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INTERVIEW with dj, producer, label owner Paul Thomas about Godskitchen's The Last Dance

Paul’s big break was landing a residency at Birmingham’s Godkitchen and their globally-syndicated GlobalGathering festivals a decade back; a dream foundation for any aspiring DJ to build their career on.

Take a look at the impressive and varied list of labels he’s had track signed to: Spinnin’ Records, Steve Angello’s SIZE Records, Toolroom Records, Doorn Records, Ultra, Gareth Emery’s Garuda, Michael Woods’ Diffused, Vandit records, Outburst records ...the list goes on and on. His golden remix touch has been requested for releases by legends like Basement Jaxx, Chicane, Underworld, Josh Wink, D Ramirez & Mark Knight, Deadmau5, Tiesto and Paul Oakenfold and he’s collaborated with Mark Knight and Jerome Isma-Ae, and more recently, Andy Moor and Funkagenda

He’s firmly established himself more recently as a leading name in the sphere of progressive and trance music across the globe, and the small matter of 9 separate Beatport genre Top 10 successes. His Ultraviolet track in Toolroom hit the No.1 spot in the Progressive Chart (as did other singles Tomorrow and Sunrise), and No. 5 on the overall sales chart, while remixes and collaborations with Funkagenda, Andy Moor, Tiesto & Paul Oakenfold are on the way.

His UltraViolet record label has gone from strength to strength and now is part of Black Hole recordings family of labels.  He has completed the biggest percentage of his upcoming artist album and he is about to perform on  the last ever Godskitchen legendary club brand event called The Last Dance on the 3rd and 4th of June 2016 for a weekend that will be remembered forever. What is more lately he is lecturer on course about Electronic Music Industry at the SubBassDj.

We are glad that he replied positively in our request for an interview and here you can read everything and anything about his fascinating career and the weekend that will be written with gold letters in the UK's Club history at The Last Dance events in Birmingham.

Interview is written and conducted by Dimitri Kechagias, Music Journalist, radio host at 1mix radio. 

Dimitri: First of all I would like to ask if u can recall for us when and where was your first DJ experience. What kind of reactions you got and what kind of mistakes you believe that you have made?

Paul Thomas: My first experience was at a famous after hours venue called Hush club in my home city of Birmingham, UK. I was about 17 I guess, and very uneducated on what music to play to suit the time I was playing. I remember playing first and absolutely hammering it out!

Dimitri: As we are back in the past of your career would be great to recall your first track that you have released and how did you manage to sign it to this label?

Paul Thomas: First release was a track called ‘Chemical Reaction’ on a famous old UK progressive label called ‘Whoop!’. I can’t remember how I signed it now, but I remember being extremely proud of the fact I had one of my tracks on vinyl! I caught the very end of the vinyl scene as that single was released in 2006, so I only had a few of my releases on physical release.

Dimitri: It’s a typical question but I would like to know what kind of influences are present in your tracks? Who are the main producers/djs or classic tracks that you have referenced or echoing inside your tracks?

Paul Thomas: It really depends on what mood I'm in. I love a lot of different styles of electronic music and one day can take influences from liquid drum & bass, and the next from a Deep Dish classic. One thing I have already tried to keep in my music no matter what style I'm working in and that is an emotive melody of some sort. I grew up in the Sasha & Digweed ‘Northern Exposure’ years so melodies have always stuck with me.

Dimitri: At the moment you have great releases on labels like Vandit records and Mark Sherry’s Outburst too. Would you like to tell us what exactly you appreciate in those labels and if you will continue releasing music in them? If yes which tracks will be? Can u give us any hints?

Paul Thomas: With Vandit, I love that Paul van Dyk still a&r’s every release after all these years. He always has interesting ideas on how to make your demo better. With Outburst, Mark Sherry is an absolute perfectionist, and I really like that about him. He likes to do his own mastering of all releases, giving all the tracks he puts out a unique ‘Outburst’ feel to them. What I like about both labels is their attention to detail and always making sure that the tracks they sign are 100% the best they can be. That’s the sign of a successful label. I haven’t got any more music signed to any labels at the moment other than my own label, as I'm working on my artist album.

Dimitri: Of course you have your own label as well Ultraviolet Music that lately has joined Black Hole recordings. Can you tell us why you decide to become part of this family of labels? What are the advantages for Ultraviolet music?

