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Interview: Paul Woolford

We catch up with We Love regular Paul Woolford....

So Paul we're nearly at the end of another crazy summer, what's been keeping you busy?

Touring and studio work, as always. It's sometimes hard to switch heads for 2 or 3 days at a time to concentrate on creating something when you've been on the road, but I'm finding it easier to find that crossover point than ever now.

You're a resident at We Love once again this summer, how does the party compare to previous years?

I think they've opened it up musically even more, you have performances by people like Caribou, David Kennedy (Pearson Sound), Quantic, Mark Rae, Blondes, Appleblim etc. in amongst the house and techno that is the lifeblood of the party in many ways, and this attention to detail can make all the difference on the night. For me personally, I've been coming to the club a couple of hours before I play and hanging out which in previous years just didn't happen, so it's been good seeing a lot of friends that I just haven't seen enough of over the years. I've loved it!

As you said We Love hosts a wide range of DJ's. Do you have to stick to a particular sound or are you free to play whatever you want? And what vein of techno have you been swaying towards this summer?

It's completely up to me, although it doesn't make sense to run the full range of my taste across the Terrace at 7am - there's no point in me playing a heavily swung 2562 record because there's going to be some scratched heads, but I can do that in the Discoteca so you pick your moment as with every gig. For the Terrace I tend to pick out about 50 things that I know I'm going to want to play based on who plays before you and the feel of the room, and then you just go with it in the moment. I'm not the type of DJ to purely concentrate on getting people's arms in the air, I'm more into going through phases and moments, songs, whatever, there's no boundary other than an energy level that needs to be felt for the Terrace.

And then of course the Discoteca, which is a different thing altogether. More energy, and I can bring in things that will really hit hard. All year I have loved the releases of Skudge, Mike Dehnert, 2562 and Shed's Head High stuff. I've loved what Skudge have released in particular this year - although quite basic, almost deceptively so, their work fits into almost every type of set so you can play their tracks in a downbeat house set, in a techno set, mixed into bass music, wherever. I'm glad this kind of rough and raw sound has emerged because there it generates a real club-rocking counterpoint to the musical elements in some records, and of course the best way to hear these things sometimes is in stark contrast to something pretty and detailed. I think the musical climate of more underground dance music has never been healthier. There's been some very strong house music again, and it's good to see a lot of DJs embracing a wider range of music both stylistically and chronologically rather than only playing new material.

Having released on a lot of different labels and under your other alias Bobby Peru, what exactly were you listening to growing up that inspired you to become a DJ and influenced your various sounds?

The radio for the most part, local radio, and then I discovered Jeff Young and Robbie Vincent on Radio 1. Pete Tong followed, and by this time I had discovered the pirates and my local record stores Crash and Jumbo in Leeds. I was soaking up everything without yet having the club context. Many people involved in dance music went to a club and then had a moment where they realised, but it was almost the other way around for me. I had been buying the records because I loved the music, and it wasn't until I saw things in the club scenario that I knew I wanted to play records in clubs. And even then, I didn't understand it was really something you could make a career out of. It was just raw enthusiasm. Pretty much the same as today.

Hailing from Leeds, famous for parties like Back to Basics, what's your thoughts on the current rave scene there and in the rest of the UK? Does it continue to excite you?

It's really healthy, although obviously touring limits how much I can go out, but I recently made it to Cocoon In The Park which was excellent. 10,000 people in the sun all afternoon and into the evening. I always try and go to Acetate which is David Kennedy's night at Wire. That's probably the night that holds my attention the most in Leeds at the moment, as much for the music policy as for the fact that it's midweek, or it has been. The next one is Four Tet and Ben UFO, who for me right now is probably the most exciting DJ around in terms of the music he plays and how he plays it.

And are there any particular artists that you think are pushing things forward?

Again, as far as DJs go, Ben UFO is the person that's inspired me the most this year, and ironically, he doesn't produce records yet. This is purely on the way he puts things together and the digging he does for older music. His show on Rinse FM is essential listening, and there have been a few moments this year where I've had goosebumps as he's played things like Baby Ford 'Ford Trax' and Kenny Larkin's old Sade remix which you just would not expect someone of his age to have tracked down. In terms of producers, Actress & Hype Williams, and also Hudson Mohawke's new stuff has blown me away, all for completely different reasons. The way those 3 artists treat sound differs quite radically from each other. As far as 4/4 stuff goes, there's been an incredible remix by Roman Flugel on an Anthony Collins track - he took a large dollop of inspiration from Steve Reich in the breakdowns of the track, and this has been genuinely interesting and fresh. That Caribou remix of Virgo Four of course on Rush Hour, those two records are just killers. I could keep going all day long…

You've had releases on Phonica, Local Action and Planet E already this year, what's up next?

The next record is released on Scuba's Hotflush in September - another collaboration with good friends Psycatron, our last record came out on Cocoon this time last year so the timing is good. And currently we have Skudge reworking the Planet E release from a month or two back. Phonica are releasing remixes of my single this year by Kassem Mosse & Boddika from Instra:Mental. And this week I just finished remixing Vince Watson, Moby is up next. I have not had the time to take up a couple of opportunities with collaborations that have been really inspiring, so that needs to happen. There's never enough time.

And we hear you've always wanted to make a pop record. Are you any closer to morphing into another alter ego and realising that dream?

Yeah, that never goes away really but what does change is the context in which you can do it - the closest I've got at the moment is the remix of T Williams, the vocal is pure pop from Terri Walker, and her pedigree is superb, recording for Def Jam and so on. I've been exploring it, but it's obviously something that needs to be clearly separated from the more underground stuff...

Is it true you also take a keen interest in art? Is that something you've ever thought of incorporating into your set as an A/V show?

Correct, although my tastes are possibly somewhat slightly alarming for display in clubs, ultimately it would be crass to try and cross this passion with the often tacky use of visuals. The work that speaks to me the loudest is often work that takes years to produce. So short of effectively putting together a mood-board type of approach containing the work you like and using that as a visual, there's a limit to where you can go. True collaboration is far more appropriate but then it's a case of finding someone who has the talent to deliver work on an equal level to real masters - this is not going to happen every day. And then, you have the idea of taking what they are doing and putting it into the crass setting of a nightclub, it's a complex scenario if you genuinely care about the work connecting. It's an interesting proposal and there are always these suggestions flying around, but really, what you have to weigh up in my position is this; how much is a gimmick, and how much is appropriate?

'Achilles/Razor Burn' is out now on Planet E. 'Stolen' will be released on Hotflush in October 2011.

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