Dev Pandya, A.K.A. Paradox & Alaska, A.K.A. Mixrace, is one of Drum and Bass true pioneers. He has released vinyl records on Moving Shadow,Metalheadz,Reinforced,Renegade Hardware, Certificate 18, and Good Looking Records. (Just to name a few)He is one of the humblest human beings I have ever had the pleasure of breaking bread with. I flew from Sunny Fort Lauderdale to historic New Orleans for his USA Tour and show with the NOLADNB crew on 20/4/2018 and we met up for a nice lunch on a beautiful Friday afternoon in classic Downtown.
I decided to go old school for this interview, so I recorded it on a 1980 Panasonic Slimline tape recorder! Yes, you read that right, a tape recorder! (Analog all day!) I surprised him with my gadget, and as nostalgia is contagious, Dev’s memory of his first tape recorder was instantly conjured and the conversation flowed from there.
(The atmosphere is full of glasses clinking, forks and knives scraping, voices from the wait staff and laughter from the table next to us. We are seated near the back on a round table. It’s a busy scene and a sunny afternoon. Paradox is on my right and Greenleaf is seated across.)
Andromeda: So, let’s get to it… Who have you worked with before that you most harmonized with in the studio?
Paradox: Well, I guess the two current people I work with because I continue to work with them. One from Sweden called Seba, (I am the godfather to his daughter) we’ve been making vinyl records together for maybe 13 years. Apart from being a great musician, he’s a good cook as well so when I go to Sweden he cooks and that’s really good! I don’t mind that. (Laughter) Because I don’t live in England another guy that I work with is called Nucleus. He flies over from London to Lithuania and he comes into my studio. I work really well with him as he has a great musical mind. Same age as me, understands funk music really well, and is a proper crate digger.
Lots of people have asked me to do collaborations and I’m like… Hmmmm…. My music is recorded in a different code than everyone else, so I don’t want to spread myself too thin if you know what I mean.
How was your experience with Herbie Hancock, how was that for you? How did it all come about?
That was wicked. It was Bill Laswell that connected us. He is a strange musician; Very avant-garde in lots of avenues of how he works. When he mentioned working with Herbie Hancock, I thought “no that won’t happen.” So he played some of my stuff to Herbie, and what Herbie said blew my mind. Herbie said, “Man that boy can swing!” That is the main important aspect in drum programming is to have the kick back. The breaks gotta swing and there has to be funk. That’s what I try and focus on when I’m making music. For him to say that, that I could swing, just made my day because then I knew he understood. So, when it went through with Columbia Records I was really happy. Some of the keyboard stuff he [Herbie] played listening to my stuff was amazing. The track we did was like a car chase funk scene for a movie. It was brilliant. It’s a shame that it didn’t come on vinyl but only on CD.
What can you say about the hardcore sound? Mix Race - The Future Is before Your Eyes (With Trax scratching) What was that like?
Well, the funny thing is, when we were doing that this was before the word drum and bass was even invented. We were 17 then, making music on our computers. We didn't even know what it was it was so fast. So we sent demos to the record labels that were close to our home in Essex and these record labels were really the foundation of jungle. Well, I say “jungle” now because it turned into jungle, but it was Moving Shadow, Ram Records and Suburban Base Records. All these record labels were bedroom studios themselves, so we didn't know what we were doing, and we were making hardcore music, but we were all into hip-hop, like b-boy hip-hop. We were rapping about which pose could dance the best. (Not about guns or whatever.) and Trax was scratching. It was so fast our computer didn't have a bpm counter but it sounded normal to us. When we sent a draft to Moving Shadow and they liked it they said "You now how fast that is right?" and we were like no we don't have a bpm counter. They said “It's 180 bpm's” we said "No, It can’t be" We had to recreate the tracks in the studio and it was way too fast to be classified as hip-hop music. We were like “what have we done?” Then, all of a sudden, it just morphed into hardcore music with Trax scratching as well. We recorded in 1991 but it obviously takes time to go out to the shops, so when it was finally out it was early 1992; But we signed in 1991 and it came out to be a landmark 12” in the hardcore jungle scene.
With all the labels… Paradox Music, Arctic Music, and Esoteric, (labels mostly that put out vinyl) what are your views on the whole vinyl vs digital discussion?
I think that if vinyl wasn’t around, I would actually stop the labels. I wouldn’t do digital labels. To me, it’s like yellow folder music. I’m not against it, everything on my phone is digital. Since I’ve been doing this before DnB was invented, it has to be vinyl, it has to be this way. I don’t care if I lose money when I release records, it just has to be on vinyl.
What can you tell me about Outsider Label? What do you look for when people send you tunes to listen to? What is the first thing you analyze from a piece to consider it for your label?
Outsider is asleep at the moment. I’m a bit of a bastard when accepting music because it has to be perfect, and the thing is I don’t like telling other people how to make their music. If someone sends me their track and there is something that I don’t like in it, I can’t sign it. But I won’t say to them if you take that out I will sign it ya know. I’m a little bit funny if the film samples are crap but the track is really good. I can’t put [out] anything I don’t like so to speak.
Are people still sending you music today?
Yeah, all the time I listen to it all. When you say people sending me music are you talking about people that I don’t know?
Well yeah, unknown producers like example Aperture. That tune on ‘The Age of Outsiders’ CD is wonderful, I had that on repeat forever.
