A chat with Meduka label boss, Vienna native Paul Walter… » nightclubber.ro
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Though his is a sparse discography, Paul Walter’s output is also one that’s brimming with absolute quality. The head of the Meduka label, he’s also released on the likes of Harlo, Patch Series and Æternum Music, where he released his last EP, the brilliant Multikultier, back in 2020. Like many, covid put a temporary stop on Paul’s output, but he;s most definitely been reinvigorated recently, with a new studio, plenty of new music and a Priku and Raresh-endorsed remix some of his recent endeavours. A native of Vienna, Paul is also well placed to give us an insight into the Austrian capital’s relationship with electronic music. Very much a man whose life reverberates to a 4/4 beat, Paul Walter is a name we reckon you’ll be hearing more from soon. We caught up with him recently to find out more…

Can you tell us a bit about your early experiences in electronic music? What made it so special?

One of the earliest experiences where I recognised music as what we call “electronic” was probably when I was a kid. There was a pop music compilation called “Bravo Hits” and there where some tracks which stood out in a sonic sense, which made them special for me and influenced my musical taste. The tracks which did really manifest in my head were Wamdue Project – King of My Castle and Boomfunk MC’s – Freestyler. They were so different from what I had heard before and I liked them a lot, even though I was only about 7 or 8 years old. 

For a lot of people, it takes them some time to grow and appreciate electronic music. Was this the case with you?

After phases of rock, reggae and hip-hop It didn’t take me long until I got stuck to electronic music. If we’re talking about electronic dance music, I think this music is best experienced at a rave, through a proper sound system, while having the time of your life. Maybe if you don’t experience it like that, you just don’t appreciate it. 

Talk to us a bit about the scene in Austria, which really seems to be having a moment right now. Can you tell us a bit about your local involvement with it? 

There are many events in the techno and electro space [in Austria] right now, and my involvement is declining. It is also less and less fitting my musical taste. The good news is that more and more people are starting to make their own music, so my interaction with local producers and composers is increasing.

On another note, after almost ten years, I’ve returned to throwing parties again, ‘Mints’, with my good friend, Lukas. Watch out for them! 

If we’d 24 hours to spend in Vienna, what would you recommend we get up to then? (from a musical point of view!)

There are a bunch of good clubs like Grelle Forelle, Sass Music Club, Pratersauna and Prst. I would recommend you check on Resident Advisor and pick a venue with a musical program that most fits your taste. Also, if you are up for classical music I would recommend you to visit the Opera or Musikverein. You could attend the opera on Saturday evening, then go straight to Sass afterwards, as it’s only three minutes away! 

Were your eyes opened a bit when you went to Germany for a rave? Was it an influential place for you? 

Definitely. I regularly visit Berlin or Frankfurt for special occasions and every time it is as satisfying and influential as the first time. What I enjoy most there, and especially in Berlin, is that the parties don’t finish at 6:00am like in Vienna. In Berlin at that time the party starts. So as a guest or DJ, there is no time pressure at all. Also, people who go to a rave are musically educated on a higher level there. In fact, Germany is the place where a big part of the culture we know today was born and shaped and I feel this every time I visit.

Tell us a bit about your new remix release on Do Easy, which I believe is already being played by Priku and Raresh. How did the release come about? And what does it mean to have the support of these guys?

As you know, vinyl pressing plants have even more delays right now, and pressing costs are increasing, so many labels have decided to shift the focus more on digital releases. So as consequence Do Easy records head, Andy Catana, decided to re-start the label’s “digital only” line, as previous to this there was only one digital only release by Fabian Feyman in 2011. He had the idea to kick it off again with a track by him which was already uploaded on YouTube.People love it, and it quickly reached 50,000 plays. He asked me to contribute a remix and told me about his plans to create a remix EP of it and arranged three remixes by three artists from different backgrounds; Subb An, Ian F and myself. 

The result is a well balanced EP, with the remixes already being supported around the world. For me it was a special project to work on, because it was my first recorded track after a two-year creative studio break, which was caused by the covid situation, some health issues by close family members – plus I needed to improve the acoustics in my studio. My remix has been played a lot though, mainly by Priku. 

