You’ve probably been listening and dancing to Paul Nolan for many years, but you might not have realised it. As a co-founder of the highly rated Chapter 24 Records, audio engineer to various legendary electronic artists, and as a renowned artist development guru, Paul has spent a decade working stealthily behind the scenes and leaving his indelible mark on the dance music landscape. Now, he is finally stepping out of the shadows to shine a spotlight on his unbridled artistic talents. A self-proclaimed pescatarian yoga nerd with a penchant for Techno, the Liverpool-based DJ/Producer has just made his artist debut on Bedrock Records with the stunning ‘Archetypes EP’ and is primed to move to the forefront of the scene that he has tirelessly dedicated himself to for the past decade. The future looks very bright indeed, so we thought this is the perfect opportunity for DMCWorld to have a good chat with Paul and find out a bit more…
Paul, a big welcome to DMCWORLD and congratulations on the release of your debut ‘Archetypes EP’ on John Digweed’s Bedrock label. The first thing we’ve got to ask is what makes this label so special?
Bedrock is an incredibly special label. It’s timeless in that it’s stood for ruthless quality from day one, and has grown over the years to almost encompass a belief system, a lifestyle – one of unshakeable commitment and focus on truly underground music.
Talk us through the making of ‘Form Constants’ and ‘Warrior’? How does the creative process work when you’re in the studio?
Haha, great question! Both tracks were born of deeply personal experiences…
‘Form Constants’ was an attempt to express personal experiences musically in a way I’ve utterly failed to do in words! I’ve embarked on a huge journey of personal and spiritual growth in the last 2 years, and traditional Amazonian plant medicines such as Ayahuasca have played a huge role in that journey. Form Constants are actually shared images we all see when we have psychedelic experiences – and I’d read about them in a fantastic book called ‘Inner Sound’ by Jonathan Weinel.
I’m fascinated by music’s ability to induce different emotional and spiritual states in people, and ‘Form Constants’ was an opening gambit in exploring House & Techno’s ability to bring such states about. The same can be said with ‘Warrior’, which takes its name from the Jungian Archetype of The Warrior. We all have a Warrior within us – a protector of those less fortunate, who isn’t afraid to do the right thing, no matter how hard. The track was me giving voice to my own inner Warrior, as bonkers as all that sounds haha!
For anyone not familiar with your music, how would you describe your individual style? Can you put your finger on the elements of your music that make it so distinctive?
I’m still trying to figure that out myself! It’s a constantly evolving process, and for me being an engineer / sound designer / producer for many other artists in the past, I had become a bit like a chameleon that forgot his natural colour! This EP is the first step in me rediscovering who I am at my core. Essentially, it’s that sweet spot between Progressive and Techno, and I imbue all my tracks with meaning – they have purpose, they exist for a reason. I can’t just mindlessly knock out throwaway club bangers… I have too much to say, and I believe electronic music can and indeed needs to be about storytelling.
Do you find it easy to express your deepest emotions when you make music, or is this something that finds an outlet only in certain, special moments?
I do find it easy to access those states, but it can be challenging sometimes. Writing music also helps me get out of my head and out of my own way and into the flow. I’m constantly attempting to “let go” in the studio, to reach a state of “no mind”, where that dickhead we all have in our heads giving a running commentary of absolutely everything all the time, shuts the f*** up and stands to one side! I suppose it’s about shifting consciousness, whether it be the listener, or my own.
You’ve worked behind the spotlight as an audio engineer (engineering, production, mixing and mastering) for various legendary electronic artists for many years now, tell us about that side of your musical life?
It’s something I’m massively proud of, and it’s made me the producer and the artist I am today. There’s been a lot of success, having worked with the likes of Sasha on ‘Scene Delete’ and getting in the room with other heroes of mine, such as JunkieXL. It can be a bit difficult psychologically at times, especially if what you’ve always wanted is to be an artist in your own right and you support others almost exclusively, and it can be to the detriment of your own career when you got into music, DJing and production to be an artist. I guess that’s one of the drivers behind my move out from behind the curtain – to say what I have to say, in my own way, and stake my own claim.
So, what’s it like to have the focus fall on you as an artist in your own right?
Honestly, I’m loving it! There was a time where I felt like my chance had maybe passed, and because of all the work I’d done to help and support others achieve their creative visions over the years, I almost wasn’t allowed to have my moment. So, it feels good!I
Can you give some key essential tips for the youngsters who are just starting and learning the art of music production?
Let go of any need or attachment to any outcome. Many young producers (and some older ones) make themselves miserable because they are too focused on “making it” and beat themselves up for apparently “not being good enough”. Fall in love with the process, and the rest will take care of itself.
What piece of studio equipment couldn’t you live without?
My new studio chair! Honestly, it’s completely changed the game for me! Ergonomics in the studio are highly underestimated and incredibly important.
Tell us about your work in the field of artist development?
I love helping people – it’s as simple as that. I love developing people, helping them shift their lives, their consciousness, and to allow them to pursue their dreams and letting them know it’s all possible. That’s what I do when I help an artist develop themself. It’s incredibly exciting when you see artists you’ve helped grow really take off in their careers, its incredibly rewarding and a privilege.
