HiFi Chicken Exclusive Interview with Paul Conrad
Two weeks ago we reached out to well known Australian Artist Paul Conrad to see if he would be interested in answering some of the HiFi Chicken’s most burning questions. Paul has been made famous for his unique lyricism, intense instrumentals, and creative music video production. Sure enough, Mr. Conrad responded to our inquiry and the stage was set. Enjoy!
What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
It is just a nice way to pass the time, and if you are immersed in a creative outlet such as that, you spend less time worrying about all the inequity and problems in the world which might otherwise consume your conscious state. It is a healthy distraction from reality I suppose ?
Have you visited the US? What was your first impression? Do you think you would feel at home in California?
I have visited the US on numerous occasions. My first venture there was In 2004 when I travelled with a touring youth orchestra and visited Cleveland, Washington DC, San Francisco & LA. All so different but all as equally overwhelming just in terms of the sheer scale and size of these cities, all of which dwarf all cities in Australia. Since then I have been back to the US a number of times to visit New York, Baltimore, and San Fran Cisco again. The US certainly is a place of grandeur. I found the American appreciation for novelty and different things to be quite inspiring. It feels like there is something for everybody and is therefore much easier to craft a niche for yourself with so much varied opportunity and points of diverse difference. I kind of feel like if you can imagine or dream something, the US will have it or at least help you create it. However, I also like a quiet life. So I suppose on that basis I would feel at home in California on the proviso that I could craft a quiet existence for myself and maintain a livelihood doing what I do and enjoy.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
I would change young aspiring musicians perceptions of what the ‘right’ path to success is and also what ‘success’ actually looks like. There is no one right way to do things. And success really depends on what you want out of your art and your life. It’s all relative. So, I would hope that young artists fixate more on their own needs and wants rather than what they’re told is the best path to achieving those ambitions. Ultimately, anytime somebody tells you how you should be doing something, it is primarily just to feather their own nest or reap the benefits off the back of your art, craft or skill. Large industrial scale commercial labels should be displaced and diluted down to smaller, more specialized and boutique labels that genuinely foster artistry and talent rather than focus on the broader spectrum of wealth acquisition. I think this is already happening, but there still seems to be a desire for young artists to showcase their talent on superficial reality tv shows only to end up exploited and ultimately in worse positions than before they even tried. Record labels, at least the larger ones, are just banks. It’s kind of like the problem with the poor and irresponsible lending practices of the financial industry. They loan money, and lock young artists into deals with zero prospect of return. The amount loaned is negligible to the label, but a lot to the artist. Oftentimes this money isn’t physically loaned, but rather put toward the use of certain services provided by the label at an inflated cost. For example with marketing and administration fees. So it might seem like the label has lost money on a project that hasn’t reached fruition or provided return. However, on paper, the label is owed money, and that debt is then used to leverage equity in other investments and build a portfolio of assets that can generate more wealth for the label than if the artist had a modicum of success anyway. It also means that any time a particular brand of music or style is trending or on the precipice of generating widespread success, the labels will go around and build up a catalogue of similar artists, essentially hoarding the pool of talent by locking them all into contracts excluding them from diluting the market if one of their artists of a similar style blows up in a big way. If you put too much of the same thing on the market, the old supply and demand mechanism starts to take its course and limit consumption. If you are contractually bound to a label, they can basically prohibit you from releasing any music that isn’t unequivocally approved by them. Buying up and locking many artists into contracts is a nominal cost to bear for cornering a market, and being able to use debt (artificial debt which they’ve created) as security interests to borrow more money to invest on other sure things. So for every 100 artists that get signed, one might succeed, but that’s all the labels care about and so long as that one artist succeeds and succeeds big, it offsets any losses incurred for all the other less successful artists bound by a contract that does absolute everything but work in their interest. It really is disgraceful practice, and my hope is that one day people lift the lid on the underhanded and inequitable practices of these institutions to expose them for what they really are: glorified loan sharks. So in sum, I suppose I would hope that we can educate young musical aspirants as to the pitfalls of the industry before they drown in a shark pit. Or get eaten rather.
Do you have a special process when you begin to write music / where do you find your inspiration for writing a new song?
It absolutely varies. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at the piano or with a guitar and I’ll come up with some chord progressions and a vocal melody. Alternatively I might be in the studio making a beat or composition of some kind which then evolves into a fully fledged song. Lyrics tend to be the last thing that arises. Unless I thought of a lyric which stands well on its own, deserving enough to have a song formed around it. However, that is rare. Every so often I’ll have lyrics or phrases written down somewhere which find their way into a song that has been brewing for a while but was missing a line or two. Some of my songs are definitely Frankenstein’s monster, whilst some are more organically created from start to finish. Simple answer, it all depends.
