The Creators Project: So how does one get interested in making music that involves bending the circuits of 8-bit video game cartridges?
Paul B. Davis: I went to music school—my university was a classical music conservatory—and I was doing composition and electronic music there. For my senior-year project thing I hacked a Nintendo and wanted to make an art and music cartridge out of this video game. Once I did that it seemed like fine art was a more open avenue for what I wanted to do, so I moved to Chicago to go to art school for a few years to focus on a different approach to the kind of music I wanted to make.
How did you end up in London?
I dropped out art school after a year, but I continued to live there and started a DIY performance space. In 2003, I was invited to London to DJ at a rave being thrown by Seed Records. They used to do those raves in Aldwych, inside a disused tube station. They flew me over for one of those. So I was DJing in an abandoned tube station in front of 2,000 nutters, going on after Luke Vibert and before Aphex twin, who were my two high school heroes. As soon as that happened I just thought, London is amazing and this is the best day of my life. So I went back home, grabbed my stuff, and moved over. I’ve been here ever since.
What sort of process do you follow to select the music and sounds for your samples?
It’s about manipulating things and not taking the source material at face value. It’s about trying to find something else to do with it. For a while, for me, that meant scratching and DJ tricks, and more recently I’ve been playing with slow music. It’s kind of coalesced into this slow, chopped-and-screwed house thing.
Is there something about playing downtempo music that’s pleasing in a hypnotic way?
I think so. But it’s just fun, really. I like how things sounds and I like to make aesthetic decisions or whatever, but at the end of the day the stuff I’m doing now is producing tracks. It’s a much more fluid or emotionally responsive kind of act, while trying to come up with a video piece that’s going to fit into the canon of fine art is something else.
What kind of setup are you using to make tracks nowadays? Is it completely software-based?
I use a lot of software synthesizers, but it’s all cracked software. The 8-bit Construction Set sold five or six thousand vinyl copies, so I haven’t had a giant hit and can’t afford proper software. That’s also the reason I don’t use Apple computers, because PCs are really cheap.