Interview:Exclusive Paul Draper Q&A 2006/2007

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Exclusive Paul Draper Q&A 2006/2007 - By Paul Timson
Interview with Paul Draper
Date: 2006 & 2007
Interviewer: Paul Timson

Q. You seem to enjoy being in the studio mostly. Removed from the expectations and bureaucracy of being part of a regular touring band. Does this feel liberating and more importantly do you feel more excited and passionate about your own music, knowing you are calling all the shots without anyone else to please?

A. I've always loved working in the studio more than anything else, hence doing the production work. It's something I've always wanted to do alongside doing my own stuff. Some of the artists I've been working with and am going to be working with are Komakino, Catherine Anne Davies, Skin, blah blah blah. Over Christmas I've completely ripped my studio apart and am rewiring it, not adding more gear but streamlining it, as technology means I can do more stuff with software than hardware!

Q.Which of your current new tracks are you most excited about? Do you find it's always the latest new track or has there been a strong preference to any song throughout the recording of the album?

A. I always like the last track I've worked on coz I generally just keep going on a recording until I really like it then give up. I don't want to give titles of tracks away really coz I tend to have working titles right up to the last day when I replace the guide vocal with a finished one with the finalized lyrics and finish the mix

Q. Regardless of success with your solo work, as you are making music on your own terms, will you carry on making it for as long as you feel the passion to make it? And do you have any idea how many albums you would like to make before you call it a day?

A. I've no idea, I'm just doing my own stuff for my own pleasure. I'll never fall into the trap of making a record for a record company ever again. I'll make music on my own terms from now on and ill keep going. Whenever I fancy writing and releasing, I will!

Q. While recording and producing your songs, both now and in the past, how easy did/do you find the technical side of recording and mixing, with things like Compression, EQ, effects routing etc... or was that left to an engineer?

A. I learned EQ and compression early on as compression, especially, is an important tool in music. In fact I became so obsessed with compression I've ended up collecting hardware and software compressors, what a saddo! In the past I've always worked with engineer Mike Hunter, who's just played bass on the Paolo Nutini, or whatever you call him, record. Mike's a great bass player and a talented engineer. It frees me up to think on the creative side but as I've got more into running my own studio it's become more software based so I can engineer myself pretty easily and just call mike in periodically to rewire, tidy up and oversee things

Q. As far as hands on production, did you explicitly learn skills from others and from reading up on it or did you just pick it up naturally as you went along... twiddling a few knobs, adding a few instruments, reworking it towards your vision until it sounded right?

A. I learnt most of my production skills by reading and messing around in studios, but I picked up a lot of the technical side from working with killer engineers like Mike Hunter and Spike. The creative side of production cannot be taught, it's just applying ideas and being creative and having a feel for arranging and sonics

Q. Would you say you are a better producer today than you were in 1997? Has the experience you have gained over different albums and through producing other artists led you to be technically or musically better? Do you ever feel like you 'know too much' now and that it could stop your more instinctive side from doing the great stuff you did on 'Attack' and 'Six'?

A. In 97 I was just an ideas person, now I know a lot of the technical side, I know my way round a desk, outboard, pro tools, the more you know the less you can apply as you get bogged down in the technical side. All producers are different but I thought of myself as an ideas person really

Q. When you take a song from an idea to the finished article, through the many stages of the process which is the most enjoyable part for you? (e.g: the first listenable passage of pure music, the first time you hear the backing vocals working well with the lead vocal etc)

A. I find the recording process my favourite part of it all really. Writing is a difficult and lonely craft, and that's how I think of it, like being a craftsman, getting a block of stone and carving something out of it

Certain times in the writing and recording and even mixing process something will happen and it will lift or bring out the song, that helps a lot to get to the finish line and to not think you're just pissing in the wind. You instinctively feel a lift in what your doing and it gets closer to a finished thing. Although I'm never happy once something is finished, you just abandon something when you feel like you can't go any further with it

Q. You have mentioned recently your reluctance to use drum loops again, but how about sequencers for the electronic parts? Do you, for example, prefer to play any keyboard parts live onto the recording or do you use various methods to achieve the perfect end result?

