Meat Free Interviews: Paul Birken
Hi Paul, firstly can we just say how excited we are to host your debut in Manchester along with Bas Mooy and Myler for our second Mord Records showcase. You recently released on Mord’s Herdersmat Part 9 – 15, how does it feel to be part of such an illustrious label family?
I’m always grateful to be included on any label that is interested in my odd, audio creations. Bas works hard with MORD and it is fantastic to be along for the ride with this group. It is quite an assortment. When he got it up and running about 4 years ago I had a feeling it was going to be something quite special and with his hard work steering the ship and the enthusiasm of artists creating for it I like how it has stayed authentic.
It’s a testament to the label to see such a wide range of artists on the compilations, is there anyone on there (or otherwise) that you’d like to collaborate with?
I’m generally open for remixes and projects where files are passed around when there is time. I do my best to provide accurate time frames for completion of projects. The reality of my life is I maintain a full time day job which consumes 50+ hours a week and have a great family that makes everyday interesting. I fit music as a life long hobby into the pockets around these other areas which usually means the middle of the night when much of the world is asleep.
You’ve been releasing your own music for a number of years now, how have things changed in that time with the democratisation of software etc. Do you think it’s positive or detrimental to the industry?
Any shift that gives more people a chance to create is a positive thing. Many won’t get past the frustration of trying to work beyond what their tastes want them to make and how much time it requires to learn how to get the programs to follow your lead in facilitating that. It is why so many people use sample libraries and preset sounds because it lets you get creating much more quickly. I do understand the frustration I see with people posting about the sheer amount of music they have to wade through to find things they think are quality and worth purchasing. That is all part of the trade off when you remove the gate keepers (labels) which were investing large amounts of money into each release and had to give serious consideration to whether they could make their money back. When you have little cost in putting something out, another filter is dropped. It’s neither good or bad, just different. Everyone adjusts. Bringing down barriers is a good thing.
At Meat Free we try to eliminate egos from the dance floor and bring things back to basics – if there was something you could change about today’s raves what would it be?
Sure, get the dj/live act off the stage and back into a dark corner. Just let everyone be immersed in the music and not feel the need to face where someone is working away with trying to string together an interesting audio exploration.
Is there any other hobby/creative outlet that takes up your time other than music?
I’m building an island. Actually, it is already built and exists, but it has a peculiar habit of being on the move and I’m working to get better at calculating where it will appear each day so I can interact with it more. I catch the sporadic radio transmissions it emits before it arrives each day.
Still skateboarding/snowboarding after all these decades as well.
I try to facilitate following through on any questions my kids bring up..lots of fun in those paths that branch out into everything. I like learning everyday and since I have a daily work commute I use it to listen to a decent number of podcasts every week related to science/nutrition/self-
You seem to get asked a lot about the EDM scene which is dominating your home country – to put a positive spin on it, which emerging American techno artists should we be watching out for?
Music always morphs and changes and gets reclassified as ways for people to understand it better. I don’t follow that thought process, but the industry needs to maintain some type of control over what it is supposed to represent and help sell. I just try to spend my money supporting artists by buying their releases directly if I hear something I like. Look at my bandcamp fan collection (thetonewrecker) page of the things I purchase..it isn’t all techno.
Sticking with America, if you could nominate another DJ to take Trump’s place – who would it be and why?
Jeff Mills has already ventured beyond this planet and can communicate effectively throughout the galaxy. That would be a proper option to replace the current fool.
Ok, back to serious business, where do you find your inspiration for starting a track?
It is just something where you hear something you like and jump in. I find you need to just be tinkering and put yourself in the position to really find something you can use to start with. Everything else that follows becomes trial and error. There is no consistent process I use, but I do know that I usually will find a pattern/groove of a synth that gets me jamming before I add any drums to it as support. I don’t hesitate to throw things away or just delete what I’m working on if it isn’t coming together.
It’s the question everyone asks…but take us through your studio setup, anything in there we might not expect?
Table full of various machines really. I change the process and workflow a lot so experimentation is key. Running things through other machines and blending outputs. Using different drum machines to try to sequence synths. I don’t really fiddle around with trying to make specific midi notes get played/programmed. It’s better to just tune the oscillators into submission while they are being thrown about by voltages or midi cc data. The computer is just a digital tape recorder. I don’t monkey around with trying to get anything synced properly between DAW programs and outside machines. Much easier to just jam away and find something decent in the heap later.
Finally, what can a sweaty room of Mancunians expect from you on Friday 6th October?
Machine jams, beat juggling, bass blasts and freaky sounds all with the intention of making everyone “get down”. I’ll be out on the floor myself while the others are playing. It’s good to get rattled!
Thanks Paul, we can’t wait!
Paul will be joined by Bas Mooy and Myler at The White Hotel on Friday 6th October, if the last time we brought Mord to town is anything to go by – this is not to be missed!