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Paul White spills the beans at Soundwave 2010
words Rob Boffard // images Press
We have only one question: what in god’s name was Paul White doing at Soundwave Music Festival in Croatia?
You wouldn’t expect White to be there. He is, after all, a producer of thoughtful, meandering, even slightly whimsical hip-hop instrumental albums like Sounds from the Skylight, and as such didn’t seem like an ideal fit for the festival. Fortunately, in this case our initial incredulity gave way to delight when we discovered that the vinyl-rocking White has got a seriously dope live show behind him. Who’da thunk it?
“Great vibes man,” said a breathless White, shortly after coming off stage at the beach bar on the Saturday night. He looks, incongruously, like DJ Format.
“To be here, in the sunset…” He has to stop to collect himself. “I’ve never done a set like it. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the sun. The crowd is great, the vibe is great. They took all these different styles of music I was playing, which I was worried about, but it’s great. I loved it.”
White is very much part of the undercurrent of hip-hop production that is worlds away from the Just Blazes, the Swizz Beats’ and the Dr Dre’s. These producers are far more experimental than your average, and are often more prolific, their one-man-band attitude allowing them to craft relatively good material quickly and efficiently. When you can find the gems in these projects (and best believe, there’s plenty of rubbish to go through) you’ll discover albums that—if you can believe the cliché—take you on something of a musical journey. Such was the case with Live From The Skylight,White’s last album (not his debut, but his first real breakthrough) was a perfectly-titled, perfectly weighted piece of music that was an utter joy to listen to. Sure, it was deeply weird, but weird in a good way.
For his new project though, White has gone completely off the map. Paul White & The Purple Brain is a project linked to the ultra-cool Stones Throw imprint (their resident ripper Guilty Simpson even pops up on a remix), and while it retains something of White’s trademark stargazing airiness, it’s madder than Madlib meeting Madchild and Madness. It’s also mad tight.
It’s also based around the work of one musician: ST Mikael, a Swedish psychedelia musician. It seems an odd choice for a project—but then, White seems to be following in the footsteps of fellow Stones Throw head Oh No (who based an entire project around the little-known Galt McDermott).
“That was great fun to do,” says White of his Purple Brain project. “I got sent some music over from Stone’s Throw, I’d never heard of him—this guy from Sweden—and I loved his stuff. Really brave, really psychedelic. So they said, if you can make as many beats as you can out of this guy…and that’s how the album turned out. It wasn’t supposed to be an album, just a CD I was gonna use for promo purposes. I just started getting beats out of it, and they were cool – they said, let’s release it as an album.”
One thing the album does affirm is the love White has for vinyl. Not for him the ever-present glowing Apple logo that was standard issue for just about every DJ at the festival. Behind White’s DJ setup was a fat stack of vinyl, and whether you rate him as a producer or not, you’ve got to give it up to him for the sheer effort of lugging that all the way from his native UK – and as we’ve established in our Festival Diary, Petrcane is not the easiest place in Croatia to get to. In fairness, only a serious audiophile would have been able to spot the difference in sound quality that the vinyl imparted, but it was a great link between White’s live set and his production style.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anybody else here use vinyl,” he says. “I just don’t use [DJ software program] Serato. I collect vinyl, I love feel of it and the sound of it and I sample straight from it…It’s so physical. You can see it. There are imperfections. It feels like it has its own kind of character. Each one is slightly different. Just the feel of it.”
One question is whether White will be doing more festivals. He certainly proved to the doubters (read: us) that he could rock a show live, but is this something we’re going to see a lot more of?
He laughs and says he doesn’t know. “I’ve done this and Big Chill, and that’s about it, and this is my first festival outside of England.” He seems enthusiastic about the idea, even if he’s unlikely to be sharing the main stage of Glasto with Jay-Z.
Still, for a small, slightly poky festival in Croatia with an experimental hip-hop bent, he was a perfect fit.
Read Beatnik review of Paul White & The Purple Brain
Buy Paul White & The Purple Brain at Stones Throw