Paul Thomas: The biggest draw to joining Black Hole at first was the great list of labels they already look after, such as Coldharbour, Outburst, AVA etc. There’s some great opportunities to cross network releases and brainstorm ideas. But what I really like about Arny’s set up at Black Hole is their professionalism and the effort they put into label management. I feel like UltraViolet is in really good hands with them.

Dimitri: Do you accept demos for Ultraviolet Music? How many demos you receive every week and what kind of music you are looking to receive to release on Ultraviolet Music?

Paul Thomas: We always accept demos, and I lose count of the amount we receive on a weekly basis. Last year we didn't really have a style of music we accepted, just as long as it was within the trance spectrum and good! But this year we are trying to focus more on an identity for the label, and also a reflection of the music both myself and my label partner Aneesh Gera play, so I think we will see it go in a more deeper trance direction this year.

Dimitri: In your label you have released the recreation of the uber classic Café Del Mar. Are you in favor of remakes of classics and are you going to attempt any others as well?

Paul Thomas: I think it’s difficult to do remakes, because you risk ruining a classic anthem and also you don’t want to get known for just releasing covers either. I have probably done too many of them over the years, whether they are full cover versions or official remixes. The trouble is, there’s so many wonderful classic tracks out there that I love that it’s really hard to say no! But I don’t think I’ll be doing any more for a while. I’d rather concentrate on writing fresh ideas for the album.

Dimitri: Can you pick up for us the top 3 Ultraviolet Music releases and give us a short comment about them?

Paul Thomas: Fiji - A cover of the Atlantis vs Avatar classic. Got absolutely hammered by Armin which was great exposure for the label.

Sequ3l ‘Booka Booka’ - My personal favourite release so far. Reminds me so much of old Sasha style progressive house

Who’s Afraid Of The Dark (Paul Thomas remix) - My updated version of one of my old releases on Funk Farm

Dimitri: Is it possible to tell us how long it take you to produce a track and the way you handle production i.e. what elements are you tackling first and how do you build the rest of the track from there?

Paul Thomas: It really depends on the idea and what is involved in the record. For instance for my album, I have a breakbeat track full orchestral score which has been written by Funkagenda which will have taken him weeks to write. Then there’s a track which has been made in 8 hours from start to finish.

Dimitri: The legendary club brand Godskitchen presents the Last Dance events. It would be great first of all to tell us about your connection with the club. When you first ever experience this club as club goer and when was your first ever dj gig at Godskitchen?

Paul Thomas: I have been attending Godskitchen events since they launched in my home city of Birmingham in 1998. I went to the first ever event with Boy George and John 00 Fleming. I was a teenager at the time and it was the most hedonistic thing I’d ever seen! Then I started playing for them at their new venue, Air in 2004 and became resident after a very successful first gig there.

Dimitri: It would be fantastic to recall the best and worst ever experience at Godskitchen?

Paul Thomas: There’s been lots of great moments, touring the world with the brand, but one stand out experience was warming up for and following on from Sasha & Digweed during the final b2b tour a few years ago. My 2 all time favourite DJ’s, and Sasha in particular I have drawn the most inspiration from in my career. The worst moment was getting arrested in Ukraine after an after party that got out of hand following a Godskitchen show out there. It’s funny when I look back at it, but at the time I was terrified!

Dimitri: Can you explain why Godskitchen became such a phenomenon in the club industry worldwide? What are the main elements that have contributed to this success?

Paul Thomas: I think it was a mixture of bringing a truly hedonistic event to every city we visited and always being one step ahead in terms of production. When you look at all the huge visual productions most club and festival brands are doing around the world now, a lot of that influence is from the arena shows we were doing 8-10-12 years ago. We were always cutting edge in that department. People knew when they were going to a Godskitchen event, they were going to get the ultimate show.

Dimitri: The Last Dance event has expanded to two days with superb djs playing at both days. Do you know if there is cases of DJs that have denied to perform at Godskitchen and maybe the reason?

