The repertoire of Paul Randolph pretty much illustrates what the man is about. A Traveller from his earliest days. Born in Philadelphia, PA, following his parents to Brazil where he learnt to play guitar and eventually another language (Portuguese). As many episodes in his life which explain the versatility of his music. Ranging from (Electronic) Jazz to Funk, Soul and House. Not to mention his relocation in Detroit, MI, ages ago, where he came to meet and collaborate with countless luminaries from ‘Mad’ Mike Banks to Carl Craig, Moodymann and Kevin Saunderson. And, more recently Kathy Kosins. Before embracing the whole world while jamming along with Jazzanova, Boddhi Satva or Ralf GUM.
A singer, but also a bass player and a songwriter, Paul Randolph stands among the most complete artists of his generation, along with Peven Everett and Omar. With a presence somehow locating him at the crossroad between Lenny Kravitz, Prince and Romanthony…
Hi Paul. Been a while. Last time we met was something like more than 10 years ago. Back then you were jammin’ on stage along with Moodymann and Pirahnahead. From then you turned from a session singer to an artist under your own banner with a bunch of albums to your credit. Let us now about the main stages of this transformation from a year to another…
“Wow it’s been over 10 years?! I have never been the type of person who ‘let’s the grass grow under their feet’. When we met I had (and still do) a vision and the plans for its execution.
Collaborations played a significant part in my transformation. As they allowed me the freedom to be in multiple genres and target markets simultaneously. By the time my second solo album ‘Lonely Eden’ saw the light, I was comfortable with my eclectic nature. I had had established creative alliances with producers whom I admired. And they continue to this day.”
The first time we met was in Miami during the Conf along with Kevin Saunderson at a Detroit party. He eventually gave me a copy of The Reese Project feat. Paul Randoph’s ‘This Means That’. A cut which got me the opportunity to hear you singing for the first time ever. Tell us more about it…
“I was introduced to Kevin by a mutual friend who was his publicist at that time. Kevin was familiar with my work and inquired if I had new songs for him to hear. ‘This Means That’ was one among several. The song is special to me. I wrote it sitting in my living room with my first workstation, a Roland PMA-5.
While in a Miami taxi on my way back to Detroit, Kevin called me from the Masters At Work party to inform me Louie and Kenny had just dropped it and the place went wild.”
This debut (at least for me) of yours… A way for us to get back to your childhood. What got you into music and your maturation as Paul Randolph (the artist)…
“My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were my introduction. My father played jazz trombone and studied classical guitar. Meanwhile my mom sang to me and later played piano. My grandmother was a HUGE music fan. I definitely got my eclecticism from her . Wish I had more of her record collection. I inherited a perfect copy of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Decembers Children’, among others.
My grandfather was a singer and dancer and a close friend and dance partner of Sarah Vaughan. He was also responsible for introducing Illinois Jacquet to the tenor sax. My great grandfather was creative in his own right, he was a master electrician. He and a partner installed the first car stereo in Newark, NJ, owned a studio that cut straight to 78 rpm, and led a marching band that performed German Um Paw Paw music…”
Paul Randolph the singer. Paul Randolph, the bass play bass. What came first?
“Guitar and percussion came first. Bass followed, then singing.”
Did you have any so to say models at the time?
“Far too many to list, but some examples: Larry Graham, Jaco, Stanley Clarke, Rusty Allen, Percy Jones, Sly Stone. And also James Brown, Sam Cooke, Dennis Edwards, Otis Redding, Al Green…”
As a songwriter, do you compose with your bass as the basic instrument?
For the oldest ones of us, Detroit is the home of Motown. Meanwhile for the younger generation, it would be the craddle of Techno. How have you been perceiving this drastic transformation at the time?
“I don’t see it as drastic. I see it as a natural evolution, another byproduct of time, expression, and culture.”
Did you guys were even speakin’ of Techno back then? I mean, I remember the first time hearin’ of Techno on a press release for Inner City’s ‘Big Fun’…
“I only heard it referred to as ‘Detroit Electronic Music’ in the beginning. ‘Techno’ came later.”
Although many people were fantasing about Techno in Europe, I remember being so surprised by the diversity of the local scene when attending for the very first time at the DEMF. Eventually wondering about the common points between Mike Banks, Jeff Mills and or Carl Craig. All of them categorised as Techno artists. Weird at the end, don’t you think?
“I prefer these gentlemen define themselves.”
I met a few times Carl (Craig). And I remember a conv we had in Paris. Talkin’ about the bridges between different systems like (of course) Techno, but also Drum & Bass and eventually Jazz. Then a few months later he came up with Innerzone Orchestra. A new concept back then speakin’ of which you’ve been a part of on a cover version of The Stylistics’s ‘People Make The World Go Round’. Let us know about this experience…
“Mike Banks and I are longtime friends, we played in bands together. He introduced me to the ‘Detroit Electronic Music’ community.
I met Carl at the Submerge building in Detroit. We had a nice chat. Some months later he invited me to his studio where we began recording bass for ‘Blakula’ which was later interpreted into synth bass. Shortly after ‘Galaxy’ and ‘People Make The World Go Round’ were recorded at a different studio. I recorded acoustic guitar and sang to a click track. I had no idea what Carl had planned.”
Then Derrick (May) came to incorporate Classical Music on his compositions. Any comment?
“Why not? He presented the music to a new audience and proved that those who do it well understand its complexities.”