An Interview with DJ Paulo
|New York, New
by Mark Thompson & Robert
|March 10, 2010
The man who
put "Tribal" in Lady Gagaís "Bad Romance,"
the song of the year, DJ Paulo recently got
the call from the Saint-at-Large to play
Black Party XXXI, the annual pagan paean to
everything debauched and decadent that takes
place during the weekend of the vernal
equinox at Roseland Ballroom in New York
Fucking City. Given that Paulo (also known
as "Lord of the Drums") has played Black
Party twice before, this yearís version of
the Saint-at-Largeís Rites make this Pauloís
Triple Crown, as it were.
Fresh from his sensational gigs in Rio for
Carnaval and Sydney Mardi Gras, Paulo,
co-founder of Pure Music Productions, took a
break from the studio whereís heís been
mixing tracks for Black Party to tell us
about what heís got in store for his devoted
tribal tribe on the night of March 20th,
MRNY: Congrats on your upcoming Black
Party. This is your third time playing,
right? When were the other years?
PAULO: Off the top of my head, I
donít remember. I think it was 2002 and
MRNY: That sounds about right. You
know, Paulo, the buzz on the street is that
this year the Saint-at-Large got it
perfectly right in choosing you, and Hector
Fonseca, and Ana Paula.
PAULO: Thatís good to know that
people are digging the line-up.
MRNY: Yeah, it definitely increases
the anticipation. Black Party is one of
those events where people seem to be feel
personally engaged in the selection of the
deejays. What is it about Black Party that
attracts such dedicated music people?
PAULO: I think people just want to
make sure they have a good time and that the
music is appropriate for the party. You
donít want to put just anyone in charge of
that party musically.
MRNY: Had you ever been to the Black
Party before playing it? What do you
remember about your first Black Party?
PAULO: Yes, I went to Black Party in
the late 90ís, a couple of times. I was
impressed at the size of the room.
MRNY: The largest ballroom in New
PAULO: Now that Iíve spun that room
five times, it doesnít seem as big anymore.
MRNY: Yeah, as Norma Desmond says, "I
am big; itís the pictures that got small."
PAULO: [laughing] Or kind of like
going back to your elementary school and how
much smaller everything seems.
MRNY: Exactly. And speaking of the
past- Black Party has musical traditions
that stretch back nearly thirty years. And
weíre talking tracks such as "O Fortuna"
from Carl Orffís cantata, Carmina Burana,
and Erasureís "Blue Savannah, and Abbaís
"The Visitors," and about a dozen other
songs that a certain contingent yearns to
hear every year.
PAULO: Yes, I believe you have to
approach this party differently; it has a
MRNY: That first year that you played
Black Party, how did you reconcile the Black
Party musical traditions with your own set
PAULO: I just did a lot of research.
I have been going to clubs since the 80ís,
before AIDS, when clubbing was so different,
when music was the main reason people went
out. A lot has changed since then.
MRNY: You know, thereís a documentary
"Gay Sex in the Seventies," which addresses
that point: how music was the driving force
behind so much of the sexual energy. Whereíd
you get your nightclubbing chops?
PAULO: I was going to clubs in D.C.
when I was in high school: Tracks, Lost &
Found, Badlands, you name it.
MRNY: D.C. has always had a strong
night vibe-somewhat greater than its size.
PAULO: When I moved to Paris for five
years, I used to go out all the time. Thatís
where I started deejaying. Then [I lived] in
London for a couple of years [where] Heaven
was the hot spot. Then I moved back to the
States in 1991 and I did the circuit thing a
bit. Iíve always been immersed in the club
life, but initially more as an observer than
MRNY: It seems like weíre kind of
saying that our history is written in our
music. So what does that mean for a Black
PAULO: A deejay just canít just go in
and play his current set for Black Party.
One has to diligently weave some old stuff
into a much more current sound. And I donít
mean play the original track either-because
music has evolved.
MRNY: Building on the old to create
PAULO: One has to remix, re-edit, and
rearrange music so that it sounds current,
[which Iíll] do with a few Black Party Saint
classics-but both Steve Pevner and I agreed
that it was time to bring the party to a new
era while finding a way to give a nostalgic
drop here and there.
MRNY: Which is really a question of
retaining the best of the past while moving
Black Party into the future-sounds good.
Does that mean weíll be witnessing the
emergence of a new sound from you?
PAULO: This year, Iíll be playing
very differently than my last two gigs at
Roseland. My job is to create a very sexual
vibe and I intend to do that.
