Underground Music Xperience: Paul Van Leeuwen in Full Effect

Updated: Nov 8, 2018

From Electro to Acid, passing through Techno and Breakbeat genres, Underground Music Xperience label in Netherlands has succeeded to install its trademark worldwide within a couple of years. A deserved success for a pretty young imprint started as an impulse back in 2015 by its owner Paul Van Leeuwen, better known as Paulus8. As a Zebra Lover, and a brilliant Electro artist, author of a handful of dark tracks on his own imprint, but also on Subsonic, Paul appears also as an accomplished DJ and the masked mind behind UMX Radio; a regular broadcast where he invites lots of musical guests. We had naturally, tons of questions to ask him as a representative of the current Electro scene.

Chris Nexus 6: Welcome Paul! Since some of us don’t know you yet, could you please tell us about you and how you got into music? As far as you remember, what were your main influences as a kid? Tell us about your musical background a little.

Paul Van Leeuwen: I was introduced to Electronic Music in 1991 by a friend from school. I was just 17 years old. After a few parties, I decided that I wanted to be a DJ, so i started to buy my first records at a local record shop. I was into the Plus 8 label and R&S Records, and artists such like Speedy J, Kenny Larkin, Joey Beltram. But shortly after this, I fell in love with Breakbeat, and this style still influences me today. In 1993, I bought 2 SL1200 Technics which I still have today. This was the start of a long journey that still goes on today.

Ahaha indeed...who knows when it ends! :) How did your city, Den Bosch, in the Netherlands, influence your musical choices?

In Den-Bosch, there were already some DJ’s who were playing Electronic Music since the late 80’s, so there were some parties to go to without traveling too far.

How was life like before UMX? What pushed you to get into launching a label and releasing music?

Before UMX, I was just a DJ who played here and there at some parties and sometimes organizing illegal events with friends. In 2014, I decided to give more attention to production. I always had a little studio, but never was too serious about it. When I gave it more attention, I wanted to release my music on vinyl but did not know how to get in touch with labels, so I set up my own one called UMX. To be honest, I first started Radio UMX and a year later the UMX label was born. This label is a labor of love, music comes first, money is not that important.

How would you describe the artistic line of UMX, its concept and philosophy? The label mixes Electro and Techno influences. Do you think the two genres are complementary?

The concept of UMX was and is about broken beats, and Electro/Breaks. But since Techno is such a big genre, you can naturally hear Techno influences on the releases I did. I have done some Techno releases, but the Electro/Breaks genre is my biggest influence.

No doubt you've been influenced by electronic artists and labels. Which labels would you mention as pioneers in UMX’s existence? What do they represent to you?

For the UMX label, I have been influenced by CPU, Cultivated Electronics, L.I.E.S. and New Flesh Records. These labels release music that is (to me) out of the box. Off course, there are more imprints that influenced me, but these are the most important. Labels like CPU and L.I.E.S. release not just Electro, but they take it a bit further and that’s what interesting to me. I don’t create the same sound as these labels, but they remind me every time to produce what I like, instead of putting myself in a box.

I agree, these labels are trying to offer something fresh and different from other labels. And if you had to choose one EP or LP from the last ten years that is the most representative of the UMX sound, which one would it be and why?

I honestly can’t choose any EP or LP that is the most representative of the UMX sound. All I can say is that Breakbeat is a big player in the UMX sound, so if I had to make a choice, I would say that the Breakbeat genre is more influential to me than a certain EP or LP.

LP’s or EP’s that inspired me are FSOL (Future Sound Of London) “Dead City’s”, Orbital 1st 2 LP’s and “Middle Of Nowhere”, DJ Krush “Stricly Turntablized”

Let’s talk about the artists you signed, from Acid Junkies to Rise Black passing through Lectromagnetique or BRZ. Some are obscure, others are not. How did you meet them? Did they come to you or did you contact them first?

Some artists are friends of mine, some I see on a weekly basis. The artists from the USA I have to thank Natural Nate for that since I had a show on Preserving the Pitch (The-Lost-Art), and that’s how I got these artists. Other artists I just contacted them on Facebook and others contacted me when the label started growing. I also get a lot of help from Rise Black.