It’s a big honour for me as I have followed their music and careers for years. Moreover, in these times it’s more and more important to have such support where a DJ with a certain reach plays your tracks recorded on video, which is then being reshared on social media, in order to get recognised as an upcoming artist.

A curious question: do you make music for yourself or for others? How much of the process is about gaining recognition and acceptance from your peers do you think?

I’ve always done music just for myself. I wanted to simply please my taste of this style of music in the moment of creating it, but of course when working on dance music, you always have to keep in mind that it’s for the dance floor and the people dancing to it. 

In the early days when I was at the beginning, sending the music around to friends, getting feedback, was part of learning. And there was a time, I got more and more satisfied with the results I did, at the same time I did heavy research with minimal music which sometimes was maybe too minimalistic for my circle of friends to which  I used to send music for feedback. At this time there was a change happening, because I saw my friend’s taste was narrowing in a slightly different direction than mine, so that they could not give me objective feedback anymore. I totally understood that of course because I recognised this with me too at some point. If I don’t like a track so much because of my music taste, I can’t give objective feedback. If I for example reduce my feedback just on technical aspects, like mixing, then to give feedback is much easier and feels more honest to me. 

Anyway, at that point I did not feel the need to send my latest recordings I did the night before to all my friends and seek for feedback. I just recorded it and the next day I recorded something new, without sending it around. And even most of the time not listening to what I did for weeks or months too. To not listen to a track straight after recording it, became so important to me, because then I am able to hear it from an objective perspective and can make better decisions. For example if it’s good enough to be released, needs changes or of its crap. If we talk about acceptance, I think that happens on the dancefloor, when you play your own tunes and see how the people react to it. Also when you have a release out, people buy your records or listen to it on youtube, then contact you via social media and tell you they like it. This is the recognition and acceptance I’m searching for.

Speaking of, who have been your mentors in electronic music? What are the biggest lessons you have learned from them?

My biggest mentors are probably all the professional artists around the world releasing great music. Listening to tracks I enjoy a lot over and over again, recognizing all the details in it, thinking about how they technically did particular things. So just listening to music is the biggest lesson I can think of. Afterwards reading about the artists, their lives, careers and work they put into it. The lesson I learned the most, is that it’s about hard work, passion, practice and to not give up. When you say “mentor” I have to think of good friend Daniel Kovac, whom I got to know through Andy Catana and my time working together with them for Do Easy records. He introduced me into producing music, explained to me what a DAW is and all the basics of music production. He is a very good and patient teacher, not getting tired of explaining something over and over again and always shared his studio time together with me, allowing me to learn. After some time my knowledge and experience got to a level where I felt confident and able to exchange with him on eye level. Since then we are researching technical stuff together and trying out many, sometimes unconventional things. I enjoy that a lot.

You tend to keep a ‘quality over quantity’ outlook with your music releases. Is this a conscious decision?

I believe this happened naturally by the decisions I make. I got introduced to this style of electronic dance music at a time where vinyl was still very big and popular in the scene. I felt having my music out on vinyl is a minimum level of respect and appreciation for my work. So finding a label who wants to finance the costs of a vinyl production is a first big selection process, which keeps you away from quantity. I also used to send demos to labels by mail a lot, however I almost never got a response here. For me it started when I had my first vinyl record out, that labels contacted me and asked me for demos. I was also lucky to meet label owners here and there randomly at a rave either when they played in Vienna or when I was partying abroad. For example with Arno: he played in Vienna, then came to an afterparty where I played, he listened to my set, we got introduced to each other by a mutual friend, had a lot of fun at the after the afterparty we’ve stayed in touch ever since. As a result I stopped sending demos to labels or people I did not know in person, instead focused on the relationships I made in real life. These days I also started to post a snippet of unreleased work of mine here and there on social media which gets attention by labels too. I like this natural way of things happening, without pressure, which does not fit well to quantity.

How often do you get to the studio? Can you talk us through your setup a bit and a typical day in the studio?

