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As the dancefloor continues to be out of bounds you can rely on Freerange to bring you house music which runs that little bit deeper and more soulful, lifting spirits during these darker times. Following hot on the heels of Laroye’s Be The Change, the label offer another heartwarming release, this time from Brooklyn-based artist Greg Paulus. Perhaps better known as one half of No Regular Play, Greg has appeared on labels as diverse as Soul Clap, Let’s Play House, Ghostly International and Kompakt.
For the City Movements EP Greg has delivered three brilliant originals which showcase his talents as a trumpet player, vocalist and producer. Opener Breezy Point comes correct with Greg’s vocals coming to the fore backed by a crunchy house groove, a solid, analogue bassline and simmering Moog synths.
City Movements is out 01/15/20 on Freerange Records
Artist: Greg Paulus
Title: City Movements
Label: Freerange Records
Release Date: 2020-01-15
Interview with Greg Paulus
1.) Thanks so much for talking to us today Greg. How are things for the good people of Brooklyn right now? What is the mood in the city?
Thanks for having me! Things are pretty good in BK, despite the obvious soul crushing pandemic and financial crunch for all the artists and bartenders, nightlife workers etc. New York is so resilient that even in the toughest of times there is an immense pride and can-do attitude that radiates amongst the people. That being said, a lot of people have left the city but like I always say, “it’s not for everyone!”. Those who really love it here or have no other option have stayed and it has gone back to the more local classic vibe I fell in love with when I moved here 18 years ago. Gone are the tourists and the plastic cup toting bros! But the walk around cocktail thing has popped up and it’s great along with all the sidewalk restaurants outside now – it’s developed a bit more of a European vibe. With the election coming up there’s palpable anxiety but hope, nonetheless. New York is strong!
2.) You are one half of No Regular Play and I see you grew up in Minnesota. How did you and Nick get together? What was the beginning of NRP?
Nick and I have been best friends since about age 8, we went to the same school until the end of high school and were always going to jazz clubs and bumping around in the car to Tribe and Slum Village. When he moved to Brooklyn in 2006, I had just finished studying jazz at the Manhattan School of Music and was looking for something new. He and I were unfamiliar with house and techno and fell in love with everything about it. Our introduction to electronic music was more along the lines of Autechre, Funckarma, Lusine, Tim Hecker etc. We began teaching ourselves how to produce and DJ and pretty quickly signed to Wolf + Lamb, where we were really given a platform to shine and develop our sound and relationships.
3.) Tell us about your relationship with the trumpet? When did this begin? Who were your inspirations? Do you play other instruments?
I started playing trumpet at the age of 10. I was very much into skating and was schooled on hip hop from the skate videos. I came to realize all of this was derived from jazz samples i.e. the Dilla beat on Pharcyde’s ‘Runnin’ was a Stan Getz sample and of course Q Tip is an expert at this as well… so I went searching for the origins of these samples and became obsessed with Bebop and African-American music from the ’50’s and ’60’s. John Camp, (dear friend, pianist and long-time collaborator) and I began studying this music with fervour and immersed ourselves in the sounds of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and very importantly Roy Hargrove – who had that innate ability to tie in the history to new music like in D’Angelo’s ‘Voodoo’ album. I miss Roy so much, he really taught me how to handle things on stage as a bandleader and as a trumpet player. John Camp and I were especially inspired by a few elder statesmen in the Minnesota African American music community at Walker West Music Academy. Teachers like Felix James, Wilbert Dugas and Grant West taught us more about the music and the attitude than we could ever explain. As for other instruments, I minored in piano, so I have enough skills to play and produce what I want but not quite enough to perform well, that’s John Camp’s job!
4.) You are closely affiliated with Wolf + Lamb. Are you still involved with the crew?
Zev and Gadi are dear friends and collaborators and always will be. I’m constantly working on something with the crew whether it’s playing trumpet on the new Soul Clap album or jamming in the studio with the many talented members of the team. It was an honour to be a part of developing the W+L sound and to be so closely involved in the parties, tours, and releases. They really gave us a space with free reign and artistic leeway to make our music without compromise, all the while introducing us to the entire industry.
5.) So, you’ve hooked up with London label Freerange Records on this release ‘City Movements’. What can you tell us about the EP?
