Welcome to 2005: What are you going to bring to the world?
This year I will be mostly starting my label (Good & Evil), producing a few albums, doing some more remixes and hopefully making some music myself. I've also (maybe mistakenly) started DJing. its nice to see and hear how the tracks you make work in a club. I want to bring back the Avant Garde and eccentric.
Last year was a little bit stellar for you: Bloc Party, Futureheads, plus work with the likes of The Streets etc: is this the sum of a hell of lot of work, or simply one of those mad things that happens to people from time to time?
The last 2 years have been pretty insane... I spent most of 2003 touring with bands as a live soundman, found time to do loads of stuff with Lomax (my old band) including record an album and 3 singles and then fell into The Futureheads record which we started working on in Dec before last. I worked pretty much every day last year thankfully and thought I'd have a bit of time off now but it hasn't quite panned out like that! I realised the other day that I'd been involved in making around 90 pieces of music last year... I was like....THAT'S why I'm knackered!! I've been playing in bands and recording since 1992... I always had a plan and worked hard for it. I've sacrificed a lot for the music I love and probably trodden on a few toes along the way too. Last year was definitely the culmination of a long haul and I am just grateful to have been in the right state personally and professionally to be able to work with some really talented and exciting bands with fresh ideas. That is the only currency in which I trade.
How did the producing start? Did you take the classic tea boy route?
I did an short course in the basics of sound having had a couple of really shitty experiences in the studio...The course was like.. "this is a sine wave... thats a desk....give us your money, now fuck off!". I worked in a demo studio /live venue for 2 years to get an idea of what the job entailed (something they can't teach), then, tired of working with substandard Britpop shite I sent out some CVs and got a job at AIR (Sir George's studio). There I made tea, smoked, didn't sleep and worked with real A-list substandard Britpop shite (you know who) , a certain kid-touching American and The Fugees amongst others. I did this for a few years before I got out on the road with Billy Mahonie, Geiger Counter, Rothko, then later The Kills, The Rapture, !!!, Liquid Liquid and LCD Soundsystem. I guess a few people thought I had a reasonable ear. I ran the studio at 93 Feet East and did some stuff in there which people heard and liked. The Lomax record and Shaznay remix clinched the Futureheads for me and it snowballed from there. I wouldn't recommend the tea boy route if you want a girl/boyfriend or a social life.
Do you approach people to work with them, or do them come to you? How hard is it to say yes and no?
it depends. if I see a band and like it I'll go straight in! Most of the stuff I've done the last year has been the result of a personal contact with the band or a figure they are involved with. I've been sent some utter shit by the majors too .. it's hard to say yes when you know you are going to make a boring record but it'll pay the rent...it's hard to say no when you're so busy you don't sleep and you hear something that makes you remember why you love this game.
You have a varied taste in style to music and things you work with (Kano, Death From Above 1979 etc.) – do you slip into various mindsets for all the different things you do, or do you approach everything with the same ideas?
This is a hard one because it's not always possible to pin down the source of an instinctive idea... and maybe not good to know. The thing I've always found so hard is I've always worked across genres... if you turn to a Grime kid and say, "lets get that Albini drum sound," they wont know what you mean. Or if you turn to a rock band and go, "lets get that La Monte Young ambience," but having said that, if you show an awareness of other music, you'll usually find people have a far more diverse taste than they will admit to their peers. With my remixes I work very conceptually, and can usually hear the track in my head before I open the laptop. it makes it much easier to know where you are headed, although I do confess that sometimes I do approach a track with a band in a similar way. 'Price of Gasoline' from Silent Alarm was much like that. We wanted it to sound cold, fascistic and hollow. Gordon and I marched through the entire song with pieces of wood taped to our feet.
You’ve written, recorded, performed and produced – is it time to consolidate everything into one vision?
I should do... before I get too fat, old and grey! I've already started to put a few ideas together for a Phones album. I've also begun a couple of demos as Echo Channel. Phones is digital, Echo Channel is live and analogue. Some stuff might surface on Good & Evil at some point in the next few months... if I think it's any good....
You’re in a position whereby you might have a little more control and power creatively and otherwise – does that fuck with your head, or help in where you want to go?
This is a weird question... I'm not really aware of whatever power or control I have at all... although I guess the best thing to do is grab every good opportunity with both hands and do your best. I'm really pleased people seem to like what I've been up to, and want to keep making quality music... if I have more opportunities now than a year ago, its only because I'm making up for the ones I missed in the last 12 years! When it comes to working with a band.... WE make the record. Creatively, it's a product of all the people involved, band, producer, engineer, assistant, runner, manager, label. if one person sucks energy at any point you are fucked. I don't like the idea of a producer being like, "this is my record... You ready... Let's wax this puppy!" It shows blatant disregard for the band. Also, if you try to control the process in the studio it will kill the flow. it should be organic, anarchic and spontaneous. it is a producer's job to guide that journey.
Bloc Party – 2005 is going to be a very good year for them; how proud are you? Do you think Silent Alarm sounds like a Paul Epworth album? is there any such thing?
