Alex Botwin, the man you can always count on to find hanging out in the crowd. We have not seen another musician more frequently just hanging out in the GA section, straight chilling, absorbing, loving life.
UFO couldn’t pass up a chance to catch up with Alex in Miami during Ultra to talk about Paper Diamond news. Considering our history of casual run-ins, it felt unnatural to speak to him in a production trailer backstage. Alex had just wrapped up a festival set and was visibly buzzing to get back out there, so we kept it quick and got right down to some big, upcoming news.
So how are things? Where are you coming from?
I was in New Orleans last night planning for my music video, which I’m filming on Sunday and Monday.
Oh, nice! What’s good with that?
Well, I have two new releases coming out. I have two EP’s that are finished, and I can’t really talk about the release names publicly yet, but they’re gonna be announced this week. So I’m filming a video for the new single, I got Alucid Media who does a bunch of videos for Pharrel and Kanye and Lupe and all them, and they’re coming out to film and direct the video with me. And Karma Loop TV. So yeah, I’m really excited, I love it down in New Orleans. I’ve got a ’74 Monte Carlo, all blacked out, ready for the video. And I’m excited to put out a bunch of new music.
Is this your first music video?
My first actual treatment-written video, yeah, definitely.
Wow, then this is a pretty big time for you. Snowball a couple of weeks ago was just the tip of the iceberg then. It’s festival season now, you’ve got the Tiger Style Tour coming up right after this. Do you feel ready?
I am very prepared. I have two new EP’s done, so lots of new music. I’m always working on my show and my music and my store and my company, but the Tiger Style Tour is definitely one of the most prepared-for tours I’ve ever had. We planned it the furthest in advance out of any time ever, y’know and I think it’s going to be really good to be able to showcase some of this new stuff that’s coming out. And not only that, but I have illustrators working with video designers, and video designers working with computer animators and musicians working with… y’know, the Paper Diamond thing is bigger than me at this point, it’s a bunch of different people working on it. Creatively, and conceptually, I’m behind a lot of it, but I’m working with all these influential and inspirational artists and I’m putting people together that normally wouldn’t be together to make something new, so for me it’s constantly fucking exciting because all these artists and illustrators and designers are all on board because they like the music, and they’re interested in working on the project.
It makes it easy for me to be like “Wow, well I love your artwork,” and they’re like “Cool, I love music, let’s make some shit happen.” Then all the sudden I have this team of artists and designers and video animators and all these people, and I’m just like wow, we’re on to some crazy shit right now.
And you could say the same thing about Elm & Oak and the way that’s come together, right?
Yeah, definitely, it’s been a natural thing with Elm & Oak, and for people that don’t know Elm & Oak it means “Exclusive Limited Merchandise and One of A Kind’s.” It’s a record company, it’s a design firm, it’s a clothing boutique, it’s an art gallery, it’s a crew of friends. It’s like a big family of artists really supporting each other and trying to make lives out of art and music. For me, I’ve been doing this for several years, I’ve been playing music for eight years, I’ve only been doing for Paper Diamond for about a year and a half, but I see all these young kids who I really believe in like honestly, and I believe in THEM personally, so I’m just telling them things that I’ve learned throughout my time. For example, Two Fresh has a song coming out on Mac Miller’s new EP today, and Two Fresh had a song come out on OWSLA, and the band I manage, Cherub, they’re doing international tours and all this crazy shit. So for me, it’s really exciting to see music that’s inspiring to me, and me being able to work it for them. It’s our family, y’know.
Yeah, that has to feel pretty rewarding.
It’s very rewarding.
So let’s talk about you specifically. What was your opinion about your Ultra set today?
I had a great time today. It wasn’t the craziest show I’ve ever played, y’know, it was an early day at Ultra. But I’m glad to be in Miami and I’m glad to be able to showcase my new material, and my boy Tigran [MiM0SA] was playing right after me. Just being around positive people who are inspiring is good, so I look forward to moving forward with everything, with this festival and Miami and everything else, but overall I thought the reaction was great. It really feels good to play music, It inspires me even more to just keep doing what I do. I love people coming out and being able to inspire people, being able to spread happiness.
Do you think the scene here is any different than what you’re used to playing, or do you feel like you had to play to a certain house audience to make it work?
