Entering the green room backstage at the Canopy Club, Colorado producer Alexander Botwin, known by most as Paper Diamond, looks empowered – not in the sense of narcissism but as someone who is finding himself through his music. His demeanor is invigorating to all who get the pleasure to meet him: nights of writing new music, touring nationwide, and playing festivals, gives one the sense that Paper Diamond is an artist who meticulously plans and works in all aspects of his career.
Overhearing brief snippets of a new song he is currently working on before stepping on stage, there is no question as to why he has gained major recognition from critics and peers alike: on Diplo’s recent BBC Radio 1Xtra’s he said “every festival in the world is not complete without booking Paper Diamond.” His latest singles “Black Rose” and “WYLIN” with Loudpvck are trending on Soundcloud, and his 2014 tour is considerably rigorous. Paper Diamond manages to achieve all of this while still listening and writing new music every day, myopically focused on creating the best music he can produce and phasing out all other distractions.
Paper Diamond discusses his recent success in his brief career, his relationship with Bassnectar, the critical anticipation for his 2014 year, his general thoughts on the current state of music, and where he sees himself in the not-so-distant future. Find out what he had to say below.
UPC: When you were a guest on Diplo’s BBC Radio 1Xtra show Diplo and Friends, he said that “every festival in the world is not complete without booking Paper Diamond.” What do you think when you hear such kind words from arguably the largest icon in the genre?
PD: I’m just like “wow that’s crazy.” Diplo is a giant tastemaker for the world. Just to hear him say that I would say thank you, that’s nice of you. It’s very nice of him. He’s a super dope person.
UPC: Your new single “Black Rose” has been positively received and praised throughout the last three weeks. When you go into making a song like that, when in the process do you know that it will be your next successful track or single?
PD: I’ve been sitting on that song for a while now. I put it out in the summer, and it got 10,000 plays in three hours. I took it down because I was not ready to release it.
UPC: What do you like the most about your recent collaboration with Loudpvck “WYLIN?”
PD: It’s kind of crazy crazy – that song “WYLIN” that we just put out already has 250,000 plays and is number one on Soundcloud. It’s the number one trending audio. It’s all about timing and play. I have so many different songs that I sometimes think “this would be cool. This is the mind-state that I’m in, and people would be ready for me to put out something different. I think it’s funny that the state that music is received now produces the idea every time you put something out people think “is this your new direction?” every single time. People need to chill and understand that I know what’s dope. I ‘m not only making one type of music. I’m keeping it really versatile and not putting restrictions on what I make and staking songs. When the time is right, I can be like “you thought I was doing [one type of music], but now I’m doing this.” I’m just doing what I’ve always done before.
UPC: When listening and reading reviews for your Paragon EP, released in 2013, I noticed that many noted your versatile sound and ability to produce genre-bending electronic music. How would you describe your sound? What is your approach to producing music and choosing samples?
PD: I make everything. I make multi-genre, multi-BPM. I do not restrict myself. I can make hip-hop, electronic music, beats, rap, indie songs, piano music. It is pretty much whatever I’m feeling like that day. I listen to all kinds of new music all the time and stuff that I love. I’ll wake up, do my normal daily thing, put on music really loud music and just rock out for a minute. I will get inspired by listening to thirty different songs then make what I feel like making. I will freak out about music and start working on stuff.
UPC: For our more rap-oriented fans, your recent “2014 Tour Mix” includes hip-hop artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Rich Homie Quan, Ludacris, Miguel, and Juicy J, and fans of your music will quickly hear its influence on your music. Thoughts?
PD: I started on hip-hop. I was making music under the name Alex B., and I did a mix for Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. I made an album called Moments which is pretty avant-garde hip-hop type stuff. I worked with a bunch of hip-hop emcees and rappers.
UPC: How does it feel to be at a point in your career where you are selling out shows on your nationwide tour?
PD: It’s been awesome. I am grateful. Recently, I’ve been working on music right until I go on-stage. I’ll get off, have a couple of drinks, then work until the bus is ready to leave. I’ve been grinding on music so hard and really inspired to write. We’re collaborating and putting out music. I’ve got some speakers that we put backstage. We just keep working.
UPC: Many are looking at 2014 as your “big year.” Do you plan for the future to work that way, or is it how things have fallen into place for you?
PD: I’ve only been doing Paper Diamond for three years. I think every year it gets better because I’m continually working. If you set goals, work backwards from them, and work really hard, then anything is attainable. I get long-term ideas and then start putting in the tiny pieces that it takes to achieve that over a long period of time.
UPC: What do you enjoy the most about touring, and which events are you most excited to perform at in 2014?