Those boys are ace. I'm very proud of the band's work, their ideas are fresh and they have a good work ethic. They are so focused on their ideas I had a hissy fit over a fucking mandolin part, which is really unlike me. They laughed at me long enough for me to realise I'd been a twat. I'm really happy with the record, I think they chose the right songs too. The funny thing is that I consider that when producing a band, you should make every band sound different... seek out their (to coin a horrific marketing term)...'unique selling point'. To try to bring out what makes the band individual, special and personal. I focus on the emotional side of committing performances. Capturing moments. The greatest compliment I could have is for someone to hear a record I've done, be intrigued enough to read the sleeve and be surprised that it was my work. I like to try to surprise myself too. So yes and no.... I think a record of mine should be the honest work of the band.I do have certain methods but it's ALL about the band.
Would you do album no.2 with BP if asked?
I'd love to. I'd love to do a 2nd album full stop! That idea excites me. You can deviate, explore and resonate against record 1. I think both the Futureheads and Bloc Party's second records will shake thinks up.
Where’s your head at at the moment?
Trying to retrieve the personal life I left somewhere between a bar and a studio back in May...haha..... I've been trying to figure out a few ideas for Good & Evil. I hope we will make some killer music this year.
What’s been your most rewarding experience in the last ten years?
Definitely working with Romany Gypsies in the Czech Republic. Dancing with a kid on each shoulder round a fire, while the entire village was freaking out to the sound of a 13 year old kid on a battered Casio. It was as 'third-world' as India. No running water, you get the picture. I have never seen people so happy for so little. We are spoilt, greedy, self-centered fucks. ........oh.......and Cocek music should be compulsory listening. You ever seen an 8 piece brass band play Gabba??? Amazing.
Tell us a secret...
What have you heard?!... Shit... I'm not good with secrets. Um. OK... How's this? ..I did backing vocals on a track for Maxim from the Prodigy once...
Tell us about a band we haven’t heard of...
Hey.. I learn most of my stuff from you! That's not fair! Montana Pete are the best thing you'll see this year. I could have sworn Liars ripped them off on the first record, except the band are like the nihilists from 'The Big Lebowski,' they hate each other and the crowd. The last time I saw them at St. Moritz, the singer did most of the set from in the toilet next to the stage. Some great songs too.
Did you know that Joni Mitchell was addicted to Southern Comfort? What’s your vice of choice?
I didn't know that! Did she mainline it what? I smoke fags for England, drink like a fish and have had phases with most things. I'm pretty boring when it comes to vices these days, I'm not very creative when I'm high either. I don't like the idea of having a vice being a badge of honour. I admire those who abstain - work is probably my biggest vice. I am a work-a-fucking-holic.
DiS is (metaphorically) dying. Tell me about that record I need to hear before I hit the grave.
Fuck! One is not enough!
Manuel Gottsching: E2-E4
The Pop Group: Y
Captain Beefheart: Clear Spot
Nation of Ulysses: Plays Pretty For Baby
Tom Waits: Rain Dogs
The Minutemen: Double Nickels on a Dime
... I'm a sucker for Otis too.... that's blown my cool forever.
Is all about luck? Or love?
Luck in love.... Luck finds those who want it bad enough for the right reasons.
Where does the Paul Epworth adventure end?
I hope the best is yet to come. I feel like I've only just got started! The thing is... it's all about the journey but not the destination.I don't plan on ending it at any point soon. I'm having fun.
Sum up the music world where we’re now in a few words…
The most exciting stuff I've heard in a while has come from the Grime scene, it's the most punk thing that has happened in ages. The guitar scene has become so sterile from what I keep hearing, with the exception of a few things like the Mystery Jets, the Noisettes and Test Icicles. Grime has got kids doing their own fanzines, their own DVDs, their own records, clothing, fuck man... it's really creative. The next time somebody tells me a guitar band is "so punk rock" and mentions the obvious (you know...) I'm gonna start picking my nose and belching till THEY walk off disgusted. I feel we are in a very creative place where lots of different music is able to coexist together in the same record collection.There are inspiring and eccentric artists out there to be found, it's just unfortunate that it has to swim upstream against a growing tide of dire manufactured pap, tired and sterile music for the masses, contrived cash cows and old fucks who don't know when to hang up their instruments and get a job on TV. The major problem is within every scene that cares about it's own, there are fights and disquiet about stuff as petty as each other's musical taste.... I know because I am often a culprit. if we all stopped bickering for a moment, ignored the shit and focused on the good... who knows... we might even make the Wolf Eyes top 10. As some wise sage once said.... "to imagine the impossible is to make it possible"...... I just wish we could un-imagine Keane.
For a taster of Paul's goodness to come on the 24th, check out his DJ set on Sunday, 16th January on XFM. Eddy Temple Morris' THE REMIX show from 18.00-21.00. Highly recommended listening...
Once again, Paul curates the DiS Tsunami Relief Aid gig at the Marquee on Monday 24th January, featuring Kano, Battle and guests...