To start with the Acid Junkies, one of them owns a synthesizer store were I buy all my synths and drum computers, and he asked me one day if I wanted to release some of their tracks. Rise Black, Alavux, Lectromagnetique and some more, I contacted them about releasing on UMX. BRZ is a different story, he’s in the same line of work as me, we are both construction workers and I asked him to rebuild my studio and when he was doing that, I asked him for a track. Since BRZ comes from the Techno scene, I thought it would be interesting to see what his take was on Electro and there came out his release “Soleil” on UMX006.

I always liked the Electro Breaks sound from the US, so me and Nate thought it would be great to release 2 EP’s with that American sound, with the exception of AE35 (Yosuke Ikeda) from Japan, but his track fits in perfectly. I’m very proud that I was able to release with these great artists.

In Paulus8's studio © Paul Van Leeuwen

Could you please introduce your last outing, UMX 010 by none other than Danny Electro and UMW 011 with your friend Natural Nate?

UMX011 and 010 were a new setup that I created with Natural Nate. I contacted Danny Electro asking him about a release and he was interested. Natural Nate took care of 011 and I took care of 010.

On 010, this is Danny Electro on 1 side and a remix of one of his tracks done by Nate. I contacted AE35 from Japan for the other side. Nate and I, we did these two releases together, 150 copies for Europe and 150 copies for the US market.

You also drop your own tracks on the label. How would you qualify your style, and what’s your process when it comes to create a track in studio?

The tracks I dropped on the label have Breakbeat and Techno influences on it. When I go into the studio for producing I always have an idea of what I want to do, but during the process I often get inspired for another track. This is the track that mostly ends up on the vinyl.

When you come into the studio, do you often start your track with drums, or does it depend on your mood?

When I’m in the studio, I often start with the beat. Making the beat takes up the most time when I do a track. After that, there is no steady way for me, sometimes a bassline to follow up the beat and other times a string/pad/sequence and I build from there. But during this process, I always make little changes in the beat, that’s why making the beat takes up most of the time for me.

Your sound is incredibly dark. Where do you find your inspiration?

I hear that more, that my sound is dark The inspiration comes from movies I always liked to watch, movies like “Dark Crystal”, “Legend”, “Event Horizon “, “Blade Runner”, etc. Dark sounds have a strange attractive appealing to me, the mystery that surrounds it and what it’s telling you or letting you feel.

Which instruments do you use? Are you 100% analogic or do you use hardware?

The instruments I use are variable. I work with Hardware (Analog & Digital), and a little modular set-up. I also have a good collection of software too.

Besides the hardware; which I use the most Dave Smith Prophet 8 REV2, Nord Rack 2, Korg Electribe ER-1, Arturia Drumbrute, Roland Tr-8, Roland JP-08, Moog Mother 32, for software, I like to work with the Spectrasonics series (Omnisphere, Stylus, Trillian), and the Universal Audio (Uad) plugins.

A part of Paulus8's collection of instruments © Paul Van Leeuwen

Which one of your tracks you’re the most proud of? Why?

The track I’m the most proud of is “Interference” on UMX003, took me a long time to make this track. Put a lot of effort in it to make it sound like I had it in my head, and it did come out that way.

“Biomechanics” on UMX009 I’m very proud of too, and for the same reason as 003, took a lot of time and effort to make it sound that way. “Project Mercury” is an unreleased track from me, it’s a dark Industrial Electro track. This one was just pure fun to make and relatively quick too.

You also run a radio show called Radio UMX. What do you intend to do there?

I set up Radio UMX because there is another Radio show in my hometown, but they mostly play 4/4 music and my love for broken beats doesn’t fit well with it (in my opinion). So I decided to rent a unit where I can do what I like the most and also give other DJ’s a platform to show off their skills.

"Managing a vinyl imprint is not that hard I think, since there are still a lot of DJ's who prefer to play vinyl (including myself)"

Lots of new Electro artists are emerging. How do you judge the current Electro sound and the current Electro scene?