A. I'm recording naturally at the moment, using technology but not loops. That was coz the band couldn't play at the start and the loops held everything together

Q. Even though you understandably don't look comfortable in some interviews I've seen, do you find any comedic value in any of them and the responses given by you or Chad for example? And do you or would you take offence at fans finding them of comedy value?

A. No, I think some of those interviews were hilarious, if I could have got out of all interviews I would have, but I did them reluctantly. It pissed people off really but it was just a gag

Q. Most musicians deny it by default but have you ever watched video clips of your old interviews or TV appearances?

A. Yeah, people show me them on youtube and say "what were you doing?" and I can't really explain. I wish I'd have played ball with the TV stations more, but I thought it was funny at the time, not realising it was pissing everyone off but at the time I didn't give a shit really. I just wanted to make the music and not do all the other crap, but it's part and parcel of the job, that's why the net's cool, coz you can hide behind it and just get on with music

Q. Can you name the point in time and the reason why you took up music? What was the first instrument you played and... did you ever get a keyboard as a Christmas present?

A. I was 10 and listening to the Beatles Red Album. I got an acoustic guitar and started recording songs, I've still got every one, all catalogued in the vault, the early ones are crap obviously but there's a progression

Q. At school were you ever thought strange because of your love of music? Did you spend break times in the music room on the piano instead of on the field with "the lads" playing football? And have you ever found your love of football surprising, or has it been in your life as long as music has been?

A. Oh yeah, if you played music where I grew up you weren't liked, it was a hierarchy of violence, the hardest was the coolest in that neanderthal atmosphere, but I didn't really care. I spent dinner hours in the music room playing with anyone who was there, but I played football as well, I gave up in my teens coz I couldn't be bothered in the end, but I've always followed Everton

Q. Do you find writing songs on a Piano/Keyboard, compared to writing songs with a guitar, affects the song all the way up to it's finished status. And which do you tend to or prefer to sit down with to come up with new ideas, chord sequences etc?

A. I find it much harder to write on piano, basically coz i'm a crap player, I just play to write, I cant play other people's stuff. A piano song is very different from a guitar song in the way it develops, but once written I usually switch between playing it on guitar or piano to see which it sounds best on. Once a song's finished it doesn't really matter what it's written on to determine its outcome as a recording, but I tend to swap sections around and lyrics right up until the last minute.

Q. Do you go to the cinema often or do you prefer a night in with some good DVD's? What is the last DVD you bought and are you aware that the X-files DVD box sets are dirt cheap on certain online shops right now? ( I remember rumours of vast sums of money changing hands for you to procure them a few years ago).

A. I go to the cinema a bit, I tend not to watch DVDs coz there's so many movie channels. The last DVD I watched was a Talking Heads documentary, cant remember it's name but it was very good, big suits an all! I haven't seen The X-files for years but I liked it back in the day

Q. If you had to 'go back in time' and stop either 'Doctor Who' or 'The Prisoner' from ever being conceived (the shows not the characters) which would you delete from TV history... if you really had to pick one?

A. Couldn't really pick one, although I liked 'Dr Who' as a kid, whereas I still love 'The Prisoner' as an adult and can watch it over and over

Q. Out of all the decades you have existed in, which has been your favourite and why, or are they all much of a muchness?

A. I like this decade the best, well it's the best for me! Apart from that I couldn't pick one because I like elements from all decades. 60s = Beatles 70s = Bowie 80s = Prince, the holy trinity of musical creativity

Q. When I listened to the 'Everybody Loves A Happy Ending' album by Tears For Fears, I couldn't help but think It sounded like your work in many places. Do you think that is a valid comparison and do you know if Roland Orzabal was a Mansun fan? Do you like Tears for Fears' music yourself?

A. I don't know that record, but Roland came to some of our gigs, I still maintain he's a great pop writer and underrated. Loads of people make comparisons between my writing and his, and I can see that, I can't help what spews out of me so what happens, happens and if its got a connection, so be it!

Q. Kate bush also has very similar phrasing and arrangements in places on older songs. I am a Kate Bush fan myself and prefer her older albums (especially 'Lionheart'), would you say that subconsciously her influence crept into your own song writing?

A. 'Lionheart' is my favourite Kate Bush album. She's always been a massive influence on me, I love her stuff and I think she's one of the few geniuses in music. She wrote 'The Man With The Child In His Eyes' for her O level, and 'Wuthering Heights'!

Q. And what do you think of 'The Kick Inside' and 'Lionheart' as albums? Are you more a 'Hounds Of Love' person? What do you think of 'Aerial'?

A. 'Lionheart' is my fave Bush LP as I say, but 'Hounds Of Love' is amazing too, very much of it's day technically and I like 'The Kick Inside'. I don't have anything bad to say about Kate, she's an original and a genius and one of my favourite artists of all time

Q. As you are a big Prince fan, did you see him at this year's (2006) Brit awards and what did you think of his performance? Does it feel uncomfortable to you that some people may see you in the same way you see Prince?

A. I thought his performance at the Brits was cool, but his Superbowl performance and press conference were much better. I've seen Prince gigs loads, the Lovesexy tour was the best, one of the best rock shows ever. Who the fuck sees me in the same light as Prince, I'm a white dude born in Liverpool, he's a black dude from Minneapolis. I met him once in Tokyo and sat next to him in a club, he had his cane with him, all I had was a straw for my cocktail, that sort of sums it up really

Q. If you could form a supergroup with a vocalist, guitarist, drummer, keyboardist and a bass "dude" and you had to be in it who would you choose?

If you really didn't want to be in it who would you put on vocals?

A. McCartney on bass but with Andie and Chad and me. They didn't know how good they were and the potential they had, they got lead astray and it was the biggest waste of talent ever. I'd have Robert Plant on vocals probably.

Q. Has Chad ever put you in mind of Mark King (Level 42) visually, especially while playing bass in the studio? (on the occasions when Chad has played bass) Have you ever seen Chad wearing the Bass as unfashionably high as Mark King did? ;) He's always reminded me a (little) bit of Mark to look at, but i've only seen them both from afar or in 2D.

A. I've never thought of Chad in the same breath as Mark King, except when Mark King trapped us in a studio car park when his Range Rover door locks stuck. That's the only breath I can think of Mark King and Chad in, but if you see a similarity, then cool!

Q. Would you ever do (solo) cover versions of songs you love even as side projects released just for fans on the internet? We all love your songwriting but your voice is great too and many fans can often imagine a song with you doing the vocals on it, would you ever do that or is it too "Karaoke" for you?

A. I'd defo do cover versions, I used to hate it, but i'll defo do some in the internet age!! I sing Frank Sinatra at karaoke, not bad as well if I may say so myself. I hate my own voice but if other people like it, then cool! I'd prefer to just write and produce, but singing is part and parcel of it so I do it anyway!

Q. Lastly, a tongue firmly in cheek question: If you knew of a couple of long term fans who had met through your music, and I believe you know of at least one such pairing ;), would you ever consider playing a small acoustic set at their wedding. If they asked really nicely and/or paid you five grand?

Or would you need a guarantee that you would get first bash at the buffet to sway it? ;)

A. Dunno about that, I'd be too scared. Could wangle something up I suppose if I thought outside the box a bit!

Q. Thank you Paul, it has been a pleasure to be able to put these questions to you. I hope we can do it again in the future. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A. Thanks for doing the site, it's great and thanks for anyone reading this. I suppose everyone knows I've always hated doing interviews on tv and stuff but I don't mind doing ones like this at all, in fact it's a pleasure as I wouldn't be doing my own music if there wasn't still an interest, I'd just be writing and producing with other artists, so thank you all! d

Paul x