Fresh off the release of his latest EP, Odd Furniture—a wonderfully strange collection of American club music styles mashed together with exaggerated swagger and caricatured samples—and a brand new spot on BBC Radio 1's In New DJs We Trust, we sat down with Paul Salva to discuss some of his favourite tunes from all over the musical map.
Odd Job (Get Fresh Version)
I wouldn't have expected electro to be part of your repertoire. Is it a big influence for you?
Yeah. There's a remix I did for Om Unit a few years ago, if you listen to that it's like "oh yeah I like electro bass," but I guess that's one of the only ones I could think of that actually sounds in that vein. I moved to Miami when I was 18, and that was basically the crew that I fell in with. I was working at a record store down there, I know all those guys from Schematic and Otto van Schirach, and all those dudes, so that was actually the first party I ever threw. It was like a Winter Music Conference party, and it was IDM and electro.
Why did you pick these tracks specifically?
That Phoenicia track is one that I still play in sets sometimes... I think every good DJ should have some songs in their crate [where] they don't care if it's old or played out or not, that's kind of their identity. That's one of them that I see myself going back to. That was a big one for me. I had that on wax and it kind of blew my mind what they were doing at the time.
Is there any more recent electro that appeals to you?
I mean, a lot of my crew that I used to come up with are still doing that sound, but I guess... that Om Unit record "The Timps," that was really reminiscent of that. And obviously Addison Groove, even though those aren't really his influences, when I hang out with him he doesn't really know about that stuff, he didn't know who Phoenicia was... he was a drum & bass and dubstep dude and just so happened to get an 808 in. I consider Addison Groove's music proper electro, too, for sure.
I wouldn't have pegged you as a Metro Area fan. Their music seems a lot slower than the kind of stuff I associate with you.
My track "Obsession" is actually inspired by one of Morgan Geist's tracks, the chords and stuff. Another regional story: when I was living in Chicago and Milwaukee, Metro Area had a monthly at Smart Bar. Darshan and Morgan Geist would switch off each month and play freestyle and disco and shit, I was in my early 20s at that time, so that was when they were putting out those 12-inches, those Metro Area 12-inches too, so I got super big into them.
Raise It Up
Why this Dilla beat in particular?
Because he samples Thomas Bangalter on this one—one of the reasons why I personally connect with Dilla. I became a fan of his rap, I knew his classic productions for what they were, I didn't know it was him, I didn't really understand who Dilla was until his Welcome 2 Detroit record, which is him rapping, and me putting together that he was rapping on Slum Village too... so I came to his music backwards and then realised he did [production] and that some of his songs have Detroit techno influence and he was into electronic music.
When I heard this one it was like, "oh shit." I think its called "On the Rocks" by Thomas Bangalter and I was like "Dilla's the fucking man, I love this dude." I love Dilla's rap in this song, too, he has the first verse and it's amazing. This was always one of my favourite Slum Village and Dilla tracks.
What do you think of the ubiquitous Dilla worship over the past few years?
I dunno, I guess it is what it is. A lot of kids wearing Dilla Donuts shirts who don't have any idea of what he's done. It's whatever. He should be celebrated regardless, I'm happy that people appreciate him, you know? The musical offshoot post-Dilla era was, in my opinion, some of the best stuff that's come out of the beat scene, with people trying to do Dilla. It definitely birthed a lot of genres.
A different kind of hip-hop.
When I heard that track, that desk-pounding beat, you know, that was, fuck, like 2001 or 2002, and I was really starting to get serious about production and I had to give a nod to Neptunes. You know, all the cliché big hip-hop producers of that era, The Neptunes changed the way a lot of people thought about music and modern music production. When that beat came out, people were shook. The rap was amazing too. I'm a big Clipse fan.
Didn't you have [Clipse member] Pusha T at one of your shows recently?
Yeah, the Red Bull Culture Clash a few months ago. We've been in talks with his camp, we're actually setting some more stuff up for the springtime, which will be announced soon. Because of the whole "Mercy" remix thing that happened, one of the channels that opened up was talking to his crew... The big seminal thing you do at [Red Bull Culture Clash] is that you bring out a crazy special guest and we were the only crew that whole night that integrated an artist into the song. He came out and rapped over the "Mercy" remix. I felt proud; we didn't win that night, but I felt we had the clincher with that one because he actually came out and did the song that I did. It was awesome and it was well received and he had a good time, and it was an amazing moment for me just because I've liked his stuff since I was a kid.
