Los Angeles-based DJ and producer Paul Salva is renowned as one of the godfathers of the trap movement, but he is a restless soul at heart and his sets take in a furious array of genres and styles.
“I like to push the energy levels and [keep it] action-packed,” he explains, “and I always keep the BPM high. I come from the hip hop world, so I’m a very fast mixer, and I like to burn through a hundred tracks in an hour, smash through and keep the energy buzzing.” When behind the decks, he chops and changes through a series of different regional styles and sounds, from juke and rap and house and Baltimore and Jersey club to trap – it’s a high-energy DJ performance in the name of eclecticism. “Everyone can get down,” he says, “I just like to give people a good party.”
Salva got his start working as a buyer in record stores, first in Milwaukee and then in Miami, and over the decade he spent there he developed a love of vinyl that continues to this day. He still goes crate-digging when he travels to new cities, as every crate of vinyl holds a potential wealth of cool, unusual samples. “I like to hunt for obscurities,” he says. “I’ll look at the instrumental breakdown on the back of a record to see what the instrumental breakdown is, if they’ve used a particular synthesiser on there, or a piece of gear like a talk box or Moog. Sometimes a weird cover is enough to draw me in. A lot of younger producers will pull their samples off YouTube these days, but I think there’s something really cool about finding a weird old record that you’ve never heard of and putting the needle to it, because there’s always the possibility that you’ll make an amazing discovery.”
When it comes to finding samples, Salva says that vinyl releases from the late ’80s are a treasure trove for producers. “I love that era in the ’80s, right after new wave, when they started making 12” records specifically for DJs to play,” he says. “That’s inevitably where I find the coolest stuff. You’ll find that they’ve put the weirdest shit on there – vocal and instrumental loops that are just really ripe for sampling.” Funk and pop records always prove inspiring. “I don’t consider myself to be a master of that ’80s funk style,” he says, “but I’m really into the sound, and I love digging and finding records by George Benson and Ohio Players and people like that. I recently got a Janet Jackson 12”, produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and it has a beatapella on the flipside. That blew my mind.”
The LA lifestyle agrees with Salva, and since relocating there several years ago, he has found it a vital and inspiring place to work. “All kinds of industries have opened up to electronic artists,” he says, “not just music, but film and video games, so there are a lot of opportunities here, and a lot of people have relocated. It’s an eclectic and inspiring place to be.” Salva’s personal goal is to move into the world of major label hip hop. “When I moved here, I went to a lot of underground warehouse techno parties, but since I built a home studio, I’ve been meeting a lot of people from the other side of the industry. I’d love to get into proper rap and R&B production for bigger artists. West Coast hip hop has made a big comeback over the last few years, especially with people like Kendrick Lamar – I’d love to work with him one day.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN