There’s an old adage that art school students around the world are incredibly familiar with: you have to know the rules before you can break them. It’s about taking conventions and making them unconventional. There’s something special about an artist who can manipulate matter like an alchemist. Paleman is a UK-based DJ that does exactly that — taking sonic lead and turning it into gold.
“I still consider myself a jazz musician in a lot of ways, without sounding too pretentious,” the DJ says. “I consider jazz to be the pursuit of freedom to express yourself musically. It embodies rebellion and experimentation with improvisation and decisions, practicing refining intentions when performing or writing music.” Paleman was once an art student himself, studying jazz before making the move to internationally renowned DJ.
“Jazz was everyone’s dance music once, and played in clubs for people who wanted to escape. Those parallels still exist within electronic dance music in some ways. I made electronic music in my down time from studying. I enjoyed improvising on machines and creating music with sounds I didn’t realize existed,” Paleman continues. “I always listened to electronic music and went clubbing to escape eight hours a day of practice. It’s still an escape for me. I love playing the drums, and I still study classical music and jazz, but electronic music was a mystery to me and it pulled me in and somehow I made a career out of it.”
I like the idea of inducing a trance, especially with minimal elements, like a drum ritual — repeating patterns and human voices until your head is spinning and you’re having visions.
Classically trained, Paleman reaches to the roots of music to strip it down to its bare bones to create a minimal, percussive sound, working on modular machines as opposed to computers. Paleman wants his music to feel real. More importantly, he wants to craft a mood. “It pulls you in and you become a part of what’s being created, but you’re experiencing it yourself,” he says. “It’s a tough nut to crack when writing music. Arvo Pärt does this for me consistently. He is a master of mood. You become part of his world, but on your terms, and it feels personal. It’s an extraordinary ability that comes with a lot of thought, experience, patience and practice in writing music.”
It’s clear the dynamic artist does not take his craft lightly. “More recently I have been obsessed with Mike Parker and Rrose – both artists who, for me, create this same headspace of a strong mood that invites the listener to experience it in a personal way,” Paleman muses. “It isn’t too forced; you’re lured in. A Rothko painting does the same, it pulls you in with a mood. Even though it’s arguably quite understated, you can’t avoid being pulled into his world, but again, it’s on your terms. I want to do that too – it comes with time, I guess. Dark, gritty electronic music, when done right, creates a really powerful and profound headspace for me, so for now I’m focused on that. I feel I have a lot of music still to come.”
Paleman approaches his craft as an intellectual. He’s scholarly in his pursuits of understanding his genre and everything that precedes it through a mindset that is hungry for musical education. However, he isn’t obsessed with the past and is put off by the idea of it. Rather, he looks to the future and how to innovate sound instead of reimagining the sounds of those who came before him. He’s instinctual – playing by ear and going with his gut, not particularly trying to create techno, but being drawn to it because of the emotions it evokes with a method to his sound that could be considered a spiritual experience.
“I guess I am trying to manifest an atmosphere, a space that the listener can experience, but on their own terms – a guide rope,” he says. “I want to forget I’m human sometimes. A lot of music facilitates this for me. It’s an escape back to my core: a beating heartbeat and adrenaline. I like the idea of inducing a trance, especially with minimal elements, like a drum ritual — repeating patterns and human voices until your head is spinning and you’re having visions. When I DJ and write music, I hope I can create a space that listeners get hypnotized by, and they too can forget things, give in to the music and take part in this ritual that is enjoyable and rhythmic and transportive. In simple terms, I’d love people to be transported by my records and performances.”