Were you surprised at the massive reaction to the "Mercy" remix?
Yeah, that was just haphazard. We just did it: put it up on SoundCloud, no press release, didn't send it to blogs, we just put it out that night, it was great.
Walk The Line
This kind of threw me through a loop.
I like a lot of weird shit [laughs].
This and "Grindin," they both use non-musical sounds. Is this something that you're really interested in?
The song "Drop that B" on my new EP is all like car hydraulics and weird shit too. I've always been a fan of field and sample recording. Matthew Herbert's Around the House was huge for me too, I started to get into him and his alias Radioboy and all that stuff back in the day. I found out about his record that he produced for Dani, and this song in particular was killer for me because I could actually mix it out of electro and shit, which I was playing at the time. It's tribal and I think it's even before Santigold, before M.I.A., so I don't know, it was fresh... and her vocals are amazing.
What are some other things you've sampled for your music?
Right now, I'm playing with a sample library of medieval weapons, like weird arrows and drawbridges and shit. I'm a die hard 808 dude, for sure, I'm never going to stop using it, but obviously time and time again you think "oh shit, a whole 'nother sub-genre of 808 music, OK this is it," but no, next shit, another whole bandwagon of people using those sounds and not doing it creatively.
I think that myself, and all my peers and people I work with, everybody's trying to bring back breaks and different things. You can't really beat compressed 808s on a sound system so I think that foundation's going to stick now, and people are going to be like, side-chaining to their 808s and incorporating that. But I think for top-end, its like found sounds and different stuff is definitely where I see things going.
Any chance of a Salva concept album any time in the future?
Yeah, actually I'm working on one right now. That's my big project this year: I'm renting a studio on the road for my tours. I'm basically just writing an album on the road. I have a concept and yeah, it's going to be exciting because all of my work to this point has kind of just been executive produced by my friends, and by Friends of Friends, and they're like, "yo, these are the tracks, these are awesome," and me just knowing I want to stay eclectic and diverse, but not really having any real concept for my stuff. So now, this time, I have an idea and it's pretty exciting actually. I feel like this will be like my actual first proper album, with writers and other musicians.
Throw That P
Speaking of compressed 808s.
That one's always just been my favourite [Miami bass track]. It's a response to 2 Live Crew's "Throw That D." Some of these, I picked them because they are some of the tracks that I always still manage to play in my sets no matter what tempo or what style I'm playing. This track is just fun, and it hits, and for whatever reason it's one of those ones [where] even though kids don't even know what it is or where it comes from, it just sounds good.
It seems like in the wake of footwork and dubstep and trap, that Miami bass gets overlooked in all of it.
It does, and I think another one we trip on [is] Dirtybird, man, they've championed that sound over the last three years. To me, no one really makes that connection, they really have incorporated real bass music into their stuff. I look up to what they do because I always find myself playing the tracks that they release and I feel like they've championed it too, but haven't really gotten tagged with that.
Another Day (Rustie Remix)
Rustie kind of predicted a lot of the "EDM trap" stuff, didn't he?
Me and RL Grime remixed Lidell and I had to try real hard not to bite the Rustie one cause I loved it so much. That tune, which I think was right around when Rustie was breaking, he had that tune on Wireblock called "Zigzag" which is very 808 electro-y, sick tune. But the Lidell remix, it reminded me very much of Timbaland, like I felt when HudMo [first] came out before it got real synth like. HudMo was future Just Blaze, and Rustie was future Timbaland, so this one really reminded me of Timbaland's stuff too, which is how you work the backward vocals for Lidell. When I first heard this track, I was just like "Rustie is the one."
How do you feel about being lumped in with all the trap stuff, even sometimes called one of the originators?
For me, whatever allows me to be a paid working professional DJ / producer and musician… I've grown up a little bit. If it was five years ago, maybe I'd be caught up in it, but now, I show up and I'm a DJ, man. I'll show up to one of those parties and they're playing big-room electro house and now that whole big trap thing has really become brostep... I played with Steve Aoki a couple of weeks ago and I did my thing. I didn't even compromise and they felt it! I played some trap stuff and some Jersey club, and I've been sticking to my guns. I at least understand that I can't drop some crazy ambient shit on these kids or something... you know your lane and you know how far you can push it and challenge them a couple of times.