MRNY: As if thatís ever been a
problem with you. Youíre pretty much noted
for being the aural personification of sex.
PAULO: [laughing] People know that,
musically, Iím very versatile.
MRNY: Weíre not touching that.
PAULO: [laughing] I can spin a Work
Party, which has an edgier sound, or an
Alegria, with its bouncier feel-good sound,
or a very sexual leather event, or I can do
an early club event. It just requires doing
MRNY: So, this year, youíve got the
center spot in the three-act production,
which is traditionally when the floor at
Roseland is most packed. What are you
PAULO: Iím working with
Saint-At-Large to musically work on their
theme "revolutionary cell block tango." If I
had to describe my sound for that night in
two words: sexual and masculine. Weíre not
going for cha-cha or cunty on this one.
MRNY: Sexual and masculine. Weíre
calling John Bartlett right now.
PAULO: I want to create such a sexual
vibe that the whole dance floor turns into a
huge orgy-like the last episode of "True
MRNY: Texting Chi-chi La Rue, as we
speak. So what track is gonna get this orgy
PAULO: I really dig this bootleg I
did of Latourís mix of "People are Still
Having Sex". Itís very appropriate.
MRNY: Given your intentions, it
sounds perfect. Your latest podcast is
called "Tribal Romance," which is obviously
a kind of Paulo/Lady Gaga marriage-if Nurse
will pardon us for saying so...
PAULO: Itís no secret that I like
Lady Gaga and even though I will not be able
to play her "vocal" tracks during Black
Party, you can be assured that youíll hear
her voice talking one way or another
somewhere during my set.
MRNY: Excellent-because letís face
it, Gaga and her theatrical skills embody at
least some aspect of the Black Party. The
backstory treatment for this yearís Black
Party runs to twelve pages-of incredible
detail. What did you think when you read it?
PAULO: In a way, itís almost as if I
am creating a soundtrack for a movie, which
in this case is the backdrop of the Black
Party. Youíll have to see it to believe it.
MRNY: Thatís what people always used
to say after seeing the original Saint,
which was, previously, Fillmore East. For
the past nineteen years, Roseland has done a
pretty good job of standing in for the
original Saint. As someone whoís played
Roseland five times, what do you think it is
about Roseland that makes it special?
PAULO: It has the ideal club layout:
two levels, [with the advantage of] being
able to look down from the second level.
This compounded with its enormous size-
MRNY: And then when you mix in the
extraordinary production values employed by
the Saint-at-Large to transport Black Party
celebrants to a completely unique time and
PAULO: I have always been impressed
by the lights they bring for this event. For
me, itís more about the music and how the
music works with the lights than [it is
about] the dťcor. Itís the sexual vibe that
one has to create, with the synergy of the
lights and the music, alongside the "theme"
of the party.
MRNY: On your website, you give
thanks to those fans who "get" the music.
What do you mean by that? Would you say that
your music requires some education?
PAULO: Absolutely. I have never been
one to play too commercial. Iíve always
strived to find the right balance between
entertaining my crowd and educating them
with new sounds, whether it be tribal,
progressive, tech, or whatever. The
tremendous support I have gotten lately has
been overwhelming and I am truly always
thankful for the support of my fans and
those who "get what I do." It keeps me
motivated to bring more and to work harder.
MRNY: We know Paulo fans who would
follow your lead into oncoming traffic-and
these are often music heads who are truly
immersed in the music world-and theyíre very
particular about who they listen to-and
youíre their man. What aspect of your music
drives these people?
PAULO: I think [that] musically,
after some time, one matures with their
musical style. It keeps changing and
evolving. I, myself, try to see where music
goes, whoís doing what. Itís important to
have an open mind to new musical genres.
MRNY: Weíre not even in the spring of
2010, and already this year, youíve played
Carnival in Rio, and Sydney Mardi Gras, and
now Black Party. Is 2010 your "monster fame"
PAULO: A lot of people are saying
this is my year [and] Iím grateful for that.
I have several other big things coming up:
Gay Days Arabian Nights, and also Iíll be
returning to Alegria this year for a really
special event to be announced soon.
MRNY: You know, Paulo, we remember
first meeting you at Billboard Live some ten
years ago, thanks to Nurse, and itís been
really wonderful to witness your growth as
an artist during this past decade. Hereís to
you-and to this yearís Black Party
PAULO: Thank you!