· By Worship Recordings
Future BPM interviews Rob Paine
ROB PAINE Words by Derek Beere In 1998 Rob Paine, along with label partners Zach Eberz and Dan McGehean, founded the Worship Records label. Focusing on the dubby, reggae influenced sounds of house music, the label was received by house music aficionados with open arms. The Worship sound is unique. It has a tough yet groovy edge to it and at the same time it emits a warm feel with blessings from Rasta and the soul of Philly. As the driving force behind the label, DJ and producer Rob Paine, has just released a mix CD entitled "A Worship Records Compilation" featuring selections from the labels first ten releases. As an integral part of Philadelphia's early rave scene with Circle Productions (formerly known as Special K), Paine helped develop the underground dance movement by exposing the City of Brotherly Love to international and national DJs and live acts with the famous It parties. Following his musical passion, he fell in love with DJing. A DJ for just about ten years, Paine quickly gained notoriety on the DJ circuit in the US and Canada as a purveyor of the famous West Coast house sound with his own special twist. You know the deal. Psychedelic elements, chunky rhythms, driving congas, and a groove that makes you want to shake it. It's a phenomenon that's recently taken the world by storm, with fellow DJs like Halo, Hipp-E, Onionz, and Joeski gaining global attention. After being holed up in the studio for a number of years focusing on the Worship label and his own musical endeavors, Paine is set to hit the road again, pushing forth good vibes through the house music outlet. He may not be a household name to you yet, but don't worry. He will. Rob recently took the time to chat with us here at Futurebpm.com about the Worship sound, the early Philly rave scene, and Bob Marley... FUTUREBPM.COM: You have a new mix CD that recently dropped. Tell me about it, what's it all about? ROB PAINE: Well, it's pretty much a compilation of the first ten Worship releases. I just tried to take as many tracks as possible and blend them together in as nice of a manner as I could. It's kind of like a compilation slash mix CD of Worship stuff, showing the first ten releases from Worship. That's pretty much what it is. I'm involved in almost every track on it, one way or another, as far as it being one of my own or co-producing it with someone. F: Every track on it is from your Worship label's catalog. Yah, this mix is a compilation slash DJ mix because it crosses over into both categories. F: One thing I've noticed is that a lot of labels are starting to that, which is a great idea, because it not only gives you a cool DJ mix, but it also lets the listener know what the label is all about. Yep. We're just trying to reach people who don't buy records. We've got to reach out to them with this sound as well. F: And what about a mix with records that you carry in your box, any time soon? Funny you should ask, because I was scheduled to do one for this dub label that crosses into the house realm called BSI. But it kind of fell through after they realized it was going to cost before the advances and so on, so they put it on the back burner. I sent them the mix that I did and they were really into it and said they'll try to get it done. But definitely we're going to do something on Worship in the beginning of next year with maybe a double CD of a Solomonic Sound mix CD. F: Your mix starts of deep, and as the mix progresses it pumps up. Very nicely programmed. How do you approach a mix, whether you're making a CD or playing a gig? When I'm playing out...hmm...when I play records I just bought that day or got in the mail that day, it's crazy, but that's when I play the best. Without even listening to them, I check them out quick, and play them live. This mix was really difficult though, because it was my own music and I'm really anal about that. Programming it is tough because you'll pick out the smallest flaw because you know the music so well and you've heard the tracks like hundreds of times through the process of being made and so on. It almost starts to drive you crazy, but once I got it I was like, phew! Done! I was just so happy because it was definitely a pain in the ass. Usually I can just put on a tape and play, and that's my mix. But this definitely took me a few times (Laughs) to get it right. I wanted to make sure it was done proper, I didn't want to do any digital editing or anything like that. I did this mix straight... F: Sometimes you get these mix CDs that are done so well, with digital editing and so forth, I actually prefer to hear the mix CDs that have the slightest flaw or raw feeling... Yeah, definitely. A lot of people are pure selectors, they're not even engineering the mix. They're just doing it right in Pro-Tools, every mix. F: Yah, they just pump them in the computer and go "OK, let's mix" Yeah, it's definitely good to hear it that people like real DJ mixes. It's tough to do live, because there's so many different basslines. My music is so generated around the bassline, that every tune has got some strong bassline, so you've got to make sure the other is out so the new track can meet up properly. That was definitely a task to complete. F: As we mentioned before, the CD is a glimpse into the Worship Recordings sound. Tell me about the label, how you started it, and so on. The first release that I put out was on a label that a friend of mine and I started. We were best friends and tried to do a label together, but we couldn't do a label together. Rather than do that, we decided to save our friendship. Another friend of mine, we were just sitting around one