“I made a decision to release less music this year, and get out there and start playing more gigs,” Paul Woolford reveals. “I realised that I’d done tonnes of remixes in the past few years, and that had maybe skewed people’s perceptions. I’ve stepped back to think about exactly what I want to say with every release.”
Well, the first thing Paul wants to say when DJmag breaks the news that he’s scooped the Best Of British gong for Best DJ is thanks to everyone who voted for him. “It’s really flattering,” he beams. “It’s great to finally get some recognition, because I’m not the sort of person to go out canvassing for votes. That’s not who I am.”
The question of ‘who Paul Woolford is?’ is one thing he believes he’s finally answered this year. Not that he’s exactly been unknown up to this point, being an in-demand DJ and producer ever since his first stints behind the decks at the legendary Basics in his native Leeds over a decade ago. But there always seemed to be some disjuncture between Wooly the house DJ, Paul Woolford the remixer for hire to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Skunk Anansie, and Bobby Peru — the shadowy alter ego responsible for 2006’s tech-house anthem ‘Erotic Discourse’. As he himself says, “Some people had me pinned wrong musically because I never made it clear where my heart really lies.”
His first statement of intent for 2010 came with the release of his ‘Platform’ mix for Renaissance in April, with a tracklisting featuring the likes of Robert Hood, Suburban Knight and Joy Orbison that tied Woolford’s colours to a darker and dubbier mast than the peak-time house he’s renowned for spinning. It may, in Paul’s words, “have started the ball rolling” but his ‘Bloodline’ EP was an even greater surprise, featuring as it did ‘Let It Go’, a dubstep tune which could just as easily have borne the Tectonic trademark as that of Paul’s own Intimacy label.
“All these hybrid forms of British bass music reminded me of the first ever Warp releases I bought,” he explains. “Appleblim and Ramadanman have exactly the same mentality as Nightmares On Wax or Forgemasters did, which was something that really fired me up when I was younger. It’s a synthesis of different directions but they all trigger off inspirations for me. I’m using Intimacy as a platform for my own self-indulgent experimentation, so I’ve got some Altered Natives and Kenny Larkin remixes of ‘Let It Go’ and other tracks which are in a more Theo Parrish style.”
Which isn’t, Paul admits, anything he could really get away with playing at his long-running residency at We Love... Sundays at Space in Ibiza, although he says he loves those “Trojan Horse moments when I can sneak in a Frozen Border record. When it works, that’s a real triumph!” Still, he’s found more open-minded ears in the form of Carl Craig, who will be releasing Paul’s new 12” ‘Achilles / Tomorrow’ on Planet E in March, following his ‘Thunder’ EP collaboration with Psycatron on the equally esteemed Cocoon. Not only that, but he’ll be playing alongside Carl on next year’s 20th anniversary of Planet E tour, and has been fully accepted into techno’s most exclusive club by signing to the Detroit Premiere Artists booking agency, alongside his heroes Stacey Pullen and Octave One.
“That’s just blown me away,” he exclaims. “To get the appreciation of people whose music you’ve been listening to since you were 14 years old means I now really believe in what I’m doing.”
2010 hasn’t all been completely plain sailing for Paul however, his residency at Matter an obvious victim of the club’s collapse in the summer. And Paul has sensed the chill economic winds that sank that flagship venue blowing through other corners of clubland as well. “There are still some amazing events but numbers aren’t quite what they could be in some places,” he admits. “But hopefully that will push people to be more creative, because dance music has become saturated with middle-of-the-road records. One great record is worth so much more than 12 average ones.”
And if it’s value for money you’re after, than Paul Woolford is a DJ who’s guaranteed to deliver.
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The Other Nominees