How are things going with your own label, the excellent Chapter 24 Records?
I’m one of three co-founders of the label, along with Sam Pauli & Mas Black, two of my best friends. It’s absolutely a brotherhood of artistry, and they do an incredible job running the label. Things are going great and we’ve just released a wonderful album from an incredible artist called Stevie R, title ‘Melt’, which is full of traditional instrumentation from his native Greece, and it’s a hell of a live show too with performers on stage playing these amazing instruments, electric violin and even live modular synths! We’ve also got the final chapter in our ‘Seven Stories’ VA series coming soon, called ‘Rebirth’, and the whole series aligns to the theory that there are only seven types of essential story. Check it out!I
Let’s rewind for a moment, what are your earliest musical memories?
There was always music on with my parents, and I fondly remember having the ‘Sounds Of The 60’s’ on full blast on a Sunday morning, as both my parents had their peak years of going out during the Merseybeat era and the years after. I also remember summer 1991, when music finally made sense and it really hit me! As hilarious a it might sound, PM Dawn ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’ just takes me straight back to that time…
How did your musical tastes develop? When did dance music come into your life?
My first tickle with dance music was around 1992 – my older sister Sandie was a massive raver in the acid house days (to be honest I wouldn’t be doing what I am now if it wasn’t for her influence) and she’d come back from these wild weekends away at illegal raves with tapes from Carl Cox, Mickey Finn, Grooverider, DJ Ratty, all the old Breakbeat Hardcore stuff, and I was hooked! Then the Prodigy broke the charts and that was that, game over!
After a few years indulging in rock music (Green Day, Foo Fighters), Sandie did it again – she bought me ‘Cream Anthems 97’ and those mixes from Paul Oakenfold & Nick Warren were really my initiation into dance music proper. My life was never same after that!
At what point did you get into making music? Who were big influences in those early years?
I’d done practically everything else in the industry, from working at clubs like Cream, working in and owning record stores, and it became clear to me that the era of the DJ who can be a success just off their skills in the booth was coming to an end – the focus was shifting more toward DJs becoming producers and artists as well as performers.
I got into making music around 2003, but I’d had stabs at it before, even in the mid-90’s on an old Amiga running old Mod Tracker style software. I even had a go at Music 2000 on the PlayStation! It wasn’t until the first version of Reason came about and I found some people patient enough to show me the ropes where I got hooked around the turn of the millennium, but it wasn’t until I went back to college and studied Audio Engineering in 2006 that I really decide to seriously take the plunge – and that changed everything. I’d finally found what I was meant to be doing with my life, and could get as close to the music as possible, by actually making it myself
In what ways do you think your particular journey through life has influenced the electronic music you make now?
It’s massively influenced it! I’ve had a long road to where I am in this industry and I still feel like I’m just getting started, and I’m really glad for that. It’s been a slow, inexorable rise, and that experience and wisdom from over two decades spent around electronic music is natural part of the DNA of how I make and present music now.
Having grown up through the evolution of the UK underground dance scene, what’s your assessment of things now? Is the scene healthy? What could improve it?
I think it’s healthy in some pockets like London, Liverpool and Manchester, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not concerned about the UK scene generally. Venues continue to close at a pace, making way for yet more student flats (as was the fate of Nation, the former home of Cream, in Liverpool) and really I still don’t think the UK has truly accepted dance culture into it’s societal heart in the same way places like Germany and Holland have.
The UK underground needs support – more “Nighttime Mayors”, protecting venues from property speculation, not to mention protecting attendees with routine pill testing, as it seems like the conversation about drug use in clubs hasn’t moved on since the Second Summer Of Love.
What about your home city of Liverpool? How’s the scene doing there? Any upcoming local talent we should watch out for?
I refer to Liverpool as “The Berlin of England” as the scene here is so healthy, and there’s so much musical talent coming through! You’ve got established artists such as Steve Parry, Bontan and Lauren Lo Sung, and really exciting new acts like KUSP doing huge things in Techno right now… the Scouse takeover continues 😉
The scene here has amazing nights, such as 303 bringing inspirational talent like Patrice Baumel over to play, alongside the big hitters like Yousef’s Circus, who have been going strong for 15 years or so now and have done amazing things for the musical identity of Liverpool as a city for a long while.
After this superb release for Bedrock, what new projects should we watch out for from you in the coming months?
I’ve got another two EPs coming in the next few months, details to be announced in the coming weeks… I’m really focused on finishing as much original music as possible this year, so this isn’t the last you’ll hear from me, not by a long shot!
On the DJing side of things, where can we hear you play in the coming months?
I’m just putting that together right now! Well, as soon as the next two EPs are finalized! I had a great tour at the back-end of last year in Australia and also Bali, so I’m looking forward to getting back over there later in the year!
And finally, what’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Learn every rule in the book, so you know how to break every single one of them.
Paul Nolan – Archetypes EP (Bedrock) is out now
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