He has worked with an unlikely assortment of musicians, from BB King to Massive Attack to the Spice Girls. Now, this British producer extraordinaire is coming to Chennai. Meet Paul Waller — a pioneer in the UK house music scene back in the late-1980s and ’90s, and today, a much sought-after tutor with the Garnish School of Sound in London. Ahead of a teaching workshop with the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music next week, Paul talks about his love for the
tabla and working on a new album with Eric Clapton.
What’s the first lesson to dropping a beat?
Learn from an expert and apply plenty of time to the process. Also, listen to plenty of drummers and beat-makers.
British pop and R&B have been influenced by Indian sounds for years now — going all the way back to The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood. What are you most excited to explore in the desi soundscape?
I enjoy and value cultural exchanges and fusion. Bhangra is huge around the world, and Indian music has really influenced hip-hop. Also, I’ve always particularly loved the tabla. They are the most expressive drums on the planet. But as a digital guy, I have to tell you that I have an amazing sound library of all Indian instruments, including loops by some amazing players and singers.
Social media and Youtube have been a game changer for indie artists looking to be discovered. As someone on the receiving end — travelling, teaching and constantly sculpting talent — what makes you stop and listen in a saturated sea of sound?
Originality is definitely a priority. New artistes need to develop a musical ‘personality’ that’s recognisable to listeners.
Give us a glimpse of what’s in store on your curriculum. We hear that it’s going to be an intense seven days of music — will there be time to squeeze in a lullaby (read: sleep)?
I think sleep is overrated. (Laughs.) I’ll be taking through every aspect of modern music making, how to use computers as studios, developing a signature sound, and of course, programming and mixing tricks.
You lecture on the BA and MA level on London’s university circuit. What’s the most common misconception you hear about going to music school?
To be honest, it’s that a diploma will get you a record deal. At the end of the day, people in the industry are only interested in how good your music sounds.
What else is on your calendar for 2017?
A lot of stuff. First and foremost, marry my sweetheart. As soon as I leave this beautiful country, I’m off to London, LA and France to make two albums. The first of those will be Eric Clapton’s next album, but don’t tell anyone, because it’s supposed to be a secret!
Are there Indian artists you’d like to collaborate with on a project if time was no barrier?
There are many. Anoushka Shankar is incredible. Zakir Hussain has been a hero for many years. And Niladri Kumar — I could go on and on. I’m already arranging a session with some string players here, and I’m really excited about that, because you can’t get American or European players to give you the feel classically trained Indian players have. I also have a fantastic library of great Indian players on my computer, so I can always use beautiful Indian vibes wherever in the world I am.
Paul Waller will be in the city between January 30 and February 7 for a workshop conducted by the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in
collaboration with Garnish School of School, London. Details: 7358000770
— Sonali Shenoy