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DJ Paul Edge – From Hip-Hop to Techno
Thursday, January 15, 2009

In 1988 techno grew out of an increasingly popular Hip-Hop scene and DJ Paul Edge was a leader of that movement. In recent years he’s used his work in a more political manner, creating pieces on the Iraq war and hurricane Katrina, as well as on issues such as global warming. In the fall of 2008 Paul Edge, who has created a new genre for his work, calling it Psychedelic Dance Music, had three of his songs featured on the hit television show CSI, and this week I caught up with him to find out more about how electronic music evolved out of Hip-Hop, when and why he decided to incorporate political issues into his work, and what went into his decision to become and American citizen.

Adam Bernard: Start me off by telling me about Psychedelic Dance Music. Does it involve mushrooms and disco?
DJ Paul Edge: No. Nothing could be further from the truth. Way back in the day when I first started DJing I was a hardcore Hip-Hop DJ. I spun artists like Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, anything that came out in the early days of Def Jam, long before it became what it is now, and I just decided to play the 33s on 45 and see what would happen. I’ve had an obsession with breakbeats for as long as I can remember and what Psychedelic Dance Music is is that urban sound played quicker. The psychedelic aspect refers to what it does to you on the dance floor, it has nothing to do with drugs. Basically, we got so fed up with trying to define the term we just felt, well, what is this? Is it techno? Well, techno is speeded up breaks. Virtually every techno DJ I know is a Hip-Hop fan. Is it trance? No, because trance is cheesy and commercial and quite frankly, shite. So we just came up with this term that was all-encompassing. It has nothing to do with drugs, it has nothing to do with anything other than the effect it has on the dance floor, but it’s linked in more ways than anybody could realize to Hip-Hop without the gangster element.

Adam Bernard: So there’s no pimpin or posting up on the corner?
DJ Paul Edge: Nothing like that, no, but it represents a street feel rather than a glitzy club feel.

Adam Bernard: Was it just the speeding up of records that got you into electronic music, or was there some other aspect that drew you over there?
DJ Paul Edge: Back then most of the Hip-Hop artists were exploring rhythm and tempo. You listen to “Step Off” by Big Daddy Kane that’s probably 124, 125 beats per minute… it might be a bit slower, I can’t remember, it’s so long ago. The De La Soul stuff ranged from 90 bpm to I think “Say No Go” would be around 110. Then you’ve got Rob Base and E-Z Rock, which was 112 bpm. So when Hip-Hop first started it was far more experimental in respect to tempo than what we have today. From a dance floor perspective acid house was just breaking, which sort of ran between 120 and 130 bpm. That came from Chicago and Detroit. It was an urban sound, it was totally so far off the wall and I fell in love with acid house, but obviously I didn’t want to lose sight of my breaks. Between 1990 and 1993 there was this fusion thing where people couldn’t let go of their bass roots, but they wanted to speed up the tempo and I just basically followed that on and never left it. It’s as simple as that.

Adam Bernard: I think within the Hip-Hop community the Miami bass scene did some of that, most notably acts like 2 Live Crew.
DJ Paul Edge: Yeah, and there was Roxanne Chante, she did a track with one of the Chicago boys called “Sharp as a Knife” and there was this whole correlation between Hip-Hop and acid house and at The Outer Limits (in England) we never lost sight of that, so our second room was always breaks. We never lost sight of that rawness that you get from the street.

Adam Bernard: After a decade of success you made the decision to drop out of the limelight for a bit in 2005. What went into that decision and what made you want to come back?
DJ Paul Edge: It was never a question of going away. That wasn’t the thing, it was just… from my perspective something needed to happen. I’d been DJing for many years and I’d been traveling around the world for many years, and I just got bored, quite frankly, and I thought, you know what, it’s time for you to reinvent yourself. I’ve done it a couple of times. I did it in ’94. I just disappeared for two years and then I came back throwing monthly parties at The Outer Limits. Music, especially electronic music, goes through phases where it basically peaks and gets a bit tedious after a while and from my perspective there wasn’t that much happening. I couldn’t get into the minimal thing, so I thought well now is the time to go back into the studio, put your head down and just create this sound that you’ve always dreamed about creating, but have never had the time to do.

Adam Bernard: Outside of music, you became an American citizen a few years ago. Why was this important to you?
DJ Paul Edge: I’ve been coming to America for as long as I can remember. The country, the culture, and everything else is just something I have a huge admiration for and a respect for. Europe isn’t like America. You can drive across Europe in 24 hours and go to eight countries. You can drive for 24 hours in America and just about get into the next state.

Adam Bernard: Depending on where you are!
DJ Paul Edge: {laughs} I know what really brought the size of the country home to me is I had a show, I was down here in Arizona and I had a show in Syracuse. I thought oh, it doesn’t look far on the map, we’ll drive. Four and a half days later, one hour before the show, we turned up and that really brought it home to me in respect of if you’re going to focus on this country you can’t just do it part time. There is so much culture here that people in Europe possibly dismiss. America isn’t New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco, there’s a helluva lot in-between and to really really focus on America and learn about it and learn about what makes America tick you’ve got to make the commitment. In my case it wasn’t the biggest decision in the world because I have so many friends over here. It’s just a country I fell in love with the very first second I stepped foot in it.