You’re an independent artist, how much freedom does that give you with your music? what do you enjoy most about being independent?
Amazing freedom. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love that I can write a song for myself and also for the supportive fans that genuinely care about the music, as opposed to pandering to a network of label ghouls that lack the creative capacity to write songs of their own, yet for some reason still feel as though know how you ought to write yours. Weird right? The best catharsis is creating and releasing. It allows you to be more engaged with your fan base too, rather than having those interactions vetted and tempered. An uninhibited artist is a real one. The artists that labels allow you to see is a carefully orchestrated hologram of the real thing. And that’s not what I’m about. There are many things about who I am, what I do, and what I create that are riddled with blemishes, but exposing those is a more authentic representation of who I am than not. That’s why I started Reel Deep with Tim Carr/Goldbatman as an independent label to give us the creative freedom to release music we like and enjoy.
You have produced a few songs with Goldbatman who has worked on projects for Jay-Z, can you tell me more about what its like to work with him and what contributions/influences he brings to your music?
I started working with producer Tim Carr AKA Goldbatman for my first EP back in around 2013? He has been there from the end of my days playing in indie bands through to the start of my solo journey to now. He is a phenomenal producer and great friend and mentor. He has worked with many many artists in many contexts and so his experience not just with the music but also in life has been of invaluable support to me. We seem to have a synergy when we write together. We made the Yung Tzar project together producing an album, and he has always had a hand in just about everything I have released in one way or another, be it songwriting, production, mixing, or mastering. His general feedback is also of great help, and he is probably the only person I trust in terms of legitimate feedback and artistic direction. In terms of his contributions, he is very creative but without having to try too hard. He has a way of getting a sophisticated result but with simple clarity, allowing certain things to stand out rather than getting lost in the mix so to speak. I have a bad habit of throwing so much at a song or project because my mind is racing at a million miles an hour, but he helps me to pick out the salient things and give everything its space without losing the integrity of the vision and all the nuances that come affixed to that.
You recently dropped a new single with Goldbatman titled “Hospitals” can you talk more about the message behind this song?
I think there are a multitude of messages or meanings within the song. I co-wrote it with Goldbatman so cannot speak entirely for him, but I feel as though in one part it is speaking to the idea of a fresh start or clean slate, whilst in another way trying to reconcile the past and make peace with it. It’s also about how any number of things in your life can serve as the catalyst for hospitalization, and hospitalization need not be construed literally, rather just viewed as some kind of debilitation or period of suffering.
My favorite song of yours personally is “The Rest of your Life” and I try to do my best rendition of it while driving to work singing along as it plays through my speakers haha. If you could make a cover of any song, which song would you choose and why?
I am chuffed that you sing along to that song and that it resonates with you. I feel a strong connection to that song, as it is quite symbolic for me in a number of ways. In terms of covering songs, it is really hard to say. There are plenty of songs I would love to cover but whether I would do them any justice is another story. I guess I could list a few songs that I am very enviable of and wish I had the capacity to have written (in no particular order):
- Hurt – Nine Inch Nails
- Emotion Sickness – Silverchair
- Cold Desert – Kings of Leon
- I Forget Where We Were – Ben Howard
- Sam Malone – City & Colour
- Disarm – Smashing Pumpkins
- Flashing Lights – Kanye West
- Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National
Recently on your Instagram you have been posting pictures of some of your sculpture work, what other hobbies do you have, what ways do you like to relax? Can you tell us what a day in the life of Mr. Pabloalfrescobar looks like? What was the inspiration for that username haha?
Other than music, I like to sculpt and paint. I also like to collect antiques, so spend a lot of time filtering through auction houses, second hand shops, and looking online. I also following Australian Rules football pretty heavily in winter but in the offseason have to occupy my time in other ways. I’m currently at law school doing a combined Arts/Laws degree, so that chews up a fair bit of my days to be honest. I do production and songwriting for other artists from time to time. I guess what is good is never knowing precisely what each day will entail. As for the inspiration for the username, I guess it’s a mixture of things. Pablo is Spanish for Paul I think? But I could be wrong. It has an artistic flair to it I suppose. Fresco is a type of painting style that literally means fresh, then I think alfresco means outdoors or open air dining but can sometimes refer to the painting style also? Again, I could be completely wrong. And as for the Pablo Escobar homage…it seems congruous will the litany of times our new generation has succumb to the veneration of tyrants, despots, drug lords, serial killers, gangsters, and anti-heroes in pop culture. Ultimately, when all is said and done, nobody else had taken that Instagram handle so I jumped on it.
