The inspiring story behind an electrifying debut techno EP.
There's a conspicuous break in Paula Temple's discography. Between 2003 and 2011, she didn't release a single track, despite debuting with the strongest record an upcoming artist could hope for. Played by the scene's leading DJs—Surgeon, Jeff Mills, Adam Beyer—The Speck Of The Future was the sound of a 25-year-old working at a level far beyond her years, blending emotion and energy like few artists can manage. But Temple didn't release a follow-up that year, the year after, or the year after that.
"The feedback was phenomenal," she recently told me over Skype from her home in Amsterdam. "But I didn't believe it. I couldn't. My belief in myself was so shockingly low that it didn't matter who said how good the record was, I still couldn't believe it."
Recorded in Sheffield, The Speck Of The Future was the seventh release on Materials, a label founded by the veteran techno artist Chris McCormack. Materials was an outlet for McCormack's own productions, but he made an exception for Temple. She had been living in Sheffield, then a techno hub, for four years, having left her hometown of Preston, and job at Action Records, at the age of 21. She'd been dabbling in production since she was a teenager and, thanks to regular DJ bookings, had started to work on music full-time. "I was making noise and trying to teach myself," she said. "There were no courses, YouTube tutorials or anything like that. You had to figure stuff out yourself."
Connecting with McCormack online during a live stream by the Space DJz, Temple reluctantly sent him four tunes that would eventually become The Speck Of The Future. McCormack immediately asked to release them, and the pair made plans to rerecord them in Temple's studio through McCormack's "very expensive" DBX compressor. "I quickly learned why everyone called him Professor Compressor," Temple laughed. "He knows how to get the most out of them, which is very important for techno."
The Speck Of The Future's three dance floor tracks, which share the vinyl with an ambient cut called "In Reach," suit a range of settings. For peak-time, there's the galloping, bleep-riddled techno of "Contact," included by Jeff Mills on his 2004 Exhibitionist mix CD. Then there's "Miyako," an atmospheric techno track with a jagged rhythm. The EP's most original tune, it pairs a heavily broken drum pattern with a pop vocal twisted beyond recognition. "You wouldn't believe what it initially sounded like," Temple said. "It was a crappy pop sample. I have no idea what it's saying, but I couldn't even say the lyrics to my favourite songs—it's more about the tone."
There's also "Punk Funk," a wonky techno-inspired track that Temple "hated" but McCormack insisted on releasing. It rounds out a world-class EP that should've ignited Temple's career. John Peel, the late, legendary BBC Radio 1 presenter, even played the tracks, and was interested in bringing Temple to London for a Peel Session. Yet it took Temple, who became a music teacher at a community centre, more than a decade to release another record.
"I took time off to make an album, but didn't believe in what I was making," she said. "I told myself that The Speck Of The Future was a complete fluke. It was far easier to teach other people how to make music than having to deal with myself."
Temple's comeback record, Colonized, arrived through the resurgent R&S Records in 2013. In the years since she's become one of techno's leading artists, her profile boosted by high-energy DJ sets that see her blitz through dozens of tracks per hour. She's learned to deal with the insecurities that kept her back a decade ago, and reflects on those experiences when she meets younger producers.
"I meet people who say they're inspired by me, but also say their tracks aren't very good," Temple said. "I was exactly the same when I was younger, so I try to encourage people to believe in what they're doing. I'm the kind of person who looks out for the sensitive, not-so-confident people, because I've been there myself."