PAUL DAVID GILLMAN:
COLOURS OF AN ARTIST
“From the womb of Mother Earth’s forces comes the long-awaited album by multi-instrumentalist Paul David Gillman, appropriately titled Colours Of The Earth. To consider this an album in the normal sense will only do a severe misjustice to the profound meaning of its purpose…”
–Joaquin “Joe” Claussell
These are the profound opening words on the Sacred Rhythm label release page introducing Paul David Gillman’s September 2021 album, Colours of the Earth. …After supporting the album and listening repeatedly, I knew I needed to interview this very special Artist. And as the stars were perfectly aligned, Joaquin Claussell, himself, asked me to interview Paul David Gillman. Indeed, a conversation that was meant to be. Please enjoy our in-depth conversation! I know I did.
Interview by Amanda Frontany
AF: Thank you for chatting with me, Paul! So… who is Paul David Gillman?
PDG: Good question! I am a musician who is very much inspired by art, music, spiritual vibes, architecture, nature, and people. I would say I am still learning about myself. I am humbled by my spiritual calling as a messenger of music and that is where I sometimes encounter complexity in how this is channelled. I have been able to go on this journey thanks to my dear brother Joaquin “Joe” Claussell, Akemi Shimada and Joon, and all at Sacred Rhythm Music & Cosmic Arts, for giving me a platform.
AF: You are surrounded by a very supportive group at the label. Can you talk a little more about your role as a “messenger of music?”
PDG: I have an inquisitive mind. I have had many conversations about this subject with Joaquin and we both tune into the spiritual wave of our music creativity. I never go into the studio situation and say, “I’m going to write this style or that style.” I just sit and meditate and clear my mind and wait for the messages (music) to come.
It sometimes happens in my sleep and then I have to remember the message that I have been given and why. It could be something quite simple like a sine wave or a series of notes. But it has always been that way when I create my music. I have always said that we artists are messengers and we are given this music to piece together like a jigsaw and then translate it into audio. I can sometimes have the full story in front of me and this may be a message for me or someone else. This could be inspiration through art, architecture, or nature, as I mentioned before. If you tune yourself into nature you will hear rhythms in bird songs or rain.
Throughout my life, I have looked at art and sculptures and heard music and then I have to remember the music once I’m at home to record it. This is where my phone comes in very handy as I may hum a bass line or drum out a pattern. I have so many recordings on my phone; I have even recorded bass lines into my phone. I would very much like to score films and documentaries as they are a perfect vehicle to hear music from just the visual footage.
AF: I love that you connect your visual surroundings to music. What instruments do you play? And when and how did you begin playing?
PDG: My mother told me that from a very early age I would play drums using spoons, pots and pans, but never really played along to anything in particular. At primary school, one of my teachers spotted this and put a pair of kettle drums (timpani) in front of me and found I had a natural rhythm. I was in my element, but wanted to have other percussion instruments in front of me too. For the next year or so I learned a lot, but my teacher found it very frustrating as I refused to read or try to learn how to read. He didn’t quite know how we would go forward and expressed this to my mother and this experience ended when I left to go to secondary school.
Later on the bass player in my brother’s band used to leave his Fender Precision electric bass at our house and he was amused to see I was able to lift this heavy instrument and play it. My brother always had his drum kit set up at home so I used to just play that. When my brother’s band won a competition to tour, I missed playing their instruments while they were away. The band toured Denmark and Germany. They were introduced to Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk who invited the band to stay with them and use their studio.
AF: Wow! That’s fantastic! So you are a self-taught musician.
PDG: Yes. As time went by I found myself picking up a range of instruments and just playing without having had any lessons. I did however wish I had learned to play the piano, but my mother could not afford the lessons. So really my main instruments are bass and percussion, and I can get by on the keys. I’m more of a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Maybe this is a UK saying! [Laughter]
AF: [Laughter] I understand! We use the same phrase here. You’re a jack-of-all-trades; you can do it all, Paul!
