Thursday, February 10, 2011

Alex Botwin aka Paper Diamond

One of the most famed upcoming electronic producers, Alex Botwin has played solo performances under the alias "Alex B" as well as his electronic group, Pnuma Trio, and his most recent project, Paper Diamond, who was signed to Pretty Lights Music. Penned Maddness contributing writer Jordyn Reese had a chance to catch up with the music mogul as he took a break from recording in his Colorado studio.

JORDYN: Pnuma Trio has been seen as one of the first bands to really pave the way for this electronic music revival. I was curious how you first get involved in the electronic music scene?

ALEX: Well, I guess I’ve been playing music since I was little and I started playing in bands when I was super young. I guess, when I started listening to electronic music, I was in a band, so the first sound that appealed to me was STS9. In the live application of it, they inspired me to change musically what I was playing. I was going to college for music production with a minor in music business at school in Tennessee. I was studying music and playing music, so when I started listening to that genre, I thought Hey! I could do something like that and I wanted to give it a shot..especially around Nashville. There was not anyone really doing that kind thing in Nashville or Memphis, so when we started Pnuma, we all moved to Memphis. We continued playing that for 5 years and it evolved into its own kind of electronic music. We really just saw other people doing it well, like STS9, and had been influenced by the new we started to really make our own version of that.

JORDYN: So it really sounds like you guys got your roots from STS9. What other bands or genres do you find yourself currently drawn to?

ALEX: Currently, you know, I’m still listening to a bunch of I’m listening to new soul music and all kinds of different stuff: R&B, jazz, rock…but I guess as far as current music goes, I’ve been listening to Wiz Khalifa a lot and the new Erykah Badu record. It really changes daily, I try to stay up on new music – James Blake is really great. And stuff like that.

JORDYN: I know you are known for your extensive collection of vinyl’s, I have definitely seen some pictures on the web. How many would you say you have stored away right now?

ALEX: I’m not really sure. I have one room that is pretty much completely full of them and it has started spilling into every room, you know? There’s probably…I don’t even know.. there’s a lot, there’s piles all over, it’s kind of ridiculous.

JORDYN: So I guess to follow that, the cheesy question of your top 3 favorite vinyl’s of all time?

ALEX: Hmm..That’s always the hardest question for me. I mean, I would have to say something from Herbie Hancock. I would have to say, I don’t know, it’s really hard for me to pin point cause I have so many favorites. Definitely Herbie Hancock is my one favorite.

JORDYN: Can you tell me a little about your design firm and label Elm and Oak?

: Sure. Elm and Oak stands for Exclusive Limited Merchandising and One of A Kinds. And, basically, it’s a multifaceted company. We have a design firm, in which we do identity and branding work for people including website design and things of that nature. Then, we have the label, which we have distribution for. So basically we put out peoples music, and I try to help out a lot of musicians I am friends with, more of the stuff I like and the people I really like as I’m trying to help promote those people and put out good music and, you know, have some good times, like throw events, and things like that. So basically, that’s a lot of what we do, and we have people updating the blog every day, so pretty much putting out new artwork and what we think is cool. Really, just pushing the culture of the whole music scene as opposed to just making the music. It’s about bringing the art and culture together and presenting it in a way people understand and, you know, just trying to pave our way.

JORDYN: Your sound has definitely grown so much from your first album with Pnuma Trio to your current project, Paper Diamond. Your new EP, Levitate, is unbelievable by the way and I think it's on a completely different spectrum from your other sounds and EPs. How do you see your music evolving in the future, what’s next for you guys?

ALEX: For me personally, with the Paper Diamond stuff, I’m working on a new EP right now. I’m doing a whole bunch of festivals this summer, some of them are announced but there are a whole bunch that aren’t announced yet – so it’s going to be an exciting summer. Right now I am half way through the new EP, the second one, and making remixes along the way that I’ll put out up until the new EP comes out. There are some pretty cool things that I can’t really delve into fully, but we are going to be involved in some more video stuff. We have some great artists on board. For the second EP, we are going to be bringing back the same artists who did the first EP’s artwork, and we’re going to be involving some of his artwork in the videos that are upcoming for it. Basically, we’re going to try to incorporate even more artists and make it an even bigger project and continually build it. We also just announced Snowball Festival, which is a really great Colorado festival that’s coming up. They announced the pre-party that going to be the week before, so that will be the first headlining Paper Diamond show in Denver on February 25th . We’re pretty much gearing up for some really great production for that show and setting up for Snowball. Besides that, we’re going to be hitting the road with Pretty Lights, going down to Miami before Ultra and a bunch of surrounding shows.

