Last Sunday, Adele collaborator Paul Epworth won four Grammys, for Producer of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Record of the Year. In this 2005 profile from FADER #30, Nick Barat writes about Epworth’s start in the rock remix scene.
Paul Epworth stays down to earth as his bands blow up the world.
Rick Rubin made beats for LL’s Radio the same year he helped Slayer craft Reign In Blood, and Butch Vig was designing the sound of innumerable 1990s alternative bands while doing tracks for, uh…House of Pain (do not front on that “Shamrocks and Shenanigans” rock remix, my friends). But when Bloc Party and the Futureheads producer Paul Epworth talks about his recent studio sessions with Kano and other grime MCs, there’s just something about the whole thing that blows my mind. Obviously, Epworth’s not the first cross-genre production whiz to do the damn thing; but as he enthusiastically air-drums while describing how he flipped a Black Sabbath breakbeat for Kano to rhyme over, it becomes impossible to ignore the fact that he’s working on the debut albums by some of the most relevant UK artists of the past few years like it’s the most normal, everyday thing in the world.
Epworth is deeply entrenched in this musical moment on an artistic level, but also just as a dude—a regular guy with chipped pink nail polish on the finger of one hand and a ever present tattered army cap (“Paul’s the guy with the hat,” laughed Bloc Party drummer Matt Tong) who would be out in the audience watching these bands perform even if he wasn’t working the boards for them by day. His CV is off the chain—helping record Oasis and Michael Jackson at Sir George Martin’s AIR studios, working live sound for the Rapture and LCD Soundsystem and fronting his own well-received rock band, Lomax—but he describes all those achievements matter-of-factly, without a hint of ego. It might be because he still has so much more in the works, like two solo projects (the all-digital Phones and the live, analog Echo Channel), more work with Bloc Party and other young London bands along with a desire to work on “subversive” songwriting for a Top 40 pop act.
The producer came to NYC during a week when BP and the ‘Heads were performing a grip of high-profile, industry-laden showcases, and he DJed one of the afterparties, playing a beat-savvy blend of weird rock, hip-hop and a grip of his own remixes. Earlier in the day, Epworth and some of the Bloc Party guys ran into dance music legend Arthur Baker and New Order bassist Peter Hook having tea in a West Village bar. They posed for a picture—Epworth sitting with Baker on one side and “Hooky” on the other. Baker walked past the DJ booth that night and nodded approvingly at the selections. Just another average day for Paul Epworth.