Celebrating a landmark anniversary, Paul Sawyer will release 30 Years a DJ in February 2023: a thirty-track collection of original productions and remixes from a truly remarkable career. To coincide with the release, Paul is also set to host a 30-hour radio show on DI.FM, featuring 30 guest DJs including Booka Shade, Paul Oakenfold, Kristina Sky, Dave Seaman and Anthony Pappa.
It’s something of an understatement to say that Paul Sawyer has firmly stamped his mark within the electronic music scene. Over the last three decades he has never stopped working, and now boasts a catalogue that includes originals and remixes on storied labels such as Perfecto Records, Pure Progressive, Black Hole Recordings, Armada, Toolroom and many more, including his own highly respected Krafted Underground imprint. Few artists have such a long career; fewer still operate at such a high level of consistency and creativity.
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To celebrate this remarkable milestone in his career, Paul will release his album 30 Years A DJ on 17 February 2023. Compromising 30 tracks from his extensive discography – including three brand new and previously unreleased tracks – it is a comprehensive collection of one of progressive house’s most vital and passionate proponents.
Thanks for talking to us today – as we enter a new year, what are you hoping 2023 will bring for you professionally?
Hey there, thanks for inviting me to the feature. This year is such a big celebration for me. Not only has it been 30 years since I started DJ’ing professionally, but my label Krafted will also be turning 10 years old later in the year.
2023 kicked off with a show on BBC Radio 1 on the 7th of January, so that was a great way to start the new year. The show is still available to hear on the BBC Sounds website and App, and is being repeated on Radio 1 Dance.
First of all, we want to get to know you “from the beginning”. How did your history with music begin?
My first DJing experience was at the House of Windsor and a club called Simpsons in Bracknell which gave me the opportunity to play in Ibiza during that first year alongside all the big DJs at the time. Carl Cox, Brandon Block, Alex P, Lisa Loud, Judge Jules and The Prodigy were some of the names I was warming up for. I played every night for three months so that really gave me so much experience in a short space of time.
I returned to the UK and was invited to join Menage a Trois in Southampton as I was buying records in Movement Records and got to meet the guys that were running the brand. They’d heard of me after playing Ibiza, so started a 10-year run of events.
We came up with the idea of regular boat parties on the Solent and soon became the most talked about event on the South Coast thanks to Mixmag. Every big name played on the boats and was calling us regularly as the atmosphere was just second to none. I still have so many friends from back then that I stay in touch with. We really created a family out of those events which followed us to so many other events across the UK.
John Digweed was regularly playing for us and we even launched the first Northern Exposure album on the boat with John and Sasha playing. In return, John invited my business partner Gary and I to play at Bedrock, which included playing one NYE. That was one hell of a party on Hastings Pier with Danny Howells also on the bill.
We were driving up and down the Country playing 4 or 5 events every weekend at one point, from Love To Be, Cream, Club UK (London & Wolverhampton), Fun and Miss Moneypennys in Birmingham and The Cross, Ministry of Sound etc in London. The scene was alive during that time, way more clubs than there are now.
For you, what is the magic of music? The thing that makes it such a big part of your life?
I have to say that music is my therapy, it always has been. From even when I was a kid. Playing keyboards, drums and violin to now when I play a set or make music in my studio. Every time when I’ve been playing music, I just feel great afterwards.
I have to say that music is my therapy, it always has been.
You’ve been involved in the industry for an incredible three decades now. Do you feel you still have the same passion for it now as when you started?
For the first ten years, all I wanted to do was DJ as much as possible. Now, I love DJing, but I’m not chasing gigs like I used to. I guess my focus has changed towards running our label, producing music and even more recently, spending time on our management side.
That doesn’t mean my passion has changed, as I do think it’s the same, but just evolved.
Boiling down all your records into this album – how did it feel as a proceed? We can imagine there was a healthy dose of nostalgia at some point!
Yes, most definitely. As I put the tracklist together, it brought back lots of memories from when each track came out and where they were played. Lots of excellent memories and it’s great, as some of the tracks I chose are remixes that I absolutely love. Each person brought something new to my tracks which also ended up being played by a huge number of DJs worldwide.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt over the course of your career?
One of the biggest lessons was being consistent with the music I release. I went through a stage of experimenting with my sound and not worrying too much on one direction. Sounds crazy now when I look back but it was a learning curve.
Being as professional as possible with your approach to everything you do. I tend to be as organised as possible, which is a juggling act these days with so much to think of. From label releases, mixes, events, social media etc. It’s just a huge balancing act, but if you dedicate a good amount of time and focus on goals to aim at, you can make those things happen.
As someone who’s been passionately involved in progressive house for so long, which artists do you see as the future of the genre?
There are so many that I can name here. Lorrainne is a massive talent who I see going far. Amazing producer and DJ as well as being such a lovely person who gets on with everyone.
Lauren Mia, also another super talented DJ/producer and Bound to Divide is a producer that makes such amazing music. I also am a big fan of Allies For Everyone and have played so much of his music recently, including on our show on Radio 1.
We’ve just started managing Amare too as she is another artist that we see going far over the coming years.
What does your current studio set-up look like? Lots of hardware, or are you mainly ‘out of the box’ type producers?
I have lots of hardware, but to be honest, I hardly use it. To produce music, I use a Komplete Kontrol S61 as my Midi keyboard and a lot of the Native Instruments plug-ins. Running two sets of monitors, Rockit 8’s and Yamaha HS8’s to test out the sound. I don’t tend to run them together and switch between them.
I’ve been using Ableton for years now. But I’m currently learning Logic Pro as I am swaying towards using that instead. I just prefer the sound quality from logic.
What is the best advice you ever received as an artist?
This probably goes right back to when I started. I met Alex P in Ibiza when I got my first residency out there and I asked him what should I do to move my career forward when I return to the UK. I never forget, he said to concentrate on running your own night and book DJs that also run events to swap gigs. So, that’s what I did and it kicked started my DJ career in a big way. I was playing at so many events as a result which in turn raised my profile.
So, from that it taught me to help each other out in the industry; It’s so important to do so and gain respect.
Concentrate on running your own night and book DJs that also run events to swap gigs.Alex P
This approach has continued throughout the last 30 years. I have to say, it’s given me so many opportunities and I have gained a huge friendship base as a result.
Anything else you’d like to tell us…?
I hope you enjoy my album and thank you again for inviting me to speak with you.
I’d like to so a massive thanks to everyone that has supported me and everything we do at Krafted. That also leaves me with saying a big thank you to the team at Krafted, Simon Sinfield, Darren Braddick, Fran Martinez, Paul Moore and Lawrence Wright. Plus our extended Krafted family who give us their music to release. Without them, the label wouldn’t exist!