The scene: With the stage slightly moved up inside the 1st Bank Center the space felt a bit more intimate than usual, although the 7:30pm start time for Pictureplane was a bit too early for most showgoers. Fans appeared to trickle in and out throughout the evening with most people inside the arena for Paper Diamond’s dance-worthy set and Rusko’s bass-heavy performance.
It didn’t seem to matter if you had a floor or bowl ticket as most fans ended up on the floor pushing as close to the stage as possible. Each performance brought a completely different stage and lighting production, keeping the staff busy and the concert goers anxious between sets. Rusko shamelessly utilized all five letters of his name as the main attraction in his lighting design – each letter beaming of lights like an old-school Hollywood attraction.
The good: Most people in attendance were Colorado locals, so of course Paper Diamond’s set was much anticipated. Much excitement stemmed from the news of Paper Diamond’s upcoming release, Wavesight, due out May 3rd on Diplo’s label, Mad Decent/Jeffrees. Thoroughly pleased with Paper Diamond’s set, we were thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview him prior to his performance. Be sure to catch the exclusive interview below.
The bad: Maybe not exactly bad… but DJ Shadow’s placement within Levitate festival seemed a bit “off.” This set was highly entertaining and visually stimulating as he performed within a space-like escape-pod, but his sound did not seem to mesh as effortlessly with the other three performers of the night. Nonetheless, many fans raved (no pun intended) about how much they enjoyed DJ Shadow’s set and Colorado looks forward to welcoming him back again in the future.
Favorite moment: After a friend jumped the fence onto the floor, security approached and our group collectively felt a pit in our stomachs. Come to find out, said security guard just wanted to see our pal “do rave stuff” with his light up gloves. Gotta love that security guard!
FYI: As the 2nd Annual Levitate Festival, the jump from Boulder Theater to 1stBankCenter is a testament to the work-ethic of the Elm & Oak crew. Paper Diamond spoke to us below about already planning 2013’s festival, so watch out!
We are here interviewing Alex Botwin, aka Paper Diamond, co-owner of Elm & Oak, music producer, and artist extraordinaire. Our contributor Callie Lardas, just began interning for Elm & Oak so she’s here awaiting her opportunity to now interview her new boss, which is a first for Alex.
Let’s start with a quiz from Cosmo Man: “What Kind of Hot Dog Condiments Do You Like and What Does That Mean About Your Personality?” We’ve got:
a) Ketchup & Mustard
b) Sauerkraut & Mustard
d) The Works
I would go with “The Works.”
Well, Cosmo Man says that if you like hot dogs with The Works then you are open and innovative and you have the willingness to try a lot of things at once. Good news… Callie your new intern also picked the works! That’s awesome! People in the arts bring it all in. Pepperoncinis, jalapenos, all of it.
Three things that you can’t like without… 1) Food, 2) Water, 3) and… Music
Do you have a celebrity crush? Ummm, let’s see… what’s her name? I can’t remember her name right now. I’ll think of it and blurt it out.
What was your biggest splurge purchase? Owning a store is a constant “splurge purchase.” So having an art gallery and having a store has been the biggest purchase in my life so far, and an investment too.
If you had a dream vacation where would you go? Home… I’ve been in a different city every single day since April 2nd. Last week I was in Portland and played a sold-out show then went straight to the airport and flew to Miami, then I flew to Colorado for about 12 hours. Its crazy non-stop, so being home right now is a vacation.
What is the first thing you do when you get home? I kick it with my dog, Otis, who is the cutest thing on the planet. Literally girls cry when they see him. I hate to say that, but I tell girls that and then they see him and they tear up. He picks up everyone… I can’t take him on a walk or to go get coffee without everyone wanting to pet Otis.
Do you feel like Otis is a bigger celebrity than you? Someday he will be. I’m training him to become a virtuoso pianist that I know he is. He could play on the floor piano in BIG. I’ll just have to teach him to jump in chord formation, it’ll be good.
What do you feel your greatest achievement has been as a musician? I would say being able to inspire people. There are a lot of young artists that I have the opportunity to manage and help. For me it’s about spreading happiness and inspiration through music; letting people fulfill their dreams and goals through art and music. I’m able to give artists a place to support their growth, that’s what Elm & Oak is; it’s a family of artists that support one another and leads to creativity throughout your entire life.
