Place and time are two consistent influences on art. Our physical environment has a massive bearing on how we work and what we are inspired by. The era in which each artist dwells can be immediately relevant to their creations, it also allows future critics and fans to compartmentalise art into periods and pinpoint junctures of cultural developments.
Paula Temple is artist of her time and place. Originally from the UK, she now resides in Berlin where she seems quite at home, musically and spiritually. Paula has had a varied and impressive career in music, excelling when looking outwards as well as in. She has taught music technology to underprivileged children, helped to create the MXF8 MIDI controller, she is a certified Ableton instructor, started the open and energetic Noise Manifesto label and also finds time to makes ominous yet ecstatic techno music.
I get the feeling she will be an artist of her place wherever she is and she will remain relevant for her time. Being of your time can also mean acknowledging the present to benefit the future: a concept which Paula is finely in tune with.
I chatted with Paula over Skype at an ungodly early hour for anyone in Berlin: 10AM.
David Sullivan: How do you feel about Berlin right now?
Paula Temple: As an artist I feel grounded here, and well supported because people understand deeply what electronic music is. What I’ve noticed for myself is that I’m opening up a lot more to collaborating or jamming with other artists that I really admire. I never had that when I lived in England, it’s a really collaborative attitude rather than a competitive attitude.
David Sullivan: I listened to the European Lab Winter Forum discussion you participated in recently, did you feel you got all your points across?
Paula Temple: No, not really. Only half points. There was no chance to explore them properly. Things were really brushed over really quickly. For example, saying about male domination in techno, I mean it’s in most things but techno it’s even more hyper…
David Sullivan: In artists as well as audience?
Paula Temple: It all depends on the environment for the audience. It’s been commented on again and again that there’s a noticeable difference in gender ratios when I perform. So many women and non-conforming gendered people come up to me and thank me, which to me, it really means something.
We were dismissing the idea of techno having anything revolutionary going on, one guest speaker said the solution is “women, having more women”. But that wasn’t the point. The point is creating the environment, the atmospheres, in order to make that possible. Whether that happens or not is a different matter. To have the attitudes and structures where people are not being sidelined or discriminated against, where they feel they can be part of it too without having to face additional barriers. That’s the point.
David Sullivan: Berlin does seem quite open to these ideas, is that another reason you’re drawn to it?
Paula Temple: Yes… It definitely is more open, it’s probably one of the most open. But it’s still not to a good level. It all depends on which club and which space, the ones that are more underground, they’re very active and very aware. They make sure there’s balance.
David Sullivan: One thing I noticed there is that they are quite picky about the audience they let in, I guess in order to curate the vibe of the night. At what point does this become somewhat elitist?
Paula Temple: Yeah, that method is not perfect but it’s a measure that’s been needed to protect you, so it’s not completely taken over by a heterosexual white male audience. Otherwise that completely fucks up the point, unfortunately we’re not there yet to understand what totally safe inclusive spaces are. I’ve heard getting into Berghain can be particularly brutal.
David Sullivan: That’s one of the places I went to, I found it definitely felt a lot more safe and more of a community on the dance floor than places I’ve experienced in Australia. So the method works, I guess people can just get quite angry at it.
Paula Temple: Yeah sure, but instead of getting angry start understanding the possible reasons for it, I think we all have to look within because we all contribute to something in one way or another. So if we’re having to be rejected because another person or another collective’s perspective says “this will upset a balance”, then we’ve got to understand what balance means.
David Sullivan: In England there’s a big struggle with space, as in club and performance spaces. It’s also a big struggle here in Australia. Is it a problem in Berlin or is there still a lot of empty or useable spaces there?
Paula Temple: From what people have told me, things have changed dramatically in the last five years, there used to be many buildings, especially when the Wall came down, there was a kind of freedom to make a space happen.
But now I’ve noticed in the last couple of years just how much capitalism is causing a lot of stress in Berlin. There is suddenly these big landlords who were either always there but were dormant, or have sold their properties to aggressive property owners who want to transform spaces into expensive apartments. It’s putting a lot of stress and pressure on what Berlin is as a strong artistic place.
David Sullivan: It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t flip back as well, it’s only really going to get worse.
Paula Temple: Capitalism only goes one way. Profit margin always has to become bigger at whatever cost. I would like to believe that we don’t just resign to this as a mass of people. We could actually say “I’ve had enough of this”; it’s very difficult because the claws of capitalism are everywhere and you cant escape it. But to be able to set up new spaces, new towns, and be out of those cities that are just pretty controlling, pretty fucked up, pretty expensive you know. It would take a mass movement out of cities in order to have quality of life again.
David Sullivan: I guess it’s so hard to get out of that mindset and try and change something. It can happen though, we don’t have to wait for policies to change.
Paula Temple: Totally. Those that who are making these policies have no idea what culture is. Just because they don’t experience or nurture culture they will have laws in place to shut everyone else out.
David Sullivan: Is it generational though? In the world we are living in now is the next generation going to change things in a major way? The collective subconscious is quite different now, slowly getting more aware?
Paula Temple: It’s hard to say, I think it’s quite naive to say that we are getting more aware, en masse.
