“I am from the Midwest, the real Midwest, like Kansas. Remember Dorothy and the Wizard? Well that’s where I am from.” Beckwith grew up so close to Detroit and Chicago, the spiritual homeland of house and techno, that he was always likely to fall victim to their lures. When he did it was the middle of winter during his first year of college: the now 34-year-old went to a party with some older kids and still remembers perfectly what happened next.
“The track playing in the car as we pulled up was ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ by Stardust,” enthuses the man born Paul Beckwith. “We walked up a short flight of stairs to find this wild world of people dancing in costumes (even though it was not even close to Halloween). Even the lights were dancing and moving with the rhythm of the music. I went out the very next day, sold a bunch of my guitar gear and bought a pair of Technics 1210s.”
Given that up to then he had been heavily into the music fed to him by MTV and local radio — “great bands like Spandau Ballet, Siouxie & the Banshees, Simple Minds” — you really could say it was a genuine epiphany.
Soon after, the more local sounds of Chicago house, then New York garage and Detroit techno became obsessions and the now married, well-built and crew cut Paul was DJing around Kansas City. “I remember how excited I was when I got my first gig in Chicago, since it meant that I could now go shopping for tracks in one of the trendy stores like Grammaphone instead of going on a scavenger hunt in Kansas, or getting into a scuffle with another DJ in Kansas City over the one copy of a record that might have made it there.”
As if limited access to the latest records wasn’t drawback enough, Paul soon outgrew his weekend DJ gigs around the Midwest and realised that to get to the next step he would have to start producing. Not one for mucking around, again he sold a load of possessions, took on loans and went to sign up at Berklee School of Music in Boston. It was the best thing he could have done, because here he met Andrew Bayer, a producer on the Anjunabeats label who Paul soon went on to remix. “Even though ‘technically’ Andrew was a trance guy and I was a house guy that didn’t matter, cos in the US at the time the community was so small. If you were into dance music of almost any kind at that time, that was pretty much all it took.”
Now, despite having moved to Brooklyn, he is part of a community here on UK shores with the Anjunabeats family. It is there he has released three EPs in the last three years, each of which has helped to usher in the same fresh deep house sound label mates Dusky have also been dealing in. His tracks are studiously melancholic affairs awash with clean lines, bulbous bass and neon melodies of the sort that seep and bleed their way into your brain. Vocal snippets are used to embellish the slinky and sensuous grooves, but never domineeringly so.
Yet as is often the way with American talents, it’s in Europe that Paul is turning most heads. This summer he plays here at the massive WE ARE FSTVL, but is also currently working on a debut long-player that will likely win him more fans back home. “The craving for deep house here in the US is starting to grow slowly,” muses Paul, who calls himself a deep house soldier in reaction to the fact he is rather swimming against the tide of the American mainstream, which as we all know is madly in love with EDM right now.
“To me deep house has become a catchall term for ‘credible house music’. And the term deep house soldier is because here it’s all underground and you have to be passionate and a bit crazy, because really that was the only way you’d be into house music — it wasn’t readily available and you would have to fight to find it.”
Paul sure has done that, and is now the one being found by young house music lovers all over Europe. “When I was 26 I got a tattoo that says ‘House Music, All Night, All Right’ and that pretty much sums it up.”