It was probably a few months ago when I heard the first rumblings of a possible Paul Hazendonk album. The Manual Music label boss is just 32 years old and he’s already had a very fruitful production career that has spanned a full decade now. When Paul’s debut album ‘Adapt’ was eventually announced it was incredibly exciting to the entire electronic music community. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect but my hunch was a very broad range of styles and unique themes that somehow all makes perfect sense together. Paul has accomplished that with ‘Adapt’ and so much more. When you look at the impressive list of collaborators that Paul has brought in for the album you really do expect something brilliant and that’s exactly what the Dutch producer has delivered. We had a chance to sit down and chat with Paul a few weeks prior to the release of ‘Adapt’, a transcription of the interview is below and we hope you enjoy it.
Hello Paul! thanks so much for joining us for this interview and congrats on the release of your first album ‘Adapt’. Let’s start off with some general information just to give people a look into your musical background.
1. How old are you and how long have you been producing / DJing?
Paul: I’m 32 now and started mixing records together at the end of 1994 / early 1995 when I was 12 years old. Got my first paid gig at age 18 and didn’t start producing until 2003/2004 so that’s about a decade ago now.
2. What are your earliest memories of music, what did you listen to growing up? How did you get involved in electronic music and what made you decide to pursue it full time? And if you had pick one or two tracks which solidified your love for electronic music early on what would they be?
Paul: My parents had a record player in the living room and they played their records on a regular basis; Albert Hammond, Status Quo, The Everly Brothers etc. They also had a big collection of 45’s which they let me play when they had friends over. I was a huge Michael Jackson fan when I was a young kid, but then again: who wasn’t? It seemed all the boys wanted to be like Michael Jackson, all the girls wanted to be like Madonna 🙂 For some reason I always had an early obsession with music, running to the local record store every Wednesday when they had the new printed copy of the top 40 chart, being glued to the radio when they broadcasted that same chart, recording my fav tunes with my tape deck and not leaving the house without my walkman (or later on: disc man). Believe it or not, I discovered house music when I was only 10 years old and bought a compilation (on tape!) packed with what are now known as house classics. I really started to get into it when I saw a documentary about the (now) famous Dutch Mystery Land Festival. DJ’s mixing records together; how cool! That’s when I decided I wanted to do that and every penny I had went into my new found hobby (to despair of my parents from time to time). As far as early memories goes when I think of electronic music I think of ‘Technarchy’ by Cybersonik (so infectious, I was hooked!) but also the very commercial ‘Too Blind To See It’ by Kym Sims (lovely feel good tune – or so I thought because in fact the lyrics are not feel good at all haha). I could go on and on about this, but we’re not writing my auto biography here, we doing an interview 😉
3. Did you have any formal music training growing up? in regards to composing or engineering / sound design etc.? and if not did anyone help you out along the way?
Paul: Not at all. I decided a keyboard would be cool but lessons would be lame because you start out with children’s songs and that didn’t motivate me being a teenager. When seriously getting into producing music I can say Francesco Pico is the one who really thought me how everything worked and what kinda options I had in terms of a studio setup. I visited his studio every Tuesday night for at least 2 years to observe and learn.
4. You were a DJ for several years before ever getting into production and I’ve read that you realized you had to start producing in order to really get somewhere in the industry. The inception of Manual Music and the beginnings of your production career seem to pretty much coincide. It’s common for producers to have their own imprints nowadays but 8 years ago when you created Manual it was much less common, what was is that made you want to start your own label?
Paul: Well I actually had quite a solid DJ career when I just entered the scene, holding residencies at two major clubs and regular appearances at others. But when both those residencies ended my other bookings went down drastically too. I realized that I got booked because I made a name as being a resident DJ at those clubs, so with those clubs gone I needed to get my name out there again and the only solution was to start producing- and releasing music.
