Behind the scenes with Paper Diamond: Mad Decent, turntable.fm, and Elm & Oak
Paper Diamond, born Alex Botwin, took some time at Electric Zoo 2012 to give us some insight into who he is, his philosophies, and projects. He had just finished wowing the growing crowd with a diverse set early Sunday afternoon. The set ranged from electro house to glitch hop including some of his own tracks such as “Levitate,” “Can We Go Up,” and “Time Flies,” which showcases his wide range of production skills and interests. Read more about our time with him after the break.
Though Paper Diamond was one of the first artists on Pretty Lights Music (known for its support of open source music), he recently hooked up with Diplo’s Mad Decent to play the field. “What’s cool about Mad Decent is that they are very attentive,” he said approvingly. “There are people working in an office every day, and they’re pushing all these great artists and ideas for shows.”
Similarly, he praised the openness and flexibility of the label as an artistic outlet. “With Mad Decent, it’s open in that people that come to Mad Decent, come from all walks of life and music,” he added. “It’s very free for me musically.” In August, Alex had the chance to play at the Mad Decent block party, and Lo End Theory — the famous underground club hosting artists such as Flying Lotus and Erika Badu. He was given free access to Diplo’s studio during his stay, and was especially thankful for the chance to work with Chad Hugo of the Neptunes as well as Usher, a longtime idol.
Constantly thinking outside the box, Alex was one of the first to utilize Turntable.fm, a unique social music-sharing site, as a tool for production and connecting with fans. Growing up, he played all kinds of instruments ranging from violin to guitar to piano, and looked up to many musicians on stage who provided the necessary influence on his career. In turn, he makes it a point to take that extra minute to interact with his fans to inspire people to express themselves through different creative avenues. He also believes in keeping a humble attitude and seeing opportunities for learning in every corner. Through Turntable.fm, he’s able to gauge what people are listening to and what inspires people. He’ll quickly throw a studio render on the site and play it for 200-300 people to get immediate feedback, before going straight back into the studio to finish last touch-ups. Deadmau5 employed a similar crowdsourcing tactic with “The Veldt” to great success, and we have no doubt Alex sees similar success from test-driving tracks with an intimate, loyal subset of his fanbase. When asked about a Mad Decent Turntable.fm Block Party, he laughed and responded, “we need to get that riff raff character.”
We followed up with questions on his new project, Elm & Oak Academy. At its core, Elm & Oak is a collective of many artists, designers, and musicians, and the institution houses a record label, a design firm, an art gallery, and a clothing line. The projects add visuals to make a comprehensive experience for music, rather than just aural stimulus. The new branch of Elm & Oak, the Academy, was established at the University of Colorado, Boulder and was the first non-student owned group to ever receive funding through the campus. He finds faults in the way people interested in the industry are educated through lecture series that feature those that have already succeeded and exited. Thus, Alex curates talks and brings in artists, producers, agents, managers, singers, and anybody else currently in the industry to inspire the youth.
It’s befitting of him to join Mad Decent as he fully embodies and encourages Diplo’s tagline: “Express Yourself.” Check out one of his productions with Diplo, “Climax,” below.
Check out all of Paper Diamond’s new ongoings at his website here. He highly encourages you to Tweet him at @PaperDiamond, as he loves interacting with his fans.