An interview by the Insider for Le Visiteur
Recording and performing as Paxton Fettel since 2010 Ground Plane Aerial is a new moniker and a new beginning for a well loved artist. A multi instrumentalist, DJ and live performer this is an artist with a strong reputation among his peers having previously appeared on Kolour, Delusions Of Grandeur, Plumage and regularly on Greta Cottage Workshop.
Now with a brand new release ‘Elusive Maneuvers’ it’s an EP which if there is any justice will give Ground Plane Aerial some very well deserved attention with it’s superb live playing and fresh and very unique feel. It’s an EP which very much takes on the electronic music scene on it’s own terms. Ground Plane Aerial played everything on the EP which you can see from the video below of lead track Ethereal drop.
To celebrate the release Ground Plane Aerial put together this superb house mix for us, please give it a share over on Soundcloud and help spread the love. More info on the mix inclduding the full tracklist to be found HERE. We also spoke to him about his career as Paxton Fettel and the fresh start as Ground Plane Aerial. It’s a truly fascinating interview with lots of thoughts on the electronic and wider music scene and it’s packed with music from across his career.
Ground Plane Aerial is the new moniker of Paxton Fettel. Is the change a fresh start or a move on to the next stage?
I was Paxton Fettel from 2010, the inception of my career up until last year. Except from a little white label project I did with a friend, all my output has been through that moniker. It’s a fresh start, but also moving away from a name which was actually intellectual property of Warner, considering I borrowed it from a video game they own the rights to. Paxton was also tied to a part of my life where I was deeply depressed, addicted to pot and just had very little respect for myself. As part of moving into a new future, it felt right to start a new journey in music as well.
You’re based in Copenhagen. How are things where you are in relation to the global pandemic?
In Copenhagen, the government doesn’t have a lot of love for the electronic music scene. It feels like it’s a nuisance to them they would rather be without it, so it’s a struggle. The scene is viewed as hedonistic and they do what they can to make us cease to exist. Gentrification plays a big part. People are into buying expensive real estate and noise is a problem. Considering how the world works, and that money controls everything, underground music will always be on the run from the police/government/rich who want peace and quiet and not have their way of existence challenged or questioned. Our counterculture is neither acknowledged nor accepted as culture or real art, and I wanna fight for that until the day I die. The pandemic has been yet another excuse for the government to try to drown our culture in silence. And they almost succeeded.
What is the music scene like there? What are people into?
Danish primarily people like pop, trap, and rock. We are not a people with any real tradition for dancing. It’s not in our blood per se, which is why you see a big part of the club audience being tourists, exchange students and a lot of our lovely residents from other countries being the majority audience. The dance music scene is very small, I have spent the last 10 years being part of this tiny scene, and as much as I love it, it has had its up and downs. There’s little money in the underground, and very little space and attention for the artists, so unfortunately there’s much rivalry in the scene, everybody is fighting over the same 3 DJ booths and clubs and the same audience of a few hundred people going out every weekend. The Danish scene has always lacked its own identity. It has always been trying to be like Berlin, and to me that is one of the biggest reasons why it has failed to gain a community big enough for it to thrive. There’s not a very balanced music culture here, and the smaller communities have a hard time surviving.
Would we find you on the night scene in clubs in Copenhagen pre Covid?
I’ve been around Culture Box for many years now. It would be where I went to DJ and the occasional night out dancing. It was kinda the only place where stuff that had the funk still hadn’t been eradicated and replaced with more sterile and rhythmically uninteresting genres of dance music. I’m not interested in dancing if I can’t connect with the music. But as soon as the restrictions are lifted, you’ll see me again, I’m playing live on 2nd of September.
Where did you grow up exactly?
About an hour outside of Copenhagen in one of the most beautiful rural areas of Denmark. It was very remote, like five kilometres from the nearest bus stop.
What was the music you listened to in your early years?
Elvis Presley, Britney Spears, Prince, Faithless, Massive Attack. A lot of Danish pop music and whatever else my parents were enjoying when I was a kid.
What led you to music?
Both my parents and my stepmom all worked at major labels in Denmark (Polygram, BMG, Scandinavian Records & Sony). In spite of them all advising me to never go into music because ‘apparently it consumes your soul slowly and is the root for so many heartbreaks’. It was way too late. After getting my first drum kit around the age of 5 there was no way back.
You play several instruments. What do you play and to what degree?
Keys, Piano, Drums, Bass & Guitar. Playing music for me has become about having an outlet for my emotions and a way of communicating. First when I found production, music began to make real sense to me. My level of playing is exactly right to play the stuff I make, and I’d like to think that it has increased greatly over the last 15 years.
Are you classically trained or self-taught?
I had drum training for about 8 years, but yes, since then I just learned the things, I wanted to learn on my own. I feel that has been the reason that I have been able to find my own way of making music that is not like all the other stuff, because I’ve never been influenced too much by one particular teacher or way of thinking. It has been all over the place and I’m so happy for that. Going to school to learn music never made any sense to me.