I worked at a record company / record store called Basic Beat and under their umbrella I started my first label ‘Technique’ in 2003. I actually released a record by Ritzi Lee with a remix by the legendary Orlando Voorn as a “Technique Ltd” release because the sound was different from the full on (135+ bpm) techno I released on Technique at the time and found out that didn’t really work. The people who liked the Technique label didn’t really like that record, and the people who were into the Orlando Voorn sound didn’t like the Technique label. So when I got a great demo by a young Swedish chap named Petter which I wanted to release I decided not to make that one Technique Ltd 002 but started a new label for the “other” sound instead, and so Manual Music was born 🙂
So long story short: there’s no connection what so ever between me starting to produce music and the birth of Manual Music.
5. Looking back over the eight years to today did the label grown into what you had envisioned ? Manual has been a leader in cutting edge electronica for many years now but it’s much more than just a record label, tell our readers a bit more about what all encompasses Manual.
Paul: I didn’t have a big long term vision when I started the label back in 2005. I just wanted to release cool music, music I liked and free of boundaries or genre restrictions. If you consider that as the vision of the label I think it succeeded because even though the label has got most followers in the progressive house / melodic techno scene, the catalogue also holds a considerable amount of electronica, left field, house and even some indie-pop and nu-disco songs.
I like to work with people I like and I like to work with (Dutch) talents, to give them a chance to get their music out there and be heard. I feel too many labels go for safe and just release one big name after another because of them being big names, not (always) because they bring quality or something extra. Don’t get me wrong; naturally I’ve also worked with major names on the label, but I think it’s important that talent gets a chance to be heard too.
Nowadays there are 3 labels operating under the Manual flag: the main label Manual Music on which the focus is more and more on our resident artists and album releases (and singles from those albums), MNL for one-off releases and to give talents a chance and the Cinematique label which is being run by my good friend Robin and has the focus more on the left field- and melodic side of things. We also take care of digital distribution for close to 100 labels, we have our monthly ‘Manual Movement’ radio show and take care of publishing for a considerable amount of (our) artists. We used to run our own bookings agency for a while too but had to close it down because we simply couldn’t find the time to do it anymore. If we do something we want to do it with full focus, otherwise we don’t do it at all. This is also the reason why we don’t do major events. You’ll see us hosting an area or being invited by another organization from time to time, but we are not a party organization and chances are big we’ll never be one either.
6. Your debut album entitled ‘Adapt’ has just been released, it’s got to be a tremendous feeling to get something like that onto your discography. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit over the last few weeks and I think you’ve done a great job creating a proper album so to speak. I’m assuming given the large number of collaborations included there that ‘Adapt’ has been a planned and long running project. When did it start and were all the tracks written specifically with the album in mind or how did it all come together in the end?
Paul: Thank you, I’m very happy with the final result as well! Indeed it took quite some planning to get everyone on the same page, especially when talking about deadlines.. It wasn’t that hard to reach out to the people who have worked with me on the album as most of them are already affiliated to my Manual Music label, so a simple e-mail or call did the trick in most cases 🙂 I think the main difference with doing a single is that when doing a single there must always be one main track on there, one for the clubs. In my case doing an album felt like it gave me the freedom to do a bit deeper, focus more on the musicality of things and let that dance floor thought go. There are still some proper club tunes on there though, don’t get me wrong 😉
7. Your first productions came out in 2005 I believe so it’s a long time coming for this being your first album. It’s got to be something you’ve thinking about for many years, any particular reason it didn’t happen sooner?
Paul: My first release was back in 2004 actually, so yeah; a full decade has passed! I don’t know, I think I never felt ready to do an album.. It probably had to do with the fact that I felt (and still feel) I’m mainly a DJ who had to get into producing music, instead of considering myself a producer who also does some DJ work. I did do a handful of mix compilation CD’s though out the years so that kinda says it all 😉 Last year I just felt inspired, I had a lot of ideas in my mind which I wanted to work out and so the idea of doing a full album was born.
8. The first single off your album ‘You’re My Habit’ came out a week ago, the remixes from Lank and Rob Hes were outstanding. What other singles do you plan on pulling of the album and can you tell us anything about what remixes might accompany them.
