Paul Sawyer, the man behind Krafted, talks about his career, creative process, advice for aspiring artists/label owners, goals, favourite club in the UK, and more

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Follow Paul Sawyer on: Facebook | SoundCloud | Twitter

Follow Krafted on: Facebook | SoundCloud | Twitter


Hello, Paul! Thank you for your kindness and your time assented to this talk. How is 2019 treating you so far? 


Thanks for inviting me to this interview, 2019 has been amazing already to be honest. More than I imagined coming out of 2018. I’ve had tracks signed to Perfecto, Pure Progressive, OKO Recordings and Dear Deer; I’ve been inundated with remix requests; launched our new monthly short Krafted videos and recorded a stream with Quivver last weekend. I’ve also got a track coming out soon for a charity called 'Last Night a DJ Saved my Life' organized by Maya Johnson, which is great to be a part of such an amazing cause.


You’ve been in the music industry for several decades now – can you please tell us a bit about how you got started, and when you knew you wanted to make a career of it?


In 1993 I had played a few gigs in the UK and got invited to play in Ibiza that summer. So I headed off and played every night for 3 months at Eden. That was it, my mind was made up from that moment to make a go of it as a DJ. I toured for 10 years after that playing globally and holding down a few residencies in the UK.


Going even further back, did you have any musical idols when you were growing up? What kind of music was there around you when you were a kid?


Electronic music was always something that I loved whilst growing up. Although I started off playing classical music on the piano and violin, I soon moved towards keyboard lessons when I started at Secondary School from the age of 11. The biggest influence for me back then was Jean Michel Jarre. I was fascinated by his music and the overall show. I learnt to play so many of his tracks. I would love the opportunity to spend a day in the studio with him!


How did growing up in the UK shape your sound and ultimately your career?


I think I was lucky that the House music scene became such a huge life changing moment for my age group. The underground scene gave me the opportunity to play in parts of the UK that I’d never have visited if it wasn’t for DJ’ing. I was clubber as well as a DJ, so I spent a lot of time going to clubs up and down the Country to hear DJ’s play. It really did shape the sound that really did it for me. I’ve stuck to my guns with my sound ever since.


Which one of your tracks tell a story best and what’s it about?


I would say 'Zeus' from 2018 which encompassed everything that I wanted in a track. Massive raspy synth lead that sounds huge on a big sound system, as well as some mad vocals that have a touch of a vocoder to give it that subtle robot sound to it. I was developing my sound for ages, chasing a techno edged progressive house sound and it was like the pinnacle of all my tracks that year. I was fascinated with Stephan Bodzin and watching his shows, so that was the inspiration behind that track at the time.


In your rich discography you signed for some of the most notable labels: Steyoyoke, Toolroom, Armada, Juicy Music, Krafted, Pure Progressive, Suffused Music, Pro B Tech Music, Balkan Connection, Dino Audio, Pineapple Digital and more. What is your goal in making music and what do you consider a good track must have? Could you please explain us your creative process?


My goal as a Producer has always been to be recognised by the bigger labels as a producer that they will sign based on the quality of my music. When I first started producing, I dreamt of having tracks out on labels like Armada, Toolroom, Black Hole Recordings, Pure Progressive etc, so to have managed to do that, is amazing for me. It’s a buzz to see your tracks being included in DJ’s sets. You put yourself on the line when you release music and open yourself up to criticism, so to receive such positive support is a great feeling. For me a track should have a journey, so it’s something that I always try to achieve and look for when choosing music. In terms of creative process, I always start with drums and bassline. I then build up lots of ideas with various stabs, synth leads, plucks, arps etc before I start to arrange my tracks. Once the arrangement is in its skeleton form, that’s when I run through seeing what fits and what doesn’t. So, I can sometimes start with say 40 or 50 parts that end up being reduced down to way less. I used to use loops from sample packs, but since I stopped doing that, apart from the odd percussion loop, my tracks flow much better and sound better. I expect it’s the same for most people! 


After more than twenty years in the game, what sticks out as some of your proudest achievements? How has your sound and style evolved in that time? 


There are so many moments that stick, what you’d consider huge moments and some that are the smallest things that mean so much. From selling out 3000 capacity clubs with Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, Digweed, playing at Bedrock on New Years Eve in 1999, dj’ing to 60,000 people in Romania, warming up for the Prodigy in Ibiza, being asked to remix Foals, remixing for Solarstone (coming soon), signing contracts with Toolroom for Krafted supplying music for their compilations, having tracks played on Radio 1, having a track included on Pure Trance volume 7, the list is endless!


