Paul Woolford: "The Problem With So Much Dance Music, It's a 'Product' to Drive Someone's Social Networking Thing"
Those are just a few of the guises that UK DJ-producer Paul Woolfoord has assumed over the years. And his sound is just as elusive as his artistic identity -- straddling house, techno, UK hardcore, and bass.
Nevertheless, in spite of his sonic outlaw streak -- or maybe because of it -- Paul Woolford has hit enough people's pleasure zones to emerge as one of the most in-demand DJs on the international EDM scene -- a perennial Ibiza resident who also happens to be luminary Danny Tenaglia's favorite DJ.
But don't just take Tenaglia's word for it, find out for yourself when Mr. Woolford throws down at the Electric Pickle with SAFE Miami tonight.
Crossfade: How did you first get drawn to electronic dance music? How were you shaped by EDM culture in the UK when you were growing up?
Paul Woolford: My initial exposure to dance music came from the radio when I was a kid, really. You just absorb everything that you hear when you are that young. I would listen to the BBC Radio 1's late-night shows when I was in bed. And in particular, it was John Peel that probably opened my ears up properly. You'd hear him play a really wide range of music from punk to country & western to the early dance music experiments, and this sounded so alien -- like a revelation. And slowly the culture of breakdancing had filtered over from the U.S., so you'd see films like Beat Street and they had music from Afrika Bambaataa, who I had heard John Peel play before. You just start remembering names and keep looking out for more.
I heard John Peel play "Planet Rock" one night and it just sounded so futuristic, so out-there, it just made me feel an incredible way. As the years went by, the dance music scene slowly emerged, and then pirate radio stations were becoming prevalent in the main UK cities, and Leeds had its share.
Once I stumbled across one of those stations one Friday night, that was it -- there was no going back. It was the most important and inspiring charge I ever had. There were no rules. And suddenly, all this hidden underground music was all there, played without limits by people like us -- kids. It was the community taking charge, and the energy of it was unreal.
There's a heavy streak of experimentation in your work -- a sound hard to reproduce by would-be imitators. What's the creative process typically like in the studio for you? How do you approach writing and producing a track?
There is no set method. It depends purely upon my mood. I'm looking for a certain boldness, and there is no set way to find it. I don't think, "Well, we need a breakdown there." Or any of that kind of prescriptive approach. I want things to feel fully in their own space.
I'm ruthless in what is edited out. So much dance music feels over-produced and there's a point where all you actually hear is engineering. That to me is completely missing the point. I saw a quote the other day from somebody saying, effectively, that technology advances define artistry, but this is bullshit. The artist defines it -- what you put into it, down to everything about your state of mind when you approach it.
The person that said that is more of a marketer than anything, and this is the problem with so much dance music, it's made as a "product" to drive someone's social networking thing. That in itself tells you that the music is an afterthought. What I'm interested in is going right to the core of how something makes you feel and concentrating on that. It's almost irrelevant that it's music I'm involved in, I would still take this approach if I was working in another type of media. The creative process is driven by this, and it just emerges without a formula.