JORDYN: Speaking of tour, you have been on tour nonstop! Who has been your favorite band or artist to tour with?

ALEX: Flying Lotus and Bassnectar were awesome. They are such nice dudes. The STS9 dudes have been really great to us too. It’s mostly about interpersonal relationships. You can always be influenced by the music, but a lot of is the relationships between the artists.

JORDYN: We are so stoked you have been coming down into Florida to play more shows. You guys have gained a pretty big following down here from playing the first Big and Hearty Music Festival and Bear Creek Music Festival the last couple years. Do you prefer playing in the smaller venues or is playing larger festivals really what you live for?

ALEX: I really like both. It’s hard for me to say one or the other because each has its own individual vibe, so you have to kind of gear towards that. I love coming down and playing the festivals. Bear Creek has always been great and Big and Hearty was definitely fun as well. I really like the small, closed shows too cause they get super rowdy, but it doesn’t really matter to me where it is. I’m just grateful to be able to go out and play my music

JORDYN: Paper Diamond is on some major festival lineups over the next few months like Wakarusa and Snowball that you mentioned before. Which show are you most looking forward to this summer?

ALEX: I’m really looking forward to every festival. We didn’t really play too many festivals last year, so this year we’re ready to hit it hard. I’m planning mostly for Snowball and Summer Camp right now, but there are a bunch more to be announced soon.

JORDYN: Are you solely going to be playing tracks off the new Paper Diamond EP or do you have some beats hidden up your sleeve for us?

ALEX: When I’m going out and playing shows right now, I’m mostly playing the Paper Diamond stuff cause it’s what I’ve been working on and most current for me. People ask me if I’m still going to be making the “Alex B” more hip hop-ish type stuff, and I definitely am, just right now ive been focusing on making a bunch of material for the Paper Diamond project which to me is just a separate direction for me, where I can make dance music or whatever I want to. I’m still going to be production stuff that is like my previous projects and playing some of the older tracks, but my newer sound is definitely dancier and heavier. I’ve been having a lot of fun at the shows and crowds have been reacting better to the new material. A lot of the previous stuff was “headphone” music, so it’s good to go out and play music that is more upbeat.

JORDYN: Definitely. I’ve still been sensing a lot of hip hop influences in the new EP, Levitate. Did you grow up with a lot of hip hop in your life?

ALEX: Yeah, definitely. I literally listened to everything growing up. I was classically trained on violin before I started playing guitar, bass and drums when I was 12. I was locked into music my whole life. Before I was a producer, I was an instrumentalist, or musician. I’m just trying to do it all.

JORDYN: I also saw you guys recently signed to Pretty Lights Music. Only a couple years ago, my artist Amtrac and Pretty Lights were opening for you and Pnuma! I feel like you have kind of paved the way for these dudes. Is it shocking to you to see how quickly the whole Pretty Lights movement has blown up?

ALEX: I am just happy for him, it’s dope. He’s killing it and people love his music. He’s a super nice dude and really cares about his fans. He’s been awesome to work with so far, and I really have nothing but good things to say.

JORDYN: Thats awesome. And finally, what has been the most defining moment of your career thus far?

ALEX: I don’t think that I have really had a single defining moment. I feel like the defining moment is yet to come, I don’t feel like I’m fully where I need to be. I’m still learning and growing, musically. There have been certain things that have been amazing, like playing Red Rocks a few times. Being able to look up at the crowd there is pretty insane. Also, playing in Japan where no one really speaks English but they are still in the crowd…certain moments like that are pretty amazing and will stand out in my mind forever.

JORDYN: I can only imagine. My final question is one that I know a lot of people want to know. Do you prefer the volcano, something glass blown or something hand rolled?

ALEX: Hahahah. Well, that’s always changing too but I always have the volcano in the studio. So I guess..rolling up and volcano.

Here are some samples of Paper Diamond's work...

Pretty Boy Swag (Paper Diamond Remix) by PaperDiamond

07 Steady Swinging by PaperDiamond

01 Snowfall by PaperDiamond

From Now Till..... by PaperDiamond

Download Paper Diamonds music for free and find tour dates near you on their website (
Paper Diamond gives out exclusive tracks daily on their Facebook (
Other Paper Diamond tracks are available on their soundcloud (
Catch Paper Diamond on tour with Pretty Lights (
Follow Alex while hes on tour: twitter (

- Jordyn Reese
Contributing Writer

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