By Tom Charles
Before he plays a Westcott show Monday, March 18, 20 Watts catches up with the ever-evolving DJ, who explains why he keeps coming back to Syracuse and the way he’s crafted his image.
Check out our gallery from the 3/18 show.
Paper Diamond (birth name Alex Botwin) can’t get enough of Syracuse. Having just played a set here in November with The Knocks, the Boulder, Colo.-based DJ is already coming back to the Westcott Theater tonight, this time opening for dubstep ear-bleeder Excision. This’ll be his fifth set in Cuse in the past three years, and like any true Orangeman, he “eats at Alto Cinco every time [he] plays in Syracuse.”
It’s the Westcott Theater’s intimate atmosphere that keeps drawing Paper Diamond back. “I love to play at big festivals,” he says, “but I think it’s really a blast playing small clubs where you can see everyone’s reactions.” Lately, much of this fun has come at the expense of “brotem poles” — bros sitting on other bros’ shoulders, filling a role formerly reserved for children and girls in crop-tops — for which he’s been filtering out the music just to call the dudes out mid-set. “There are some funny people out there,” he says kiddingly, “but I’m funny, too, so what can you say?”
This level of direct fan engagement is what keeps Paper Diamond going. “I really spend a lot of time focusing on every aspect of the Paper Diamond project,” he said. “I feel like that’s what makes me different from everyone else.” And he’s probably right. From the music and images released, flyers used for promotion, all the way down to the routing of what cities and venues to play at, the DJ has a hand in everything that comes out of the Paper Diamond brand. He hand-chooses his openers, designs and builds his website, and does all project artwork…all usually from the back of his tour bus.
Perhaps his most impressive non-musical contribution to his brand came when he personally designed the LED stage setup he used while touring last year. “I don’t have to be so involved with the process,” says the DJ, “but I chose to be. I want to know that things are being done properly. It’s afforded me to not only focus on the musical but on the visual aspect of the project as well.”
Days before his interview with 20 Watts, Paper Diamond got his first tattoo: a penrose triangle, which he uses as a reminder to keep working hard: “Basically, it’s an impossible shape unless you’re looking at it from just the right angle,” he says. “I’m constantly reminded that anything is possible if you work really hard and set your minds to it.”
Paper Diamond’s new EP, Paragon, is due for release April 16. Listen to the record’s first track, “They Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” above. Tickets for his concert with Excision and Vaski tonight at The Westcott Theater cost $30. Music starts at 8 p.m.