PDG: Ok!!! [Laughter] So no, I’m not classically trained, but maybe I should have been. I never wanted to learn other composers’ music and always wanted to make my own. My favourite instrument is my Sadowsky Bass. I do believe Roger Sadowsky is based in New York City. And I have musician-friends who know these different bass lines, and they would ask me “You must know how to play this?” Nope! I just want to create and not emulate! And I don’t want this to sound egotistical– I don’t have an ego– far from it.
AF: You definitely do not have an ego. And I love your phrase: “create and not emulate!” So in creating your music, who are your influences?
PDG: I’m more inspired by rather than influenced really and the list is very long. Brian Eno, Harold Budd and David Sylvian have inspired me because I can hear Jazz in their music and many other styles like Motown. I suppose it goes back to when I was young as my sisters and brother would play their music and I listened to a variety of genres. Going back to Kraftwerk, I remember first hearing them when my brother’s band was touring. My brother brought their demos home on tape which changed my world. From that day I knew things were going to change for me and for many others.
AF: I can relate. My older brother was a huge influence on me when it came to music as well. He also listened to Kraftwerk. I remember hearing “Trans-Europe Express” in the house. Such a timeless record.
PDG: Yes, Kraftwerk was and still is such an important sound as it literally takes me back to when my brother brought home their music.
AF: Any other musicians or bands that stand out for you as major inspirations?
PDG: For me, it has to be Miles Davis, especially when he created Bitches Brew. This was Miles experimenting and putting his career on the line. I know the album received mixed reviews by many critics, however, for me, it was the creation of Jazz Fusion, which is what I love. My sister introduced me to Art Blakey and from that moment I was hooked! Both my sisters and brother had an eclectic taste in music, from Jazz to Folk, including Cat Stevens’ album Tea for the Tillerman, as well as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, who I found so inspirational. I remember hearing Brand X with John Giblin and Percy Jones (bass) for the first time, which had a huge impact on me. One of the first albums that I bought was Steely Dan’s Aja. This was also a great inspiration because it fused Jazz, Funk, Folk and Rock, as well as Reggae. Still one of the dopest albums ever!
AF: Yes!! AJA! “Ajaaaaa… When all my dime dancin’ is through…I run to youuuu…” [Laughter] I can’t sing! [Laughter] But that song and that entire album is sheer perfection! And yes, Steely Dan’s music is a whole genre in and of itself. So let’s talk about your album, Colours of the Earth. How long did you work on it?
PDG: Colours of the Earth became an integral part of my life based on my journey and experiences over the past few years. It’s a whole story and very similar to a photo album in capturing emotional moments. [Executive Producer] Joe [Joaquin “Joe” Claussell] has been very understanding and incredibly generous with the time factor to create this album. It’s hard to say how long it has taken. Sometimes tracks would come quickly and then over days and weeks. I can’t stress enough that It was like piecing a jigsaw puzzle together once I had all the messages (tracks) there in front of me.
It was my dear sister Sandra who started the process really. I was working on “Cumulus,” which then became the intro to my album. She said, “Wow I love this! What is it? It sounds like clouds opening to reveal the sun! And feels like a rebirth!”
“When the Wind Blows” was the next piece I played for her and this she said was the beginning of a journey. I put it on CD-R for her and she called me to say she hadn’t stopped listening to it; it was on repeat! From her initial reaction, I knew that I had been channelled by this spiritual source and that it was the beginning of what was to become Colours of the Earth.
AF: I love the idea of a “photo album” — with snapshots of emotional moments. Can you share your process for creating these pieces?
PDG: I write every day and sometimes I’m working on two or three musical pieces at the same time. It’s a spiritually-led process where I translate it to audio. My dear friend Horatio Conington, who is a fine art painter, can work on a few pieces at the same time and that’s exactly how I work. Like a painter, I always start with a blank canvas and close my eyes and wait for that spiritual inspiration. I never go with a preconceived idea. I don’t really think there’s a right or wrong way to create; as long as you’re creating, that’s all that matters. Colours of the Earth is a journey.
AF: And what messages are you conveying in the journey that is Colours of Earth?
PDG: My dear sister Sandra gave me the idea that I had a beginning for an album and that it should have twists and turns very much like watching a movie. The messages are emotional and when you listen, you have your own journey and feelings from what you hear. Sometimes we hear a piece of music that resonates. When I listen to music and can relate to it, it brings me comfort.
