Paul White: Rappers’ Delight
With his new album – ‘Rapping with Paul White’ – our record of the month for September, Brainer caught up with Paul White to see what makes him tick tock in his versatile world of hip-hop. To some degree, he is as expected; laid-back, friendly and, by his own admission, a quiet character. But get him talking, and his enthusiasm to push music on is charmingly effusive. Indeed, as we later cross Embankment Bridge, White spots a musician playing an instrument I’m not cool enough to recognise and, nonchalantly, passes him some change. “A fellow musician,” he admits. That aforementioned enthusiasm is likely to remain unabated for some time.
Was there a conscious decision with the new LP to move away from the sound of ‘The Purple Brain?’
‘The Purple Brain’ was a real challenge – the discipline to work with one source. After that I was gagging to pick up loads of crazy records again and go nuts. I wanted to show a bit of diversity (on ‘Rapping with Paul White’) and show people different sounds and have fun with it. Alex at One-Handed was a great help with a lot of these connections with MCs and I felt blessed for that to happen. I was really lucky with extra support from people like House Shoes in LA and Guilty Simpson.
Which other producers do you just plain admire?
When I came back from university, me and a group of friends religiously used to sit down and listen to Kankick beat tapes, Madlib beat tapes and Dilla beat tapes. And all three of those people were really instrumental in… instrumental music I suppose. Just their diversity and the way they’re creatively so free.
Idiosyncratic skits run through this album as per your previous. Is that an important part of what you do?
I mean, I’m quite a jokey character. I sit down in the studio all day, every day so it’s about keeping myself entertained as well! I like creating journeys and using my imagination. I love stories like Alice in Wonderland and these crazy mystical, magical tales. So I think that’s where it comes from – amusing myself firstly and then hopefully other people as well.
You mentioned creating ‘journeys’ – is that something you try to evoke across all your albums?
Definitely. It’s very similar to the way I do my beat tapes; it has to be a journey. When I want to hear how one track fits in the middle I don’t just listen to that one track over and over, I’ll listen to the whole thing and try and figure out how it fits in with the whole picture; if you’re going on a journey, hopefully it takes you somewhere.
Would I be right in saying that there are filmic derivations in some of the tracks you produce?
I’m glad you say that. My dad’s a director so I’ve grown up seeing him make films and make programmes and the first producer name I ever had as a kid was visual, so music is very visual to me. I definitely try and make a little movie in it maybe, hopefully more than just music. I keep having this idea that I want to pick lots of my favourite films and make my own soundtrack to it. That’s another dream of mine; to do an album and have a DVD with it, so you could listen to it and watch a whole film and it’s completely the same thing.
How has the forthcoming live show with Mo Kolours developed?
I started off playing piano and keyboard, so there’s that instrumental base deep down in me. I’ve been working in the studio on my own for years, always will do – I love it, but there’s definitely something for collaborations. I’ve been reading Miles Davis’ and Quincy Jones’ autobiographies recently and hearing a common theme of everyone exchanging knowledge, whole big groups of people. I have a theory that when you look back, a lot of the time people worked together when a lot of good music came out. It wasn’t just one person – it was groups of them sharing stuff. And I think nowadays people just sit on their own and aren’t really sharing stuff. It’s quite secretive and I want to break out of that.
How do you see this sharing of ideas developing?
Well, I’ve just moved into this new place with a few great musicians – there’s this guy called Wayne (Francis) who plays with United Vibrations, another guy called Henry (Keen) from Soundspecies and there’s Mo Kolours (Joseph Deenmamode), a friend of mine. So it feels like all these doors are opening up. Suddenly there’s a lot of musicians and producers all in the same place in SE London. We’re all gonna try and get together and work a bit more, talk about ideas and just expand… music. I think that’s it, for the sake of music, not for selfish gain. That’s what I want to do and I think that’s what a lot of these people want to do too. It’s gonna take a while but you’ve gotta go for it. You’ve gotta set the bar high; set your dreams crazy high.
Interview by Ben Nicholas