[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] Paper Diamond’s Work Ethic Will Put You To Shame

[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] Paper Diamond’s Work Ethic Will Put You To Shame

[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] Paper Diamond’s Work Ethic Will Put You To Shame


[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] Paper Diamond's Work Ethic Will Put You To Shame

Colorado native Alex Botwin, better known by his stage name Paper Diamond, is part of a new breed of determined, self-taught artists grinding to make their imprint on the global music scene. From the cramped quarters of his tour bus, Alex and his partner in creative crime, Berk, have concepted and hand crafted Paper Diamond’s entire show – from the music you hear to the stunning visuals you see. Music may be his main outlet, but Alex is a true modern renaissance man, leveraging all the creative tools at his disposal to take his audience on a perceptual journey during his shows.

Paper Dimaond’s latest release, The Rain Drops EP, shows a more versatile side of Alex that leans toward melodic, a sound fans both new and old should be able to appreciate. But those craving the trappier, bass-heavy PD need not fear, as Alex informs us that he is already close to finished on his next full-length release. It’s an exciting year for Paper Diamond as the young Boulder producer is poised to make some big noise in 2015. It’s go time for Alex, and he’s ready to lead the charge head on.

We caught up with Paper Diamond literally minutes after the release of “Take Me Away“ via Skype to see what was in store for 2015, geek out on design theory, and see if PD could do any actual origami. Check out the full interview below:

I want people to leaving just feeling an experience, kind of like an escape. I want people to come there and be like, “This is me forgetting about everything else and just living for a minute.”

The Sights and Sounds: Hey Alex, what’s going on?

Paper Diamond: Chillin’ man.

The Sights and Sounds: Great news. Congratulations on the new track! It sounds awesome.

Paper Diamond: Thanks a lot, bro. Yeah it feels good to get some new shit out there.

The Sights and Sounds: I bet, I’m looking forward to hearing more on Friday.

Paper Diamond: Yup, yup. Got the Rain Drops EP coming out on Friday and honestly, I’m a good ways into the next whole EP. So I was going to have this EP be probably twice as many songs, but when you’re working with a different singer on every track there’s just a lot of logistics that’s gotta be worked out. So yeah, I would say that this is just a first installment in the onslaught of music that I’m about to release this year that I’ve been ever so patiently waiting on.

The Sights and Sounds: Exciting man, that’s really exciting. How’s the tour going? I know you’re hitting the end of that journey in your life. How have the last 3 months been?

Paper Diamond: Yeah, the last three months have been great man. I’ve probably only been home like four days so far this year. But the tour’s been amazing, so many amazing days. We’re in the upper Midwest this week, heading back through Chicago, Minneapolis, Madison; we’re in Lafayette at Purdue tonight. Then Milwaukee and then I go home to LA for a couple days, then San Francisco and then it’s off to Europe for a month for the European portion of the tour. So yeah, as much as you would think that I’d be worn out, I’m ready to make it happen. It’s go time for this year.

The Sights and Sounds: Touring Europe sounds amazing. How cool is that? Have you been before?

Paper Diamond: Yeah, actually I worked in Europe last year on a lot of the songs that are about to start coming out. I’ve also played in London and Munich last summer. And then I worked in London for two weeks in the studios and I literally met with so many singers, it was insane, traveling to different parts of London and just going into studio sessions everyday.

It was almost like musical blind dating – meeting all these singers and seeing if we vibe and seeing what we can come up with on the spot. It’s super interesting and really fun. So yeah, I’m going to go over for the same thing this time. I’m going over to do a few shows and then I’m going to be working in Paris for a week and then I’ll be working in London for a week. My goal for this year is to just put out the highest quality music that I can and I’m just going to spend the whole year working on that.
[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] Paper Diamond's Work Ethic Will Put You To Shame

The Sights and Sounds: That’s an awesome plan. You said that going into the studios with these singers is kind of like a blind date. Now do you go in there with something in mind that you’d like to get out of them or do you keep it open format and wing it and improvise and see where it goes?