It's going to come and go. I haven't personally associated myself with [trap]. I appreciate it, there's still good shit coming out. Every once in a while, you hear a track that's innovative and it's great and I'll work it in because I never want to stick to any scene that comes along. That was my musical maturation, if you will, realising that "don't ever do that, no matter what happens, and I think you'll have longevity."
The pop bootleg is a really big thing now. Why this one?
When it came out, it wasn't branded as a remix, it was just "Ooops." That was another awakening as to how sick LuckyMe was, and how sick their art direction was at the time. Their ground level viral marketing, maybe not even intentionally-viral marketing, that was when MySpace started cracking as a producer community and everybody who was down with HudMo—I wasn't even down with them at that time—everybody got a little thing that had the "OOPS" logo, the little audible/comic box, and it had the artist's name inside of it. Lazer Sword had one, and Beretta from the Glitch Mob had one, and it was like, "oh shit, you're down with HudMo, who is this?"
Mine To Give
Of all the classic, straightforward house tracks you could have picked, it seems unusual to pick Photek.
That was a time when I was working in a record store, when I'd have my drum & bass friends that I'd go hangout with, go to shows with them, then I'd have my hip-hop friends and go to rap shows with them, then I'd have to sneak into gay house parties in Miami... and I was like, "oh shit it's Photek, this is a dude, the fucking proudest drum & bass, heaviest fucking ninja dude there is, and oh shit, he made this?" That made me happy and inspired me. I love that track. I love Robert Owens. That whole record, Solaris, I always say that's my favourite Photek record, even though obviously Modus Operandi and Form & Function are his most heralded. But for me, Solaris was dope because it was a super sexy record, he totally flipped his style and I loved it, so it was special to me.
I don't think I've ever heard of this guy, who is he?
He's from the Netherlands, I believe. That was just a random track that I found on a Fools Gold WMC sampler or promo. It's just some random track I found and I played the shit out of it. It's probably my favourite track to ever come out on Fools Gold and I don't know, it's slept on, I don't know who he is.
It strikes me that it's pretty much the only recent track on your list.
I guess I didn't intend that to necessarily put it on a pedestal or anything, but I guess it struck me, this and [some Jimmy Edgar tracks]... when I just find certain tracks, they don't get old to me for some reason.
When you DJ, do you deliberately try to mix old and new?
Yeah, I'm 31, and an asset that I have over [younger guys] is history. You could do your research and you could be ahead, but there's something special about having been through some of these scenes and stuff. I like to be a little bit nostalgic when I can. If I can get away with playing an afterparty and really going deep into some weird shit, it's awesome.
No Day Massacre
That Analogue Worms Attack album was another [big] one. I've really tried to stay close to all these different styles—breakbeat, analogue, hard-edged. That's beat music... talk about the beat scene, that dude served everybody that ever tried to do that scene, and he stepped into that [just] for a moment, then stepped right back out of it. Nasty analogue synths and hard breaks and hard flanging and effects, it was just filthy—the way only a Frenchman could do.
You tweeted recently that you think that "dirty" French house stuff is going to have a comeback.
I think it's pretty easy for any of us who are academics in this to call the cycles. I think a lot of the pretty R&B stuff is obviously fucking reigning supreme, plus major label rap stuff, and I love all that stuff too. When I tweeted that I was listening to the Gesaffelstein remix of Justice, and it had used the break from Cameo's "Word Up" or the same drum machine, and it's just the hard dirty shit. I never was super put on to Gesaffelstein's stuff and I know he's big, and I always see him headlining festivals and all that shit, so I wanted to know what it was about. It's pretty filthy, pretty well done, amazing dark techno-ish electro stuff. I think the dirty break-y sound is going to come back, electro stuff will come back, proper throwback '92 hip-hop will come back and it's just about how people will re-appropriate it.
Is that something you're looking forward to?
Yeah, definitely man. Everybody that I'm working with now, we're already seeing all that stuff kind of happen. People get tired, especially the producers; all the stuff that's big and poppin' right now was made six months or a year ago. I think the cycle is going to continue and probably faster than it ever has before. We saw the rise and fall of moombahton, dubstep, trap, post-dubstep, you know, every sub-genre that's come and gone over the last three years. They've all come and gone in a period of eight to 16 months as opposed to, I guess, electroclash or 2-step lasting a year or two or more. Shit's happening faster now.