Paper Diamond on 4/20, Life Changes, and Writing New Music [INTERVIEW]
Alex Botwin, better known as Paper Diamond saw a lot of success as EDM's first wave began to crest with the explosive growth of music festivals. Having performed everywhere from Electric Forest to Mt. Fuji, Paper Diamond has become a strong figure in the world of dance music.
Harnessing the Colorado sound during his tenure in the Rocky Mountains, Paper Diamond was introduced to fans across the nation with his diverse production which range from electro to dubstep on early successes like "Can We Go Up?" to the fusion of melodic hip-hop beats with cut and chop vocals on 2013's "XIX" ft. Angela McClusky.
Now, in 2017 – after a 16 month break from the road – Paper Diamond has been putting in some major work in the studio. From arranging and producing, to transitioning to the role of songwriter and visual animator, Botwin has been quietly working on a massive catalog of music that embodies the next chapter of Paper Diamond. With plenty of change taking place both in the world of music and Botwin's personal life (including the birth of his son, Koda), Paper Diamond is channeling his challenges, successes, and his inspirations into a multi-medium artistic outlet which will be witnessed both through his yet-to-be-released material and live performance.
Ahead of his reunion with the Colorado crew on 4/20, we had the chance to catch up with Paper Diamond to discuss weed, fatherhood, and self-reflection on "What's dope?"
We're also teaming up with Paper Diamond and the teams at Beta Nightclub and Native Roots to hook you up with some goods! Celebrate 4/20 in style with the chance to win some sick swag and a +5 with VIP Bottle Service!
EDM.com: Certainly coming from Colorado you’ve had a huge influence on the “sound of Colorado” and have helped put Colorado on the map for electronic music. How do you view Colorado in terms of it’s sound and it’s identity in comparison to other markets?
Paper Diamond: You think about how big America is, and if you go to Europe and each country is the size of a state…not every one obviously, but everything is much smaller. So to me, now that I’ve lived in LA and have a deeper understanding…it almost seems like a different country. Colorado is just really unique in that the musicality is really important to people out there, but they can also appreciate all types of different music. Colorado is really cool because of the community aspect of it, it feels like a small town but it’s bigger and is growing so quickly. I feel like there’s a lot of influence in Colorado, people traveling through because it’s a place you have to check out in America, so it’s cool. I spent 7 years living in Colorado and it has had a major influence on my persona and my growth, a lot of it happened in Colorado.
Talking about your upcoming show in Denver on 4/20, why did you decide to throw a 420 show?
When I was living in Colorado we threw a little festival called Levitate Festival which is the name of my first EP. It’s always been a festive thing. It’s funny because I’m sure in some places in America weed is still pretty crazy, but for people in Colorado and California and a lot of other places, it’s just normal now.
But before that you had to be like, “Yo I fuck with weed.” and it wasn’t this normal ass thing that every single person does. So even now, I’m like yes! Thank god this is where the country is at right now.
So that’s why. I wanna see my friends and I’m building a new set with all my new music so that everything I’m playing is an edit or a remix or an original. So I’m basically coming to test it out on Colorado first and it’s going to be an extension of new music, video, and art.
Do you have any favorite strains?
I just smoke all the time, that’s it. I’m in the studio right now ripping volcanoes, but I’m not particular. I’m not a weed connoisseur. I just like weed!
[I]t’s not like I’m just taking a stab at writing songs anymore. I’m channeling ideas in my life into words and then putting it to music that I’m making and then putting it to animations.
How has marijuana influenced your creativity over the years, in terms of making music?
It’s kind of an afterthought for me. I get up and go to the studio after taking care of my morning shit and just blaze and work on music and art all day everyday. When I can’t work on anymore music I’ve been heavily working on Cinema 4D stuff, just making animations for my own show and connecting music with art and creating these crazy worlds and having artistic breakthroughs through more than one medium.
This is the first time in forever that I’ve had an extended period of time off the road. And I’ve realized that I was taking so much time thinking about and working on social media that it was actually detracting me from actually writing and doing my own real shit. So I would say that would be my main influence right now.
