On his latest mix comp, Paine breaks out the big basslines.
by Lily Moayeri
To some it may seem strange to play house music with a dub reggae aesthetic, but to Rob Paine, it makes perfect sense. Deeply influenced by the music of Philadelphia's Jamaican community, Paine has managed to immerse himself in both cultures while not shortchanging either.
"Any music that is good music is in my heart," says Paine. "Reggae is the foundation, house culture blew us away in the late '80s. Once you get to a dance and you feel the energy of what's going on, it relates to what we feel from reggae music and the vibes that we get. It's a positive feeling that is so good. We don't feel we're doing anything that hasn't been done before, we're trying to step up."
A Dj spinning both genres for 10 years now, Paine established his imprint Worship Recordings with partner Dan McGehean in 1998. Bringing the warm, clubby basslines of reggae into the solid beats of house music, Worship combines the best elements of the two and his latest mix comp, Wor.CD.01 - A Worship Records Compilation, offers the label's best moments, especially on tracks produced by Rocket, Hakan Lidbo and Paine himself.
Recording as Solomonic Sound with partner Zach Eberz, as Kidz On Christian Street with Chris Brann, as Divine Conception (a solo pseudonym) or simply as Rob Paine, reggae is the everpresent factor in every creation. A saxophone/jazz improvisation major at Temple University, Paine's background in bands and his musical evolution from punk rock to reggae and then house all figure into his original productions.
Whether making a more reggae based tune or a more house oriented one, Paine employs the same gear. His studio includes Mark of the Unicorn's Digital Performer sequencing software which he says will soon be upgraded to a 3.0 system with an 896 firewire interface. He cuts vocals onto a Roland VS880 or DAT then chops them through an Akai S5000 or S1000 sampler. Vocals, drums and horns are cut with a Neumann M 147 microphone that runs into an Avalon AD2022 pre?amp and a Crane Song STC8 compressor. An Ensoniq DP4 Plus multi?effects processor, a Proteus 2000 synth module, E?Mu Classic Keys, a Roland MDCI Dance Module and a Juno 106 analog synth round out the studio.
"That's all going to change once we go to the new interface and we can go right into the hard disk and everything is right up on the screen," says Paine of the production process. "We always take the dub style when we mix our stuff down with an analog board and are running the mix live. We do all the effects on the fly - nothing's pre-programmed. We'll do a couple of different takes and listen to which rises and swells, will be the best. We really want to combine both because we feel we can get certain things out of analog and outboard gear that we cannot get from plug-ins."
At press time, Paine was maintaining three Philadelphia residencies, including Friday's Solomonic Sound System party at Filo's with partner Eberz. Accessing two Technics 1200 turntables, a Vestax PMC-46 mixer for cutouts and grabs, a Korg Kaoss pad for changing the parameters, a sampler for effects and vocal drops and a microphone, Paine and Eberz split time in and out of the booth. One plays the records, while the other runs the effects; one looks through the records and the other goes to the crowd to feel the mood. While following the Jamaican guidelines of the MC as "Dj" and the record spinner as "selector," Paine and Eberz do throw some house rules into the mix.
"We beat match," he says. "Jamaicans think we're crazy cause they usually play a tune and chat about it in the middle to keep it up. With reggae there's so many different versions, we'll run version after version. I feel house music is going to get to this point. There are only so many tracks that can be made. There are a few that people are going to go back and redo. That's what's been going on in reggae for 40, 50 years, versions are redone, or updone, every 10 years.
"When a version comes out, they'll maybe get three or four singers and a couple of DJs as well, have them voice a tune over the same rhythm. You'll buy the set, maybe six tunes on the same rhythm, they come in 7-inches, with different singers and you'll blend them, real fast. Right at the end of the chorus, you drop the next one in. Unless it's the big tune of the rhythm, you play that one the longest. It usually gets a forward or rewind. It's the same rhythm so the song doesn't really change, but the singers change."
For his straight-up house Dj sets, Paine tries to bring in some reggae elements, but he plays to the crowd first. Preferring a Urei mixer for the house mixes, he might bring in a sampler and always a hand drum for added effect, but he stays within the house limitations, trying not to ask for a rewind, even when he's desperate for one. "When we're at a house dance and they're playing a big tune, I'll start banging on the wall saying, 'Pull up,"' he laughs. "Maybe one day we will be able to have sound clashes like that. When we have a crowd that's there for us, we do it. But you can't just do it and scare the shit out of everyone. But if you get it to a point where it's just bliss, you know when it's at that point 'cause the people are louder than that music, then you have to pull the record up. That's doesn't happen yet, maybe later. When you get to that point, that feeling in house music, it's longer. When I'm playing house, I'm in deep meditation. When you have that feeling, you're not pulling up the record, the energy is gradual. It's a lot different. It's hard to say what's a better feeling. I've definitely felt that spiritual feeling on both levels."