The original drum & bass b-boy is back! Paradox returns with his latest 12" on Samurai Red Seal, a straight up ode to break culture referencing crate digging and respecting the groove...
In many ways, you are one of the truest drum & bass artists, in that your style and ideology follows the original blueprint of hardcore and jungle. Tough breaks with clear lines bridging the gaps with funk and hip hop culture. In 2013, much of what is broadly under the umbrella of drum & bass doesn't really reference thr roots of the music in the same way, be it due to either technology or just different routes to a common middle ground. Being known for your outwardly staunch attitude to what is right for the genre, where do you find yourself as a musician and the state of b-boyism at 170 BPM in 2013?
I find myself still doing what I love musically and feeling like a kid at xmas when a new 12" is in my hands. I'm lucky because I've been in the Jungle scene from day one so with that experience behind my belt I learnt to stick to my guns and do whatever I feel. I'm kinda militant due to the stripes I guess.
"I’m not detached from my peers but I don't see myself as part of a current collective and that's not a bad thing."
B-boyism in today’s drum & bass is a difficult one and that’s down to the speed. Most b-boy breaks looped above 170 BPM are difficult to control from a funky percussion perspective so producers kinda throw b-boyism out of the window most of the time. Personally I can't stand hearing breaks played out so fast that sound like a continuous drum roll. I etched on my last Dirty City 12" a message on the vinyl not to play the track at +plus pitches because it simply destroys the funk. Modern drum & bass is exactly what it is, but there’s lots of good music out there that address the problem in other ways.
The last 5 years has seen several of what could be described as "core" artists move away from break heavy drum & bass. People like Breakage and Kryptic Minds have moved away from the genre altogether while people like Fracture have refined their style falling closer to the mainstream of the genre. Music always seems most exciting when there is a sense of a collective movement, how far do you see what you do as part of a current collective cause?
I’m not detached from my peers but I don't see myself as part of a current collective and that's not a bad thing. I'm just a programmer tuning and re-tuning my craft which is a personal obsession and a crate digging thing that goes over most people’s heads in drum & bass to be honest. One magazine review stated I was a programmer plying my trade in a wrong genre, and to an extent that’s true. I’ve released over 40 tracks on vinyl around 140 bpm also but I really love writing music at a fast pace and recreating 1970's drum patterns for foot-shufflers.
"Scorpius"/ "Crate Logic" is your 147th release, which is ridiculous in itself... How many more breaks are there to be manipulated? Are there still illusive breaks out there to be found?
It's a gold mine and that’s exactly what digging is. There are breaks in abundance out there and plenty that producers still shun because of the tempo thing I mentioned earlier. My mentality is different because of my persistence and experience in keeping to the original core of drum & bass with funk breaks that ultimately kickback and swing.
In many ways "Crate Logic" is a kind of formulated "drum track" not dissimilar to those that you've previously released. The obvious difference being that whereas the drum tracks were grooves and ideas, "Crate Logic" is a fully realized track in its own right. Is it fair to say that in writing such a puristic track you have been met with the acclaim from much of the music press of writing one of your best tracks to date? Is there much you can tell us about the breaks employed? We hear there are a few top secret undercover numbers in there?
Every style has a formula and b-boy breaks are no different, the thing with "Crate Logic" is that the track itself is a theme. The vocal samples taken from b-boy sources are grooves in themselves and a message that points to the ethos so yeah it's different to previous drum workouts. Again, I don't expect everyone to grasp this or think the track is breaking new ground. It's just a b-boy thing to me. The samples are on the art so you have to buy the record and do a little research...
"My distributor will have a heart attack when I reveal the proposed manufacturing costs."
Where as "Crate Logic" explores the mind of paradox as a b-boy, "Scorpius" is an all together more sinister affair. Worthy as the sound track to the darkest film noir, "Scorpius" has the added nuances of disorientation and paranoia. What were the key influences behind the track?
Scorpius has an apocalyptic vibe and to me is typical eerie Paradox material. I wanted to base the track around Dennis Coffey's Scorpio break which isn't exactly rare but swings all over the shop. I don't think I can go really into the full drum process as I'd bore you to tears but the whole track took around six weeks to complete. Myself and Dj Trax used the break years ago and some breaks just don't age like Coffey's Scorpio. I spend ages writing tracks nowadays. I just can't knock them out in four hours waiting in an airport lounge.
The 12" is out on Samurai Red Seal. Samurai's Geoff Presha has been one of the key advocates of vinyl based drum & bass in the last few years through his several labels in the Samurai group. While this has been going on, there are also many more labels that have actively moved away from the format and also the closure of distributors. Does this all feel like the last chime for vinyl?
It's disheartening I'll admit, but rather than order myself an early headstone I'll continue to roll out 12"s on my labels and won’t stop unless pressing plants force me to. The thought of my labels turning into a filing cabinet makes my stomach churn but label’s like Samurai are keeping the vibe alive and that was just one of the many reasons why I had no hesitation in signing up with Samurai Red Seal even though I rarely do guest 12”s anymore. One of the sister labels is vinyl only too which is cool, creating a demand and keeping something exclusive for the consumer and all without digital revenue so hats off to Presha.
The artwork for the 12" seems to follow the loose theme of crate digging, a seemingly underground pass time that seems to be more practiced in the online world via discogs and the like with actual records shops vanishing year by year! Could drum & bass do with getting back to basics? Sifting through the plates hunting down those musical enigmas before dismantling and reassembling in a sampler?
This was the whole idea behind the 12" - to ignite a lost art form and maybe plant a seed into producers heads. Sample packs are great for instant loops but you can’t beat the crunch and groove of vinyl in my opinion. In today’s modern studio techniques the time consuming recording vinyl-into-sampler is probably a chore but I think both should still be explored. I also go through files myself so I won’t cut off all avenues.
We're guessing you are cooking up something a bit special for your 150th release?
My distributor will have a heart attack when I reveal the proposed manufacturing costs.
Both within and beyond drum & bass, who is carrying the torch for you musically or otherwise in 2013?
I enjoy Sabre, Equinox, Loxy, ASC, Naibu, Gremlinz, Escher, Skeptical, Trax & Nucleus, Amit, Spktrm, Overlook, Seba, dBridge, outside of drum & bass cats like Funkshone, Mark de Clive Lowe, Marc Mac & Dego, Volcov, Kaidi Tatham, the list is endless really.
Where can we catch you performing soon?
I’ll be performing in Ireland, Germany and Russia next and then a USA Paradox PA tour performing the Samurai 12” live and returning to the UK for some shows in 2013.
Also watch out for the new Alaska & Robert Manos 12” entitled ‘Zeal’ out on March 18th on Arctic Music.
Paradox - "Scorpius" / "Crate Logic" is out on Samurai Red Seal now.