Paper Diamond Keepin’ it Fresh
Paper Diamond is the multi-talented artist who runs a label, design firm, and clothing store (Elm and Oak). This Colorado based DJ is mostly well known for his energetic beats, high synths, and rich vocals. I caught up with him before be played at New York City’s Webster Hall.
Tell me about Elm and Oak.
PD: The start of it means Exclusive Limited Merchandise and One of A Kinds. My friend started it in Virginia back in the day and it was his art company and design firm. As a musician I was always repping the clothes and everything. I’m a designer as well, and do a lot of typography and set of type design. We decided instead of starting a new company, we would make Elm and Oak the hub for everything. Now, Elm and Oak is a design firm, a record label, a clothing store, and we have a boutique on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. We design clothing, manage bands, make videos, and do photography.
To me, all those things are interconnected. If you play guitar, you might as well play bass and drums. If you take pictures, you do editing and video. For us, Elm and Oak is a community of people supporting each other to be able to live as artists and support themselves.
I love the symbol representing Elm and Oak…
PD: Yeah, it’s the two axes. We are cutting down the tree with the axes and it represents the rise of being hard working, sharp, and on point. Not only is it a company, but people treat it like a family. People even have Elm and Oak tattoos. It’s our crew.
How do you scout out the artists on the label?
PD: A lot of the artists are close friends of mine. The band Two Fresh is on my label and the band Charub is one I’m working hard on. The people I put on are the people I’m passionate about and the people I believe in. Its been really cool to help these artists develop their careers.
I know you are on Pretty Lights Music label as well. Do you ever find it hard keeping them (Elm and Oak/PLM) divided?
PD: It’s not hard because it’s two musical families and groups. I support PLM as much as I support those on Elm and Oak. Everyone on PLM are Derek’s friends. He cares about the music and it all makes sense, but at the same time there are people around me that I want to have. He has his friends in his circle, and I have my friends in my circle. We all just cross pollinate. It’s great for everyone.
What’s the electronic scene like in Colorado compared to LA and New York?
PD: It’s crazy in Colorado just as much as NYC and LA. In CO, thousands of people are coming out to see acts and it rivals the other music scenes. As far as the electronic scene goes, Denver is a mecca for electronic music. The mainstream press is just starting to catch on and many monumental things are coming along with it. There are many musicians that want to express themselves from CO and if you have real talent, you are able to establish yourself.
What are your thoughts behind free music? I downloaded your album for free!
PD: Moving forward with technology and embracing it is how people stick with the times if you are going to continue being a musician. I embrace it and encourage people on my label to put out free music because I know how my friends and I get music. It’s about spreading happiness, expressing myself artistically, and making myself happy through doing shows. I don’t care if people get it for free, or if they steal it, or if they pay for it.
Speaking of technology, I noticed you play on an iPad during your shows…
PD: I can control on my computer wirelessly from an iPad from a layout I designed and it makes it so I can get more involved. When people are getting hyped up, I can get hyped up and I don’t have to stand hunched over the tables. I’m able to control the different parts of my show from the drums, to the bass to the synths, and it’s all multi-tracks so I can mix different parts of different songs. I never know where I’m going to go with it, so it makes it fun for me every night.
I know where it’s going to start, but I follow the crowd and see what’s going to happen. I have every song I ever made in my files so I can go wherever I want. If I think a crowd is feeling more dubstep, I can play another one of my songs, then move into some hip-hop tempo stuff or moombahton, or electro-house. I’m able to play a wide array of tracks with different people because I have so much music and I’m inspired by all things.
Sometimes I’ll write a song and that hasn’t been released yet and test it out on the crowd. If it doesn’t work with the crowd, I’ll go back and literally change it before the record is out. My new record I’m working on is Paragon, and I’m about 6 out of 8 tracks done. I’ve been able to play alot of these tracks and go back and work on them after a show, so the record is almost road tested.
What are you listening to these days?
PD: Little Dragon, I would love to work with her someday. I’ve also been listening to a lot of electronic music like Feed Me, Porter Robinson, Zed, and Cherub. I listen to records all the time too. I’m a record collector so I still go digging for music and keep it open. I love all kinds of music.
Did you ever sample from any of the records you have?
PD: I didn’t much on the newest record (Levitate). The one I’m currently working on is mostly synth work. I spend so many years doing the Alex B thing, which was kind of hip-hop sample based stuff. For me, I’m just trying to keep it open, and not get locked in certain things.
Anything we should know about your future plans?
PD: I have a new album, new singles, and new videos in the works. There are some new releases from Cherub and Two Fresh. The clothing line constantly has new clothes that are coming out and our store is open 7 days a week. Music, art, and traveling is what I do all the time. I’m just going to keep grinding and making new music and making new art. Keepin’ it fresh.
Well said Paper Diamond, well said.