Yeah, Aperture is brilliant. He did a few things for me and just kinda disappeared. I try to listen to all the demos I get. Sometimes I would get a download link from a Russian producer and it will be a zip of like 60 tracks which really isn’t the way to get someone to listen to your music. I tell people to send me 3 of your strongest tracks, and this goes for any label, if the label is interested, get their attention first and then they will ask for more. This guy sent me 60 in a zip (10 is way too much music also.) It stops you as a listener to want to listen to it all. I am always listening, I am just waiting to find the next Aperture really.
Tomorrow is record store day… Best record digging story?
That is really Nucleus territory. He goes to boot fairs lots. Sometimes when I get into his car there is a list that kinda looks like an exam, stapled together 20 pages, I pick it up and it’s just names and names of records in tiny font. You flip the pages and you see the luminous marker of the tunes of the ones he is still looking for.
What is your most influential funk record?
Oh… That is really difficult to answer. I guess the first one I ever heard was “The Meters”, Ironically. (He turns to Greenleaf who during this whole interview has been sitting in front of us and asks Greenleaf if they [The Meters] were from New Orleans? Greenleaf replies “Yes they are”) The Meters are from New Orleans, which is quite bizarre really because I guess it’s meant to be me coming here as we sampled The Meters on early hardcore records on Moving Shadow. We had The Meters snares. We didn’t use the whole break and we always sampled The Meters. So yeah that was really our first looking into the drum side of Funk. I had all of those on CD too, trying to hear which one of the breaks is clearer, trying to get different versions.
What was your most recent music purchase?
I bought Fierce and Zero Tolerance 12” on Redeye Records in London and paid ridiculous shipping charges! (Laughter) And I’m not happy about it but I guess you have to represent. He [Fierce] sent me the wav so I had to have the vinyl. It’s kind of an old one. It has wicked breaks. Equipment wise, I bought a floppy disk on eBay. (Laughter) (Greenleaf says “New kids are going to read that and not know what a floppy disk is"). (Laughter)
In 2003 you said you were on #7, which one are you on now?
Has your equipment failed before on stage?
Yeah, that happened once in Italy. I was performing, and I was playing the keyboard. I kicked the equipment underneath and I kicked the power supply. The whole club turned off! This was in Milan. I didn’t realize it was me. My power supply was connected to a power strip. For some reason, it turned the electric out on the stage. Once I realized it was me, I pretended that it wasn’t me. The club went dark for ½ hour. That was my fault.
So for your live PA shows, do you know what you are going to play? How do you get your show set up?
I say I don’t know what I’m going to play, but I already know half of what I will do so to speak. There are some tracks that are not going to come out yet that I think that I am going to do and it’s never really planned, but sometimes I realize that I am running out of time so I can’t end up doing the ones that I want to do later on in the set, so I just play it by ear; And it really depends if I have the synth or not. (I might play more Alaska stuff.) I have a synth for this show; I didn’t have one for New York. (They couldn’t source one.) So I’m going to be doing some Alaska stuff today… And the next Alaska 12” that is coming out, I will debut that tonight at the Show. (Note to the reader, it is divine.)
Everything creative, I design all the record sleeves for the labels. I did graphic design in college whilst I was making music. I’m Indian, Indians do everything themselves so I’m a bit of a control freak. I have to do the record sleeves. I have to sign off on the proofing. I do everything. So anything art I’m into. My favourite instrument is the viola. I love listening to classical music with violins and violas. I think playing strings in ambient jungle is a way of releasing the fact that you can’t play strings yourself so to speak. Every time there’s a performance I try to do art photography to make it look like art and not a flat jpeg on the internet. I’m always trying to do something 3dish so to speak, it all comes down to creative design.
What have you learned throughout the years (with your music) that you can share with someone to learn from?
The problem is that its cliché to say “Do your own thing, don’t listen to anyone else”, but at the end of the day, it’s true. If people tell you that what you're making is rubbish, you really need to ignore them and do everything you want. Most of it is luck based. We started in an era where no one knew what they were doing. I think it was easier for me to make music. We were at the right place at the right time. I think it’s difficult nowadays to get music on vinyl when there are so many digital labels, and everyone wants to be a DJ. (I don’t, but everyone wants to be one.) I don’t know, anyone can start a record label as well, but yeah you just have to keep doing your own thing. It’s a boring thing to say to be honest. Everyone can have a studio now in a PC, whereas we couldn’t do that; We had to spend 1,000’s on Mackie mixing desks and all sorts of things.
What is your Ethos in life?
It’s going to sound really weird right, but I believe I was put on this earth to make music. It sounds a bit narcissistic, it’s not meant to be, but I believe this is what I was meant to do. It is something that I will constantly do till the last breath I hope.
There’s an Alaska 12" coming out in May(out this Friday with copies still available, just click on the soundcloud clips below)There is another Nucleus & Paradox 12" coming on Metalheadz. A remix project with Gremlinz on my flagship label and another remix with an ambient artist that might be revealed soon. There are other things I can't really say at the moment. We are going to do another 12" for Samurai Music as Geoff Presha is someone we've worked with on many projects so that should appear at the end of 2018. Next year will probably see my 200th 12" surface so at the moment I am researching extravagant packaging options for it. It's not every year you're 200 so it's going to be special.