WYAT: Khris, your personal list of accomplishments is long, and well deserved, and you certainly keep busy. As the only horn player currently on tour with the legendary George Porter Jr. and his Runnin' Pardners, how do you juggle your schedules of performances with KRDM?
Khris: It's hard. If it wasn't for my iPhone, (which I'm using while laying across the back seat of George's van answering these questions) I would be a mess. Right now, I schedule everything Dark Matter does around the Running Pardner's dates. It works out well because George is way busier than I am. He's out with The Funky Meters and The 7 Walkers allot so I use those breaks to work with Dark Matter and my Jazz Quartet.

WYAT: Do you have a special message that you would like to send to your current and future fans?
Khris: First and foremost--Thanks y'all! I'm grateful for all the support from fans and friends, that's what's helped us get this far. It's been a blast and I can't wait to see where we go from here! Don't forget to check out the CD!

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