Paraleven talks touring with Lane 8 and staying hungry but humble [Interview]
Remember the name Paraleven, you’ll be seeing it everywhere before long. Lane 8‘s latest signee to This Never Happened is positioned for success, with two outstanding EPs under his belt, Paraleven (aka. Josh Taylor) is joining Lane 8 for 12 dates on the North American leg of his Brightest Lights tour.
While only performing under the alias Paraleven for around a year, Taylor has been meticulously constructing his dream for the better part of a decade. His interest in electronic music was kindled in college, and since then a majority of Taylor’s free time has gone towards developing his talent. He started to gain some notoriety as half of the duo Halogen. Now, the Atlanta-based producer has the skills, vision, ambition, and platform for something special.
Dancing Astronaut caught up with him ahead of the Brightest Lights tour with Lane 8 to talk about his relentless grind, his time with This Never Happened and the stories behind his deeply impactful tracks.
What got you interested in producing electronic music when you were just starting out?
I started making mashups when mashups were cool, back when I first started college in 2008… it was around the same time electronic music started getting a little bit bigger, and I think it was when I heard deadmau5’s “Strobe” that I was like, “This is amazing, I don’t know what this is I need to do this, I want to do this.” So I downloaded FL Studio and I started messing around, and the rest is history. I just kind of wanted to create music out of nothing, I wanted to make something exactly how I wanted to hear it, and with electronic music you can do that more than all other types of music because you can design the sounds and there’s always things you can do rather than just using the simple instruments that go along with regular bands and what not. I mean, back in 2009, 2008 when I started, it was just a matter of putting in the number of hours to become an expert and eventually you can do it… I feel like I wasn’t able to do exactly what I wanted to do until like a year ago…
What clicked a year ago for you when you were finally able to do what you wanted?
I used to live with my older roommate, Ralf from Popeska, he used to be signed to Wolgang Gartner’s label, and he called me and gave me some really good advice one time… I told him, “Look, I don’t know how you’re doing this… when will I be at the point, or what can I do to get my mixes to sound as good as yours?” And he just said, “Fuck it, I can give you advice on small little pieces on every little thing that you do…
But it doesn’t matter what I say. It’s just a matter of putting in the time, because eventually at some point you’re gonna sit down and hear what you made and say ‘Wow this sounds great.’ Your mixes will just come together, because of all the million little things you’ve learned along the way that add up.” …I don’t think it’s anything specific that I learned, or any milestone that I’ve reached… It was a culmination of all those hours and hours and hours of producing, it just finally got to the point where I was like, “I can do what I want to do. I’m not lost in the production.” It’s just a matter of creativity at that point.
What kept you motivated through all those years of trying to find your sound?
I [have] been making music under the alias Halogen for a while… we had a lot of plays, we had a lot of songs, and I had someone else that was pushing me. It was a duo, constantly playing off each other, building each other up and supporting each other throughout the process. So that was helpful, having someone else to be there and motivate you is always good. He’s always working hard, Alex (Dunsker). He’s one of the hardest working people I know. That was one thing, you know, the support from a friend, as you grow… he hears the difference that goes along, so there’s a constant progression there and that growth, as time goes on, keeps you going. And playing shows, playing shows is another thing. In Atlanta at least, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m able to play music in pretty large clubs and play our music, and every time you go and you have that one show that sells out or whatever… Just playing shows, getting to see who’s there, it’s a reminder that this is why I’m doing this, and it’s really cool to be able to play your own music on loud speakers and hear everyone vibe to it.
Is there anybody in particular that you draw a lot of inspiration from still?
Yea, obviously Lane 8, he’s super talented. Having him be somewhat of a role model… he’s given me some advice, he’s pushing me to be a better version of what I’ve already become, and that’s great. You know, real recognize real, but at the same time he understands when I push something that just isn’t there. When he says it, there’s a validation that means a lot. I’m able send him stuff, and it’s really cool to be able to have that validation of knowing that it is maybe a good thought, but for it to be a great song it needs to be great. At this point, I want to be great at everything I do.
Changing topics again, what’s changed in your life since you signed on with Lane 8?
It really just feels like its surreal at this time …The response online has been great and meeting the few people that I’ve met in Atlanta at shows… To get that pass from one of the greatest in the industry (Lane 8), especially in this genre of music, has been very humbling. But in regards to my life, I haven’t changed necessarily that much, and the reason I say it’s surreal is because I’m gonna be going on tour at the end of January, and it hasn’t really hit yet [laughs]. So I’m still sitting at home, still doing my regular daily routine. And until that happens, until I’m actually there, on tour… I think it hasn’t really hit me yet…
What are you most excited for about your tour with Lane 8?
I think, one of the things is going to a lot of places that I’ve never been. So I’ve never been to Boston, never been to anywhere in Texas, Portland, Seattle, Albuquerque, all those places I’ve never been is gonna be awesome. I do actually have a full time job… so it’s kinda gonna be a Hannah Montana experience working during the week and traveling for tour during the weekend. My coworkers don’t really understand, but they are aware of it [laughs].
But yea, it’s gonna be very fun. I’ve played shows here in Atlanta, I’ve played festivals and stuff and It feels like… I’m opening up for other artists and if [fans are] coming to see their artist, I’m there and they’re like “This is cool,” but I don’t feel like they’re actually coming for me. This is the first time I’m gonna be playing where they might actually be coming to hear my music, so that’s really cool.
How do you balance working a full time job and following your music career as well? That’s ridiculous!