Music has the power to be many things to us. It can make you dance, you can chill and it can invoke many moods. I love the way we all react differently to music. The messages are there for some, while others may not get it. I am only a messenger of my creativity and believe the messages are positive. The moods can be dark in chords, but there is a level of spiritual uplifting. I don’t question what the message is as that may compromise the outcome. When we look at art, we may not see what others see, so this is really about how I hear and judge music. It’s much more different If there are spoken words or lyrics.
AF: It’s interesting that you compare the album’s twists and turns to watching a movie. And earlier you mentioned that you would like to score films. I have heard a few people describe Colours of the Earth using the adjective, cinematic. “It has a cinematic feel,” I have heard some say. What do you think about that description?
PDG: Maybe “cinematic” is too pigeon-holed as a genre as with ambient too? I don’t write ambient music. I just translate what I’m being channelled spiritually and then it goes either way with moulding the outcome. If there are any rhythm aspects to the message, Red Earth [my other extension as an artist] takes the vibe of piecing it together, and if it’s more sparse and stripped of rhythm, then Colours of the Earth takes that for moulding. That’s the way I have always dealt with laying down the audio and instrumentation.
There is a certain safety aspect to music that has rhythm; it takes you by the hand and you know where you are with that piece, but when it’s stripped of rhythm and it’s beatless, it is then up to you. You’re waiting for the drums or percussion to come in. John Barry, Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones, Ennio Morricone all played with that rhythm aspect and just a bass line or Zither can evoke that right tension. The film, The Ipcress File (1965), was one score [by John Barry] that implemented that structure and was so powerful to the scene of the movie. Vangelis also was inspiring to me. For me, it was neither Ambient nor Cinematic, just music.
I don’t have any problem with being pigeon-holed, don’t get me wrong. I see Colours of the Earth as an amalgamation of both genres [ambient and cinematic] and those twists and turns evoke you to see a visual. That’s why artwork is as important to me as the music and I can’t stress enough the importance to get both right. Video and art are perfect partners for both Colours of the Earth and Red Earth.
Artist Akemi Shimada [who created the album artwork] really tuned into this with my work as she does with everything she creates. Joaquin really plants the seed and watches us all grow in his beautiful garden. I’m very interested in exploring more film, music and art . My manipulations of photos and images inspire my creativity in coordination with spiritual channelling.
AF: And how did you meet Joaquin “Joe” Claussell and begin collaborating with him musically?
PDG: My good friend Glenn Gunner (Street Corner Symphony/Block 16) introduced us at a gig Joe was playing at in Shoreditch [London], which was an incredible night of music. It was the first time I had seen Joe play and saw just how connected he was to the music. I certainly came away inspired by his playing. At the time, I was DJing at a few clubs and held a weekly residency at The Cobden Club. I was also working part-time at a record shop in Soho. Joe once came to the shop and I think from then, we would hook up and go vinyl hunting together.
AF: Ahhh, so there was an instant connection with Joaquin. And being that he does so many edits and remixes, what are your thoughts on remixes? Will there be any remixes for the tracks on the project? Or are they to be enjoyed as they are on the album? They all seamlessly flow from one to the other.
PDG: Joaquin and I have spoken about remixes for this project and Sacred Rhythm will be commissioning remixes. He will be producing a remix too and I’m looking forward to these interpretations of the originals. I am truly honoured that Joaquin feels the vibe to bless this project with his own interpretation of which I’m sure will be exquisite in every way.
AF: Ooh! I am looking forward to these! Are there any musicians/artists you would like to collaborate with? Any thoughts about vocalists– releasing music with lyrics?
PDG: My journey is quite open and not one that I don’t necessarily want to make on my own. I would, of course, love to collaborate with my brother Joaquin. We share so many vibes musically and his vast style is inspiring and spiritual. We have both expressed an interest in working together. Joaquin’s approach to music is just so beautiful. We both have the same inspirations and who knows what will happen?