Usually I try to get to the studio 3-4 times a week. A regular basis is very important to me, otherwise I’m getting out of shape, forgetting things I already knew and getting worse at parts where I already felt very comfortable with, like simple music theory. As a result I feel like my outcome lacks somehow, which was the case after my recent recording break. If I’m just experimenting and not recording music, I don’t stay so long at the studio. If I’m working on new material or a remix I tend to stay longer and sometimes forget the time. My setup consists of a big variety of mono synths, most in eurorack format. I also use the daw much more the last few years, but mostly for arranging the main ideas or simply using its software synths and drum machines, as well as sampling. I really love the new samplers in Logic Pro X! Basically the computer is an instrument for me. I’m also using the midi keyboard and jam a lot on it, recording the jams and editing the midi sequences afterwards. All my instruments are connected to my mixing desk and I still tend to record a stereo sum out of the desk, without any stems or solo files. It’s a way of recording, where I can output the most quantity wise, because it’s fast, and doesn’t let you overwork a project, but it’s not for everybody. I often have discussions about it with colleagues who are in the studio with me ‘can we please at least record the kick separate“ or with labels because my tracks are not so suitable for remixing.

I believe that you wanted to improve the acoustics in your studio room. This sounded like a big job! What needed to be improved? And what was wrong in the first place?

It was a big job and is probably the most underrated part of building a studio as a beginner. Like everybody I had problems with the low frequency response of my room as well as I had a frequency cancellation which came from the reflection of my back wall and cancelled around 40-50HZ. This is very close to the key note I like for kick drums, which is a problem when you do electronic dance music. So I had to build a low frequency absorber with a certain depth and mount it to the back wall in order to eliminate this phenomenon. Which it did. I’m also lucky to have a company consisting of acoustic professionals called Pro Performance situated very close to my studio. The owner Wolfgang Sauter, who is also responsible for the sound system of most clubs in Vienna, advised me a lot.  With the help of him and his team we measured the response of my room before and after my acoustic improvements, so we were able to confirm that what I built worked out. Measuring what’s going on also helped me in gaining confidence with and understanding my room. 

Are you at a stage now where you’re happy with the studio? How is the new studio more conducive to music making? 

Yes, I’m very happy acoustic wise! The situation at my studio now allows me to work faster, and have better sounding mixes at the same time. It really is a game changer, as you are hearing what’s going on, and not listening to reflections and cancellations in your room. Now I can rely on my decisions. Before it was like that when I listened to a track I did, somewhere else, like in a car or on any other sound system, it did not translate as I wanted it too. I believe many know this feeling, and from my experience it was because of my inadequate room. Also with the rest of my step up I’m very satisfied, it was years of work, evaluating processes, fine tuning, rearranging and collecting gear – tailor made to my needs. My studio is also something very personal to me – my happy place – and I doubt that another producer would use it the way I use it.

How much does your mental state impact the music you’re going to make that day? Do you always have an idea in your head about the music you’re going to produce on any given day? 

Mental state for me is everything when being creative. I really need to be in a good mood, start the day right and stimulate myself with positive things to get or stay in mood. I also work part-time at my parents’ company, the basic office work I do, which is very often annoying for me for various reasons. As the office is at the same location where my studio is, it’s very difficult for me to be in a good mood for creative work recently. It’s getting almost impossible to be productive in the studio even when it’s just a half day at the office. I need the whole day just for myself when having studio time, otherwise I’m distracted mentally. I still have to learn to deal with it, splitting the work in non creative, technical stuff and preparations on days where I work in the office and other days where I have the whole day to properly record and being creative helps. 

Do you always have an idea in your head about the music you’re going to produce on any given day?

It’s almost every time an idea comes first, if its a sample, a loop, a melody or something more conceptual. Every time I have an idea, I write it down and collect it. Cause I rarely get an idea while I sit in the studio perfectly prepared, to instantly work on it. On certain days I plan to implement those ideas from my list into a finished track. There are also spontaneous sessions on some days, in which I’m just jamming with synths, patch on the modular or program some patterns which inspire me to record a track with it. This is also very cool and something I love about these instruments – the ability to experiment and randomly explore something new and interesting.

On to DJing for a moment, and I noticed you’ve had some awesome gigs of late, such as As Supermarket in Zurich. From everything I hear about this place, they really do value music more than your average dance promoter. Can you tell us a bit about the all-round experience?

