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A Magazine for Sheffield

Paul White: All musical forms

Paul White's love of all musical forms has seen him mix classical symphonies under dialogue from a kitchen sink drama. Achievements include Paul White & The Purple Brain, a record based around the work of Swedish psych-rock musician S.T. Mikael, and The Strange Dreams of Paul White, another kaleidoscopic venture which makes use of the 'fast and bulbous' segment from Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica. But it was probably 2011's Rapping With Paul White which saw a notable increase in interest in the South Londoner's sound collages. White procured a vast selection of tongue-in-cheek skits and obscure samples, getting Danny Brown, Jehst, Guilty Simpson and Homeboy Sandman to sprinkle some of their own magic over the top. We discussed Paul's beginnings and his approach to putting tracks together, an approach which he's at pains to point out is very much based on intuition. Knitting together the aural and visual aspects of music, his dreamy cuts should activate most of your senses. If you're not swimming under water whilst listening to his Clean Dub version of Tranquil's 'Payroll' then you're probably not listening hard enough. So you started off teaching yourself different instruments? I mainly taught myself apart from studying a little bit at college. We had a family friend who helped me record but I kind of taught myself. I had piano lessons and guitar lessons. I love writing songs on the piano. That's kind of where music started for me - with song writing. Just sitting on the piano coming up with compositions and singing. Then when I was 16 I started following more technology and then that was sort of it unfortunately. Piano got left aside. But recently I've been getting back into doing live music. Do you sing over your own stuff? I'm not a full-on lead singer but I do sing over some stuff, mainly harmonies. I just love harmonies. I hear all these vocal lines in my head quite a lot but haven't really got the voice to go for it. I want to start doing more. I've been inspired by my friend Mo Kolours to start doing it some more. I heard you worked as a library producer for the BBC and Channel 4. I just did a project called Later, which is kind of an educational drama for young kids. It's not a permanent job, I just do bits and bobs. I've done sound design for some crazy animation project on mental health. I think all art - visual, aural - works together. Music for me is all about emotions. Do you get access to BBC archive recordings? No, unfortunately not. It's all done on my own. A lot of people mention the fact that you tend to sample a lot of prog and psych rock bands. There's a claim that this is a very British thing to do, rather than using the same funk and soul samples. Is it something you're just more drawn to? It wasn't a conscious thing. It's very subconscious not a massively thought-out approach. I'm kind of a purist in that respect. Whatever I'm naturally drawn to I go for. I just love the sonic way they go all over the place, little break downs, the context, the jazz moments. That crazy creativity I was drawn to straight away. It's very much improv based, spontaneous and in the moment rather than thought-out. I don't really write like that. Gong, Nektar and Frank Zappa are acts I've got a lot of love for. Zappa was just so creative. It's unreal, that guy just blows my mind every time I listen to him. One track will have ten ideas going on at once, and that's what I sort of love about it. I appreciate feeling in music and I really get that with prog. What is your approach to making music? The funny thing is, music is such a pure thing for me. I learn more about my own music whilst doing interviews to be honest! It's just the moment for me, you know? It's just gotta be fun. That's why I'll use funny little skits all over the place. The main thing for me is just not taking it too seriously. I really approach it like that - it's just a natural thing for me, it's not thought-out or stressful. I admire people who want to push people's consciousness a little bit - Zappa, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. I've been checking out a lot of Harry Parch, who's an avant-garde composer from California. He makes loads of instruments. I like the approach of putting feel first or anybody that tries something different and doesn't worry about it being like everyone else. If you aren't particularly open and free it's gonna sound like shit, isn't it? You collaborated with Nancy Elizabeth on 'Wily Walruses' from Rapping... Most people know her as a folk singer, so it was a bit of a surprise to see her name pop up. How did you get her involved? Did you choose the poem she reads? Alex who runs One Handed Music is good mates with Nancy Elizabeth's sister and a couple of years ago I got to meet her. We just spoke and continued to keep in touch. Then this album idea came up and straight away I had this track which was kind of moody and atmospheric and me and Alex thought, let's get Nancy on this, it'll be perfect. I loved the idea of having something different. We took two takes, one with her laughing and one just normal, but I had to use the one of her cracking up. It was Alex who pulled the poem out. I can't give myself the full credit for that. I loved it. It just worked so well with Nancy. Her live shows are also great so hopefully I'll do some more stuff with her in the future. Anyone else you'd like to work with? And adding to the artist karmic chain of recommendations, who are you tipping? I've been in this place without internet for about six months now so I'm completely out of the loop. I love to try everything. I want to play with musicians as well as singers. I'm open to as many different things as possible. A friend of mine is working with Baaba Maal at the moment, so that sort of opened up my mind to things like that. I'd tip Mo Colours, Wayne from United Vibrations and Henry from Sound Species. It feels like there's kind of a bubbling crowd in South East London, some sort of scene going on. I've just been listening to old music to be honest, so apart from close friends I wouldn't really know. You just did a few dates recently with Mo Kolours and one with Shabazz Palaces. What have you got in store regarding your live show? There are so many things I'd like to do. I've been writing a lot more live music and playing more instruments, I want to create a show that's almost trying too much. I like the idea of getting up there and trying everything out. You know, one minute playing guitar with a harpist, bit of electric piano and live drum - try and kind of mould different kinds of music together. It would be great to have a few more people but at the moment that's not possible. Ideally I'd like to have about three or four people to create a proper experience. I want people to really think about it and have an experience. )

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