Paper Diamond: So basically what I do is I write an idea every day, or I try to, like a different chorus, or a different beat, or a different synth line, or a different anything. Something that just… you know, just amass some different ideas that I really like. So when I’m going into the studio… I’m sorry, even before that, when I’m writing ideas now, I’ll actually think of lyrics and melody lines on top of that. So that way when I’m go into the studio I’ll play the singer like ten songs, or something like that. I check them out online and check out what they do, all that kind of stuff, and then I’ll pick what I think are the ten best ideas that they might like, and then when we go into the studio I’ll play it for them and let them and let them choose their favorite one or two. I’ll even leave the room sometimes and just let them vibe out to the music and the songs I picked out. And then I’ll come back in and be like, “Cool, so what do you want to write to?” And they’ll let me know and I’ll be like, “Alright good. Here are the ideas that I have now.” Like sometimes I’ll write a whole song and just keep going and have like 85% of the song and lyrics done before I meet with the singer, and there was a lot of bouncing stuff off each other, you know?

The Sights and Sounds: That’s cool. Makes for a very organic process.

Paper Diamond: Yeah! I don’t like the sound of my voice recorded, but I’m able to sing. So when we get into the studio I’m not shy to sing to the singer and be like, “Hey, this is the kind of idea I had, if you’re not feeling it, let me know what you would like. But if you’re liking any of these ideas let’s incorporate them.”

The Sights and Sounds: If it makes you feel better, I hate the sound of my voice recorded, too. So your tour brings you back through Chicago again. What’s special for you abut coming to Chicago?

Paper Diamond: I feel like Chicago was one of the first cities that really fucked with me. They really showed me a lot of love just coming back and selling out the House of Blues last time. I’ve just had such memorable moments in Chicago, especially like at Lollapalooza when it was the biggest crowd of all time and then the rain just down poured on my life. That was insane. That was an unforgettable moment in my life, for sure. But predominantly when I think about Chicago I just think about the old… like, I used to come there before I was even doing Paper Diamond stuff as Alex B. and then with my band Pnuma Trio. I feel like I’ve been there once or twice a year for like ten years with different projects and stuff. So yeah, it’s cool to come back and be able to play my brand new shit with my new video show.

We’ve basically been working on the music and my artist is on the road with me right now, so we’re developing the video show every single day and making it more of an experience. Just the feedback we’ve been getting from the shows has been insane. It feels like, it sounds like, people are leaving the shows just astounded.

The Sights and Sounds: That’s awesome. Leads me perfectly into my next question: What is one emotion that you want everyone to feel when they leave one of your shows?

Paper Diamond: There’s so many. Honestly I’m taking people all over the place and there’s just a lot of deeper meaning stuff that we’re trying to incorporate in all of the music. So I’d say there’s a wide array of emotions. But I want people to leaving just feeling an experience, kind of like an escape. I want people to come there and be like, “This is me forgetting about everything else and just living for a minute.”
[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] Paper Diamond's Work Ethic Will Put You To Shame 2

The Sights and Sounds: Absolutely. You’ve been in bands all your life as well as done some orchestrating and directing, what would life be like for you without music?

Paper Diamond: Honestly I’ve been doing it for so long I’m not really sure. I guess if there was no music in general, like if I wasn’t professionally doing music I would still be making music just because that’s just what I do. But if music was not around I would probably be painting giant murals or something. I’m always working on art, like visual art all the time, like all the new Rain Gang artwork and stuff, I have a hand in all of that. Everything we’re doing, like even down to the Illustrator files myself with my boy Berk, I’m involved in all of it: Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere. I feel like that’s what makes my stuff different and unique is that, not only the audio for my shows, but the visual stuff I’m actually hand creating with an intentioned mind.

The Sights and Sounds: That’s awesome, you got the Adobe Suite on lock, I can dig that as an art director myself. That’s great that you’re doing all that stuff yourself. Not a lot of people can do that, they need a whole massive team behind them and I think it’s cool that you are crafting that whole experience yourself.

Paper Diamond: On lock down! You got to. Yeah it’s me and my boy Berk, you can check him at @Berkvisual on Twitter, we work on a lot of vector stuff together and he’s really good at hand style drawing, so he’ll draw a lot of stuff and we’ll incorporate it. He’s on the road with me so we’re developing the video show and all kinds of stuff. So it’s real dope just getting to work with people you respect is the best part.

The Sights and Sounds: What’s been your experience as to how music affects us as human beings?

Paper Diamond: It has the power to change. It has the power to bring people together. It has the power to bring people apart. There’s countless things that it does. It’s been such a major part of my life, it’s been like the path – on some pied piper shit, just leading me down the way.

The Sights and Sounds: Going down the rabbit hole, man. That’s cool. What’s been the most powerful or impactful moment that you’ve had in your career?

