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Love In Time of Apocalypse: Paris Westburn reveals all

3 January 2023

Hi Paris. Let’s start with a catch-up. It has been 18 months since I wrote about your music and the excellent “Kings Juga” record. What has changed for you between then and now, and what has stayed the same as it ever was, musically and otherwise?

Hello Dave. It’s great to connect with you again. What has changed for me? My move to France has become more permanent. The longer I’ve been more outside the states, the more I see how insane it is in terms of the current sociopolitical climate, and just from a violent perspective. Musically speaking, I’ve built a small studio here and am continuing to focus on a magnum opus of sorts that I’ve been creating over the last few years. It will encompass field recordings, classical music, jazz, blues, music of the African Diaspora, and what Id like to describe as tribal and ethnic rhythms stretching across time and space. Music of the past, present, and future. I believe with the tools at our disposal, the future of music will become genre-less.

And casting your mind further back, can you tell me a bit about your musical journey and what sounds and influences have helped fashion the music that you make today?

Starting off as a classical violinist, which I cannot be more thankful than ever to my mother and father; that is how my musical journey began. Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Schubert, were all played in my house. But also, I sang in the gospel choir at church, and my mom would play tons of jazz records ( Miles, Coltrane, Bird), rock records, gospel music, soul records, and hip hop. I come from a very musical family, So my love of all styles and genres stretches back to time immemorial. My mother had a beautiful friend named James Nellums, a beautiful cat, jazz musician who’d come over and talk music and theory with my mother and us as children! That was a wonderful experience. Some other influences would be Shabazz Palaces and Philip Glass.

Love In Time of Apocalypse is a heady blend of soul, R&B, and even a slight taste of rock, are these deliberate choices stylistically, or is this just what happens when you write?

First of all, I’d like to thank you for recognizing what I was attempting to capture with that song Dave. It was 50/50. In writing the song, I remember, hey, I want to write something stylistically, a bit like Darondo’s “Didn’t I, Little Ann’s “Deep Shadows”, The Violinaires, “The Upper Way”, or Dee Dee Sharp’s “I Really Love You”. But in the way I write, I wanted to go all the way in, in terms of character, method, mood, and feel, etc…So I wore a skinny tie, a white button-up Oxford shirt to the recording session, got some Brooks Brothers, and a bespoke pair of trousers and a blazer to really put myself into the mindset and headspace of the particular era I wanted to recreate, but perhaps with a twist. The plot twist, of course happens when you get stuck in the writing and are forced to push the song sonically forward, and so then you are forced to blend a style and take a different direction in order to complete the work of writing the song.

And so, in its very essence, this is what happened. It started out as a re-creation, but in recreating, you can only recreate the past but so far, and then out of that is born something anew. I rather quite enjoy it!!

From the titles you conjure up, language and lyrics are important to you. Do the words come first or the music, or is it more complex than that?

An idea whose time has come, Dave, can be born into creation in our reality at any moment. It just depends on what medium is available and what medium the idea chooses. I’m a bit of an etymologist; therefore, if I hear a particular word or phrase at any given moment, it could spark an idea! Orrrr, melodies usually spontaneously pop into my head in the early morning in the shower for some reason or when I’m really nervous. Either way, it’s always very, very spontaneous…But I’d imagine much like the creation of the universe, it seems spontaneous, but there is some order behind it.

And staying with the lyrics, are there any common themes and recurring messages that you want to promote through your music?

Words, phrases, sounds, syllables, and music are nothing but energy and frequency and vibration in a very distilled, pure form. The fact that we seem to be in of the most insane, violent, albeit technologically complex periods in our history has something to do with frequency and vibration, I’d wager. Our youth are being influenced by words and vibrations that express songs about killing each other, death, violence, and destruction. With that being said, I ain’t a goody two shoes, but I try to use my words and my music as a positive force. On a cellular level, our cells respond to words, notes, and vibrations.

Just look at the way a human cell vibrates when the note of D is played. It’s astonishing. So I just try to keep the message positive and uplifting, or maybe even convey a lesson from a historical perspective, lyrically speaking.

_I was playing the recent album, Big Minstrels, and was struck by the musically eclectic nature of the songs and the often nostalgic sounds you juggle. How valuable do you see the music of the past as a basis to make music for the future? _

I appreciate the listen, Dave! I consider myself a musicologist. Therefore, I am adamant about knowing the music of the past, in as many styles as my mind can hold, in hopes of using it as a foundation on which to stand. In that manner, I can try sonically to recreate something either for the present or create something entirely new for the future. In that regard, it always feels as if I’m just getting started. It’s always a process of rebirth, birth, and rebirth in reverse, hahaha.

Are there plans to play live to promote the recent releases? And how did covid affect you as a working musician? Did it change your immediate creative landscape?

Honestly Dave, my last project was Siddhartha and we were signed to a label owned by John Frusciante and his wife. This was a very enjoyable project creatively, but in terms of the live aspect, my mates at the time made it extremely unenjoyable to play music live. I am well aware of the requests to play live. The equation is in finding a group of people that help to make it an enjoyable experience. Because if it’s not enjoyable, that will translate to your audience.

That is a delicate balance to achieve. Regarding covid? I love to record. It was perfect for me, honestly. I stayed healthy, and those around me and my family, thank God. It allowed me time to record. “Kings Juga” was born out of covid, haha. But this new year is unfolding in a glorious manner. So let us see what the universe has in store.

And where next? What plans do you have for the future, either musically or personally?

As I’ve stated previously, I’m finishing what I would consider a Magnum opus of sorts, encompassing several musical styles, genre-bending, tentatively titled Diadala, to be used as a kind of historical sound book or roadmap of sorts for future generations, to be released this year. I’m also releasing a mostly acoustic ep in spring of sorts with a string quartet in one of the songs. Tentatively titled “St. Michael”, in honor of my younger brother, who committed suicide in November of 2021. Personally? Gordon Parks, Miles Davis, (and Philip Glass, from a compositional perspective), are my heroes, so, In some manner, I’d like to achieve a manner of working style and notoriety akin to Parks. In other words, to be constantly working. In that regard, everyone, please support me through Bandcamp. That is to say, streaming is great, but buy the music, the artist sees much, much more of a revenue share.

Also, Terry Gross of NPR, if you’re reading this, I would love to come on your show. You’re an inspiration to me.



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