The all around experience is just impeccable. They not only value music, but also all the technical and infrastructural parts of the club is what got my attention. Sandro the owner told me that he locked himself in the club for days to rearrange all the speakers into various positions and combinations, comparing them, in order to pick the best set up and sound they played back. You can really hear this when you walk around the club. As well as its interior, the furniture, the bar, how everything is placed, it’s very tasteful. What is more, Sandro has his amazing music studio in the same building as the club and it was a lot of fun for me to have some studio time there as well and exchange ideas about it. I’m really looking forward to my next time there.

You’ve also played at the likes of KitKat in Berlin. How do you prepare for such a gig? Is it s lot different than a typical gig sound-wise?

This one was fun, and very different I would say. I played for electric Monday, a Monday night event in Berlin which speaks for itself.. KitKat is famous for its special dress code parties in general. As it was my first time ever playing there, lets say dress code wise I wasn’t prepared at all. Sound – wise I prepared like for any other show, listened to tracks I would eventually play. I saw KitKat more as a techno place, that’s why I selected tracks which I rarely play somewhere else, but always wanted to play.  Nevertheless, I’m also always trying to be prepared for multiple kind of situations, cause you never know how the dj before you plays and how the crowd is responding. But this one was definitely my most techno set I ever played and I enjoyed it so much!  

Do you prioritise production over DJing? Do you see yourself as one over the other? Or are they equally important to you? 

I really can’t compare those two. As there are so many differences for me. In the studio I have my set up and environment where I feel like home. On the other side when being booked as DJ maybe the set up.

Is not as you expect it to be, or even some of it not working. So this basic requirement influences the experience a lot. Moreover, being in the studio is something more private and intimate. Whereas Djing is something I share with other people, listening to music, dancing together. These processes are quite different, however, passing the ball so perfectly to each other. This I love about the whole work as DJ and producer, its two different activities, you can only do one of them which is also very nice and satisfying. However If you combine them, compose your own songs, then share them with the audience through a DJ set – it’s mindblowing! Some say, you can do this in a live set too, but for me this is not the case. Because in a live set you are very limited, especially if you don’t work with prerecorded solo files and stems. Also to DJ and mix your music together with songs from other artists is way more fun for me.

Sound-wise, I believe you’ve a release coming for Lumieux on AKTA records, which really represents something new for you. Caen you tell us a bit about that? And how do you generally approach a remix?

That’s true this rmx is a special one. I prepared everything to get started and this very “techno” idea came up. As Lumieux suggested that I do a rmx for one of his tracks I shared this idea with him and he loved it. The result is my most fast forward track ever. I’m very happy with what came out here and want to experiment in this direction more often in the future.

Do you think you need to love an original before you take on a remix? Or just parts of it? 

For me just parts are enough to make a remix. I can easily fall in love with just some elements or a part of a song. I often sample songs for my own production, mostly only the first few seconds/bars of it, also because here is not going on so much with the elements and I don’t like how the song evolves after that. But these first bars I adore so much, so I want to create something out of it. A nice remix for my point of view can also be achieved by just skipping some parts of the original, in order to let the other parts shine even more.

To that question, what are some of your favourite remixes of all time? And what makes them so special in your eyes?

One remix which influenced me a lot is DJ Assassin – A Face In The Crowd (Intellidread Mix) remixed by Chris Simmonds. It’s a well known track, even more than the original which I would describe as deeper and more mellow sounding. I also heard the rmx first and found the original later, which I also really love. What impresses me is that the rmx took it one step further, it somehow brought more excitement, still remaining the intended mood.

Its very similar to another rmx  which stood out for me, Dj Sprinkles rmx of The Mole – Lockdown party released on Perlon. The original is an absolute amazing track standing for his own, was put a step further, from my point of view more for the primetime and in a very creative way. I love what he did with the tremolo effect, so simple and visionary. It amazes me when a remixer takes the original a step further, while still having the soul of the original.

Can you also tell us a bit about what else you’ve coming up that you’re really excited about now?

It’s pretty simple, working on solo material on a regular basis in the studio and hopefully recording suitable tracks to complete my LP for Lowris, which was scheduled for Aetrenum music, but eventually will come out on a project of his. I’m also very excited about all the rmxs I did in the last months, cant wait to see them released!

Keep up with Paul Walter on Instagram, Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Facebook

Paul Walter’s remix of Andy Catana’s My Heartboom is out now via Do Easy. Watch here and listen/buy to the release on Beatport here

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