Paper Diamond: Honestly, there are so many it’s hard for me to even fathom or bring up an individual moment. Sometimes when I’m on stage and just feel a connection with the crowd. I’ve been playing some parts of the show where all the lights go off completely and it’s completely silent for one or two seconds, you know what I’m saying? And the connection between the crowd gives me fucking goosebumps. Yeah, even just little things like that, man. It’s so inspiring to keep doing what I do. I like all the big reactions but sometimes the dopest part is the space between everything.

The Sights and Sounds: I completely agree. Bringing that metaphor into art, it’s sometimes the white space that leaves people with the biggest impact.

Paper Diamond: Yeah exactly, I was gonna say like the kerning between letters, that’s where the dope shit comes in, the space between the letters and typography…

The Sights and Sounds: KERNING! He’s got the language down, everyone!

…be humble, work super hard, stick with your friends that you believe in and that are down and show respect to each other and have a good time with your life.

Paper Diamond: Haha, yeaaahhh. You know that I know, bro!

The Sights and Sounds: You know, I’ve always been a little jealous of that moment when an artist is on stage and they have the audience at their fingertips, they’re all singing along to your big songs. I always thought that had to be the coolest experience as an artist as a few thousand people are waving their hands to your music. That has to be pretty special.

Paper Diamond: It’s very special. And then on top of that, and even taking it to the next level, is that knowing you can draw something, right? Scan it, put it into Illustrator, vectorize it, put it into After Effect and animate it, drop it onto our video rig and blast it onto a 140 foot wall for a thousand people.

The Sights and Sounds: You just made that sound so easy, so I’m gonna let everyone out there know it’s a little more complex, but yes, it looks amazing when it’s done.

Paper Diamond: Haha, yeah. So that’s some basic stuff that. When you think about the idea of being able to take something that you just think in your head, put it on paper, put it on this giant video screen that you’re flashing in front of people with all these crazy sounds, it’s just insanely fun.

The Sights and Sounds: That sounds amazing. Maybe one day some of my artwork will end up behind you on screen.

Paper Diamond: Haha, email me some shit man, I’m always down to check it out.

The Sights and Sounds: Alright Alex, I’ll hold you to that! Moving on to the last couple questions, as I know you’re a busy guy on tour. If you could write yourself a letter today and have it delivered to yourself three years ago, what would you write? What kind of advice would you give yourself?

Paper Diamond: I would just… I don’t know. I would say that, I mean, obviously no one does everything right, you know what I mean? It’s just choices, you make them and changes, I don’t really have any regrets. I don’t know. I wouldn’t necessarily want to predict what was happening for music in the future. Sometimes finding or getting your mind blown by the brand new shit is what it’s all about. So yeah, I don’t know, I would just say the same thing I would say to anybody: be humble, work super hard, stick with your friends that you believe in and that are down and show respect to each other and have a good time with your life.

The Sights and Sounds: Peace, love, unity, respect, am I right?

Paper Diamond: Awwww shit. Haha.

The Sights and Sounds: A couple months ago you posted a photo on Insagram of yourself with Kygo and Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic. What came out of that jam session? Anything we should be on the look out for?

Paper Diamond: We were all just jamming, it was just fun. Dom from Big G had a crazy suite on the Mad Decent boat cruise – it had a grand piano in it. So it was just legendary parties, that’s what was really happening. It was just everybody having a crazy time, haha.

The Sights and Sounds: That looked like a fun jam session for sure. So I have one last question for you and then we can wrap it up. It’s been a pleasure talking with you, Alex. Given your name, Paper Diamond, do you actually know how to do any origami?

Paper Diamond: I don’t, but I should probably get into that. We used to do those little things back in middle school, it’s a question thing, but I don’t remember how. Some people are going to have no idea what we’re talking about when we talk about that, haha. But yeah, not much of an origami dude, only figuratively, just taking it one deeper.

The Sights and Sounds: Haha, one deeper, there you go. Well thanks for chatting, Alex. Like I said, it’s been a pleasure and I look forward to catching your show in Chicago this week!

Paper Diamond: Yeah! Thanks a lot, man. See you there! It’s gonna be a lot fun.

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Kris Hi there! Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Sights and Sounds. Been doing this music writing thing for most my life in one way or another and loving every opportunity it's brought along. Shoot me an email if you have any suggestions for the website, comments, or if you just want to chat. Cheers!