Paula Temple: In Conversation

With world politics becoming ever more draconian and climate change narratives growing increasingly apocalyptic, music is often turned to as a vehicle for escapism. But there are times when both politics and music must combine, confronting oppression and providing people with an anthem for liberation.

So it as Paula Temple sets her debut album, Edge of Everything free into the world, that people gain such a sound. Few things are more powerful than Temple’s music, but reinforced with a vehement frustration at the world’s current political ecosystem, Edge of Everything is uniquely vociferous.

Releasing on her own label, Noise Manifesto on May 3rd, Temple opens the door on the processes behind the album, techno as a form of catharsis, the cruelty of British politics and her desire to dabble in film…

Edge of Everything implies that the tracks push boundaries, explores new realms of your creativity. Have you surprised yourself during the production? How did you approach it being your first album?

At first I wanted to make a Nine Inch Nails style album that was heavy, merging rock and techno. I was also considering adding vocals, something similar to what Peaches does. I spent a week in a Helsinki studio where I was trying to program drums in a death metal style merged with techno, but that didn’t sound quite right. Then, I had to reassess what was at the core of what I wanted to make, and I wanted the album to be helpful. We are living on the edge of mass extinction, and that’s huge and most people are not talking about it.

When I say helpful, it might sound confusing because there are no lyrics on my album. I want to connect with like-minded fans with a shared outlet to voice our frustrations. I am an abstract thinker. Words are not my language, sounds are. What I find interesting is when a random person writes to me and explains what they felt when they listened to my music, and I realize that was the same feeling I had when making it. How this happens from just a combination of frequencies fascinates me – with sound and music we can communicate in a much more complex way than we realize.

Back to the album process, at the beginning of 2018 I took some time off and gave myself an impossible challenge to make ten tracks in two weeks. I had to trust in whatever I was making or feeling, and just to be open to the process and not filter anything out during that time. I had been harboring sensitivities to what was going on in the world and in those two weeks I could really hear that coming through in the sound design. I ended up making ten sketches in those two weeks, five of which really stood out to continue developing and were eventually made into the tracks on my album.

There is definitely a lot more soundscape and cinematic approach in this album. I wouldn’t say the tracks represent new realms of my creativity. I have done this type of sound design in the last five years but have only performed this style in live experimental sets. I’ve been producing techno for 25 years and I don’t feel like the production of the tracks on Edge of Everything has pushed any boundaries, if anything it’s reverted to classic techno.

“Drawing strength from anger and motivation from hurt, Paula highlights the healing power of darkness.” You are known for your relentless, punishing, yet totally absolving style, I feel cleansed after listening to a Paula Temple set.

No matter the troubles of everyday life, your music and the more aggressive strains of techno in general, seem to be an outlet that refreshes me. Where do you think this dark, aggressive style within your music comes from?

It’s interesting that my music is considered aggressive by some people because I do not find this at all. I find it liberating and powerful. My style might be a reflection of a change in me. When I was younger, I used to be painfully shy. I would wear really baggy clothes in clubs because I wanted to hide myself. I would try to please everybody. I would take any abuse and would even blame myself. It got so bad that it became a detriment to my own health. I grew up in a time and place where someone like me wasn’t accepted, where it was totally taboo to even say the word gay. Due to some life lessons, I no longer tolerate abuse or exploitation. I stand up for myself, and life is much better. Perhaps this is the reason my sounds are so strong.

Have you always listened to techno? Is it a vehicle you also use for this cathartic, self-healing purpose?

Yes, I’ve been listening to techno since I was 15, and that was 27 years ago. Before discovering techno I was listening to NIN, the Seattle grunge scene, and Indie-goth. They were my original vehicles for cathartic self-healing. Then techno, clubbing, and djing became my catharsis.

“Oppressive forces must be held accountable for their actions. Targets raw emotion, urging us to act upon injustice.” This is a strong statement referring to the album, can you provide some context for us?

I believe it’s quite difficult to hold them accountable because they have put themselves above the law. Look at what is happening in America and the UK right now. Political leaders are committing crimes and they are seemingly untouchable. Opportunists who are becoming ‘leaders’ of these countries have also invented problems, such as immigration, and the citizens are being played to serve a political power shift to the right.

The oppressive forces are referring to governments, banks, pharmaceutical companies, the elite class, and so on. The fact that there is still a house of lords in the UK who influence laws that affect the average working person is simply absurd. If we need a second house for checks, it would be better to have a house of youth. UK and America are two of the richest countries in the world so why is poverty such a huge problem? Why do we all accept this system we are living under where large corporations do not pay taxes but the single mother working at McDonalds does? Our system is set up for the elite and we need to do something about it. Turning towards authoritarianism claiming to be ‘anti-establishment’ is completely the wrong direction, that will simply fast track us to the end. We have already seen this futility with World War II.

