Circuit Chat - An interview with DJ Paulo

paulo

An Interview with DJ Paulo

He's best known in L.A. as the DJ of SPIN and STEREO, but watch out - Paulo has a lot more surprises in store - or should we say stores? His new mix of "Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag" is now available on Tommy Boy Records, and was rated the #1 mix of 5 available tracks by an Amazon reviewer. The CD is currently #3 on Billboard's Dance Charts.

Paulo talks with webmaster John McHugh-Dennis about his plans for the future, new plans for STEREO, his recently added event at The White Party, and the SPIN New Year that the West Hollywood boys wouldn't stop talking about.

John:

Where did you get your start as a DJ?

Paulo:

I started going to clubs when I was 17 years old in Washington, DC. I had very strict parents, so what I would do is that I would literally go out, get friendly with all of the DJs, write down all of the tracks for the songs that I liked, and buy them. I started DJing in my bedroom when I was 17, and making cassettes for friends, and then doing house parties.

John:

How did your first paying gig come about?

Paulo:

I moved to Paris when I was 18, and one of my neighbors was an American DJ named Tony Edwards. He was from New York, and he was playing at a club there and he asked me if I would like to be his apprentice... basically come in and DJ an hour here and an hour there, and that's how I started.

John:

How did your parents feel about you moving to Paris?

Paulo:

I went there to study for my undergraduate work.

John:

What did you study?

Paulo:

French Studies with Business Applications. My background is all Business. I was DJing on the side, earning some extra money, studying, and doing all sorts of things in Paris. I eventually became the resident DJ at a club called Le Sept, and then I did The Palace (they have a huge T-dance) a couple of times. Music back then was so different... there was Dead or Alive...

John:

Who was your inspiration then? Did you have a DJ that you really looked up to at that time?

Paulo:

Not really, because I really wasn't familiar with what was happening in The States.

John:

And then what happened after Paris?

Paulo:

I moved to L.A. when I was 24.

John:

So you were there for quite a while! 6 years!

Paulo:

Well, I was there for 4 and a half years, then I moved to London for a year and a half. So I kind of got to see what was happening music-wise over there. But I was too busy with my studies to do any DJing, cause DJing really is a full-time job - you either do it as a hobby, or you do it full-time and you really pursue the career with re-mixing and production, and that's what I'm trained to do now.

John:

So you came back to L.A. from London...

Paulo:

In '91 - I was 24, and...

John:

Did you know anyone in L.A. at that time?

Paulo:

Not really. I just kind of moved here, and started going out, and that's when Pump was happening, and Temple, and ARENA... I used to go to ARENA all of the time.

John:

I used to go there all the time too!

Paulo:

Really? That place was great!

John:

Were you playing then?

Paulo:

I was pursuing a career in International Marketing in the Music Industry, and I was training people on the side...

John:

Training people?

Paulo:

Physical Training... Fitness (see bicep in photo above). Then I got a job working for the Manager of some major dance groups over here on the West Coast. I traveled with them - I did tour managing. I worked with Martha Wash and I worked with Boy George, so I always had my foot kind of in the door with the music stuff. What I really wanted to do was go into Management. I also sing. I had singles out when I was in Paris. The thing that really, really changed for me... the breaking point... was when Eddie X left L.A. It was very funny, cause I ran into him for the first time last week where I actually talked to him and I said...

John:

Last week was the first time you talked to him, and he's had this influence over you all these years?

Paulo:

We talked, but it was like... I never realized that he was the reason that I picked up DJing again. When he left, the kind of the sound that he was playing... that real progressive House... Tribal... I didn't really feel that there was anybody playing the equivalent of that.

John:

Where did he play last in L.A.?

Paulo:

He played at Tribe.

John:

He was fantastic!

Paulo:

That's when I talked to him. We always seemed to cross each other's paths... He did the Dive party, and then I did SPIN, and I never saw him at SPIN. In Detroit, he did the Halloween party Friday, and I did the Halloween Ball on Saturday at a club called The Temple. So we always seemed to be crossing in the same city, but missing. So last weekend when I saw him walk into Tribe, I pulled him aside, and I told him how thankful I was for his work, and that he was the reason I picked up DJing again.

John:

So when did you pick up DJing again?

Paulo:

1998. There was another DJ here in L.A. called DeMarco - he's in New York now. I started making mixed tapes, and DeMarco said "Why don't you be my DJing partner?". The two of us teamed up, and started doing the MAN-O-RAMA parties for James Stone. I would do an hour, and he would do an hour, I would do three hours, and he would do three hours. The promoters from STEREO, Rohan and Marco, they started hearing about me, and they asked me to play at STEREO. I've been doing STEREO now for a little over 2 years once a month.

John:

I interviewed Rohan and Marco just before their New Year's event, and they commented on how much they really like your work, and that they are really trying to promote you as much as they can.

