DMCWORLD checks in with one of the music industry’s most respected figures. An integral part of the scene rolling back over three decades and never more relevant than today thanks to his involvement in producing, radio, events, DJing, writing and as a label boss. One thing is for sure with Paul Sawyer, there is always a new project around the corner…
Interview by Dan Prince
Mr Sawyer, a big welcome back to DMC towers young man. Where in the world are you right now?
Thanks Dan, great to speak to you again. I’m currently sat on a plane on my way to Amsterdam for ADE. Cannot wait to go back, this will be my sixth year.
What is the best piece of new music you have heard this week?
That’s got to be the Kamilo Sanclemente & DaBeat remix of 1999 by Binary Finary. I hammered the original for ages when it first came out and these guys have done a great job on the rework.
The first time I ever met you was out at sea at one of your Menage A Trois boat parties. There was a gale force wind blowing, John Digweed was trying to play some Progressive House as the needle jumped from wave to wave, I was clinging on for dear life and suddenly you appeared like an angel holding 2 cans of Red Stripe and an invitation to dry off in the captain’s cabin. What are some of your favourite memories from those days and nights along The Solent?
Ha ha they were amazing times weren’t they. I actually remember your first time at one of our parties and yeah, that was a particularly eventful night! I think one of my favourite memories was hosting the Northern Exposure album launch for Sasha and John Digweed. We held this on one of our boat parties and it was free entry as both Sasha and John played for free. Tickets just went in minutes as you can imagine. When you consider there was no internet or social media, just word of mouth, the hype around our parties was just unreal.
How old were you when dance music first gatecrashed your life and how did it happen?
I was 16 and went to this small club called Marilyn’s just outside of Alton in Hampshire. It was owned by the singer Marilyn at the time and the track that sticks in my mind was Yazz ‘The Only Way Is Up’. The place was right in the middle of nowhere but rammed every week and opened my eyes to dance music.
Was music always going to be a hobby back in the day, what was the career that seemed the more ‘safe’ option?
It’s funny, I was always massively into music, both making it and performing from a young age. It became a career just out of pure chance really. I’d finished Uni and was invited to go to Ibiza to play in 1993. I was hooked and it was all I wanted to do to my parents horror ha ha. I spent 10 years DJing and promoting full time and decided to make it more of a hobby in 2003 when I joined the family business.
Who were the early DJs you were looking up to, did any of them offer any advice or helping hands in the beginning?
Yes, whilst I was in Ibiza I was resident at the Star Club, now Eden. I was playing every night and Carl Cox was weekly resident there at the time. So were Brandon Block and Alex P for their weekly Fubar night. It was Carl, Brandon and Alex that really helped me. They all gave me advice. I remember both Brandon and Alex saying that I need to get a residency back in the UK to springboard my DJ career, so that’s what I did.
What are some of the biggest changes in the music / club promotion / DJing/producer world from the era when you were starting to present day? Do you prefer it how it was?
There are so many changes, so much to think about from a profile point of view. These days you need to be a producer as well as a DJ to really succeed. Your stats on social media sites need to be high and promoting yourself is relentless. Back in the 90’s we made tapes and sent them to promoters. Yes, getting press helped and I was lucky. I had people like you Dan writing about me in Mixmag, which really helped to gain gigs globally. I think there was more respect for the skill as a DJ, the digital age has made it far easier to be a ‘dj’. The biggest change is earning money from music, it’s so difficult these days, both as a DJ and a producer. I’m so glad I lived through that era, it was amazing and memories that will live with me forever. There’re aspects that I prefer from back then, but there’s also aspects that I prefer now. It’s easier to connect with everyone worldwide now, which is a massive advantage.
Okay let’s zip to present day. DJ, producer, event manager, label boss, musical multi-tasker, music journalist…what title sits most comfortable with you at the moment? Where are you happiest?
Ha ha that’s one heck of a list of titles! I often get asked about how I fit everything in. I think I’m addicted to being busy, so I divide my time between all my roles. I love working on the monthly article during the summer for Ushuaia’s IUMAG and the front cover features for Zone Magazine throughout the year. I’m the type of person that likes to connect with people, so I get a buzz from all these roles as I’m just constantly speaking to people within the industry. Therefore, it’s not just one role that sticks out, it’s building connections that does it for me.
Your Krafted label goes from strength to strength. What is the ethos behind the label?
It’s evolved massively over the years, a huge learning curve. Now that the labels have found their identity, we just want Krafted to become a ‘go to’ label. We now concentrate on three labels and I manage Krafted Underground, which represents the sound that I play. We’ve managed to attract lots of great producers to the label, both established and new. It’s just about the quality that we release on each label, whether it’s on Krafted Digital with Tech House, Progressive House and Melodic Techno on Krafted Underground and Chill/Ambient on Krafted Records, they all have to keep the consistency, otherwise nobody will buy what we release.
What is coming out next from your Krafted stable?
My buddie Simon Sinfield who compiles the Chill albums for Krafted Records has been working on the 3rd volume in the series, so that’s one to look out for. He’s been a huge help with bringing Krafted forward. Our label partner Jason Miller who runs our USA arm of the business has also compiled a compilation album. DTLA 2 features lots of LA based producers including Trent Cantrelle. We will be concentrating on more compilations next year, they have been a huge success for us so far.
2018 has been a great year for you personally production wise. This year you seem to have taken things to a new level though, why is this? What have been the changes to your mindset or way you make music that has seen a difference?