Paul: All I can tell you now is that artists such as Darin Epsilon, Scotty A and Dutch talent Hubert Kirchner will take care of a remix for one of the album tracks. More will follow for sure, but what the next singles will be depends on how the album tracks will be received and we’ll take it from there.
9. You’ve been collaborating a lot with fellow Dutch producer Noraj Cue recently, he’s an integral part of the album as well. How did you guys initially meet and begin working together? and are you guys in the studio together at all or is everything worked on through a file passing system?
Paul: Noraj Cue is actually an artist who has been on board of my labels for quite some years now. If I’m correct he has released his first single back in 2008 and we always had a good connection. I totally loved his sound – a blend of depth, warmth and melodies mixed with a huge doses of funk – and I really wanted to work with him, so at a certain stage I just flat out asked him and look at where we are now 🙂 It’s pretty safe to say the ‘Adapt’ album wouldn’t have been here now if it wasn’t for Noraj Cue as he’s featured on the majority of tracks. I try to visit his studio on a regular basis where we build the basic idea for a track or remix (on a good day we can make up to 3 solid ideas), we talk things thru in terms of where we want a track to be going and after that it’s all about the internet.
10. Many of the tracks on the album have been written based on something that is close to your heart. The first single ‘You’re My Habit’ for example is dedicated to your wife. When you’re in the studio does having a source of inspiration as meaningful as something like that make the creative process any easier? and what if anything helps you through times when the production process gets tough or things just aren’t happening like they should be?
Paul: Well it does help set the mood for a song. I mean for example if you listen to the song ‘Canyon’; it’s about losing a loved one. So when starting out on a song like that needless to say you won’t go into it with the idea of making something happy-go-lucky and upbeat, but you go in with the idea that it has to be moody and packed with emotion. It doesn’t necessarily help when you’re at a dead end. Production either works or it doesn’t, if it doesn’t you’ll better work on another track or call it a day.
11. There is certainly a broad range of styles and themes explored on the album which makes for a hugely interesting listen and also something that should stand the test of time quite well. Just curious how big of an influence other artists or music genres are when it comes to composing tracks? Could you give any examples?
Paul: Hardly any at all I think. Last year was my quietest year ever in regards to the number of gigs I did and I didn’t feel like going to a lot of parties or clubs at all, so I kinda took some distance from the whole scene. Being away from the scene for at least a bit gave me the inspiration to start working on the album, not blinded by any hypes or happening sounds, artists or DJ’s. So I can safely say this album is really me, my vision – with the help of a lot of talented producers of course.
12. Would you say that the album is one of the highlights of your career and if not what do you consider some of your best moments or which ones mean the most to you?
Paul: It’s certainly an important happening in my career, no doubt! Ask me again in 10/15 years and I’ll tell you if it’s a highlight or not 😉 Without wanting to sound cliche because I really truly believe this: for me being able to work full-time in my music industry, run my own company and make a living with my passion and hobby is the biggest highlight.
13. Now that the album is finished and released what are you focusing on for the rest of the year? Will there be any sort of special gigs or tour to support the album?
Paul: Yes, the album tour kicks off on April 11th in Amsterdam! The plan is to do as many long gigs- or even solo nights as possible. The first dates are now mainly booked in The Netherlands but my booker and management are working hard behind the scenes to secure worldwide tour dates at the moment. I can’t really say anything now until dates are 100% confirmed but chances are quite big I’m visiting various continents before the end of the year 😉
Next to that I actually already finished some new tracks and I’m happy to announce that Noraj Cue and I are working on remixes for Roger Martinez (to be released on the Perspectives label) and Scotty A (to be released on Proton Music).
Another thing high on the agenda is to expand my Hazendonk FM show to more and more radio stations. Although the album is out now, I mainly am still a DJ and want to profile myself as such 🙂
Release Promo would like to send a huge thanks to Paul for taking the time to do this interview.
‘Adapt’ is out now on Manual Music, you can purchase the release: here