Paulo:

For the longest time, I was trying to prove myself here in L.A., and getting slightly frustrated that for all of these big events they were always bringing in DJs from New York and Miami, and I would listen to these DJs and I would say "Wait a minute! I can do that! Why are they getting paid megabucks to come out here? Their airfare is being paid for, their hotel..." I had to finally prove myself when they gave me SPIN. I kept asking them to give me that chance, and now it has really, really taken off.

John:

Any comments on New Year's Eve and the $100 admission price tag that we all heard about?

Paulo:

Well, first of all, I didn't know that it was going to happen until the night of the event. I had a lot of my friends in line who were complaining that they had to pay $75.

John:

And then later $100.

Paulo:

Well, what happened was that it wasn't really clear. It was $50 before hand... they sold like 900 tickets. And then at the door they raised it to $75.

John:

But didn't they advertise that admission would be lower at the door?

Paulo:

Yes, which was wrong. After all of the tickets had run out, what happened was that when people would leave the club, those new people that hadn't got the tickets - they were paying $100. It was $50, $75, till all of the tickets were out, which was $15 more than they advertised, and then it was $100. And I'll be honest with you - I have a couple of thoughts about it. First of all, I've seen it happen many times. When I was in Miami, they did the same thing during The Winter Party - it was at Liquid. They were charging $20 more than they advertised. I myself, was angry that they raised the rates, because a lot of my friends were in the line. A lot of people came to L.A. to come to the event. They (Rohan and Marco) apologized. I think they rectified the situation by giving free admission to that T-Dance, which they lost money on. You know, we all make mistakes. You learn, and you move on.

L.A. is finally beginning to be put on the map as a city that has a good nightlife, and let's not f.... it up for everybody. It's a promoter's responsibility to keep their word. Rohan and Marco felt really bad about it, and they won't do it again. The patrons have a responsibility too... patrons that O.D. and do the drugs like G... many times I feel like stopping the music and saying "You know what? Don't do G!!!" It's such a big problem!

John:

Back to the DJ question. When SPIN started off, they brought in outside people all of the time, right?

Paulo:

All the time. They never used local DJs. Now SPIN is happening twice a month, and I'm their resident DJ. They use me once a month, and the other time they use an outside DJ. SPIN has a very particular sound; it's after-hours, it's a very New York/Miami feeling.

John:

How would you describe your sound?

Paulo:

Very... (laugh) Miami/New York.

John:

Would you consider Miami and New York to be the same? I had this discussion with Manny (Lehman). You've played around enough in the different cities (okay boys, I don't mean THAT kind of PLAYING!)... Do you really think there is a Miami style, a New York style, and an L.A. style?

Paulo:

I believe the major clubs in New York and Miami such as The Roxy, Twilo... In Miami, Salvation... they do have a particular harder sound. The thing about DJing, and I think it's something very, very, important, is that one of the keys to being successful is that you cater to the crowd you're playing to. If you're playing at a Circuit Party such as The White Party, which by the way, I'll be playing at a newly added event for The White Party, the Grand Finale Party and it will probably be my biggest
event to date... When you're catering to a particular crowd, you have to play for them.

John:

So you do play different at SPIN vs. STEREO, vs. White Party?

Paulo:

You have to. At SPIN, I give my 100%, artistic, how I want to play. At STEREO, I'm a little contrived, because... it's not after-hours. You play a lot more vocal stuff... it's still the same... it's just like a recipe for soup... you still have the same vegetables... you may add a little bit more of this spice or that spice. That's kind of like the way I see it.

John:

I wanted to ask you about the "Dive in the Pool", Barry Harris mix. What was your involvement in that mix?

Paulo:

Barry and I are friends, and I actually started training Barry. I was introduced to him about a year and a half ago, and he works with Chris Cox, and they have Thunderpuss, and they've just...

John:

They're doing okay (understatement)!

Paulo:

Every song they have goes into the top 10, literally. Each of them do separate projects once in a while... Chris Cox works with DJ Irene, and Barry wanted to do a song called "Dive in the Pool", which had an enormous success - it was Billboard's #2 Dance record last year after Madonna's "Music". He asked me if I would like to do a mix of it, and I said "Sure, I'll give it a try!" because I was starting into Production in my home studio. I wanted to give my version more of a harder, Tribal feel to it, so I produced a version, and gave it to Barry. Barry presented it to Nervous Records, and they released it as a second... it's out on a CD Single. It's also on a compilation, New York Anthems, although it's not written that it's my mix on it. I was a little disappointed about that. All of the tracks had Junior Vasquez, Thunderpuss, original, or whoever did it, and then on the CD it doesn't give me credit.

John:

You mentioned earlier that you have a home Studio. The new technologies today are affordable enough that DJs can mix in their homes. It used to be that a mixer would have an engineer in the studio to do the "techie" stuff - now the DJs are being forced into that role in addition to providing the artistic component. Do you find that you're having to wake up another side of your brain that really isn't second-nature to fill the "techie" role?