How long have you been making music?
I started recording stuff to cassette when I was about 10, I think, but as a composer I would say, I really started making music I was satisfied with around the age of 21. So, let’s say I’ve been making music I consider music for about 12 years now.
What was your first release?
Paxton Fettel – From the Surface and Upwards on Side B Underground back in 2011.
Could you describe to me your sound? Or is it hard to put a pin on it?
It is the sound of my soul.
You’ve worked a lot with Devon imprint Greta Cottage Workshop. What is your relationship with the label?
Greta Cottage Workshop has been my home, my family and what shaped me as an artist. It taught me when to be humble and when not to be. Taught me to be patient and when not to be. To always work hard and to try not to care too much about what other people are doing. Through the label I have met a lot of amazing people and for that I am ever grateful. Matt is my bonus dad, and his daughter Daisy is my bonus sister. I love them like my family and even if my career has never been able to pay even for a tenth of my expenses that making music has cost me, it has given me tenfold in relationships and love.
Have you ever been to Devon?
Many Times. It’s one of my favourite places to go. One of the hardest things about Covid has been not to be able to visit them for so long.
You worked with Whitey Deluca over on Kolour Ltd on your ‘Will It Berghain’ EP. He seems like a great guy to work with.
Whitey is another one of those unbelievably kind, loving and supporting people I’ve met through music. The label has been a big inspiration to me and has been to quite a few of my friends on their roster. Unfortunately, Kolour is a thing of the past, but nothing lasts forever. Whitey is a fantastic guy and working with him was inspirational and easy. He gives his artists freedom, respect and support. The release went a bit under the radar, but that seemed to be the thing with Paxton. The producers and heads loved it, but it never really gained any real popularity with a big enough crowd to make music a sustainable career for me. But that is the music business in a nutshell.
What would you say is your biggest release?
That was “The Secret Ingredient Is Crime” (Peep Show Reference for those who know). Jimpster remixed one of the tracks of the EP which gave it quite a bit of attention.
There’s always humour in your titles. Is that important to you?
The Greta Cottage Workshop ethos was “A label run with the sole purpose of getting great unheard electronic music out into the world, with no compromise. If it’s good, it goes. Independent, honest but not taking life too seriously.” This has stuck with me, not only in music, but in life in general. I also like a bit of tongue in cheek because most of the music business usually is dominated by fragile egos taking things too seriously. I love taking the piss, and when the music is instrumental, the title of a track has a great deal of importance. I mean not all my titles are jokes, but a smile is better than a tear in my book.
You’ve remixed on respected labels like Apparel and True Romance. Tell us a little about those releases?
The Apparel release was actually KX9000 and DJ Kisk who got in touch and asked me if I wanted to remix a track for his EP “Plaisance Food”. It was an incredible and fun experience, and I am still very happy about how that turned out. I love Apparel and KX9000 and I am forever grateful for their trust in my ability.
On True Romance, I helped my good friend Ben Gomori with some keys on a track he was doing, and he ended up landing that release. Ben is an amazing and good soul, and he chose to credit me for something most people in this business never would. And I love him for it. Very honest and very sweet of him. He is an incredible producer, and one of those people who will never yield. The last DJ set Paxton Fettel ever did was alongside him, at Paloma Bar in Berlin, and I am grateful that Paxton’s wake was celebrated with Ben. It was an amazing night, which I will never forget.
Seems like your own label Theorama has been a long time coming. Do you intend to release music by other artists?
Indeed, making my own label has been a dream for many years, and it has been close, but something has always got in the way. However, being part of Greta Cottage Workshop, has felt a lot like having my own. Matt included me a lot in the process of running it and picking out new releases.
The label is an umbrella to tie all my projects together. So instead of having Paxton Fettel do 16 different genres of music, I now have Theorama Records to release a plethora of monikers and bridge the gap between them. However, I might do some remix releases with friends of mine, but only people I know and love.
Is there a sound policy on Theorama?
If it’s good, it goes.
Ground Plane Aerial is interesting moniker. What’s the story on this nom de plume?
With everybody being an artist these days, the options are limited, so many names taken so had to do a deep think. I sat down with Matt from Greta and did a brainstorm. A Ground Plane is an antenna, the aerial is the airspace where said antenna has reach. And in reality, I am a transmitter of frequencies, hence the name.
You built quite a reputation with Paxton Fettel. Why did you ditch the name?
There were both legal and personal reasons for this. Reputation has little importance to me, and in the end, it ended up being more of limitation, than something of value. It took some courage, but I feel free and stronger in my new guise.
Talk through ‘Elusive Maneuvers’ a little.
Elusive Maneuvers is the first outing on my own label, and it turned out exactly how I dreamed it would when I started thinking about the label. It features a lot of newly learned mixing and instrument techniques, as well as new studio gear and instruments.
