One of drum & bass's most unique artists, a breakbeat crusader and champion of Reinforced Records' legacy. Under his Paradox and Alaska guises Dev Pandya has left his indelible mark on drum & bass and breakbeat music as a whole. We enter...
1. You are currently working on your 9th full-length studio album, whereas many artists struggle to complete one in a whole career. Is this a reflection of your attitude towards creating a body of work rather than a single solitary piece of music? How do you approach an album project? What is your process?
Hi Organic. Yes I am indeed working on my 9th studio album and I’m enjoying every minute of it, and yeah that’s true - I see the concept album as the complete picture and that’s been my main studio objective for the last four years really. I’ve just released my ambient-jungle Alaska LP and I’ve been seriously itching to return to the solo Paradox stuff and follow up my Paradox ‘What They Don’t Know’ album which was 80% 135bpm I might add, and was released on Reinforced Records 9 years ago.
Approach wise, I live and breathe the album for a full year. 12” releases go out the window and everything else gets relegated. I also become a recluse, growing ‘studio beards’ and in album-mode I’m quiet difficult to get on with if I’m brutally honest. When things are not working I usually take it out on others close to me and also shout at my cat that sits on top of my sampler as I’m trying to re-create funk patterns and forget to feed her – bad Paradox.
Writing albums is a personal thing and every producer is different, but I spend weeks trying to get the breaks side correct per track whilst making sure that I’m paying homage to the drummer I’ve sampled, and this is paramount to me. After I’ve got the swing and groove then usually I start work on bass’s and sounds etc, I think I’m the other way around to most producers, and some journalists say I’m a b-boy writing music in the wrong genre, but my fellow producers Nucleus and Dj Trax are exactly the same too. At the moment I’m just really enjoying programming classic Paradox eerie Dnb which is my first love and then switching the tempo back to the down tempo stuff like ‘Drum and Chase’ at 130 bpm‘ish and I’m just seeing how the album progresses really..
2. In the last few years many artists within drum & bass have reverted to using analogue hardware in their productions. Being an artist who has always performed a live show incorporating some pretty retro equipment, do you feel that people are now subscribing to what you felt all along? How do you find a balance between new and old both within the studio and through your live performances?
Well what I use isn’t exactly retro - its pre-historic as Seba puts it, but it works for me and I get a real kick out of using it on stage, and also the fact that I’m the only one in the whole scene stupid enough to do this makes it extra special.
Are people subscribing to what I’ve felt all along? Well I’m pleased that more producers are powering-up analogue equipment nowadays which is definitely a good thing as it adds a different dimension to what you actually hear out on the dance floor, but to be honest I’m not big on music played out from a mastered CD as I prefer the warm cut that vinyl manufacturing generates and I love crackles on my productions. Call me old school if you want, but I’ve been releasing records for a very long time now and it’s just the way I am unfortunately.
I don’t embrace new technology as much as the next man. Of course when I collaborate with other artists we work via both programming codes, but I’m still pretty much stuck in my ways. Dom (& Roland) said to me some tracks were not ‘modern’ sounding eq wise and he has a point, but that’s the way I am. More power to grit I say.
3. You are one of the most prominent artists to come out of the now defunct Reinforced Records. A label held high by many as the original drum & bass label. How far reaching do you feel the influence of "The R" is within modern drum & bass" and what are you proudest moments from that era?
Ahh the R days.. I wrote over 65 titles for Reinforced and it was a magical era indeed. In fact 4hero are the reason why I’m so militant as Reinforced installed a chip inside of me that refuses to upgrade past 32mb, but the label shaped everything I do and I look back on my vast R catalogue with pride.
This is a good question ironically, as I’m finally following-up the last Reinforced long player at present, so all die-hard R fans will like this new album I think, and all ‘modern’ Dnb lovers will probably think it sounds dated, too many breaks, not enough bass, no snares that land on 2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16 to 800 and no intro snare-rolls in sight.
The R within modern drum and bass? It’s not there for me. It’s been and gone. The label still has such a high prestige with its 200+ back catalogue and yes, arguably is the birthplace of Jungle. There is talk of new R release’s but this will be with new artists hence a new Reinforced era and good luck to them.
I think I’m the only long-term artist from the label still consistently making jungle which is a shame, but Marc, Dego, Mark Force and Seiji amongst others all have successful careers in other genres and I listen to what they do all the time. I have great respect for my fellow R enforcers.
Proudest moments wise? All of my releases were special as Reinforced allowed me to have sole art direction and music control. Dego would tell me not to listen to what others were doing in the drum and bass scene and to just concentrate on my own sound that I was carving there, which was the best advice and a tonic needed as I felt completely isolated in my drum-bubble.
The artwork also reflected what we were doing and we made so many unique sleeves. For example, on the first Paradox album you had to photocopy grids onto acetate from the inner-jackets and pass this over the album sleeve to reveal optical illusions and Paradox written statements. The 3rd Paradox 12” jacket transformed into a cardboard ‘Stellated Dodecahedron’ which featured artwork printed inside the sleeve, so a 4-sided artwork jacket was needed. We also did Reinforced flip books and spinning optical illusion discs all made from the sleeves themselves – timeless.
4. Your live show has captivated audiences worldwide, you provide vocal narrative guiding the listeners through both what you are doing as the performer and also educating them on the breaks you use. Within modern drum & bass the "break" has become less and less essential. Do you feel that there is a danger that we are going to have a generation of newcomers to the music that are simply not aware of the roots of the music and its origins?
The threat was always there from the late 90’s so I decided to do something about it and give away ‘Sample Me’ loops on my albums and ep’s to heighten the 70’s funk root awareness. Fast forward 8 albums and I’m still programming them. I’ve got a killer for my 9th project and I feel it’s still needed to keep the scene kicking and to keep the general awareness going.
There was a period when breaks were non-existent which pissed me off immensely as you can imagine, but in today’s modern scene breaks are definitely used more than say.. four years ago, although some are rolled too predictably like a 4/4 house track on 78rpm, but overall the beats are still within the scene.
However, I’ve already touched on a snare-issue in an earlier question but I really do wish some producers would sparsely ‘swing’ the kick or snare more often if they intend to roll it out like that, even if its at the end of a 32-bar loop if your going to roll straight for 7 minutes. Don’t get me wrong I don’t dislike tracks like that, I dance to them and Calibre is one of the finest artists using this pattern, but occasionally other producers really do need to ‘snap back’ or ‘reset’ the drum loop with a kick swing – its pivotal in my opinion, and this is needed more than anything else to slow the groove’s tempo down.
5. What is coming up for Paradox/Alaska and your associated labels? What can we look forward to?
The 60th 12” across the labels is out now by Paradox & Equinox on Paradox Music [PM20]. It was an honour to finally get Equinox on the label as I’ve been asking him for god knows how many years and he delivered a funky number that rolls and yet has that all-important funk swing I rant on about.
As I’m currently in Paradox 2011 album mode there won’t be many 12”s from me until the new album sampler 12” surfaces, but up next is a new Seba & Paradox 12” on Critical Music called ‘The Light’ with Kirsty Hawkshaw backed by ‘As If’ which is Seba & Paradox at their best for me, and that 12” should drop around December or January me thinks.
I’ve had to put Arctic Music 6&7 to one side to feed Paradox, but those 12’s will surface next year, plus Esoteric number 13 is also slated for 2011.
The 23rd 12” on Outsider Music from Nebula is just around the corner and the 4th album from the Paradox ‘Age of Outsider’ series is taking shape. I just received the oil painting artwork for Vol.4 this week so that will be another major project for 2011.