day and I had a bunch of material, I wanted to shop it around but we also wanted to represent our own stuff. I knew we were onto some different shit. We needed an image to put behind the music, and we wanted to build it ourselves. My friend was like I got the money, and I was like "I got the music!", so we said let's do it. Then we did one track, another track, then three or four years later you're doing a mix CD. Now we're on our fourteenth release now. That's pretty much how it came about. I guess it was all a natural progression of things. F: Would you say that it's unfair to pigeonhole the label as "West Coast" sounding thing, when in fact, there's plenty of great house labels and producers, such as Onionz, Joeski, The Chocolate Factory and others, who have been pushing this sound for years? Yeah, I think this stuff is on a bigger level out there, and that's why it's cloned the West Coast sound. I mean, Joeski, Onionz, Frank Ryde, Sameer, all them cats. We were all playing this stuff, that sound. King Britt, Dozia. We're all East Coast playing that really, funky, soulful house. Early 90's stuff. The house revolution just blew up, especially in San Francisco, so I guess that's how it got cloned. It was going on over here, it was just never really highlighted. It's weird, you never even really read a scene report on Philly, it's so in the shadows. There's so much talent here that it's bursting at the seams on all levels. Techno, drum & bass, house, hip-hop, and so on. It's just insane, it really is. F: What do you look for if someone hands you a demo hoping to get a track signed to Worship? We just listen to it straight up, and if it catches us, it does. We definitely have a sound, so it has to be in tune with our label. There are a few projects I've done earlier on that were more straight up house with some dub in it, but it was more a house thing. We put it out on our Worship label and it didn't do as well. The record itself got charted, and got good praise and stuff, but it wasn't something for Worship. So we learned that we definitely not to keep in tune with our image and what not. If we're going to do that, maybe we'll do some subsidiary label or something. But it's difficult, especially right now, we're not even really accepting demos. We'll listen to them, but I doubt we'll be signing anything now because it's so hard right now at this stage. We have the small label, the office, the studio, and so forth. Right now we need to keep it going and put out music that best represents the label ourselves. We need to really do that right now for financial reasons, just do all in-house productions. So that's where we're at for at least the next six months, we're not going to really put out anything on Worship but our own stuff. There's things we may work out with other people, like trading songs or mixes, that's fine, but as far as putting money up front for new talent, it's just not feasible, which sucks, but that's where we are right now. F: Rewinding the clocks a bit, you started out with Special K, later called Circle productions, doing the IT parties and things like that, producing some of Philly's biggest rave-oriented events. Do you smile or shudder when you think back to those days? Nah, I would never shudder (laughs) ... I don't really shudder about anything in my life, but yeah, there's a lot of shit I regret, but bad or good, I'm glad I got through it, you know? You've got to learn from every experience, but I have a lot of fond memories. There's definitely shit that makes me upset and there were time when I felt dehumanized because all we ever wanted to do was throw a phat party, have the best production possible, and I think we did and always came through with that. But there are always people who just want to hate. This one party, this last big party we did, called IT, a lot of people couldn't get in. The cops shut down the doors because all these people were sneaking in through side doors, it was crazy, something like 10,000 people showed up. So the cops came and shut the doors down because they were afraid of a riot or something, because it took so long for people to get in. The cops were like, "Yo, we can't let anyone else in, but we'll let you still have the party, it can still go on". It had reached capacity, there were something like 800 - 1000 people with tickets outside who had come as far as Florida or Toronto for this party. We sat down, got some money, and gave these people their money back. Still to this day I have never been to a party where that has happened, and I have been to plenty of parties where I've had a ticket and never got in, and I never got my money back. I was there until 6 in the morning handing money out. Twice I had to go back up to the room with a cop to get some money. People were angry, they would dehumanize you. Swearing, spitting at ya. It was crazy. When I look back at that party, I couldn't even enjoy myself man. It'd be wonderful, we always dreamed of hitting that jackpot on that one party, but we never did. We've seen so many people do it before us, but we never did. Something on the downlow, but I've been talking to Keith and we may be doing some events, so we'll see. F: That's what I was getting at whether you smile or shudder about the past. The "R" word, rave, sort of became taboo, don't talk about it... We call it whatever, it's just a dance. Jamaica sound-system from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, don't shut it off. It don't matter if you're in Kingston or you're out in the bush, the sound systems don't shut off, and it's been like that since the 1960's. It's just a dance. There's so many people who label it different