You played all of the instruments on the tracks. Tell us a little about what you used and the arrangements.
Nord Wave Synth
Sandberg California Masterpiece Jazz Bass (4 String)
Fender Jazz-A-Caster Will Ray Signature Model
Roland TD-25 Electronic drum kit (Using Addictive Drums and BFD Sound Libraries)
Roland RD-64 Midi Keyboard using Kontakt Library and the Keyscape Package
Both my Guitar and Bass are recorded Through a series of pedals.
Moogerfooger Low Pass Filter, Phaser and Chorus
And the Origin Effects Cali 76 Compressor
Processing Gear, Microphones and Speakers
Chandler Curve Bender
Rupert Neve Designs 551 EQ
API 550A EQ
Rodec Sherman Restyler
Warm Audio WA273 EQ
Elektron Analog Heat
Eve Audio SC307 And Genelec 8020 Speakers
Universal Audio Apollo x16 Audio Interface.
As well as a few different digital plugins. Mostly reverbs, Tape effects, and some favourite UAD Plugins too.
Sennheiser MD441 x2 for stereo recordings.
SE Electronics Ruperneve RNR1 Ribbon Mic
Electrovoice RE20 Mic
How much time each day do you spend in the studio?
More than I spend on the toilet, less than I spend in bed.
Where is your studio? What are your most favourite things in there?
I live in my studio. Most of my apartment here in Copenhagen is my studio, there’s a couch and a bed too.
I’ve spent most of my life buying and selling gear. All the items I have now, are those which have stood the test of time, and which I find are those that make me able to achieve the sound I want. They’re all equally important, and picking a favourite is too hard. But the list is there, so maybe your readers have their own favourites amongst the stuff I use?
The music industry is a constantly changing landscape. What are some of the challenges you face as a producer?
I could say many things, but no one will ever say it better than Terrence Mckenna.
“We have to stop CONSUMING our culture. We have to CREATE culture. DON’T watch TV, DON’T read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your OWN roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are — NOW — is the most immediate sector of your universe. And if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered. You’re giving it all away to ICONS. Icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion. What is real is you, and your friends, your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told No, you’re unimportant, you’re peripheral — get a degree, get a job, get a this, get that, and then you’re a player. You don’t even want to play that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.” Terrence Mckenna.
What ways do you think the industry could change to support artists more?
Take the power and money away from anyone who isn’t creating the culture and the art. Diminish returns on streaming so that plays have less value the more you get. As well as try to inspire the audience to be interested in the science and the craftsmanship of music, instead of the attitude, money, fame and lifestyle associated. No one should be a multi-millionaire because of their art, or because of anything really because our art and culture suffer as we teach people that popularity is a sign of quality. It’s a big lie, and one of the most deranged ideas when it comes to art and culture. Every overly wealthy artist is responsible for thousands of poor artists. Not because they are better, but because of the way the music industry has turned its back on the scientific part of what music is.
How do you source new music as a DJ?
Friends, Colleagues, artists I like, mixtapes, DJ sets and going to clubs when possible.
Can you tell us three tracks that rarely leave your record box?
Linkwood – Another Late Night
Aretha Franklin – Get It Right
Laurence Guy – Your Good Times Will Come.
When you are not making music, what do you like to do?
I have a big interest in nature, and gaming. Playing computer games with friends or enjoying the beauty of nature is incredibly satisfying. As well as constantly trying to become a better version of myself. I’ve had many personal battles in life, and I feel like life without anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem has only just begun. I am doing everything I can to enjoy every fleeting second I have in this dimension of existence.
There are a lot of people with good words to say about you and about your music. Is it important to you the impact you make on people personally?
After I started liking myself and feeling confident about my music, inspiring other people with it is a nice addition to feeling great about my own stuff.
Do you have someone who is a mentor to you?
Life is my mentor. My list of inspirations is far longer than my list of studio gear, so I’ll keep that to myself! My music is happy, uplifting, and ecstatic because that is what I want to give to people.
You strike me as a sensitive soul. Would that be a fair statement?
Very fair, I am hypersensitive, or so my therapist told me, and it resonates well with how I experience this existence.
If you weren’t making music, what do you think you would be doing?
I tried not to once and it made me absolutely miserable. Making music is the most therapeutic and satisfying thing I know. It resonates with my soul and works in tandem with the rest of life’s progression.
What do you have on your horizon for the rest of this year?
This year is absolutely dedicated to trying to create as much vibe as I can and keep improving my game. Sharing some of this journey is also on the cards, so expect some more Ground Plane Aerial. And hopefully being able to put food on my table, deal with my economical debt and get by with what I need. Nothing more than that.
Thank you for your valuable time Theo.
Big thanks to you for taking interest in what I have to say, and to all the people who resonate with my vibe. I am both honoured and privileged to have contributed, be it just for the time it took to listen to the songs or for you to read this interview.
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