I’m in a great bubble in Berlin and I started to believe that this was much more of a mainstream thinking but actually when I go back to England, or when I go DJ in certain countries and am there long enough to notice certain things, it’s like fuck, we are so on different planets and that is the mainstream thinking.
I start losing hope but then I think throughout history it has been the minority with awareness who do create the shifts in society.
David Sullivan: You’ve said music is an escape, do you still utilise it like this?
Paula Temple: Well yes, but it’s not only an escape. It can be many things. Talking to other artists about things that have happened in their life, going to make music can really be an escape, to get out the reality they’re in. When I taught music technology to young people, it was especially young people in poor communities and a lot of these young adults were in the situation of being trapped in gangs or having to steal to survive, so they were facing going to jail or going back to jail, it was a miserable cycle, so music at least for them was an escape, something to feel alive again, to find their self esteem.
It’s probably a cliche to say this now but music is a communication, it’s an amazing way to communicate, in order to bond people.
David Sullivan: You’ve talked of communicating while playing live, which is quite an abstract idea in a sense, is it two way communication? You can send music out, how do you feel the crowd can communicate back to you?
Paula Temple: Well it depends what you hope for, if you want to scare them… (laughs) and you’re making these monstrous sounds, you want to scare everyone out the building, you’ll soon know when the room’s empty!
David Sullivan: Is that something you often want to do?
Paula Temple: No, I’m sometimes worried that I might end up doing that… It depends on the lineup.. I’ll think “shit, I’m going to scare people with this powerful sound”, but actually people end up having a really good time. That’s what I want.
David Sullivan: I think it’s more thrilling than scary, perhaps.
Paula Temple: Yes! Totally, that’s what I want, that’s what I love. I like to tease people a little bit and then I push it to the edge, and hopefully beyond; it’s the thrill. It’s the thrill I seek when I make music in the studio, if I get that giddy moment when I’m laughing because it’s affecting me so extremely then I know that that’s good. I really love those moments, and that’s why my sets end up being quite dynamic, I don’t think my sets are really about having it full blast, in your face 100% of the time, so when those moments come you feel it even stronger.
David Sullivan: Do you have influences outside of techno?
Paula Temple: I love artists that touch on techno or electronic a little bit, so there’s obvious ones like Fever Ray and Bjork, I’m a huge PJ Harvey fan. I still love post punk, grungy stuff.
David Sullivan: I can kind of hear that in your sound now that you mention it.
Paula Temple: Oh really!? Ah good. I want to explore that some more. I’ve always wanted to be in a band, either be on drums or let rip on a guitar but I never had those skills. But yeah bands like Babes in Toyland I absolutely adored. Even the more soulful grungy stuff like Afghan Wigs.
David Sullivan: What does your year ahead look like?
Paula Temple: Well I’m working on finishing the next EP for R&S, and R&S have just released The Prodigy remixes.
Also, I’m going to reissue my first 2 EPs.
I’m actually clearing a lot of space to write music, make music, be in the studio. I hope to make an album, it that’s possible, if I do make one that would be out next year. I just need a lot of time for that.
David Sullivan: Is there a reason you wouldn’t be able to make an album?
Paula Temple: If I can’t get my head together, if I get too conscious of “I’m making an album”, if I make it too big in my head. My head’s a bit sensitive like that.
David Sullivan: You mentioned collaborating before, is there anything like that you’re working on at the moment?
Paula Temple: Well I’ve been very slow, I’m getting Decon/Recon 2 started. I also had a really nice jam recently with Kangding Ray, we did just one session, just jamming, which turned out so good… We’re going to finish something but I have no idea it it’s something we’d ever release.
There’s going to be a Peaches remix coming out too, it’s going to be quite different to what I normally make, it’s a lot of fun. She asked me to take my pick of a track from the album, I think I picked the dirtiest one. I’m not sure when that’ll get announced officially but there is a whole bunch of awesome artists that she’s asked, there’ll be a remix for every track.
David Sullivan: What will your physical live set-up consist of when you come to Australia?
Paula Temple: It’s very minimal, I bring a laptop using Ableton, I have a Push 2 controller, an Allen & Heath controller…
David Sullivan: What should we expect sound wise? Will there be visuals?
Paula Temple: Yeah I’m talking with a visual artist named Lucy Benson for the Adelaide show, because that show’s going to be fully live, it’s not just a club set. There’s going to be softer electronics, soundscapes, ambient moments and abstract moments and then more specific recognisable techno. It’s going to be quite a journey. I’m working right now on writing some new pieces that I want to premier at the Adelaide show, we’ll see if I’m happy with them or not. If I am then they’re going in the show.
Paula Temple plays at Unsound in Adelaide on Saturday 27th of Feb 2016 with Fennesz (AT) & Lillevan (DE) | Kangding Ray – solo (FR) | Jóhann Jóhannsson (IS) & Zephyr Quartet (AUS) | Vessel (UK) & Pedro Maia (PO) | Hot Shotz – Powell (UK) & Lorenzo Senni (ITA) | + visual artist Lucy Benson.
More details here.