First things first, Paul Graham aka Booshank delivers one message: ‘life in the hood is good!’ Music is of course his first love, but riding his skateboard, hanging out with family, enjoying the luxury of a good book – and pinball – are also on his weekly agenda. He explains: “I don’t feel as though I really had a choice with music. For as long as I can remember, I’ve incorporated music into as many areas of my life as possible. In my childhood it was performing in musicals and playing instruments and listening to just about everything that came my way. My family was always very supportive because they could see I was never interested in sports! As a teenager I started to explore the Melbourne scene, going to all age shows on the weekends and hanging out at record stores.”
As a result of this upbringing, he tries to play across as many genres as he can. “Having said that, you won’t ever hear me throw a curve-ball for the sake of eclecticism,” he adds. “Some nights require a more subtle approach to genre-spanning, where others you can just say ‘I’m taking this left turn now and you’re all coming with me’. But of course only if the feeling’s real. I perhaps take more risks playing at my residencies and in the later hours of the night. It takes balls to drop the tempo from 120BPM to 80BPM with a full dance-floor and some venues are too precious about their music policies to permit it. Venues need to trust their DJs. The venues I respect the most are those that book a DJ as an artist, and trust their vision.”
An interesting philosophy no doubt, but one that is sound and unfortunately, rather lacking in the mash of commercial mediocrity evident in the industry at present. Yet Graham struggles to identify who has influenced him in terms of the music he loves: “you always get told ‘oh you sound like so-and-so’, but I don’t think any artist or group of artists really satisfy as influences. Every day I’m listening to something different, and I don’t really reference other people’s work too heavily when I’m writing music or being a DJ. For example, it’s interesting connecting the dots between the different sounds that have come out of cities like New York, New Jersey, Detroit and Philadelphia. The sounds found in those cities have been the focus of much of my attention for a while. Researching these scenes has taught me a lot about humanity and what makes me who I am.”
Which brings us, naturally, to his approach to his productions. “I generally only write music during the day, stone-cold sober,” he proudly confesses. “If I can’t see what’s going on outside my window, things tend to get a bit too involved. I have an EP coming up on the Firecracker (UK) sub-label and hopefully some more stuff through the local Haul Music imprint with whom I did a single with in May. There’s more stuff on the horizon, but I best be quiet about it for now! My running buddy Adam Askew and I have been tossing around the idea of starting a label to release our own material too, so watch this space!”
Otherwise, Graham has been slowly putting material together for an album, but claims it’s too early to think about releasing it at this stage. “I’ve always liked albums that work as a whole and I’d love to do something like that. I loosely describe most of what I produce as ‘house music’ and then follow that with a lecture about what I think house music is! I guess house music to me is a structure that many different ideas can exist within. That structure involves expectations and limitations, and I enjoy following some conventions while stepping around others. I usually have some idea of what I want to do as a track, but am always open to changing or abandoning an idea if it’s not working. As an estimate I’d say I finish 5% of the tracks I start. Lately I’ve been producing much slower, moodier tracks. Perhaps it’s the weather?”
Finally, this brings us to the topic of the conversation - South Side Hustle. “It’s always a highlight of the weekend for me,” exclaims Graham. “And this one falling on a public-holiday weekend means I can really indulge in the night. I won’t really plan any set to play as such. South Side Hustle is predominantly a house and disco affair, so you’ll be hearing lots of that. Quality music, delivered with due respect, in an inclusive, comfortable environment. I want to play records that make you feel good!”
He adds that the crew have assembled a lineup of those ‘who I would argue are among the top slice of Melbourne’s black-music DJs.’ He is also looking forward to spending most of the time during J’Nett’s set on the dance floor. And with that, a few words to wrap up: “Adam and I are really looking forward to this gig as there’s no doubt we complement each other stylistically. He’s a class act, and one of my top three favorite local DJs. As a producer he’s a real standout too, so hopefully he brings some bits from his private stash to play. Adam and I are playing a versus set for about four hours, so we have time to explore all manner of house and disco related music.” Nice.
Booshank [AUS] goes head to head with Askew [AUS] at Lucky Coq on Sunday June 10.