The man also known as Bobby Peru returns with a new artist album that dares to have something to say…
It’s sometimes hard to find an album of electronic music that’s designed to do more than make you dance. Yes, producers will inevitably slip a couple of downtempo or vocal tracks into an album, but they’re rarely more than obligatory home-listening tunes designed to give the LP some percieved depth. So when Paul Woolford starts talking about The Truth, his new album under his Bobby Peru alias, you sit up and take notice – because Paul has got a message to put across. The Truth, released by 2020Vision, is an emotional release, a 13-track cleansing process filled with insights into what’s been a crappy year for him. “Despite it looking like I’ve had an amazing life, it hasn’t been an easy time for me,” Paul says. “I have been lucky enough with my career to travel the world, but on the other side of it, I’ve been through some really hard emotional nonsense.” So here he is, stepping out of the studio with an album that actually has something to say. EQ had to find out more…
It must be quite refreshing for people to hear an electronic album like this that’s got some personal content. It isn’t often that you find producers doing that.
I think dance music is such a throw-away medium. Without sounding too pretentious, a lot of dance music shows where the producers’ intellects are at. The shelf life of new music seems to be so short these days because people are on a constant quest for the newest thing. A two-week shelf life for a dance record is pathetic, so I think producers have a duty to try to extend that by putting some substance into the music. And I mean content in every way – not just the music, but in giving it a title that means something. We have to raise our game.
The people I look up to, not just in dance music, always do that. There are reasons behind the work they create, and there are definite meanings to their work. That’s true right across the arts, from film directors like Stanley Kubrick to artists like Damian Hirst. All these people put meaning and reason into their work. All art, from music to sculpture, can make itself stronger by having ideals.
Was it daunting trying to apply that way of thinking to making a dance record?
No. It’s not a concept I decided to do – that’s just the way I am. Over the last few years, that’s the mindset I’ve grown into. I didn’t sit down one day and decide: “I’m going to try to inject some meaning into my music.” I’ve realised there’s more to life than partying, and it’s too easy to just make music that fits into the category of dance music. A record can elevate itself and mean something rather than just referencing Chicago every five seconds – which is what I used to do.
So The Truth is heartfelt stuff then?
Yeah. As a DJ, you spend a lot of time on your own because you travel a lot on your own. When you do see people, you’re either seeing people who should be your friends when you’re at home, or you’re seeing people who are temporary friends on the road. And if you get caught up in that whole druggy lifestyle – which I absolutely did – it can become horrific. In my case, I realised I was just surrounded by what can only be described as nonsense. This ate away at me, so every time I went into the studio, the results were molded by my experiences. So when I listen to parts of the album now, it really plucks my heartstrings. It takes me back to some really emotional times.
Andrew Weatherall was saying very similar stuff about making the last Two Lone Swordsmen album, Wrong Meeting. He was trying to put the bad times he’d had into his music, but he’s got lyrics to express that. Was it hard to get your message across using just music?
It was sort of instinctive. It’s almost like I’m not in control in a lot of ways. I don’t sit down and clinically have a formula like a lot of people in dance music do. I’m loathe to do that because I think formulas are the enemy of creativity. When I walk into that studio I haven’t a fucking clue what will happen. I just let instinct take over and let whatever comes out come out. Titles are really important for me though, and I’ll have track titles months or even years ahead of making a track. You can use titles on an album to tell a story without you even hearing the music.
It must be quite satisfying to have been given the chance to put this out.
Yeah. Some of the tracks on there are four or five years old – I’d sent them in to 2020 ages ago and they didn’t think they were right for release then. They were right, because if we’d have put them out then, they’d have bombed.
That must quite satisfying as well, to be able to say now: “Yeah, I was right all that time ago.”
It’s not about being right. There’s no right or wrong with music. It’s just that now is the best time for this record. With the climate it’s coming out in, it was important for me not to put out an album that followed this conformist, rigid, bullshit idea of what minimal techno is. Most of that music has fuck all to do with what techno is. It’s important that that is said. People need to know. There’s so much conformist techno out there – and techno, by design, isn’t about formulas. Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson have actually said techno is futuristic music. Derrick May said it’s music you can’t imagine. I’m glad The Truth doesn’t sound like the techno most people are making, but still references the right sides of it.
It seems like making this album has really focused how you make music.
Absolutely. It’s made me completely sharpen up and see what’s important with production and how to speak to people. Socially as well as through my music. It’s been really cathartic – I’ve got something off my chest and that’s stimulated me even more. I’ve never been so creative. I’ve already made eight or nine new tracks since the start of the year. I’m just firing them out. I think I’ve really upped my game.
Is that scary though? Given that you’ve got so much invested in The Truth are you worried about how people will react to it?
You know what? I can quite honestly say that I don’t give a fuck what people say about the album. It’s not about that. As an artist, you do care what people think, but I’ve had the pleasure of getting this off my chest and it’s there now, however people want to analyse it. The pleasure was in producing it and getting the emotion out. Obviously I want it to do well, but I’m just really pleased that I’ve taken a bit of a stand. It’s the record that I’ve been striving to make.