Paul Thomas: The line ups we have delivered are a true, wonderful refection of our history. Every DJ in those line ups have a special connection to us in some way. Gareth Emery’s first ever gig was at Godskitchen, and he also met his wife there. Fergie was a long standing resident, John 00 Fleming played the first ever Godskitchen event, Tall Paul played almost every week in the late 90's… It’s great to be able to bring back all these DJ’s who've been a part of our history for these last events. Of course there’s some other DJ’s who we would also liked to have brought back, but the weekend wasn't going to fit with everyone’s schedule, that’s just life :)

Dimitri: The most important think for any dj event is the location of course. What can you tell us about the location that the event takes place?

Paul Thomas: The O2 Institute, or The Sanctuary as it was called, was where Godskitchen launched back in 1998. The events that were held at that venue were legendary. Trapeze artists, fire eaters, unannounced guest performances, DJ line ups never seen before in clubland. It was just an insane, incredible time. There was only one venue to do these last events at, and although there’s been a few cosmetic changes over the years, the vibe is still exactly the same.

Dimitri: In which room are you going to perform and have you start thinking already what you will play or you prefer to be spontaneous and choose on the spot?

Paul Thomas: I have to say I haven’t even thought about playing yet! I have billed myself to play in the residents room b2b with my good friends Funkagenda & Micky Slim on the Friday and the main room on the Saturday, but there’s just been so many other important things to focus on that I just haven’t given it any thought at all. The main thing for me is getting the night perfect. Every single person who goes to these events has to go home having the best night of their lives, so once I have got everything in place to make sure that happens, then I’ll think about DJing :)

Dimitri: Finally about the event are we going to expect anything special and spectacular in both nights? Can you give us any spoilers?

Paul Thomas: We have so much in store, but I am not letting anything out yet. We will be announcing special concepts in the run up to the events though :)

Dimitri: You are now part of SubBassDj and you are going to teach many wonderful things. Why you decided that is about time to become an educator and why on this particular school?

Paul Thomas: It occurred to me while I was on holiday last year that there’s thousands of places which teach you the technical side of DJing, but not one person or company that teaches you how to actually become a successful DJ. Being a technically good DJ is probably around 10% of what you need to be a successful DJ. Like it or not, that is fact. The other 90% lies in branding, marketing yourself correctly, networking and building the right contacts, bringing new and unique ideas, running record labels, events and radio shows with the right content and so on. The only way you know how to do all these things correctly is if you have had to learn them over a 20 year career, which is what I've done. Sometimes I have had to learn the hard way, too! I decided to draw on my own experiences and come up with modules for every aspect needed to be a successful DJ. There’s some wonderful talent out there, but without guidance, the majority will slip through the net. I chose to work with SubBassDJ as the CEO is an old friend of mine who totally got the concept when I went through it. But it’s not something I am just doing in London. I’m already looking into taking the concept around the world.

Dimitri: What exactly are you going to teach and what are the learning outcomes and skills that your students wish to get out from them?

Paul Thomas: The course pretty much teaches you the A & Z of the electronic music industry. It gives students foresight into both potential opportunities and obstacles that might come their way, and teaches them an incredible amount of knowledge of the music industry that they never knew existed.

Paul Thomas in action

Dimitri: Do you believe in the age of YouTube tutorials is still vital to go to a Music School and if yes what are the advantages for students?

Paul Thomas: YouTube tutorials are good for a quick fix, but you can’t beat a music school for it’s 1-2-1 complete coverage.

Dimitri: Last questions should be about the state of electronic music that is nowadays all over the place and particularly pop charts. Do you like that electronic music went mainstream or you prefer it pure and underground?

Paul Thomas: In some ways it was great that electronic music went mainstream, as it will eventually bring a lot of people into the underground. But at the same time you have to laugh at the circus some of these douchebags have created. There used to be many credible artists hitting the mainstream with genuinely great crossover tracks. Moloko, Spiller, Planet Funk, Daft Punk, Underworld, Faithless… they all had commercial success but kept credibility and originality with their music. Now there’s no creativity, no artistic content and certainly no originality in the mainstream. But I just find it something to laugh at rather than get angry, I’d rather focus the real energy on music which actually means something to me :)

Many thanks to Paul Thomas for taking the precious time out of his busy schedule to reply in this interview and we are looking forward to enjoy his forthcoming artist album and have the last dance with him at The Godskitchen event in June.

Additional info:
Buy tickets for Friday 3rd The Last Dance click here