Interview: Paul White

“It’s a deep love for what we do, and a fascination. You just want to go deeper into things. You need the time and dedication to do that. You can be taught and you can analyse and watch stuff. That’s great, but and the end of the day, you just need to buckle down and do it.”

Paul White is an instrumentalist at heart. By wading through his extensive back catalogue you’d be sure to find an incremental transition away from sampling as a structural component of his production. While not ditching the process entirely in favour of instrumentation, White touches on a real desire to blur the lines between the two when making music for himself, and others.

PW: “The music I’ve been writing at the moment will result in a band album straight up. For me it couldn’t go any other way. I’ve written the whole album using mostly instruments, there are almost zero samples – I’ve pushed things even more in that sense. Guitar pedals are a revelation. You get people who want a Moog that costs £1000 but you can spend 60 quid on a really nice phaser, delay or reverb. I just want to have my own produced stuff that isn’t really affected by live performance and that could be used on other people’s records, like a lot of my music already. So it’s nice to have two different avenues – all the Danny Brown stuff, once it’s recorded it’s out of my hands, I’m not on stage with him. I do want to keep doing stuff like that but then with my own stuff I want the live instrumentation to grow, rather than thinking about it in the context of performing live. Now I’ve got the beats and all this live stuff as well. I want to really blur the two so that it could be used for anyone. It could be for Danny Brown, through to a singer, Beyonce even.”

Live music is a continual inspiration for White, who lists a variety of artists that both interest and inspire him, including London vocalist Eska, Aus shoegazers Tame Impala and abrasive grungers, Nirvana. Working with a band has been a dream for some years, and is now starting to materialise.

PW: “I keep discovering all these different types of music, it’s all live stuff that has been really inspiring me for the last couple of years, and it’s only in the last six months that I’ve started to dig into it. Before now, I’ve had loads of work on; finishing up the Golden Rules record, the Mike Eagle record, more Danny [Brown] stuff [as well as touring]. The music I’ve been writing at the moment has always been something I’ve wanted to do. It’s been my dream for the last five years, to be completely honest. I’ve finally had the time and headspace to say ‘okay, that’s it, I’m going to explore all these things I’ve wanted to do and hopefully grow’. At the moment I’m really chuffed I’ve got most of an album done of new material.”

This fascination with musical diversity has always manifested itself in White’s output, especially when working with vocalists. The list of rappers that have lent their verse to his production is as towering as it is varied, with the likes of Aseop Rock, Danny Brown, Jehst and Trim all featuring.

PW: “My goal has always been to work with as many people, and as many diverse styles as possible. That’s always been a key theme for me because I write so many different styles of music. I want to make it so people can find it easy to work with me. Recently I’ve been playing more instruments and writing more song-based music so I can work with all vocalists. It’s been really nice so I don’t want it to matter if it’s a singer or a rapper. As long as they come at it with the same open mind, those experiences can end up just being incredibly natural.”

US rapper and one half of Golden Rules, Eric Biddines, is one of White’s latest collaborators. It was Biddines’ range as a rapper and a singer, as exhibited on Planetcoffeebean 2, that enticed White to send beats his way back in 2013. Now with a full length under their belt the pair are close friends, and their approach to music and live shows has morphed as a result.


Biddines and White as Golden Rules

PW: “The main one [on the mixtape] was ‘Railroads Down’, it just hit me how soulful it was and that it wasn’t just rapping. I almost preferred the tracks where he was singing more. It was just so strong. For us [Golden Ticket] embodied soul, R&B, hip hop, a definite mixture of things. We could tell that pretty quick after the first batch of stuff he sent back. For a start, it was the quickest anyone has sent back my music and there was mostly finished songs already. It got exciting that it wasn’t just going to be a rap album. He’s such a great vocalist all round. I’ve tried to be diverse in what I do and he is capable of that as well.

PW: We really know each other now, we’re good friends as well as people who work together. Before, we had admiration for each other’s music, but now we see each other as people too. The Christmas tune we put out [‘Night Shifts at Christmas’] is actually the first time I’ve written a whole tune in front of someone. It was funny, he would just sit there and let me do my thing, and didn’t butt in. I think a lot of people would say that’s how they feel. Even if it was something good, the praise is off-putting. You think praise makes people feel comfortable but the best thing to do is to leave them to it.

PW: I just love how much fun it is [performing live] and how hilarious he is. He cracks me up every time. It is comical as hell and it’s always great vibes. We are both into the music and we want it to be a great experience for other people. It’s just us out there giving ourselves and our energy to the music. We always have a lot of fun and the audience seem to as well.”

White has used the internet to infuse the world with his sound to great effect, and his transatlantic outfit with Eric is a testament to this. He acknowledges that while it can be useful being in the same room as his collaborators, it can also be a hindrance.

PW: “Everything so far has been sending stuff over the internet. The first person I got in the room with me was Mike Eagle, and that was last year now. We did some stuff in the studio and it was one of the first, which was totally different. It’s good, it was a great learning curve for both of us. You definitely have to step outside your comfort zone and be willing to totally open and expose yourself to someone else. It’s so personal what you’re doing. I always think it can be incredibly unnatural to get in a room with someone you don’t know and just lay your heart on the line.”

Close to home the relationships are different. White frames his personal relationships with local friends and musicians in a way that leads you to believe they are a life line to his creativity.

PW: “I’ve always performed with Ed [Tenderlonious] and he also jumped on Golden Rules. All of us are just mates. The 22a thing is just a family for me. Even though I haven’t had anything directly put out on 22a. It’s a group of like-minded friends and musicians who all share the same values in music. It’s something pure and not conditioned by the industry in the slightest. It’s really just all about being around the corner from each other. You can still have your [global] musical networks but then with the 22a lot, it’s deeper than that. We’ve all been hanging out long before we had any music. You’re never lost for inspiration. Maintaining that ability to create is one of the hardest things. It’s encouraged a friendly competition, It made us all push each other. Now, even though people are busy and we don’t always hang out it’s the same feeling. We’re all lucky in that respect.”

Looking forward, White’s new album on R&S is due early next year, and he’s had people in mind when it comes to performing. There is a fervent hunger in him to learn as many musical languages as possible, with the pursuit of versatility and variety becoming a returning theme. On top of this, he also aspires to draw on both audio and video in future work.

PW: “I really want to do music for film. That’s my next dream, there are so many. I would love to do music to loads of little film clips to existing things and have that as a mini album. My stuff can be weird and crazy and will never suit the ad world, but film could definitely fit in.”

You can catch Paul White and Eric Biddines as Golden Rules at London’s Shapes this evening, with support from Flako and Reginald Omas Mamode IV. Tickets available here.

Words: Nick Moore

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