things. Clubbing, raving, a gathering, it's just a dance (laughs) F: Besides producing the music and running the label, you also DJ. How long have you been doing the DJ thing? Longer than everything else. I started Djing back in 1993, but I had been buying records since early 1992, late 1991. I was always buying records though, like punk records, reggae, and all sorts of stuff. It's been about ten years now that I've been Djing. I've always been into music. I've been in a lot of bands, in fact, I was in a band that was pretty successful for a while where we were playing 4 or 5 nights a week consistently for 2 to 3 years. It was a ska, funk, reggae type of band. Then Djing came and just kind of took over. I was going to Temple University for a saxophone player, I was there for jazz. I got into a car accident and fucked up my teeth and I couldn't play my horn anymore. So Djing then just kind of took over, that became my job. I started building up my studio and what not, and that's sort of how everything came to fruition. Out of something bad came something good, and that's where my life ended up at that time. It's crazy because I got a name for myself as a DJ, I traveled the country with just that before I got known for my production, but the last two years I chilled and just concentrated on my production, but now I got to go back out and show people what's up again. I'm definitely confident with my abilities as a DJ, and I love playing out. F: A lot of people have that internal battle where it's like: "I'm out Djing, away from the studio not making music, but when I'm in the studio I'm making music, but I'm not Djing". Do you go through that and find it tough to balance that out? Yeah, definitely. But you also have to be thinking about things like "I can be doing this gig and it'll be good for this cause and it pays this much, but I can be in the studio working on this track, for this label, or for our label and be making this much." You gotta weigh out like everything. For me, I look at Djing, as getting paid for the travel part of it. The actual Djing part is a joy. The feeling is unbelievable. It's hard to balance the two out though sometimes. The last two or three years I've been in the studio more and sort of let go of a lot of contacts I had that I was Djing for, but now I'm ready to work my ass back up to get out on the DJ circuit more. Hopefully this CD will help in that. It's hard to balance the two though. F: In Philly, the city itself is known to have a lot of soul in it's music, going back to the early disco sound and what not, with Salsoul Records, MFSB, The Sound of Philadelphia, and things like that. Any of that sound influence you? Yeah, definitely. I think that influenced the whole West Coast sound, from dub to disco. Kenny Gamble man. He's our next door neighbor and landlord. It's kind of crazy, he's a real strict Muslim, they have a mosque right next door, but it's crazy to be a part of. I've met the man a few times, he's been in my studio and what not. I just remember being a kid singing along to their anthems. Major, major influences. I love that sound. Whether it's R&B, hip-hop, or house, you know it's coming from Philly. It's just got that flavor. Philly definitely has a particular sound. F: And influencing you today, what does it for you, musically? Mostly, when I'm in the car or listening to music, I'm listening to reggae. I listen to reggae 80% of the time, the rest of it I fill in the gaps with jazz, house or whatever else. But most of the time I'm listening to reggae, because that is one music that is just so pure. It will, no matter what, it will lift you up, I don't care what kind of mood you in. It'll just make you start singing. It's so universal. That's my major influence and the good vibes I get out of it. We all cite Rasta, so there's a definite influence as well and we try to project them feelings and sound in our music. F: And you've collaborated with quite a few people, like Chris Udoh, as well as Zach ... Yeah, Zach and I are Solomonic Sound. It's the epitome of the Worship sound and what we stand for. The trademark sound comes from Solomonic Sound. We do a house sound system, but we also do a reggae sound system as well. Straight roots and culture, to a reggae crowd, not a house crowd as well. That's our biggest night here in Philly. Every Friday we have Roots and Culture reggae night, and it's packed. The vibes are sick! We only play house three or four times a month here in Philly and it's usually dead. But I play house out of town, it's packed. We play a little out of town, it's weird. F: That is weird. You think Philly, you got the Ovum guys, Nigel and his thing, and so on ... It's really hard to try and get everyone to work together. Unfortunately it's like any other city, there's good people and then there's haters. But a lot of people are busy with their own shit as well, but we definitely try to get people to come together and do more things together, but it's hard. I wish there was one night a week in Philly where everyone got together. We all see each other on the street all the time. The spot you run into so many people is right on 4th Street, between South and Bainbridge, because that's where Cue Records is, 611, Fluid nightclub and so on. You go down that way, you'll run into a lot of heads. But as far as getting people together doing events, it just doesn't happen. But we're talking, especially the guys from Tigerhook, we've been talking about doing more parties and what not. And William, our office manager, he is the Philly Soul Collective, so we do parties with them. Those are cool, and we always look forward to that. Nigel definitely does his own thing, but he's not