The day an artist stops evolving is the day he ceases to exist. This may as well be the motto for Alex Botwin, known today as electronic producer and DJ Paper Diamond. As a teenage bassist, he and his then-band Pnuma Trio helped revolutionize the way electronic music could be performed on stage. His current act, formed in 2011, has thrown him around the world playing to to huge crowds. The following interview gives a glimpse at what makes modern-day Renaissance man Alex Botwin tick. On a constant search for expression and with the creative abilities to break down barriers few are even aware exist, he is an artist in the truest sense of the word.
OA: You were doing Pnuma Trio at a young age. When did you first pick up an instrument seriously?
Botwin: I was four years old when I picked up the violin. My mom was a piano player and she took me to violin lessons every Saturday. I started playing keyboards, bass, and drums when I was about twelve, and it’s been a journey ever since then.
OA: You have roots in the jam community, but have exploded in the electronic world. What links do you see between the two?
Botwin: I don’t even think about scenes. People that come to my shows just love music. I’m not trying to fit into anyone’s sound – EDM or otherwise. I’m just trying to write music and be creative. The upcoming Raindrops EP is my favorite of all this stuff I’ve accumulated in the past year. I’ve just put up 21 tracks that didn’t make the cut, but I thought some people might like to see what’s been going on in my head
[soundcloud soundcloudurl=”https://soundcloud.com/paperdiamond/sets/beats-loops-ideas” ][/soundcloud]
OA: Do you see yourself putting together another full band in the future?
Botwin: I have five years of experience being in a band. It’s like having five girlfriends. Maintaining so many relationships while trying to stay inspired is crazy, versus waking up every day and being stoked on music and writing and being happy. All the stuff on the new EP will be played with a full band eventually, but I don’t know when that will be.
OA: How much effort goes into the visual aspect of your show?
Botwin: I’m a designer and love making art. When I get burnt out working on a particular song, I’ll go work on visual design or on my clothing line. There’s always something to do.
OA: What do you make of people who say DJ’s “just push play” on stage?
Botwin: There are definitely acts that do that, but I sure as hell don’t. I programmed an iPad to control two computers live on stage. The first computer controls Ableton Live, which allows me to improvise and bring in any section of any song I’ve ever created and other songs I’m liking at any given time. The first computer sends signals to the second computer, which controls all of the LED panels. So I’m controlling all the music and all the artwork that’s being displayed and doing both at the same time, improvised every night. I move with the crowd and go on a journey with them. That’s what drew me to music in the first place.
OA: A lot of times people that say those types of things simply don’t know what they’re talking about.
Botwin: Everybody has something to say about everything. The main thing I’m trying to promote is that people should think for themselves in general. Do your homework and make your own decisions, not just about music, but about everything.
[youtube youtubeurl=”mAFo5Lh6HFQ” ]mAFo5Lh6HFQ[/youtube]
WHAT: PAPER DIAMOND, Nadastrom, Torro Torro
WHEN: Wednesday, January 21, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox
COST: $20; $25 if under 21
DETAILS: www.paper-diamond.com or www.vinylmusichall.com