Yea, it’s rough. I don’t know, I don’t know! …I read somewhere that if you want to do something, you work a job for the most amount of money for the least amount of hours while doing what you love from six o’clock to three in the morning, and that’s kind of what I’ve been doing for the past seven years. It’s been a lot, I don’t have much free time… I try to do my best to find time to decompress and whatnot, but it’s fortunate for me that, being in this and having pushed through all that stuff. I’m able to meet up with friends on the weekends and intertwine that aspect of things and my social life, make sure that I don’t lose touch with my friends.
The reason that my name is Paraleven is because there’s a parallel between two parts in my life, my music life and my regular life. Each one represents those things, and at some point, even though they’re working together in parallel, they would eventually be the same thing. And that’s kind of the whole point that I’m trying to make. If you work hard enough, eventually it won’t feel like a job. Everything in your life is working in parallel and working together. It’s rough, but it’s worth it because you don’t want to be at your goal, you want to work really really hard to be there. Because at some point you’re gonna look back and wish that you were where you were when you wish you’re where you are now. I don’t want to skip all those steps, I want to earn it.
Now that you made it this far, what are your next goals? Where do you want to be?
I think the ultimate goal is to get to a point where I’m doing this full time, but at the same time I also want to eventually start my own label. I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a five-year plan, it could be a 15-year plan, I don’t have a timeline for it, but I would like to continue on and expand my brand even further than what it currently is… Another would be do my on tour. Get to the point where I’m… able to decide my creative direction in regards to live shows and the production that goes into those, and being involved in the details, all the things that I would be doing at festivals. There’s certain festivals that I have on my bucket list that I’d like to play and people I’d like to get in the studio with. There’s certain things that I want to be able to accomplish myself, and reach out and do those things, and others I just want to do and have those come to me. Right now, I think that I’m seeing what comes and building off what is coming my way currently. Hopefully, eventually, I’ll have the ability to start another type of This Never Happened. And share my music, I really do think that at some point I would like to create to album that has 432 hertz, like I did with my retrograde mix. It’s been told to have healing properties, and if I can do something with that I think that would be a cool build.
Let’s talk about your EPs. To me it sounds, into your Paraleven period, your sound is evolving and developing. How did you approach your Soloma EP differently than Ripples / Siphon?
So, “Siphon” was a mistake, and by mistake I mean there was a mistake in making it. I embraced the mistakes that I made while making it. The main drop that’s so iconic in the way the melody plays out, eventually a bass player was supposed to be on their with a bunch of other stuff, so I muted all the other stuff and I was like, “Woah [laughs] this is kinda cool…” It was a fortunate accident. “Ripples” was really complex, I spent more hours on that than I’ve spent on any other track on either of the EPs. It just had a lot of layers and getting it to the right point was really difficult, and the main melody changed, like, four times.
In fact you can hear on the second build of “Ripples” you’ll hear two melodies competing with each other I had the main melody that was in the rest of the song and then I add another melody, which was the original melody, with the same synth, and their actually overlapping each other, but i thought it sounded cool so I kept it.
With “Keep Going” on Soloma, I built these arps (arpeggios) and used somewhat of a similar sound, but I think I added a crusher to one and not the other. And then I was… building the song around the arpeggio that I created and one I kinda wanted to make a little bit groovier, which was “Soloma” and the other had more of an open, more progressive and heavy, hard-hitting… so I kinda went two different directions with those. It clearly needed vocals on the song, or else the song was dragging. So, we reached out to Mont Blvck and they put together those vocals for us… I wanted something kind of Bob Moses sounding…
All three songs I went at from a different angle, but I feel like it did kind of progress my sound a little bit more, you can hear, I think when you hear any of the songs you can tell that it’s one of my songs, some Paraleven. And that’s what I wanted, I want it to sound like me but I also want to keep innovating and incorporating new sounds. So, a little bit of progressing and continuing to do what I’ve been doing, but also to try something different and find a little bit of pizzazz or some flair.
“Hide” is my favorite song on (Soloma), and obviously it has that big dramatic breakdown right at the chorus. When that song is coming together, do you build the song around the breakdown, or is that something that you add in later?
Sometimes I make a really cool breakdown and then see where it’s going and right before the drop you’re like “Ok, what does it do now? What’s the story that’s being told here?” And then I’ll create the drop from there. Sometimes I’ll just make the drop and be like, “Alright, well how does it get here?” [laughs] (On “Hide,”) I built the verse out first, and then I was like, “What’s gonna happen here?” I wanted it to hit really hard, so I threw in those strings. The original first drop was different, and then the second drop had the strings that broke down, and then it hit on the second beat. Then I sent it to Lane 8, he was like, “The second drop is super dope, make it the first drop also. Do the same thing you did on the second drop on the first drop….” There were actually more vocals that I ended up cutting because it didn’t fit with the feel, necessarily. But I liked the way that I ended up manipulating the vocals in a way that sounded very This Never Happened.
Switching topics again, you just released a mix for When We Dip. What do you think goes into a good mix? What separates an average mix from a stellar mix?
I always… make sure that things are going in congruence with the key that they’re in and making sure that they flow. I try not to pick songs that are outside of a four BPM range…. There are certain keys that are good for starting and ending sets with, so I use that when making mixes also. Honestly, I really just like incorporating new music, good mixes, and bad mixes also, are dependent on what’s new at that time. Sometimes you go through a month, two month period where a lot of the new music coming out isn’t that great. Fortunately for me, with the last two mixes I’ve had the last couple months, there’s been so much great music that’s come out lately, and so much good stuff.
This playlist that I’m creating on Spotify called “eleven” has really kept me up to date in forcing me to find new music and discover new artists. I think that, some inspiration that I’ve gotten is from all the music that I’m finding… Honestly, kudos to all the other people crushing it in this genre of music, because you’re inspiring me to make good music but at the same time you’re also helping my sets [laughs]. Everything is going really well right now, so keep it up [laughs].
Photo Credit: Paraleven/Facebook