Lots of new Electro artists are emerging and it’s a good thing cause there are lot of good ones. The current Electro sound has evolved a lot in my opinion and I like that a lot. I just wish the Electro scene could have been bigger in my hometown, because for good Electro parties I have to go to Rotterdam/Amsterdam and Den-Haag.

How hard it is to manage a mainly vinyl imprint?

The digital era is big nowadays, but managing a vinyl imprint is not that hard I think, since there are still a lot of DJ’s who prefer to play vinyl (including myself).

The internet has dramatically changed the way not just artists interact with their fans, but also how label owners themselves interact with their supporters and regular customers. What do you think of the Internet influence on the music market, from music platforms such as Mixcloud and Soundcloud, to Social Media such as Facebook? Please explain us the way you use them.

The internet is a good and easy way to promote your music, the downside is that everybody is using it for promotion and so you have to put in time to find the right people/platforms where you can promote. Every Friday, I’m off from work to give more attention to the internet promotion.

What are your thoughts on the so-called “Digital Revolution”? Does it feel as if it has opened doors, or perhaps closed on some which should have always been left open?

The “Digital Revolution” has opened lots of doors, but I don’t think it’s always a good thing since there are too many DJ’s these days. Everybody wants to be a DJ nowadays and everybody can because of the sync button. Back in the days, if you couldn’t beatmatch by hearing, you couldn’t be a DJ. If you didn’t have money to buy records, you couldn’t be a DJ. Today, you push a button and a million tracks come up to choose from.

But I also know some digital DJ’s who have a very good music selection. So the digital revolution is a 2 way street as far as I’m concerned. On 1 side, a lot crap comes out and on the other side, there are new DJ’s who are able to do what they couldn’t do before.

What about MP3? How did you adapt to digital?

MP3? I never adapted to it. I tried once and I didn’t like it. The love for vinyl has never left me and never will. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with MP3, but I just want to play vinyl.

Exactly how do you feel about the resurgence of vinyl, do you personally see it?

I am a DJ from the 90’s when there was only vinyl, but I’m very happy that vinyl was never out of the picture. The fact it is growing for the last couple of years is a good thing I think, since I am a vinyl junkie sort of speak.

What do you feel may need to happen to make vinyl costs more suitable for indies?

I don’t think the costs can come down, I press at Record Industry and they are not so expensive (at least to me). In the 90’s, when there was only vinyl, pressings for a release were in the 1000’s and when you can press 1000’s of records you can make suitable for the costs. The most expensive part is the making of the laquer, so the more records that get pressed off that laquer, the cheaper it gets per record. It’s all about quantity. Nowadays when you have pressed 300 or 500 records, it’s fairly expensive, but as long as I can break even I’m happy, I don’t need to live off my music, I’m in it for the love of it.

What are the forthcoming musical projects on UMX?

I got some artists lined up for future UMX releases. I still have to workout the details. I can say that I have created a sublabel called North 73 Rec together with Rise Black, so there will be Electro releases on that label too.This label is strictly Electro and UMX as I said before is for Electro/Breaks with Techno influences. UMX is a more broader label, North 73 will be restricted to Electro as everybody knows it.

Could we hope a full EP from you (or even an album) in the next coming months?

Yes, there will be an EP of me in 2019. I’m working on UMX012 and Nate on UMX 013. UMX014 will be an EP of me, I already am working on some tracks for that EP.

Would it be possible to get an All Time top ten of your favorite EP's, LP's or tracks?

That will be with a lot of oldskool from the 90’s. Off course there are many more that I can’t put in a top ten, but these I mentioned should be in there:

1 - Holy Noise: “The Nightmare”

2 - The Psychopaths: “Nightmares”

3 - Joey Beltram: “Energy Flash”

4 - Kid Unknown: “I Am A Nightmare Walking"

5 - CPU (i like all of their releases)

6 - Kenny Larkin: “We Shall Overcome"

7 - Orbital

8 - The Orb

9 - Suburban Base (Jungle label)

10 - Underground Resistance

Thank you very much for your time, Paul!

#electro #electrobass #electrofunk #umx #paulus8