Paulo:

The software for music production is extremely complicated to learn. It takes years... QBase, or Protools, or any of those... they're very difficult. That's what I keep telling Barry, because we just finished doing a new song together, which I'll talk about in a minute. But, what's holding me from producing big, big anthem songs that everyone will know is the technical... that's what's holding me back. I have a DJ background, I have a music background (I played the Clarinet professionally for 15 years, so I know about Music). What's holding me back is the technical.

John:

I can see how that would be. It seems like it would be nice if you could have a computer geek who comes in and...

Paulo:

That's what I'm looking for!

John:

Let's talk about the CD you have out now.

Paulo:

Okay. Thunderpuss approached me... they were going to work on a song called "Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag", which is an old TV theme, and asked me if I'd like to do one of the remixes. I went "Sure!" Who wouldn't take that opportunity? But it was so nerve-wracking. Here I worked on my little remix I did on my home computer, and I approached them with my mix, and they're working on the new Madonna single. So here they are in their huge Thunderpuss studio, and here I am with my little CD, you know... "Okay, you ready you guys?" It's very humbling... You just go "Wow! I've got so much to learn still!" But they liked it, and their record label liked it, and they released it. The weirdest thing is, Wednesday I went to Virgin Megastore, and I went to the CD Singles listening station, and it's the first CD right there on top, and it just blew me away! To see my name... with Thunderpuss! It just blew me away! It's on a CD Single, and it's on Tommy Boy Records, which is a major label. It's already #3 on Billboard's Dance charts. It's just a really good way to put my name out there, and I'm really grateful to them. I still have to buy them something, I don't know what. I'm going to shop tomorrow for something.

John:

So what's next?

Paulo:

I don't know if you've heard of her, but if you haven't, you will. I worked with a Drag performer called "Flava", and I produced a song for her called "Coturnicate" that I played at SPIN, and I'm actually working right now on a new song for release under my name. This is actually my production, not remixing somebody else, and I'm looking for a vocalist to do some of the a cappellas. It's very like Danny Tanaglia - deep house, tribal. It's sounding really, really good.

John:

What about DJ gigs?

Paulo:

In L.A., I'm the SPIN guy. I'll be doing President's Day Weekend. I do STEREO twice a month. They're looking at a new location for STEREO. They want to start something brand new and fresh. I'll also be doing the Grand Finale party at The White Party following Brett Henrichsen. It's an after-closing party. I just got booked to do the Motor Ball in Detroit - it's a very big Circuit Party, and I'm doing the main event on Saturday. I've got some other things going that I really can't talk about now, but production really is my passion. When I look at Victor Calderone producing a song and playing it the first time at a club, and watching their reaction... to make that large amount of a group of people feel good... DJing is not about controlling the crowd, it's about making the crowd feel good. When a huge crowd feels good... DJing is like performing. To make that many feel good, and take them on a trip... it's great. I really can't talk enough about how passionate I am about it.

John:

You mentioned earlier (before the interview) that you feel a DJ should never be bad. Could you elaborate on that? It seems like an awfully bold statement to make.

Paulo:

I find that when you're paying 50, 60, 70, 100 dollars to see a DJ, you want to feel assured that you're going to have a good time. A DJ should never have a good or bad day. I'm talking about us playing, I'm not talking about the sound equipment. A DJ should not allow his mood to get in the way of his playing, and he should work with the crowd.

John:

And you're saying that it's just a matter of preparation. What does a DJ do to prepare for an event?

Paulo:

You prepare your music. I don't just go into SPIN, take my records and say "Hmmm... what am I gonna do tonight?" You can't take hundreds of records with you.

John:

You can predict events that you DJ at regularly, but what about the Circuit Events where you haven't played to that particular crowd before? You mentioned that you are doing Motor Ball in Detroit. You've never done it before, so you don't know...

Paulo:

You take more with you. You still want to keep a certain sound to you. You'll never hear me completely play Trance, and you'll never hear me completely play high-energy. I still have a certain repertoire of music, and I mold around to the taste of the crowd. That's the most important aspect of a successful DJ. I've heard Manny (Lehman) play, and that's why he's successful.

John:

But what happens if you go in, and you've got your plan, and it's not working?

Paulo:

It's not gonna happen! It doesn't happen, because you take enough stuff with you. 6 hours of music is really... I mean you're playing, what, 12, 15 records. There's something that Dawna (Montel) wrote that really stuck in my mind, and it's absolutely true. We all have the main anthem songs, the "Destiny's Childs", the "Madonnas", the "Whitney Houstons". We all have those. It's what we put between that distinguishes us from each other. And how you take them on the journey. I always look at the crowd. If I see their hands are not going up enough, I'll play something that I know will put their hands up in the air. That's where you have to work with the crowd. You have to look and see what's working. That's why when I don't DJ, I go out and I see what's working. If you don't see what else is working out there, you're going to give them what you think is gonna work, and that might not necessarily work.

John:

Thanks Paulo!

###

To read other Circuit Chat interviews, click here.