I think the crowd is certainly different. It’s Miami, it’s Florida, I know not everyone knows Paper Diamond down here. But did I change anything? Definitely not. I just did me, and that’s what I always do. I have my own voice musically. Change anything? No. Feel that the crowd may have been different and there might have been a lot of people who didn’t know me? Yes. But to me, that’s even more exciting, because I’m doing other shit. I’m on my own shit. I don’t make a specific genre, I make all kinds of music, I’m a producer in a way where I can make anything. Put me in a room with another musician who is talented and we’ll make something dope, whether it be dubstep or house or moombahton or indie rock, or whatever. I love making all kinds of music. Some people love making house, or dubstep, or they love this or that. I’m just inspired all the time.
That’s the mark of a good producer, where you can use more than the same drum packs and turn out the same tempo, same feel. On that point, though, I really love your early beat-tape kind of stuff. Why did that shift, what created Paper Diamond out of your “Alex B” releases?
Here’s what I would say about my musical progression. Pnuma Trio, the band that I was a part of, WAS my dance music project, and I started doing Alex B stuff out of the necessity that I need to make all kinds of music every single day. So all of the sudden I had fifty songs that I was like, these are just sitting here, what am I doing? Alright, cool, I’m going to put these out. And I sent it to Flying Lotus, because he was a huge inspiration for me, and he was like yo, let’s do a mix. So then I put all my unreleased shit on a mix, but it was still like, that was everything. Then I put out an album on Alpha Pup which is a beat label, which is all that shit.
Mad love for Alpha Pup.
Yeah, definitely! But at the time, Daddy Kev and all them, I have so much respect for them, and Willie The Gaslamp Killer, those dudes, Nosaj Thing, those dudes are so inspirational and amazing musicians and doing there own thing, but for me, I always cared a lot about what I thought Flying Lotus would think about my music, or what this person would think about my music, whatever, whatever. And I was just making it meditationaly, to make my own thing, to be like okay, Pnuma, I’m writing for a band, I’m writing music, but the Alex B stuff was like, I’m just going to do weird shit because I don’t need to do anything else.
Yeah, making it just for you.
So I started to put that shit out and people were feeling it, and it was like — oh, shit, I didn’t mean for that to happen. It was a total accident. People were feeling the music that gets me higher.
Of course they were. I remember the first time I saw you perform, it was at the Fox as Alex B, and I still remember the way it made me feel when “Pressure Cooker” came on. And I was just… well, I was a little drunk, but I was still just going nuts. I think a lot of people misconstrue it as “chill” music, like “I want to party, I don’t want chill music,” but I will ALWAYS make the case that “chill,” “party,” well black-and-white divisions like that shouldn’t exist. There’s no reason that a jazz-informed, classy track can’t make you go bonkers when you hear it live.
It’s a good point. It’s interesting for me, because once Pnuma started musically going in a different direction, like those guys started to move in a downtempo way when I was ready to make more dance music, I was like word, well I just gotta do this shit. So conceptually, the Paper Diamond name means something significant to me. I was always looking for that artistic separation. I didn’t want to be “Alex B.” That was like, I just did that shit for fun, y’know what I’m saying? People liked it, so I created this whole thing when people were looking to me for that. So then I just wanted to be like fuck that — know that I do EVERYTHING.
I will make a pop song with any pop artist you want to put me with. I will make a hip-hop track if you want to put me in a room with a hip-hop artist. I will make a dubstep song with whoever, y’know what I’m saying? I wasn’t originally interested in collaboration, but now I’m so down to just like, work. Because, like, I want to make everything.
As long as I’m having fun and the people are responding, then I don’t give a fuck. I’m trying to be happy, and I am enjoying the shit out of the music that I’m making — not just as Paper Diamond, but everything. Paper Diamond is cool because I have some artistic separation. I can visually represent the project, more than if it was just talking about Alex B. You can’t have Alex B artwork, y’know? It’s different. I never intended for THAT.
Haha, like Batman? Like a symbol is immortal?
Right, like I’ve been sent like fifteen Paper Diamond tattoos so far and it’s been a year project. I was at a festival last weekend and this girl called me over — she moved her hair and she had a Paper Diamond tattoo on her neck.
It’s different, like, it’s not just about me anymore and that’s the coolest part.
I like what you said about trying new things and always pushing yourself. To me, that indicates that something dramatically new is going to happen within Paper Diamond, or you’re going to come up with something completely fresh. I don’t want to hint that it might be a house track [points to festival], but if you were going to move on to something completely new, what would be the next frontier for you?
Well, you should just wait until the end of this week when this announcement comes out, because there’s about to be some big changes coming soon.