Artcile By: Nicholas Callaio ; Photos By: Margaux Champ Galligan
TheUntz.com’s resident Colorado correspondent, Nicholas Callaio (the Barbara Walters of the Rockies) hooked up with Alex Botwin a.k.a. Alex B a.k.a. Paper Diamond for a quick powwow regarding his different sounds and different times in his career, new material, and his Elm and Oak label.
Nicholas Callaio: Hey man, how are you doing?
Alex Botwin: I am good, just kicking it at the Elm and Oak store working on some tunes.
AB: Well, when I was playing with Pnuma Trio it was all dance music, at least to me it was. I realized that some of my taste had moved to a slower style of BPM. The other guys in Pnuma were going to other places musically at that time, so instead of putting out the stuff that inspired me at that time I put it out as a side project, Alex B. When I was in the studio, I was making music for Pnuma Trio still. I knew Ben is going to play this, Lane is going to play that, and I will play this, you know, making music as a band. For me once Pnuma Trio slowed down on playing as many shows I still had that need to put out dance music besides the beats I make for myself. Paper Diamond came from the need to put out that dance music I still loved and fit my musical tastes. It's been cool just being able to do what I want to do and not think about who is going to play what, just be able to write the music and play the sounds that are always coming out of my head. It's been awesome being able to do my own thing and just travel to play shows, just kick it. With Pnuma, that was my band and I cared about it the most, those dudes are definitely still my homies. They reached out to me recently to do some more shows but unfortunately I was on the road at that time. Pnuma Trio is definitely not done, everyone is just doing their thing and having a really good time but at the same time everyone is just busy. People tell me that they really love Pnuma and ask me to bring Pnuma back on Facebook. Yeah I get it, I was the one trying to keep it together the most but it is just amazing making music that inspire me and it has been great seeing people's reaction to my Paper Diamond project. Everyone loves the dance aspect of Pnuma, I am basically doing the same thing as before but I can add more layers so to me it's just a new journey.
NC: As an improvisational musician, do you try to incorporate that style into Paper Diamond?
AB: Yeah, definitely. The way I program my iPad to play my show live I never really know what I am getting into. I have all the tracks I have ever made, even all the Alex B stuff and all the old tracks with Pnuma that we never got to play. It’s very enjoyable because I just know what song I will be starting with. I even have all my multi-tracks so I can pull up different parts of different songs. Sometimes it’s nerve-racking but in the past I have had some technical difficulties trying to push the bar up and not just going up there hitting play on a song. I really like when I can do something to interact with the crowd, that is the most important part.
NC: How did it feel to finally headline The Ogden Theater?
AB: The past year has just been insane. I never played a show in Denver by myself and then selling out The Bluebird in January then being able to headline The Ogden was awesome and on top of that it was a huge success for me. My new EP is almost done and we just put on the second tour video and more to come. We are going to have a summer recap video because I had a camera guy at all the festivals with me. I am already looking at festivals for next summer too. I am booking shows all the way through May right now and we already announced a Midwest tour for January and February, too. Things just keep on moving along and I am just trying to keep up with it.
NC: I have seen a lot of similarities in Papa Skunk's music when compared to yours, did you mentor him or did you simply help him to get his feet off the ground?
AB: I didn't have too much to do with much of his music. I helped him with a little bit of mastering when he first started. Before I started the Paper Diamond project I was really spending a lot of time in the studio and used my time to help younger acts master their music. Which basically means they bring in two-track wave files and then I would bring it up to CD quality, enunciating what they already made. You know, a louder more precise sound for them. I can't really take too much credit for the stuff I did with him, but I like to spend a lot of time to help young acts. I taught Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic to make music on the computer when he was just playing saxophone for The Motet. He spent about a year coming over to my house everyday pretty much just making music and showing him what I do as a musician. He has really just taken off since then, but we have other people on Elm and Oak like Cherub and Two Fresh that I also like helping express the message to the fans, I just try to assist them as much as I can.
NC: Elm and Oak has a stacked roaster and looks like you guys are just one big happy family. Also I noticed that you opened a shop not to long ago, businesses pretty good?
AB: Yeah we got the Elm and Oak store on downtown Pearl Street and it has just been going great. It’s a great place to have people come in and see what we do then tell us about it. We have had some events like The Gaslamp Killer, Darren from Soulive played there, Eliot Lipp came through, also. It’s just pretty cool to have people come here and check out some new artwork, listen to the music from the label, really just come and hang out. It’s nice to have a place downtown for me to go work when I am not in the studio and just to kick it. Pretty much we are just making beautiful art and even better music with a great gallery to show off the art. We are all stoked about it.
NC: I saw your playing Light All Night on December 30th, will that be your biggest show to date?
AB: I am not really sure; there have been some pretty insane shows I have played last summer. I can't really predict but I do think it’s going to be out of control. We also have some other really dope announcements around New Year’s as well, which I am really excited about. And to answer your question, I think Outside Lands was one of the biggest crowds I have had to this date, and I have been really lucky to get in front of a crowd like that. Not sure if it will be the biggest but definitely going to be a killer time.
AB: How was Turnt Up Tour, and your new EP is pretty close to dropping, how it that going for you?
NC: Yeah the Turnt Up Tour is pretty much done at this point with the bill at the Ogden, but I am about to go to Athens then Atlanta, Georgia. It’s just weekends from now until New Years. After that I’m going to be hitting Jam Cruise then that tour in January and February. Between the shop, the label, my new EP, and all the Pretty Lights stuff, it has been pretty crazy—especially today.
NC: Artist's like Mimosa and Sleepyhead combine to make Sexytime, the same goes with Ooah and MartyParty to make Pantyraid. What the chances of you and Dominic Lalli teaming up and crushing some skulls?
AB: Honestly, Dominic and I hang out all the time and we definitely intend to make some collaboration tracks together as soon as both of our EP's are done. I know he said he was getting close when I talked to him last and I am getting real close. We are both perfectionists at this point so you can never tell when they will be done, but like I said we are most definitely going to make some music together shortly after everything is said and done with our EP's.
NC: How is the puppy doing?
AB: Ah man, he is amazing. He pretty much just chills at the Elm and Oak store all the time. He looks like a little teddy bear and everyone loves him. When I take him on walks people are literally staring from their windows around town, its hilarious. He has been great with the customers so far and while I am on the road he is going to be here holding it down. Caring for a dog is a lot more work then I actually expected, but I am down for it. He is my mascot, “Puppy Diamond” (laughs). He is really nice to all the females.
NC: What is your main goal for Elm and Oak?
AB: Elm and Oak means exclusive limited merchandise and one-of-a-kinds. Really, it is all about creating a community for the artists and helping them do what they want to do. So having musicians, painters, and graphic designers come together and where they are supported. Really, everyone wants to sustain themselves and make a living through music or art. So ultimately I want to open an Elm and Oak store in Paris, Tokyo, London, Canada, and Mexico—really wherever I can to rock the brand and build the clothing line into some reputable. At the same time have the artists to build a label too. Basically have stores all over the world with artists touring rocking the clothes.
NC: Having your own record means you do not have to jump through as many hoops when producing music, does this give you more time to put on tracks?
AB: Its does and gives me the freedom to do what I want to do and support the music I really like. It’s cool just to have people and come at it with a team mentality. Everyone is out there doing their own thing on tour, but I know when we come together we are just going to have a great time. It does and doesn't free up my time because running a record label does require a lot of work and you have to be on it but I have a great team in place to help me too. I like to do a variety of things for a variety of people so I don't mind using my time for that.
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