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 catalog 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.
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 the progressive house’s most vital and passionate proponents.
To coincide with the release of the album, Paul will also be hosting a 30-hour radio show on DI.FM, featuring 30 guest DJs including Booka Shade, Paul Oakenfold, Kristina Sky, Dave Seaman, Anthony Pappa and more. This follows a Krafted guest slot on BBC Radio 1 alongside Simon Sinfield that was broadcast on January 7th.
You can buy the album HERE
WWD: Welcome to When We Dip! Thanks for talking to us – how’s 2023 treating you so far?
Thanks for inviting me to the interview. I’ve not had the start of a new year that I was expecting, as I managed to break my collarbone mountain biking, but the silver lining is I have plenty of time to catch up on lots of admin stuff relating to my label, releases and bookings for the year ahead.
WWD: What are your earliest memories of music?
I actually loved music from a very early age and have so many memories from my childhood. I started to learn to play the piano and violin from the age of 6 and just wanted to try out every instrument possible. I was fascinated with making sounds throughout School and learnt to play the drums as well. Playing so many instruments gave me the opportunity to play in lots of bands and I even performed in an orchestra playing the violin when I was 10.
WWD: How would you describe your music style, and who are some of the artists that you draw inspiration from?
My music has always been on the progressive side of house music and edging on trance, but not at the bpm trance is set at. I’ve always loved big euphoric sounds with vocals and melodic leads.
Some of the producers that I tend to include in my sets are Stan Kolev, Matt Fax, Jerome Isma-Ae, Cristoph, and Paul Thomas. All their releases are top quality and fit my music perfectly.
WWD: What were the first records you can remember being into, the ones that really made an impression on you?
There are so many from when I first started DJ’ing. Labels like Perfecto, Hooj Choons, Defective, Stress Records, Deconstruction, all releasing tune after tune. One release that really stuck out for me was ‘Not Over Yet’ by Grace. That particular record stayed in my record box for years!
WWD: You’re celebrating 30 years of DJing in 2023 – can you remember your very first gig?
What I’d call my first proper gig was at a club called House of Windsor warming up for Sasha. I was so nervous as I was a fan of Sasha before I was able to get gigs and the club was huge, from memory around 1500 capacity. I put my first record on without an issue and then tried to que up my second vinyl but couldn’t hear it in my headphones. I turned around to the guy that was in charge of the sound and lighting, and asked if he could help. In my panic and nervousness, I’d forgotten to push the small lever down that holds the tonearm up, so the needle wasn’t even touching the record! Ha ha ha What an idiot!
WWD: Is there one set or night you’ve played at in those 30 years that stands out as the best?
One that really sticks in my mind is playing at Bedrock at John Digweed’s 1999 New Years Eve party. That was unreal. The atmosphere was amazing. A coach full of my friends came along so the party really started from the moment we set off. I just remember the crowd cheering to every track I played.
WWD: Tell us about how you went about selecting your entire discography into the 30 tracks that appear on the album?
I really wanted to include music that I’ve worked on from labels outside of my own and I really wanted the album to be a journey. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to remix some great tracks produced by artists I admire, such as Solarstone, Lostly Blue Amazon, Sunscreem and Paul Oakenfold. It was essential for me to include these on the album, so I was very happy to be given permission to license them. The remix of Monster In Me by Paul Oakenfold is exclusive to the album, which was never planned. I met up with Paul in Brighton for dinner and we chatted about it and that’s when he suggested using it exclusively. So, it’s really great to have been given that opportunity.
The remix of Perfect Motion originally by Sunscreem was a dream come true for me to be honest. Their music featured in my sets for years and it’s fair to say I was a fan of them during the 90’s. When the opportunity came about to work with them on a remix, I jumped at it. This had to be included on the album as did my remix of And Then The Rain Falls by Blue Amazon. I even heard Kristina Sky play that remix on her New Years Day stream, so good to see support like that after being released over two years ago.
I have produced deeper progressive tracks, that are more on the melodic techno edge such as Hercules, so I wanted to make sure that the album builds to the more uplifting tracks I’ve made and back down towards the finale. The final track is a cinematic remix by 08Pulse of Waiting All My life with a super talented vocalist called Ana Be. I just knew it was the perfect track to complete the journey.
WWD: Your label Krafted celebrates 10 years this year as well. What have been some of the highs and lows over that time?
It’s amazing to think 10 years have passed since its inception. When I started DJing it was never my plan to start a label, but I started to realise that having my own outlet for my music became essential and gave me the opportunity to bring on board so many producers that I was already following, as well as giving new producers an opportunity to release their music. It was definitely like building a family.
In terms of highs, there have been so many! From working alongside Toolroom records and licensing our music to their compilation albums to securing remixes with notable artists like Doorly, Dave Seaman, Hernan Cattaneo, Wally Lopez and so many more.
Most recently we were invited to host a 6 month residency on BBC Radio 1 for their Wind Down Show back in December 2020 and then again from January 2022. Taking into consideration that I listened to Pete Tong’s first ever show on Radio 1 back in the 90’s, I would never have believed anyone if I was told I would end up with a show on the station! To top it off, I was asked to host a show to kick off 2023, so that can be heard on the BBC Sounds app/website at the moment.
I guess when it comes to lows, there’s been times when I’ve questioned whether it’s worth pumping so much time and money into the label, but it’s like climbing a hill; sometimes the going gets tough, but the more effort you put in and you get to enjoy the goal in many ways.
Krafted has grown considerably over the 10 years and I couldn’t imagine it without everyone involved. We have such a great team now all working together.
WWD: When you’re not working on your music, how do you like to spend your time?
I also have an electrical contracting company, so I split my time between that and my music. I’m lucky to be able to do that rather than trying to squeeze in enough time in the evenings and weekends. I tend to set days in the studio for production which takes up half of my week.
I also spend a lot of time mountain biking as I got into racing electric mountain bikes and have been travelling around the UK racing at various meetings. It’s a lot of fun, but after having a fall recently my season this year will not start until later this year.
WWD: Aside from the album, what else do you have coming up in 2023 that we should be looking out for?
2023 kicked off with a release on Black Hole Recordings called Eutocius and features remixes from Wally Lopez and Stoby & Sonia Scott. Both remixes are very different, but both absolutely brilliant!
I’m going to be back on Paul Thomas and Dhylen’s Pattern label, part of the Future Sound Of Egypt family of labels. They have signed two more releases from me, one called All The Way Down that I collaborated on with my good friend Danny Stubbs and a track called Downunder that features Evan Henzi.
I’ve also got another track signed to Solarstone’s Pure Trance label called Gold that features Carla Werner. She’s such an amazing vocalist and you’d know her from singing on Southern Sun by Paul Oakenfold.
I’ve also organised a 30 hour radio show on DI.FM to celebrate 30 years of dj’ing which will be broadcast on 24th February where I’ve invited lots of my friends to contribute to. This includes Booka Shade, Kristina Sky, Anthony Pappa, Darin Epsilon, Nick Muir, Spada, Just Her etc. I’m so looking forward to this.
WWD: Finally, for you, what is the greatest progressive house track of all time?
Now that is so difficult to pin down to one track!!
This one was always one of my all-time favorite tracks and still sits in my vinyl collection:
Daphne ‘Change’ (Brothers In Rhythm remix) [Stress Records]