I wasn’t happy with my production for ages and really struggled with the sound that I wanted to create. I made a conscientious decision at the end of 2017 to improve, so I locked myself away for months homing in on where I wanted to be. I’ve been so pleased with the results this year, having two tracks signed to Solarstone’s Pure Progressive after he contacted me through Twitter, asking to sign a track from me. This came about after receiving a promo from Krafted. Soul Button’s Steyoyoke label picked up one of my tracks and I made sure that I was releasing on Krafted once a month, which was a great move. I’ve also released on Balkan Connection, Dino Audio, Mango Alley, Pro B Tech Records, Gibbon Records, Awen Records, Robbie Rivera’s Juicy Traxx and the mighty Toolroom Records this year!
What’s next from the Sawyer fingers studio wise?
I’ve been building a new studio which is almost ready. When I get back from ADE I’ll be moving my equipment in and starting to schedule as much time as possible to make more music. I cannot wait!!!
Your monthly Goat Shed streams have been going down a storm lately. What’s the story here?
It’s something that I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I do to be honest. When I did the first one, it was such a buzz. Having lots of people watching and interacting online. I tend to comment and reply as much as possible whilst playing. It’s turned into one of my favourite things to do. The stats have been amazing, gaining over 20k on each stream. Nick Muir joined me and Tripswitch for one recently, both also enjoyed being involved. For the next one after ADE, Just Her will be joining me.
A big event for you on December 4th, tell us more…
After the success of the monthly stream, I wanted to work on putting together a streaming event to see how big an audience we can gain. I had to find a great location and secure some sponsors to make this one really special. Dave Seaman will be joining me and it’s taking place at Popham Airfield in an aircraft hanger with lots of private planes as the backdrop. I’m so excited about this and can’t wait to announce the event. Watch out for the announcement on my socials and all will be revealed!
What are the big 3 tunes in your box this weekend…
– Bedrock – Heaven Scent (Dance Spirit’s Hyperspace Portal Remix)
This is SO good! Brings back many memories from 20 years ago hearing this, without losing the elements of what made the original so good.
– Forerunners – Magnetic Quartz (Tripswitch & Hernan Catteneo Remix
What a combination of producers, massive track that will be in playlists for a while.
– Uone & Thankyou City – Good Morning Sunshine
The production on this is second to none and forms part of an album by Uone on Balance, every track is just superb.
You were recently a moderator on a panel at the London Music Conference alongside Jay Forster from Radio 1, Scarlett Landells from Defected and Amie Evans from 1 Hart PR. What were your thoughts on the conference, has it legs? One of the reasons ADE works so well is because Amsterdam is so tiny and it feels like one big open air house party…
I think they can really make this a success to be honest. So many people make their way to ADE from the UK and I always laugh as we have meetings with people from the UK at ADE but never on our home soil! The UK for me is the heart of dance music, so having a conference in London makes sense. The panel was really busy to my surprise as I really wasn’t sure how busy the event would be, so let’s hope they can make this work. There’s certainly enough venues in London to have as many parties as ADE.
2018 has also seen you hook up with Frisky in an A&R role. Tell us more about this connection and plans…
It all started after securing a monthly show on Frisky back in 2017 and then being invited to play for Frisky at their ADE event that year. Being on Frisky as a progressive house dj is a must to be honest. The fanbase is huge and each show attracts many thousands of listens. So, when I was invited to be their A & R, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s been great being a part of the team. I organize who plays their Artist of The Week Feature, bring on board new shows and deal with many of the artists on the platform. There’s lots of changes planned with the website to improve the Frisky experience and bringing more shows on board. There are plans to launch a classics channel to showcase past mixes and one day a techno channel too.
Favourite 3 dance music tracks EVER?
Radio Slave – Grindhouse (Dubfire remix)
Deadmau5 – The Veldt feat, Chris James
The Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy, Hey Girl
Favourite DJ gig of 2018 and one gig you cannot wait for later this year?
One of my favourite gigs was Gigalum in London earlier this year. It was a Sunday and was crazy! Rammed from start to finish and an atmosphere that was way better than many Saturday nights! We’re back there on 28th October with Rob Birch from Stereo MC’s. I’m really looking forward to playing in Budapest for Legendary Moments/Frisky on November 10. I’m playing alongside three amazing artist who I regularly include music from in my sets, Pole Folder, Matan Caspi and Sebastian Busto.
It’s your birthday and you have a blank cheque to pay for 3 DJs to come and play at your party. Who do you choose…?
What else have you up your disco sleeve for 2019?
I’m planning on concentrating on more releases and more streaming events. I’m stepping back from playing in clubs so much. I love dj’ing, but I’ve been playing for so long that I needed a change, which was something I wasn’t sure would evolve into until I started doing Goat Shed. December 4th is the start of what I’ll be doing a lot of next year in various locations.
Do you think the UK electronic music scene is in a good place at the moment? Are there enough opportunities for new producers, new club nights and new musical genres to break through?
The scene is way bigger than it ever was before. With so many genres that seem to be attracting big numbers to events. The progressive house scene has been growing massively this year and has shaken off the ‘EDM’ tag that people associated with it. It attracts a wider age range which I personally think is far more sustainable and less a fad.
We all have one! An embarrassing bit of vinyl from back in the day you always keep pushed to the back of a drawer…?
Ha ha! Well the first piece of vinyl I bought was The Ghostbusters theme!!
And finally, what is the proudest career and personal moment in your life to date?
That’s such a hard question to answer as there have been so many proud moments in my career. I suppose the most recent one has to be Beatport making my track Hermes their #1 progressive house track in their August chart. Can I mention one from back in the day? I would say playing Bedrock for John at their NYE party in 1998, that was really special! Personal moment has to be taking my son to Florida when he was 12, seeing his face when we got to our first park meant the world to me. I captured that moment and posted it on facebook. I love it when it comes up each year as a memory…