PD: The U.M.E. is going to be dope. I’m really excited [to be] playing Electric Forest again. I’m really excited for the rest of this tour, honestly. We’re heading to Milwaukee and Madison, which are some of my favorite places to play. Chicago is definitely one of my favorite places to play. We’re going to the midwest, before the tour is over then for me it’s straight to SXSW, then U.M.E., then straight to SXSW again, then Winter Music Conference. I’m going to Europe at the very beginning of May. We have so many festivals that we haven’t even announced yet, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint just one. I get really excited to play all the time, and I get excited to try new music and see how crowds react to different stuff. I will road test all the time. I will try the song that I’ve been working on backstage – I’ll try it tonight and see see what the reception is and work on it after the show.
UPC: Many have called you a workaholic, which is something you’ve admitted to in past interviews. How do you manage to continue to be creative while headlining for a demanding tour schedule?
PD: I am definitely a workaholic but I do know how to take breaks. Especially last years, I was on the tour bus for about seven months, and that’s not including all of the festivals. We announced this tour the week after I got off the bus last tour, so it’s been pretty inundated with touring. I think the second half of this year I’m really going to take some time to spend in the studio and write an album and hit it really hard in 2015.
UPC: What artists inspire you both within the electronic genre and in other genres?
PD: I grew up a musician playing all kinds of different instruments. Currently, I really like Little Dragon: they’re still putting out a lot of new songs and I love a lot of their records. I love Flying Lotus. I love all the old-school stuff from Herbie Hancock to Led Zepplin. I listen to tons of hip-hop and stay up on all the new releases and stay on Soundcloud. I’m into staying on top of what’s new in music. I also try to push things in different realms.
UPC: Do you only listen to major artists or anything musical you can get your hands on?
PD: I have a record label too called Elm & Oak. I put out groups like Cherub’s first two albums and Too Fresh. I’m always listening to people who are not buzzing yet but musically are amazing to me.
UPC: In three years, Paper Diamond’s career will be _____ because he will _______.
PD: In three years, Paper Diamond’s career will be poppin’ because he worked his ass off.
UPC: Which one of your heroes gave you the best advice for your career, and what was that advice?
PD: I think that everyone gives you bits and pieces of advice that changes the course of things. The best advice that was ever given to me, and I can’t really pinpoint who it was, was that you can work really hard and achieve anything you want if you go after it wholeheartedly.
UPC: If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?
PD: Brazil or something to take some time off and write some music. Somewhere exotic and warm would be good.
UPC: If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
PD: I would probably not wear any clothes and roam the streets.
UPC: Do you already have the concepts for your albums that will be coming out in the future?
PD: I actually have songs for two albums ahead and I have these concepts for whole albums. I’m just piecing things together. Different projects, different ideas. That’s why some of my songs that I made forever ago are being released now. Everything is an individual art piece to me.
UPC: You recently announced your 2014 tour dates and that you will be one of the notable performances at the Ultimate Music Experience in S. Padre Island, TX. What are your first thoughts when you see your name next to artists like Bassnectar, Tiesto, and Zedd?
PD: Feels great. I’ve know Lauren (Bassnector) for a long time. Him and my old band Pnuma co-billed some shows way back in the day. It’s awesome to see his success. It’s really about the music for me, and everything else is secondary. It’s really awesome that they’re putting me up there, and I appreciate all of the love that everyone’s been showing. For me, it’s just cool to see those people. To me, Lauren is a friend. Lauren has always been pushing boundaries as well and keeping himself left field and playing his shows his way. I respect his music and his work ethic.
UPC: What motivated you to do the lecture series that you took part in at Colorado University?
PD: With Colorado and Elm & Oak, we wanted to instill a sense of art, music, and culture that I felt wasn’t prevalent at the time I was there. Really, the whole point of it was to inspire people to make music if they want. I wanted to show people that it is cool to make art and music, and I would bring successful managers, booking agents, and venue owners so I could show people how to book their first show, what a press kit is, how to get things going. It was an open topic discussion. I think the motivation is that I am still learning, and giving back some of that knowledge will in turn help me learn.
UPC: What can we expect from Paper Diamond in the next year?
PD: Shows. Lots of shows. Lots of new music, and I am writing every single day. We have videos coming out. Working on a bunch of different collabs with big rappers and emcees. With Elm & Oak – I’ve been focusing on my own music this year. We definitely have some things in the work with Elm & Oak. I’ve been partially living in L.A. now as well as Colorado, so I’ve been working with more singers. That entire realm is completely different then living in Colorado. We’re just going with it. We’re figuring out when the dust clears from the tour what the next step for that is.
Photography Credit to Jonah Angulo-Hurtig