Adam Bernard: That’s interesting to hear because the prevailing thought in the US that every other country hates us.
DJ Paul Edge: No, I would take issue with that. I think that when we did “We Will Not Be Silenced” we used a preacher who’s done a lot of work with Hip-Hop artists, Reverend Hagler, and I didn’t get that vibe from Europe. I think that they drew a distinction between the people and the politicians.

Adam Bernard: I’m glad you mentioned “We Will Not Be Silenced” because you do a lot of work with video, as well as music, but you don’t create what most people would categorize as “music videos.”
DJ Paul Edge: “We Will Not Be Silenced” we did in response to the Iraq war and it wasn’t so much done in response to the soldiers, it was done in response to the politicians. That was something we felt very strongly about, that these kids were going over there and having their legs blown off for whatever reason, but when they came home society has to basically stand up for them. We believe that. My sister was a nurse in the first Iraq war and we just felt it was very important to draw a definition between the guys who were following orders and the guys who were giving the orders.

Adam Bernard: Was that the first time you mixed politics with music?
DJ Paul Edge: Oh no, I’ve always been political, but “We Will Not Be Silenced,” for the current Iraq war, was the first time that we really put our necks on the line and said this is how we feel. Again, going to back to Public Enemy, who used to stand on stage and scream about rights, dance music, or techno, never really embraced that, but that’s what music should be doing. In my opinion, electronica, or techno, or whatever you want, there were probably two or three DJs in the world that stood up and were being counted. If we’re going to be true to our Hip-Hop influences, and we have something to say, then we have to use our music to say it. I was getting emails from people who had met me when I was touring who were now fighting in Iraq and I was like hang on a second here, that’s not right, these are nice people.

Adam Bernard: They didn’t do anything to anybody.
DJ Paul Edge: Exactly. I remember once there was a protest outside of a soldier’s hospital and I wrote a scathing blog about it and I got loads of emails from troops basically saying thank you for writing that. There’s not much that we don’t have an opinion on, but this was something that I honestly believed was wrong, I believed it was wrong from the very second that Colin Powell sat in front of the United Nations and lied, and I didn’t see that spilling a single drop of American blood was worth it.

Adam Bernard: You’ve done a few others, as well.
DJ Paul Edge: We did the Nola Ate video. After Katrina I was watching to footage from American TV and listening to the radio through the BBC from England and what I was seeing on the screen totally differed to what was being broadcast in Europe. I was like hang on a minute here, I’m watching this, so I wrote another blog and we sent it to a British DJ called Annie Nightingale, she’s a legendary DJ, and said Annie, we’re listening to what you’re saying on the radio, but that’s not what’s gong on. She read the blog and said “I just had a blog from Paul Edge in America and I don’t think we’re being told the full story of what’s going on.” Within days the whole coverage in Europe changed. Then we put up the Nola 8 video and we raised a bit of money for local charities in New Orleans. People say oh, you’re really political. No, I’m not, I’m not political, I just think that sometimes people have to do the right thing and to hell with the consequences and the war in Iraq and Katrina were two examples of us being in a position to say something and make a difference and if it affects one person then we’ve done our job.

Adam Bernard: Moving away from politics, you recently had a few songs featured on an episode of CSI. Since I’m sure you’d like to have your music on most shows it would be silly of me to ask which other shows you’d like to work with. That being said, are there shows that are no longer on the air that you would have loved to lend your production skills to?
DJ Paul Edge: Wow, that’s a good question. Twin Peaks. There was a bizarreness about that program which I think would have been really good to have done something for. And I’d loved to have had Bill Hicks use one of my songs as an intro to his comedy show. That would have been just absolutely superb because the guy was a genius who was never recognized. But with respect to other TV shows I’m not really a TV person so it’s tough to say, but South Park, that’s one show I would KILL to have one of my records on because it is, in my opinion, the best satire to come out of this country in the last 40 years. They’re using their art to make a point and I just feel that the preface, going back to the psychedelic phase, was that psychedelic artists in the 60’s made their point. They were far more involved. Today you’ve got Britney Spears, you’ve got Justin Timberlake, you’ve got that bloody what’s her name bitch?

Adam Bernard: Miley Cyrus?
DJ Paul Edge: Oh don’t even get me started on her. I mean she’s a nice girl, I’m sure, but c’mon. It’s vacuous. We’ve got a lot more problems to worry about than rubbish like that. I’m a huge Mobb Deep fan and a huge Prophet Posse fan, as well. They say something, and so does Nas. All these artists actually use their art to make a point. It’s about time that the musicians of this world who are not over 70 years old actually try and do something to make a difference and I don’t see that happening, really.

Related Links

Website: djpauledge.com


posted by Adam Bernard @ 3:30 PM  
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