around too much, he loves the jet-set life, he loves them gals. I love Nigel, he's definitely one of the first people that gave me a chance in Philly. He booked me to play my first party back in 92, or 93. It was before Richie Hawtin got caught and couldn't come into the States. So Nigel went to go pick up Richie and they ended up hanging out and they left me there playing. I was only supposed to play an hour, but they left me for like 3 or 4 hours, and the place was packed and I had it running. It was shit like that, funny stuff. He totally hooked me up, you know? It was great. We did a lot of outlaw parties back in the day. Nigel's a great guy. F: Collaborating with people in the studio, any more coming up? Oh yeah, for sure. In Jamaica they call the DJ the MC, a DJ would be Beenie Man or something like that. Definitely Solomonic is always going to collaborate. Chris and I, probably not. We're far too different for the studio. Pete Moss, he's one of my best boys, we are always playing each other our new shit. We always critique each other's shit, but we never get together to work on something. We've been talking for like 6 or 7 years about doing something, but we never come close. We're good friends, so when we get the time to get together, we just want to hang out, talk and chill. I think some day it'll happen. I think Zach and I will work with other singers and stuff like that. There's not really too much right now. Hollis and I've worked on some shit together, like vocal house. I like to work with a lot of people on stuff, but it's hard to get together and no one's to blame. F: If you were to work with somebody, living or dead, and could work with a single person, who would you like to get together with and work with? Oh man... wow... you'd have to bring back King Tubby. (long pause). Oh my God. I'm not good at these kind of questions. Wow, I dunno...I really feel Luciano is one of my favorite singers, it'd be great to work with him, maybe produce his whole album someday. But that's too fuckin hard of a question for me, wow. I'd say King Tubby, bring him back. F: And Rob Paine, not the DJ, not the producer. What do you like to do away from all of this? Uhm, hmm, do whatever. Hang out with my friends for sure. I have the most unbelievable friends in the world. My two roommates, we've known each other since the 1st grade. I have a lot of friends like that. I like to get together with my friends, my family. Out of four siblings I'm the youngest, my older brother and sister they have kids and I like to check them. Sports, like snowboarding and skating, I live for. Playing some ball is fun. Just chill in... going to the beach, whatever. Hang with the girl, smoke an herb with your friends. Traveling for sure, I love to travel. Getting engulfed in other cultures I love. F: You just came back from Jamaica a while back, right? Yeah, I was there for my 30th birthday in November, so the first two weeks of October I was there. For the first week I spent with my friends, and the second week I just went off on my own and did my own thing and just chilled. I try to go down there a couple of times a year. I have a lot of friends down there now and different places to go and stay, and if I want to work in the studio, I got places in Kingston and if I want to hang out in the bush, I got a few places in the bush. It's a place to heal. If you're really feeling the trials and tribulations and dregs of society, you want to go down there and replenish your soul. It's a giant vortex, the whole island is just one giant vortex. Energy level there is amazing, but you have to be very careful, it's a third world country. You have to be with the right people. F: Maybe someday I'll get there. Yeah, it's great. The best thing to do the first time you go, and what I suggest, is get off the plane and go to Nine Mile, which is where Bob Marley has been laid to rest. It's also where he was brought up, his mother still lives there, his family and so on. Mostly the people in our country are fascinated with Jamaica because of it's musical culture, so a lot of people go down there to check that, plus it's a nice play. But most people were introduced to that musical culture through Bob Marley. He was one of the first people to hit on that on an international level. So when you go there, go see Bob. Go see the man who brought you there and pay your respects. I've taken people there that want to stay at the Four Seasons, this and that, and when they go see Bob, it humbles them. I would suggest that to anyone. Get off the flight and go right to Nine Mile. It's about a two and a _ hour ride. There's really no highway, and the roads are horrible. People drive crazy, anywhere they can. It's insane. Your stomach will be in your throat the whole way there. Get ready for the ride of your life. (laughs) F: What's coming up in the future for you? Musically and so on? What can we expect, what's on the plate. Solomonic Sound stuff will be coming out, uhm, we'll be working with other people again. But the Solomonic Sound album will be the next thing coming out after this CD. We're definitely doing stuff for other labels as well. We've had some labels knocking on our door, but we'll be putting some stuff out there on other labels. F: Last, but not least, anything else you'd like to add or say? Uhm, nah. We pretty much covered it all, I think, no? I don't want to preach to no one (laughs). If anything, please check out our website and you can read up on us, all the events we're involved in, and so on. You can order our music and so on. Keep the positive vibes, that's all I can say. Check out www.worshiprecs.com for all the info on Worship, Rob Paine, and much more!