Anyone who follows this blog or used to listen to my radio show ‘Soul Glow’ knows what an avid fan of Paul White I am. Paul White’s music first came to me listening to Benji B on BBC 1 Xtra in 2009 and his debut album ‘The Strange Dreams of Paul White’ really invigorated the Post-Dilla beat scene which had well and truly fallen stagnant due to so many Detroit dick-riders gaining prominence for no good reason other than an a poor attempt to fill the void felt by the amazing producer’s departure.
Paul’s followed up with myriad projects since then. A full-blown Rap album, more beatscapes, a work comprising purely of Swedish psych-rock samples and all many of other bits and pieces. His latest work ‘Watch The Ants’ hinted at a desire to work more with live instruments but it was the announcement of his signing to R & S Record with an almost 100% live album that had me wondering whether I’d still be following one of my favourite producers on his next journey. No doubt, he’s a deft hand and R & S are no slouches when it comes to A & R so thankfully, the album is every bit as tasty, weird, scratchy, heady and wobbly as you’d expect.
I had to get him on the line to find out more!
Me: Hello again, Paul. It’s been great to watch the progress from ‘Strange Dreams’ to ‘Shaker Notes,’ well done! Was this always the game plan? I know many artists don’t approach their music this way but when you were making beats back then were you always thinking, ‘I could/would/should play this shit live?’
Paul White: Yo Huw, thanks! I think somewhere deep down that has always been in the back of my mind, but its grown organically and naturally into this without consciously planning! I was playing instruments singing and writing songs before I wrote beats and throughout all this time I’ve been writing bits of music for TV also! I love too many genres and styles of music to stick to only one thing, I try not to think in genres at all anyway I think music is music! I always used to think I wish I could write stuff and sample myself! So that’s another plan now! The world’s a big place to explore, so is music!
Me: What sort of background do you have as a musician? How much external help did you get on the record? Do you think musicians who aren’t trained with strict discipline are actually more free to discover new sounds and melodies?
Paul White: I used to write songs on the piano and guitar and voice as a teenager, I used to play and have lessons as a kid, then moved through to electronic music at college. I did get very bored of formal music training on the piano and stopped and just wrote songs on my own which I loved.
I’m lucky enough now to have some amazing and seriously inspiring people/musicians around me so as soon as I had a load of songs written for this new record I called in some people to lend their talents, it’s been a dream for a while to have myself and some musical friends on an album together.
I think there aren’t any rules, everyone individually is different and takes things in differently and will use that knowledge in their own individual way, the way they hear things and feel about things will come through. It’s the way you approach something with what you have or don’t have! I think music theory knowledge is great and to learn that is great, its just a shame that rules are taught with theory sometimes depending on the teacher! It’s basically a language so certain things can be really useful I can imagine, I want to learn more about those things now, but of course this can also train you to not see certain places and things sometimes, again depending on student and teacher. So I’d say both sides has advantages and disadvantages, it’s all how you take it really, how you choose to absorb it and play with it. There’s definitely something to be said about being self taught!
Me: This release is the one least amount of samples on it for you, isn’t it?
Paul White: This album isn’t like any of my previous records that have all been sample based! I wanted to write and play music again, you always want to keep changing and challenging yourself, not that I don’t still do that within beats and sampling, but I was going through alot whilst writing this album and I found the best way for me to get life out at the time was to pick up instruments again and just hit record and play and not sample!! So I feel pleased in that way like this is 100% all me and my soul! With some of my friends and family’s mixed in there on top too!
Me: A lot of sample based producers slip when they make the move to live instrumentation on albums because they can’t get the grainy textures they get from the old records and recording techniques. How did you achieve that on this record?
Paul White: Old ass equipment that’s how, simple, I’ve never worked with anything “new”, this album was made on old half broken shit! I’m actually only just starting to muck around with a few more newer toys, but that’s all they are toys! You can make music with a stone! My ear has been tuned into grain for so long it’s ingrained! There’s always a lot to explore sonically as well as musically!
Me: Do you worry that fans of your vocal hip hop records will not know what’s going on here? Do you hope they’ve come along for the journey? Do you think that if they were in to Paul White back then then it’s almost granted that there is a mutual appreciation for the styles on Shaker Notes?
Paul White: If I think about fans wants and what they’re used to or would expect too much it’s all over creativity, music is music, it just so happens to be my therapy, lots of musicians say that because it’s true, it is like entering another world I go somewhere and don’t come back for hours and when I’m back there’s music recorded, if I thought about that too much and what it would be before hand it wouldn’t be so free and enjoyable, I love music for what it’s given me so when I write music I want to give back to music! Obviously it means the world to me people like my music and if anything I’d love the thought of people listening to different types of music all together and forgetting genres just feeling energies, id like to say music is music and genres only get in the way creativity, sound is sound, birds make some of the best music on the planet!! I’ve not listened to certain types of music because I’d thought I wouldn’t like it but I’m surprising myself with how much different stuff I’m liking at the moment and it excites me to write more, and go everywhere, saying that the next album I might focus on one thing for a change up again!
Me: Do you plan to keep producing Hip Hop? Danny Brown told me personally you are his favourite producer to write to/work with.
Paul White: Of course I’ll always write beats I love it all the same, like I said music is music, it’s just sounds and different sounds at certain tempos etc fit Into different “genres” but It’s all just sound, the universe plays music, you know! Just sent Danny another load of beats just the other day and he picked out another batch! It feels crazy working with him like I know him or were real similar or something it’s crazy, just raw energies, he’s my favourite to work with too! There’s a crazy connection there for sure! I’ll always work with him, and Homeboy Sandman, and lots more people, I want to work with as many people as possible, I’m doing that a lot more now, sharing the energy it’s an amazing feeling, I’m working with quite a few other people right now, producing Hip hop, and other styles of music too, lots of different projects on the go at the moment!
Me: Are you still surfing / aspiring to surf?
Paul White: Well I just got off crutches for the second time this year so I officially quit skateboarding, cement is hard and hurts a shit load when you hit it at 20 miles an hour, so yeah from now on I’m just sticking to surfing! It’s so purifying and free, it takes you back to just raw survival at times you know, just you against nature, it turns into a dance of energies! Like writing music!
Me: Anything else you would like to share with us?
Paul White: Working on lots more music for next year, various collaborations and projects! Look out for a project I’ve done with a guy called Eric Biddines were going under the name Golden Rules, we’re kinda like a band, we got an album finished! More Danny Brown, loads more other things I’ll wait to talk about!!!!!