Crowd Control Q&A | J. Paul Slavens
1. How has your music experience in North Texas changed over the years from your time at UNT to the present?
When I first arrived in Denton in 1984 it was called NTSU, a smallish teachers' college in a small town. The experience of being in Denton during those years was definitely the foundation of everything I have done here since. Even though so much has changed and it is not the same university or town, it was the spirit of those days and the Deep Ellum period of the late 80s and early 90s that still inspires me. I still see a lot of experimentation and soulful music out there. I have tried to stay part of the active musical community, but have branched out into broadcasting as well as teaching and related theatrical, comedy and voice over work.
2. To many, ourselves included here at Wavelength, you are considered a staple in the Denton music scene, how does that community differ from the scene in Dallas or are the two virtually one and the same thing?
Don't forget Fort Worth!! We have a unique situation here in the Metroplex. Three distinct cities with very distinct musical scenes. And while there is a certain amount of expected clique-iness, the three cities are mixing and sharing music more than ever now. Scenes are made of people, clubs, and environment. What makes Denton different from Dallas or FT Worth is the people here. Some of those people are active almost exclusively in Denton, some play all over the Metroplex, and some don't play here at all but travel around more. The same goes for each city. I think the cities are very nicely independent as well as interdependent.
3. In your eyes, what are the key components that a music community must have in order to make it successful?
I have long asserted (and this list may be outdated) that there are 5 necessary elements for a healthy music scene: Talent, Venues, Written Press and Promotion, Radio Airplay, and Booking and Management. It's hard to have that engine firing on all cylinders but when it does you can finally start to generate the energy that it takes to draw the crowds and get them participating. Once the people engage, you can get a lot of exciting things done.
4. You’ve been hosting a radio program, The Paul Slavens show on 91.7 KXT (formerly At Night on 90.1 KERA), for over a decade in Dallas. What is your earliest memory of radio and what was the impetus that inspired you to get involved in radio?
My earliest recollections are listening to AM radio as a kid in the fields of Nebraska. I heard all kinds of music back in those days and because the choices were limited I heard a lot of things I might not otherwise have spent the time listening to. I was never particularly drawn to radio, but I did get involved in doing voice over work which gave me some of the requirements for hosting a show. I got my gig because I used to produce a comedy theater show that I was hoping to produce for KERA to be like Prairie Home Companion. I was meeting with the Program Director to talk about the next show I was producing and she mentioned the guy who had done the show for the last 10 years was quitting and she didn't know who would want to do the shift, as it was pretty much the lowest listener time of the week. I asked if it was something I could do and she said yes!! One month later I was on the air and it has been a great run!!
5. Improvising is a large part of your style. Are there any exercises you use to improvise, and if so, what are they?
I am developing a class to teach some of my improv techniques. At this point, I keep sharp by performing. Improvisation plays such a basic role in so much of what I do in my art, at work as a Dance Musician at UNT and in my life. The most important thing is to continue to fill your mind with all manner of things so that your pool of associations is deep and easily accessed. Associations and the ability to generate analogies are two of the most basic pillars of improvisation, especially in comedy.
6. What character traits, if any, do you feel are most important in having a career in music?
It depends on what kind of career you are really looking for. If you want to do well in the music business, I suggest you spend a lot of time learning business. If you want to create great personal art and are not concerned with making money from it, then you just get involved in the things you are most interested in and learn how to make the money you need elsewhere. Mostly, you need to know yourself. What are you really willing to do? What are you not willing to do, and why? Why do you want to do what you are hoping to do? What is your actual motivation, and is it true, and healthy, and worthwhile? The vast majority of the music I have created has been for my own personal satisfaction and because it's just what I do. I don't often expect anyone else to enjoy it, and I often don't even put it out there for people to listen to. Sometimes I do. But I create to make myself happy, and consequently I have had to learn to be satisfied not having a particularly successful "career".
26 October | 2018