Do you have a dedicated music room in your house where you go to listen to the final editions of your work along with your other favorite songs? If so what is your sound system set up?
I think you guys probably have a better understanding of what sounds good on what system, I am not really too well versed in the area of sonic analysis. I don’t have a dedicated room for listening, and outside of listening to final mixes of my own songs, I don’t really listen to much music to be honest. I have a pair of Rockett KRKs and Yamaha speakers in my studio that I listen to mixes on, and other than that I try to listen to the final bounce of songs in a few different environments to see if they hold up. For example, different headphones, car speakers, mobile Bluetooth speakers, iPhone etc. I always just like to check and see if there are any obvious discrepancies or anomalies in the mix from stereo to stereo, which can happen from time to time.
For me, when I listen to your music I’m instantly drawn in by the rich instrumentals paired perfectly with your unique vocals. When you listen to music, what are a few key things that you notice first? Do you listen to music passively or do you tend to analyze and decipher the music that you hear?
It really depends on what I’m listening to. Most music tends to just register as notes and chord structures in my head. It’s definitely a more analytical process than one of immersion and enjoyment. Very rarely, a song will grab my attention in a more emotional way, which is when I can sometimes switch off the analysis, but even then I still see the song as a series of notes and chords rather than a body of creative work. It’s probably the main downside of being a musician. The romanticism of music definitely fades over time, and the only time you’re excited is when you are creating it, not listening to it.
“take a stab in the dark while im sitting backstage, feel the stab in my back as I sing in my cage, but im alright. ” is a notable line from your song “cathedrals.” Being a website that revolves around a bird in a cage can you give Hercules (our pet parrot) some advice for dealing with the haters?
Haha I do like birds. I collect old bird figures/statues. So definitely have an affinity for our winged friends. I think one of the beautiful things about birds is their capacity, in the event that they really need to escape, to fly anywhere they like, and create a new life for themselves. Think of wings as a skill set, resource, or tool. Even if you don’t use your wings, it’s the knowledge that you have them that gets you through tough times.
Have you had any crazy fan interactions? or are your fans pretty respectful? Do you notice a demographic trend with your fans? are they mostly male? Female? Old? Young?
All my fans are wonderful. Nothing crazy, sometimes people will draw you or tell you things that you’re not expecting. I tend to find that they divulge certain things about their lives which can weigh on your soul. Dark secrets. Sometimes you feel as though you can’t help in those instances and that is a bit of an upsetting reality. Though, in any event, it is always nice to feel as though you’re connecting with strangers on the other side of the world through music and meaning. It is a pretty diverse cross section of people. Young, old, all kinds. I think America seems to be the biggest audience followed by the UK & Europe generally. But it is always interesting to look at who is listening to what songs and where. Sometimes, you form audiences in places you’d never even imagine could be possible.
You have donated and done charity work for the Heart Foundation. Can you tell us more about this foundation and what it means to you?
I feel music and the heart are very interconnected. My dad also suffered from various heart related complications. He was very supportive of my musical endeavors and helped me foster it, and so I figure it’s always a good reminder of him. I use the bandcamp platform as a way that people may donate to the cause. It’s easier on that platform to give people the option to nominate the price they’d like to pay for the music.
Time zones can be confusing, and I now realize that this is being sent to you on Saturday unlike Friday like I previously said I would be sending it to you since you’re in Australia and we are in America. Being from Australia, can you tell me one way foreigners can blend in better if they ever come visit? Any special jargon? Sayings?
It is hard to say how to blend into this country. I have never felt like I belong here, so to be honest I have no idea what you’d do. As far as jargon goes, we do have quite a number of varied meanings and pronunciations which leave people scratching their heads. It’s more the accent that can obscure the clarity of what is being said. My advice would just be to listen very carefully and always ask for clarification if somebody says something that sounds like a completely different language, which oftentimes it can.
Thank you for doing this Paul. We would like to give you a plug now, new music, new projects, new goals? let us know what you’re up to/ the future of Paul Conrad?
I am releasing a couple of new singles in the next few weeks. They’ll be part of a new album trilogy I’m releasing across 2020 entitled ‘Hotel 27’. Each of the three releases will be an album of 9 tracks totaling 27 overall. I also have some new merch available up on the website as well as art and sculptures for people to view and buy. Other than that, I suppose people can just keep tabs on the website and socials for any news and future projects.