The EP is without a doubt my best work to date. I feel like I finally made something where I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. It was made mostly in my home studio and pre COVID-19 in the amazing Hyperballad Studios where I work in Bushwick. For this EP, I worked with Taylor Bense and Teddy Stuart, who are in my opinion the two best producers in town. ‘Breezy Point’ is named after Far Rockaway beach that I frequent with the supremely talented artist Lisa Bauer, and it was mixed at Hyperballad with Taylor. ‘Do You Love Me?’ is a collab with Taylor from a late-night session. We have this method where he will get a beat cooking earlier in the night, then I’ll come in after midnight, work with him for a bit, he leaves, and I go to town on it until 8am adding keys, vocals, horns etc. ‘Mr. Lee’s Trophy Theme’ was started from a loop Teddy had sent me. I loved it so much I built a song around it and sent it back to him, he redid some drums (all amazing old analog machines) and we kept sending it back and forth. In the end we finished it in his studio and recorded it to tape!
6.) Have you been a fan of the label in the past? Do you have a fave Freerange release you can highlight?
I have always been a big fan of Jimpster starting with his remix of Osunlade’s ‘Mama’s Groove’, which we used to rinse at the old Marcy Hotel parties. The label is outstanding, along with sister label Delusions of Grandeur. Recently I was very much drawn to the Crakazat release on Freerange and thought the label really synced up with the music I’m making. I became friends with Jimpster after being booked together at a party in the DR. We had a great time hanging and cracking jokes, and musically, we really seemed to be on the same page. It’s just been an absolute pleasure working together on this release and I feel quite blessed!
7.) Your vocal is incredible on the ‘City Movements EP’. Have you always sung on your tracks? Is this something you plan to do more of?
Thank you! It’s incredibly soul bearing and nerve wracking to expose yourself vocally. For the most part I’ve always added some vocals to my music, whether it be NRP or my own. A lot of people in the industry look down on vocals, which I think is quite silly. I understand because that’s the way I used to feel as a teenager when I was listening to Bebop – that ‘instrumental only’ music was where it’s at. As I grew older, I realized that the voice is really such a pure art form. That being said there’s nothing worse than poorly sung vocals, which I have for sure been guilty of in the past! A wise musician once told me you should always learn the lyrics to the songs you’re playing, no matter the instrument. If you play a ballad and you don’t know the words, how can you truly understand and subsequently convey what the composer intended?
8.) ‘Mr Lee’s Trophy Theme’ that’s a very interesting title. What’s the story?
So, I was watching Spike Lee’s latest movie, “Da 5 Bloods”, and was shell shocked by the intense combination of dramatic, thought provoking and comedic art. I’m a huge fan of his work and was truly moved at this portrayal of the Vietnam War, the African American experience, the essential bond of friendship and family and the complex inter connection of these themes. As someone fortunate enough to learn from and be surrounded by African-American artists growing up, I was so moved by the complex lessons of this movie and wanted to express the mixture of feelings I got from it, as well as inject a bit of tongue in cheek humour that the picture so perfectly captured. The crazy result was me making a song depicting my interpretation of Spike Lee’s theme music in his limousine when he’s rolling up to the Oscars in this purple Prince suit to collect his well-deserved trophy for this movie. I hope it gets to him before the Oscars! The lyrics literally just came into my head when I turned the mic on, and I sang it immediately and that first take is what you hear.
9.) 2020 has been a year like no other. How do you keep positive? What is your positive message to others?
Lots of booze and plenty of music! Haha! No, on a serious note it has been the music that has gotten me through this. My income has vanished, and things have been looking bleak, but when you have something you are passionate about, you are never alone. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by caring, inspiring and hilarious friends and family that get me through the days and sleepless nights. My message to others is don’t give up hope. Things can and will always happen in your favour if you believe and visualize the positive. Do what you love and express your love to the people you care about. Don’t worry about judging others and focus on how you can inject positivity and love into the world, because you get back what you put in.
10.) What can we hope to see next from Greg Paulus?
Well, I think I have about 100 tracks that are close to ready, but I have a hard time going back to old material. I have a select few that I’m prepping for an album to be finished asap. I’ve got some music coming out with the artist ‘Grant’ on vinyl soon, and an NRP remix for Life on Planets and Taylor Bense on Kitsune. A live video recording of the band with John Camp, Teddy Stuart and bassist Michael Feinberg is forthcoming on Diaries from the Underground, some trumpet work on a fantastic new Jimpster release…. another exciting collab that I can’t mention yet but it’s a good one! There’s a lot of music I’ve been making with Guti and Dani Ramos that is in the works, a sick new track with Triptease from Berlin, a record with Taylor Bense and John Camp is coming…. if you haven’t checked it out yet I’m immensely proud of a record I did with Yotam Avni and dOP that came out on Kompakt last May. Many more things on the horizon, this is just the beginning…… sleep when ur dead right?!
Turn it up & enjoy!