You can’t get any cooler than Paul Devro. The go-to creative genius behind Diplo’s Mad Decent label and party purveyor extraordinaire has been causing eargasms ever since he was a wee little small-town Canadian DJ. From trap and moombahton to juke and hardstyle, he knows what’s up and has been trotting the globe causing mad ruckus on the dance floors. Fingers on Blast picked at his EDMusically-blessed brain to see what he has cooked up for us next – don’t miss him this Saturday night when he hits the stage for a SLOWED set at Wrongbar!
We may be a bit biased here but Mad Decent is one of the greatest, most rad-ass labels out there today. As creative director and A&R dude, what are some of the things that stick out when scouting a new DJ or artist, that would make you say, “Whoa WTF, I want this DJ on Mad Decent asap”?
If someone’s making music that sounds like nothing else I've heard before and it rules I want to fuck with them. People email me demos and say "Hey, I think this is perfect for Mad Decent" and 9 times out of 10 it'll sound like a lesser version of a song we already put out.
What we love about Mad Decent so much is how its roster of artists come from a slew of different cultures, music scenes and uber unique styles. Any particular location/city/scene that really hit you during your global travels?
It's a weird time now because almost all scenes are grown on the internet, its more of a question which website rather than which city. I use the Russian Facebook site VK a lot for finding a new stuff from everywhere, it has the most up to date dancehall tunes, crazy hard style songs and you can add them to your profile. I only have one friend on there, hahahaha. Also of course the SoundCloud community is huge, I find almost half of our releases from going to people’s SoundClouds and hollering at them.
Tell us the story behind Jeffree’s. It’s still relatively new with a bunch of compilations put out – what is Jeffree’s and what else can we expect from this mini-imprint?
Jeffree's is a re-imagined way of releasing music. There is a release every 1-2 weeks, and it’s free to download. After about 4-5 releases we take down the download links and compile the songs and put them up for sale online. It is also the greatest music you will ever hear in your life. The story behind it is that Mad Decent has grown into a label where we sign an artist and work with them towards an album, it’s very strategic and can be expensive. Diplo and I were getting really frustrated because he or I would find a record we love and want to put it out the next week, but you can't do that on Mad Decent. So me, Diplo, Jasper (Label Manager), and Benzona brainstormed for a few months and formulated what you see now as the Jeffree's. New, weird music that is happening now and it's free for you because we love you.
You’re also involved with BBC Radio 1Xtra for the Diplo and Friends mix. So curious to know: what do you guys do in between songs? I picture a gongshow in that studio.
It's BBC so we have to keep it pretty professional on air, but when everyone is doing their show, it’s a total party. I wish I could share some stories but I can't.
You were born and raised in Port Alberni in Vancouver (Woo, Canadian!) – what was young Paul Devro (or Paul Devereux) like? Was he popular, nerdy, always into music?
Growing up going to school in Port Alberni was great, in junior high I would mostly skateboard all lunch but in high school me and my best friend Jaeger would [go] from crew to crew hanging out, it was kinda like how US depicts high school but it’s Canada so there's no real rivalry/animosity with each other. There were jocks, nerds, native indians, car kids, popular kids (eyeball alley), shop kids, the freaks – we were friends with all of them, so I guess we were popular. I just have a real interest in people. I've always talked
to strangers, at work I ask random questions to the interns and everyone. But anyways I started DJing when I was 15, no one was doing that in my town, I'd have to travel 4 hours to get hip-hop records. And as far as music I was always into pretty eclectic music because I grew up watching skateboard videos. The soundtracks from Plan B, Girl, Powell, Hook-ups, Blind videos would span the world. Jeremy Klein would always have a Chinese song or Cocteau Twins, Vancouver Skaters always had metal, Rodney Mullen would have Aerosmith or Louie Armstrong. The Skypager video was a live mix tape of rap, that one was dope.
We know you’re living in LA now. Do you see any major differences between the U.S. and Canadian EDM scene? What advice can you give to young Canadian DJs trying to make it big?
US and Canada are pretty similar I'd say when it comes to clubbing and whatever goes along with that. And as far as advice, you can make it big anywhere, you just have to have a good product, be good at self promotion and don't be a dick. It's weird because I’ve seen so many people come up and the ones who change their attitude once they start getting noticed and start playing shows don't tend to last that long.
Last we saw you, the Mad Decent DJs got ROBBED at the Red Bull Culture Clash in Toronto with Toronto All-Stars snagging the win (same deal with Major Lazer and crew in London). Do you think these Clashes are decided fairly or do some of the DJs get a home field advantage?
Home field advantage is a bitch!!! We were robbed in Toronto, but holy shit Major Lazer was really robbed, that was just crazy. But it's all good, on December 5th Jeffree's is entering the ring in the next Redbull Culture Clash vs 3 other LA labels in LA. It’s gonna be a blood bath. Jeffree FTW!
Your Mad Decent Block Party mix had us smiling ear to ear. I still listen to it now… on repeat. What do you think is the philosophy/mission behind these free parties and why do you think it’s become incredibly popular over the years?
Thanks, the funny thing is I've never spent less time on a mix in my entire life but people go crazy for it. I've never actually listened to it either. The blockparties came from a great place so I think that’s what has continued to be so good about them. The first one was on the stoop of our old office, we got a $15 permit and about 400 people showed up. After that it just grew and grew and now it's like 16,000 kids going ape to our artists, it’s the best.
You enter a room you’re about to play a set: how do you prepare? Are you more of an on-the-spot, feel-out-a-room kind of DJ or do you know what you’re about to play before you take in the scene? Any particular routine or weird ritual?
I like to be in the club at least 45 minutes before I go on and see what’s going on, have a few drinks and relax. As far as a set I never have anything remotely planned, I get booked for all different crowds, cumbia crowds, rap crowds, dance crowds so I can never be like "this is my set." It would be rad to do though but I screwed myself early on by not being more narrow.
It’s been exactly three years since the “Birth of Moombahton.” Where do you see moombahton going from here? Do you think newer genres like trap and tecno brega will make an even bigger movement?
I think there is going to be a huge moombah resurgence in the next few months and I see trap getting sprinkled on everything for a little bit. Dubstep dudes have already changed half their sets to trap. I don't think Tecno Brega or Tuki and any other Latin genre will really jump into the spotlight, 3ball is huge now
though… and although it’s not a new genre I love seeing that K-Pop leapfrogged over the hipsters and went straight mainstream. It’s the 3rd genre down on the new youtube app that's insane.
What are the top three things you’re excited about for the New Year?
I want to hear more music from Grimes, I want to hop across the Azores Islands and I want to see The Jeffree's on every blog’s top label list of 2012.
Thanks so much to Paul Devro and to our interviewer Desiree Gamotin!
For more on Paul Devro.