You run your own imprint Krafted. What inspired you to start the label, and what have been some of the highlights of running it all these years? 


I took 5 years out of the music industry and got back into it in 2012. I started up the label in 2013 as I was struggling to get music signed, so it made sense to look at having a label as an outlet. I was instantly hooked into signing tracks from other producers and was churning out releases every week for a while! There have been so many highlights as a label and these come about from having such an amazing team. It’s very difficult to achieve everything on your own. There’s been people that have really brought our label forward. One particular person is Stimpy from Concrete Promo, he introduced us to Toolroom, brought Doorly and Made by Pete to us as artists on the label. Got us our first ever play on Pete Tong’s show. All turning points for the label that have opened so many doors for us. I consider our team as a more than just those who work on Krafted  on a daily basis, but the extended team who occasionally give up their time for you.

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How does Krafted differ from other labels? What is the vibe of the music you look to release? Is there a style that makes things right for the label?


I’m not really sure how we differ from other labels to be honest, but one thing is for sure, we all work together to ensure the success of the label in every way we can. The team and brand association are key. In terms of music for the labels, it’s all about tech house on Krafted Digital, Progressive House and melodic techno for Krafted Underground and Downtempo Chill music for Krafted Records.


You are also the A&R Director at Frisky Radio. What do you look for in an artist?


For me, it’s not about how many followers they have on Facebook or SoundCloud, it’s the quality of their music and whether they would be a good fit for Frisky. There’s a particular sound that works on Frisky on all three channels. It’s important to see how the artist promotes their mixes and/or music, as it’s pointless having a DJ host a show that puts zero effort into promoting their show. 


What would you change about the house music industry and why?


It’s a shame that DJ’s are booked based on their stats. For years my career was made based on my ability to entertain the crowd. I didn’t release records, it was just reputation. That seems to have been lost now, so I would change the mindset of basing bookings on stats.


How does current techno compare to what you’ve experienced in the early years?


In the early years techno was fast and hard. These days people pigeon hole techno when really its just melodic house or even progressive house. There is still that harder sound of techno, but it’s way slower than back in the day.


Being from the UK, what would you say is the best club someone can visit in your country?


I would say Egg in London, its an amazing space to lose yourself in. So many rooms to hear music, I love that club.


What’s your most treasured tool in the studio and what’s so good about it?


There’s a plug in called Boost that has transformed my music since I got it. It’s so simple, but massively effective. Boost allows you to tweak your eq, stereo field and dynamics of a track, so quickly. I never make a track without it now.


What’s your DAW of choice?


Ableton is what I use, I’ve toyed on switching to Logic, but haven’t taken the plung!


Dream b2b partner? 


That’s got to be Kolsch. Anyone that knows me, will know that I’ve been a fan of him for years!


Please name one remix that you think is better than the original? 


To be honest, it’s very much the case with so many tracks. There’s a handful of producers that when I see their name on a remix, I know it’s going to be an outstanding interpretation that will suit my sets.


Which DJ would you like to swap places with for one day if you could?


I would say it would be an amazing experience to swap with Carl Cox, some of the events he plays are just epic and the response he gets from the crowd is just mad! Plus he’s got the best collection of fast cars and bikes, which would be a huge bonus! Ha ha!


What two critical pieces of advice would you pass on to like minded aspiring artists/label owners – that is, what do you know now that you wish you’d known back then?


There’s two things that are important; getting yourself out there meeting the right people within the industry is massively important and be willing to help each other out. The second thing is having a good team working with you to reach the same goal. No matter how small their contribution is, it’s still hugely important.


What hopes, dreams and goals do you have for this year?


I do have some goals that I’ve attempted to achieve for a while now and literally last week! I really want to get my music signed to Sudbeat and The Soundgarden. I’m also pursuing having more tracks on Pure Progressive this year. Solarstone does an amazing job promoting his label, so it’s a no brainer to be involved as an artist with such a successful brand. As far as the Krafted brand, we are currently concentrating more on video content, promoting the artists and doing more live streams. It’s a great way to increase your audience.


A message for all the people out there who love electronic music. 


Spend 10mins having a look at what we do at Krafted, there’s so much great music across our labels and the new monthly video is worth checking out for an insight into some of the artists from Krafted. Would love to bring the readers from DJs Arena to Krafted to hear and see what we have a lot of fun doing.



                                  




Interview made by Adriana-Laura L., DJs Arena 2019.