Music for me is making all kinds of stuff. I make dance music, rap, hip hop, pop, I can make whatever, I ‘m a studio musician. Right now I’m able to work with vocalists, which I’m really excited about. Having the prospect of writing lyrics, giving them to a singer and having that person put my idea down into vocals that aren’t mine is inspiring. I’m like a sponge, soaking in all different types of music. My biggest accomplishment is the crew that I have with me, being able to play music and throw a festival like Levitate [this is something I’ve been thinking about for a couple years now]. I have plans for next year’s Levitate already.
There seems to be a big sense of community within your crew, which you touched on, and I wanted to share that’s what your new intern, Callie, said she loves about Elm & Oak too. This is like a perfect partnership! What’s funny is that the interns that we have now don’t want to stop interning, so some of them are coming on for another term. My younger brother works as a manager there and all the bands we manage are close, personal friends of ours, so it’s family. We’re having a good time while taking things seriously and working really hard.
You co-own Elm & Oak with Berk Gibbs and with him being a musician and artist as well, do you two collaborate on projects? Yea, Berk and I became friends in our freshman year in college. I was traveling around the country on the weekends and he was making posters for performances. Musically he is growing and I’m helping him just like I do with other people. I listen to his mixes and provide some artistic direction but we make a good team.
What other artists in particular are you working with right now? Well with Two Fresh they actually just started rapping over their stuff, which I’ve been really pushing them to do that because I know that they sound amazing. There’s a new group that we’re signing on Elm & Oak, Black Actors, who are two guys Quiz & .anansi, that are sending me their tracks and I’m giving them some feedback. Musically everything is coming together. When I found Cherub’s music I fell in love with it. Last year at Electric Forest I went to their late night and Cherub was playing with Two Fresh, Michal Menert, Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salkin and it made me feel good to know that this giant music family was interacting together and caring about one another as friends. I almost busted out in tears it was such a great moment.
Let’s fast forward and talk about Wavesight a little bit. It’s out on May 3rd, how does it feel to be putting it out on Diplo’s Mad Decent label? Working with Diplo just kind of happened, I sent him the record and he texted me saying that “it was really dope and I’ll see you at Snowball.” I’m excited to expand; I’m a producer and I’m not limited to one certain thing I can make dubstep stuff just like I can make anything else. I’m making a lot right now, pop, rap, hip hop. Some of my longtime fans miss my off-beat stuff, which I still make but right now I’m having fun playing shows and making other types of music too. I hear what fans are saying, taking it in and will put it out when it’s ready. Right now I’m Paper Diamond and I want to make dance music, moombahton, electro-house.
How has your sounded evolved from the Levitate EP through now? I think that during the time period of Levitate I was beginning to feel more artistically free because people associated Alex B with hip hop, so when I started Paper Diamond I was able to make whatever. And now I’m just making whatever. I have things that I’m sitting on and waiting to put out, so I’m keeping it versatile.
I’ve noticed in your performances that you are utilizing your iPad to wirelessly control your set, how does that work for you? It’s crazy because we started developing some programs and right now I’m utilizing a program called TouchOSC which you can get in the app store for like $5. I took that and I really nerded out with it because I was traveling with a big APC, which doesn’t fit in any normal-size backpack while flying 14 days in a row. So I reprogrammed with TouchOSC program to do exactly what I was doing with the APC, but in a compact, mobile, wireless way. I am controlling my computer and Ableton wirelessly.
What happened with Paragon? Well I still have it. Basically the deal was is that I have Paragon and it’s a bunch of tracks that I sent to people. Diplo liked specific ones, and while I did make Paragon as a one piece thing, the stuff he took was very dancy. I had some other stuff that would work really well with Pretty Lights Music or on Elm & Oak. Paragon for me is a barrage of tracks so I split off these four tracks and put them on Wavesight. So I still have Paragon, I’m just developing the rest of the tracks to finish it then put it out when it feels exactly right.
Any other shoutouts or things you’d like to mention? We have a new music video that’s done for the single, “Turn the Lights Off,” that’s coming out on the Mad Decent/Jeffrees release. So that video should be out next week, followed by Wavesight, and then I have a bunch of other music so at this point I’m just going to try and figure out what comes after that. Instead of sitting on this music I am going to start unleashing it.
Did you ever figure out your celebrity crush? Ahhh, no! Is she blonde or brunette? Blonde, most of the time I think. Is she real? She is! I feel retarded right now.
Final question, if you time machine and could go back in time, to what era would you go to and what genre would you play? Mmmm, what era and genre? I’m so happy doing what I’m doing right now. I would love to hang out with Herbie Hancock when he was really inspired.
Thank you and we appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.