I feel that we, normal people, have to play a part in decentralizing the system. The power structure, as it exists right now, will not hold the oppressive forces accountable, so we have to make a power shift. We can decentralize power through converging technologies. Blockchain was a first step in creating a threat to central banking systems who have rigged the global economy. The sharing economy offers hope through the Internet of Things where the cost is so low for sharing we could lessen the need for money. I recommend the VICE documentary called ‘The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy”.

On a smaller scale, a call to action could be as simple as going out and voting and supporting social activists. We have seen lately that there is power in numbers, for example the #metoo movement. If you are a student, participate in Friday school strikes with Greta Thunberg.

The artwork is mesmeric, but centres around a black hole, does that allude to the oppression and societal uncertainty of the political atmosphere at the moment? As if we are on the edge, so to speak. Is that what you wanted to capture within the album?

Exactly this, couldn’t have said it better. If something gets too close to a black hole, there is no going back. This is really a reflection of what is happening to our planet right now – we are ruining this planet to the point of no return. We are fast-tracking to an event horizon.

With the passing of Keith Flint, I want to touch on your remix of The Prodigy’s ‘Roadblox’. How did this remix come about? Were The Prodigy a big influence on your musical style? You can certainly see some parallels in the tempo and aggression.

The remix came about because of Renaat from R&S. He is amazing at seeing connections and he saw the connection between my energy and theirs’ and brought us together for the remix. Prodigy was absolutely a big influence for me, even way back to Charlie Says at the start of rave. I was working at a record shop in my teens when Music For The Jilted Generation came out. Their sound gave us, the youth, a sense of strength, especially living in a country where politics and the media were constantly condemning young people. This album was our power.

What inspired the track name of Joshua & Goliath?

The track was named after Joshua Wong, a teenager who started the umbrella movement in response to the Chinese government’s threat to implement Chinese curricula in Hong Kong schools. After watching the documentary Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much courage it takes to stand up to the Chinese government. I knew this track was one of the main tracks on the album and I spent months trying to think of a name that represented the feeling I was trying to convey through the music. You can hear a push-pull in the synths, a sound to me that represents struggle. This struggle represents the people who lead movements for freedom. The courageous few vs. the oppressive force, the Goliath.

You have got to a stage of your career where you have been given the honour of curating stages and line-ups, Nuits Sonores for example. How do you approach choosing a line-up? I imagine it is both taxing and incredibly rewarding.

Nuits Sonores was easy; I had total freedom to choose who I wanted and it worked out beautifully. I have a manifesto, the Noise Manifesto, which is also the name of my record label. But the manifesto itself is about including all types of people and doing what I can to give women and queer people the representation we deserve. I request people for my lineups that I have a connection with. Picking a lineup is about balancing the established artists with up and coming artists so that everyone is recognized equally.

Blawan, Perc, Tommy Four Seven, yourself, these are artists that seem to be forging a new, unique sound. It’s a ruthless, almost chaotic sound, yet completely engrossing and devoid of a typically regimented techno style. It’s damn well exciting. Do you feel as though you are moving in a direction you are really excited about? Do you have an idea of where you want to take your sound in future?

I suspect there is something about British culture, such as the cruelty in British politics, that might contribute to our unique sound. Sometimes we express that directly, like ‘Unelected‘ by Perc, or techno as our outlet from living under a British system.

I’ve only just begun exploring where I ultimately want to go with my music. I’m also quite interested in producing soundtracks for the right film or gaming project. The soundtracks to Stranger Things and Mica Levi for Under the Skin really make me excited that perhaps one day my sound could also work well cinematically.

Techno music feels most at home in a dark room. Yet we are seeing an increasing amount of festivals with techno at their heart which means many artists play during the day. What is your favourite environment to play in? Where do you feel most at home?

My favourite environment is definitely in the dark during the day, so I can go to bed as normal, haha. I feel most at home playing in a completely dark room with occasional lasers. An indoor space with no windows is best for my style of sound.

Thank you for your time Paula, how is your summer looking?

Very busy with touring! I will be in Brazil for the first time and playing at some great festivals like Awakenings, Route Du Rock, Astropolis, Life in Ireland, and Dimensions. Hopefully take a weekend off somewhere in between to go camping with my wonderful amazing heroine wife!

Noise Manifesto will release Edge Of Everything on May 3rd, 2019. 

Buy it here

Words: Samuel Asquith 

Featured Images: Julia Gunther

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