“Yes, it was a huge, huge thing for me as an impressionable young person listening to these absolutely blazing techno sets on the radio. I was too young to go clubbing, so I tuned in for nighttime drives, or put the headphones on and spaced out at bedtime, which probably doesn’t jive with the gritty romanticism surrounding the early 90s Detroit scene. But those big tracks sank in so deep.”
Rather than be pidgeonholed as X, Y, or Z how would you describe your sound (or is it more of an approach)?
“I just like making stuff that, while being a little odd, still contains that sort of soaring, slightly heart-breaking synth lines of early techno. And big drums. Or I try, anyway.”
They feel like the least “vocal” vocals I’ve heard, because they’re entirely part of the track.
KG: It’s just an instrument, but people don’t view it as an instrument, they focus on it as the glue around which everything else is sticking. That was never the case, ever. I may come back to it, but the last time I tried to do vocals that were like that, I got laryngitis! It was on the Opal Tapes tour and I was like [makes strangulated noise] and I had to give up the vocals after two nights, but that was great, because then I ended up improvising my way around it and then after that, I was like, “Well, one really good reason not to do vocals again is that you can get laryngitis.” I don’t want to have to worry that I’m going to be like [strangulated noise] into a microphone when I mean to make it sound suitable.
re you working on new material at the moment? Does it sound different?
KG: Ah, yeah – very different. I can’t even listen to Needs Continuum – I haven’t been able to for a long time. I like some of the chords and the melodies, and at St John I played, largely, one of the Needs Continuum tracks, in a completely different way. A really, really dark scary, horrible way. Yeah, I feel like I’m still doing the same sort of things, basically, but in a totally different way, ’cause I think that it sounds so accessible! It’s just way too accessible. It’s the whole thing with No Pain In Pop – Tom King from No Pain In Pop has been absolutely wonderful and supportive and everything but just the identity of that label is one that I was not necessarily comfortable with. I’ve had him say stuff to me like, “Would you like to play some in-stores at Urban Outfitters?” It’s like, “nooo” I don’t think I should actually.
The main theme is that you are going through a heavily cerebral process when you make music, and it is not like that, it simply is not. You say, do you ever sit down and play 4/4? Yeah! But it might be saying do this up here [points to head] but it doesn’t happen that way, because I have my hands. You don’t ultimately have total control over what you’re doing.
Stephen Bishop of Opal Tapes has admitted to me that he has actively tried to find women who are doing good stuff, or at least I think that’s what he said, and that’s a sad thing. That’s just sad, it shouldn’t have to be like that.
So I got booked to play this Wysing festival at the end of the month – nobody told me at the time that they booked me that it was going to be all women, pretty much. When I found that out, I was like, “Goddamnit! Why don’t you just have ten men and ten women?” Just don’t perpetuate the novelty – we’re not novel; just a person, I’m not a novelty.
Karen: Could you talk about echo? It’s a wonderful thing — what if it had never been invented, and why don’t people use it more? What’s wrong with them? Or talk about your love for it because obviously you’re absolutely obsessed with it.
Paul: Yeah, obviously I’m obsessed with it. I think I love the way things sound when they’re indistinct, so anything that does that, that creates that room. I’m not like a drug person, but there’s probably something deep in my experience that make that appealing… I think it’s just the sense of something being hard to grasp, or far away, or fleeting, or in motion, that’s how we experience sound in the natural world, especially here in [this] space that has intense acoustic properties. I have a lot of records that don’t have echo, and I always think, wow, what restraint, how dry a world that person lives in. And sometimes I try not to use echo to understand that space, actually …. It’s just my natural state. I want things to be cascading and blurry in that way. As for why people don’t use it, I think it’s because they probably get confused.
Karen: [Laughs] It messes with things, and the cleanliness.
Paul: Yeah, the cleanliness and the rhythm, and it fills in the negative space. A lot of dance music and techno or whatever is about the “not notes,” so those pauses or important. I don’t really have that in my music. It’s just on all the time; there’s sounds filling up every space and it’s strata sound and echoes are really nice ways to fill those gaps. For people that don’t live in that world, they’re missing out on a certain kind of intensity that has a kind of deliciousness to it if you let yourself be there. That’s a great question!