There are many who I wish to work with, but sadly, they are no longer with us– like Harold Budd, Miles Davis and Prince. As for Brian Eno and David Sylvian– I think they would both be interesting and inspiring to work with . Also my brother Dee Vaz. All their styles are varied, which appeals to me. I have read in some of their interviews that they are more interested in what a musician brings rather than session players and this is also how I think. I would love to collaborate with Herbie Hancock too.
As for vocalists– that’s a tricky one. I’m not ruling out a vocalist, however I feel it detracts from the music if I don’t get the music right. However, I do find spoken word and poetry more inspiring as they are direct and powerful that you can manipulate and mould. I am going to work with Fr Tansi from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (the religious order originates from the Bronx, NY). We are going to collaborate on a track for his new album this year. He is a friar and very dear to me. His spoken word is featured on my monthly radio shows and the music accompanying his poetry is written and produced by me. I have created many versions of “This Is My Faith” that I feature every month on my show. This has really sparked an inspiration to work together. “This Is My Faith” is taken from Fr Tansi’s album Garden. It carries a powerful message.
AF: Wonderful! So please talk about your monthly radio show. And how can we listen?
PDG: I was approached to do a show by Dean Anderson for Universal Rhythms on the basis that I can play whatever I want– an eclectic variety of Jazz, Fusion, World Music, Ambient, Cinematic, and Dub– a diverse range of styles also with additional and occasional 30-minute guest mixes. Dee Vaz was one of my first guest mixes to feature. Listeners should expect the unexpected! This was exactly why Dean wanted me to do a show. My show airs every month on a Sunday and it is called: “Music From the Earth.” You can look for my upcoming dates on their website [universalrhythms.net].
Two aspects of my radio show always remain the same. My lovely dear wife Si-Ling always kicks off every show with her chosen track. She has put up with me for many years. [Laughter] The other is Fr Tansi, who I always feature on my show. I play many exclusive re-edits done by myself (RedEarth, my alias) and I am already getting quite a few messages about edits and mixes that I have done, so this is a great sign. I also play material from Colours Of the Earth.
AF: I am going to tune in to your next radio show. And what comes next after Colours of the Earth? Will there be a follow-up project or a Part Two?
PDG: Colours of the Earth is an ongoing journey. There is also a Red Earth album that will be a future release for Joaquin’s Sacred Rhythm label. It’s a very exciting time for me and I have many albums-worth of music that just need finalising and piecing together, again, like a jigsaw puzzle. I’m looking forward to remixing pieces by artists such as Joaquin Claussell and putting a Colours of the Earth or Red Earth vibe to original compositions. Plus, as I previously mentioned, I’d also like to score films and documentaries.
AF: What are you currently listening to or what artists/music have you recently discovered that you want us to know about?
PDG: There’s so much wonderful music that touches me and I try to keep as open as I can. I find a lot of Pop songs sound the same and many vocalists sound the same too, so I don’t really listen to Pop and modern R&B and just wait for originality. I listen out for more off-centre leftfield music. I still love Jazz Fusion and find a lot of the new artists very inspiring. I like Sault, Jacob Collier, Snarky Puppy, Dee Vaz, and Jhelisa Anderson; I have been listening to their work. I have been drawn to Pharoah Sanders and the Floating Points album. I had Florian Arbenz as a guest on my show; he is another musician who I find really inspiring. K3:lu (Patrick Hatchett) is another artist who is experimental and an exciting talent. Watch out for him! I get a lot of music sent to me which is just wonderful.
AF: Thank you for sharing those artists with us, Paul. Some are favorites of mine, and some I need to check out. And when are you coming to visit us at Cosmic Arts in Brooklyn and share some music with us?
PDG: I would love to come and experience the magic and spiritual vibes at Cosmic Arts and I feel a spiritual calling, so who knows! I’m feeling the vibe! I have seen many video snippets on Joe’s Instagram and it looks like a real melting pot of musical vibes and beautiful people.
AF: It is indeed a special place, and with you visiting, it will be even more special. Congratulations again on Colours of the Earth. Thank you Paul for being so generous and sharing so much with me in this conversation.
PDG: Thank you for taking this time to interview me, Amanda.
London & Brooklyn