I’ve been writing every single day for the past 16 months. I’ve been talking about an album and we’re trying to find the right home with a label that understands my sound, because I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is. So that’s my main influence, literally just writing every single day and working with singers and writing lyrics. So I’ve become a songwriter to where I’ve written 50 songs now, lyrically, so it’s not like I’m just taking a stab at writing songs anymore. I’m channeling ideas in my life into words and then putting it to music that I’m making and then putting it to animations. There isn’t really an end in sight, we’re hopefully about to finish all of the contractual shit so that we can begin to release the massive amounts of music that I’ve got.
So I’m trying to arrange in my mind, what does Paper Diamond mean to me? What’s the message that I’m trying to portray?
Not only are you making the producing and songwriting, you’re creating the visual elements as well?
I’ve got my homie Burke Visual who is a really dope artist as well. And we’re just here sitting in here working on music and art as well. He’s an amazing drawer, so we’ll take his drawings and animate them. We’ve been working on a lot of different projects that I can speak a lot about, but we’re working on art direction stuff for a music festival coming up, and on some clothing line stuff. So it’s been interesting being off the road because I’ve been able to delve into all these different worlds. It’s like this all encompassing thing.
I’m working on dumb amounts of music right now, like I have 11 hours and 57 minutes of music from this session for my debut album. So I’m trying to arrange in my mind, what does Paper Diamond mean to me? What’s the message that I’m trying to portray? Because everyone can make beats and make art and animations. I’ve let all of this stuff channel through me for a really long time, because people judge shit, and I’m just trying to be like, “What is the next phase?” And so that’s kind of where I’m at right now.
It’s interesting sitting on all of this.
When come back to the album, how are you going to choose what makes the cut?
That’s the hardest part in my career right now. Because it’s every genre, I haven’t been limiting myself to be like, “You have to write EDM bangers.” I’ve just been writing songs. I’m with a manager who’s been linking me up with singers. So basically when I’m booking sessions, he’ll have a bunch of singers come in and I’ve co-written on every song. So it’s really interesting, I don’t really have an answer for that. I think I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite 15 of the ‘song-songs’. That’s all really cool because it’s crazy music, the dopest shit I’ve made so far. But then I’ve gotta think about my show, what am I gonna play, how does this all make sense… That’s the craziest part, making decisions. When you make a decision you have to cut things off.
There’s been a lot soul-searching. I honestly look at things and think, What is dope? What is actually tight? You know what I mean? What is cool, in general? What is cheesy versus not cheesy? Where’s the line where that sits? And this is all speaking internally, not even thinking about outside influence. Where do you reside?
Speaking of ‘judgement and haters’, at this point in your career you’ve been putting out music for over 10 years. How do you handle the haters or the judgement?
It’s interesting because I care. I’m a caring person and I’m just another person out here making art and trying to make a life out of it. Literally. I’ve been blessed to be have been able to do that for as long as I’ve been doing it.
So I understand when fans say, “You’ve been talking about an album. Where the fuck is it?” That’s the main thing that I deal with. And maybe I shouldn’t have said that the album was coming out last year, but I thought it was. And it’s not always up to me, there’s a lot of logistics and people on my team that I have to take care of.
But there’s been a lot soul-searching. I honestly look at things and think, What is dope? What is actually tight? You know what I mean? What is cool, in general? What is cheesy versus not cheesy? Where’s the line where that sits? And this is all speaking internally, not even thinking about outside influence. Where do you reside?
You recently had a baby boy, how has fatherhood change your perspective on making music?
First and foremost, the first couple months after having a baby is crazy. Like 4 hours of sleep a night for extended periods of time. So whenever something like that is happening to me, I channel it into the music. Anything that is uncomfortable to me, or bothering me, or inspiring me, its all channeled into the music.
I recently put a Rhodes piano in his nursery so I’m at the studio all day from 10-6 making music but then I come home and play piano to him and sing to him and just hang out.
Born and bred with the Detroit techno scene, I pledge my allegiance to the underground.