Q+A: Five minutes with Paul Sawyer

Few other artists can attest to a career as long and lucrative as Paul Sawyer’s. Getting his start in the UK’s burgeoning house scene in the 90’s, Sawyer has gone on to play at iconic venues from London’s Ministry of Sound to Ibiza, and work with labels at the fore of the house and tech house scenes. This year, the DJ and producer is celebrating a milestone 30 years in the game with the release of his retrospective compilation, 30 Years A DJ and a show on DI.FM. We caught up with Sawyer to reflect on the past three decades, and to find out what’s next for him going forward. 


Download and stream 30 Years A DJ here


Hi Paul, welcome to The Playground. It’s great to have you.

Hey, thanks for inviting me to chat with you.

Set the tone for us. Where did your journey with music begin?

I’ve been involved in music all my life to be honest. From learning to play the piano, violin and drums from a very young age and playing in bands at school. When I left school I drove my brother to raves all over the UK and just loved the scene. I started to play around with decks around 1990, but it wasn’t until 1993 when I started playing in clubs. The house music scene was really kicking off in a big way and I managed to secure some bookings. My first gig was at the House of Windsor warming up for Sasha and I also managed to get booked to play in Ibiza, which really changed everything for me.

I just fell in love with DJ’ing and played every night for three months on the island. Carl Cox was a weekly resident and I got to play alongside so many DJ’s including Judge Jules, Brandon Block, Alex P, Lisa Loud and even warmed up for The Prodigy. I returned to the UK and was invited to join Menage a Trois in Southampton. We started promoting boat parties every month and every A-list DJ wanted to play at our parties. Mixmag were on the boats every month writing about the events and we ended up touring the UK as a result. I ran that brand for 10 years before going solo and what a journey that was. I still have all the flyers from back then saved in an album.

You’re celebrating a milestone of three decades in the industry. What have some of your career highlights been so far?

In terms of my production, I’ve always had labels that I wanted to aim for to one day have releases on. All the labels I’ve released on to date I’ve followed and supported before securing a release with them. Labels like Perfecto, Pattern (part of Future Sound Of Egypt) and Black Hole Recordings have been on my radar for ages, so I’m chuffed to have managed to release with them.

During 2016 I got to meet with the team behind Toolroom and chatted with Mark Knight which ended up with us securing lots of our tracks on Krafted Digital being licensed to Toolroom compilation albums. 

There’ve been so many amazing events that I’ve played at over the years, such as Bedrock, Renaissance, Cream, loads of time at Ministry of Sound and Egg, London. Also overseas in Hungary, Ibiza, USA etc. Probably one of my favourite places to play is in San Francisco, especially at the Airpusher events.

Having my music played by the big hitters is a great feeling too. I always think it’s a nod from those DJ’s to include your music. During the pandemic I made a bootleg remix of Need to Feel Loved by Reflekt and Tiesto played it at his stream from Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. 

The most recent highlight has to be being invited to host a show on BBC Radio 1, that’s just a dream come true for me. I’ve listened to the specialist dance shows ever since Pete Tong started the Essential Selection, so to end up being on there myself and representing our label is amazing.

What do you still hope to achieve in the future? Do you still have any major goals?

There’s still places I’d like to play and have not had the chance to visit. Top of the list is Argentina, I have a lot of people supporting my music there, so I hope to sort out some dates one day. I also really want to play a Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan, it’s been on my bucket list for years and also Burning Man. I’ve been invited to play at Burning man a few times, but just hasn’t worked out yet.

I also want to grow the management side of Krafted. We’ve already kicked it off and represent Nick Muir, Amare, Lorrainne, Ana Be and Stephani B. All amazing artists in their own right. I love helping people on their journey, so I see that being my future as I slow things down for myself.

Your new album, 30 Years A DJ, is both a retrospective and also a new chapter. How did you go about curating this tracklist to reflect your journey?

My focus was to create a journey. I went through a stage of making melodic techno, which suits my early night sets more than peak time, so it was essential that I reflected what I’d do if I was playing live.

The album builds to my more full on tracks and I also wanted to showcase remixes of my tracks that I absolutely love and have played in many of my sets. It was also important for me to finish the album on a downtempo track, so the 08 Pulse cinematic remix of my track ‘Waiting All My Life’ that features Ana Be was perfect for that.

Was it interesting to see your older material beside the new material, and how do you think you’ve evolved since the beginning?

I do think my music has evolved a lot! When I started producing I wasn’t bothered about having a particular sound, so I experimented with various sounds and genres.

I found that although I enjoyed doing that, I needed to really think about being consistent so that people knew what to expect when one of my releases came out. It also needed to reflect what I play, and in turn my label needed to do the same. 

When I started Krafted Underground, I was releasing a variety of genres and it soon evolved to focusing on progressive house.

The album includes some of my tracks that sit in the melodic house/techno bracket through to what I’m more known for, uplifting progressive house. My music always tends to cross over to the trance DJs, even though it’s not produced at a fast bpm that you’d expect with trance.

Could you tell us a bit about your radio show on DI.FM? What and who can we expect to hear?

I’m really looking forward to the show, especially as I have managed to get so many of my friends involved. There’s 30 DJ’s over 30 hours, and I invited people that have meant something to me over the years. It was actually not easy to whittle it down to 30 DJs after I made a list of people to ask. The show could easily have been twice as long!

The guys I work with at Krafted are all involved and some of the DJ’s that I’ve known for years like Dave Seaman, Anthony Pappa, Paul Oakenfold, Phil ‘Moonface’ Thompson, Collective States and John Johnson. I’ve brought on board lots of artists that I admire including Solarstone, Kristina Sky, Lauren Mia, Lorrainne, Just Her, Wally Lopez, Bound to Divide and more.

The show starts on 25th February at 5pm UK Time and runs through to Monday 27th Feb where I end the show from 3pm. Can’t wait to hear all the sets.

What has the experience of working with BBC Radio One been like for you?

That came as a big surprise. It’s funny as I was feeling low about the scene at the time, what with the pandemic putting a stop to events. 

They are great people to work with, extremely professional and it was amazing to see how often our shows were being repeated. It’s an opportunity to really expose our sound, label and the artists we work with. I’ll never forget the moment I sat and listened to the first show and the Radio 1 idents had been added to the mix. Such a buzz.

We’ve completed two six month residencies now, after being invited back for 2022 and then a one-off show that Simon Sinfield and I hosted on 7th January 2023. The show is still available to hear on the BBC Sounds app or website.

We were also invited to the Radio 1 Dance Awards nominations party just before Christmas, so even though I’d met a few of the guys previously at events, the party was a perfect opportunity to meet everyone that works at the station.

They have really made us feel part of the family and have indicated that we will be returning to the show at some point in the near future.

What does the next decade look like for you?

We will be celebrating 10 years of Krafted later this year, so there will be some announcements coming soon.

I’ve got releases coming out this year on Pure Trance, back on Pattern and I’m also producing liquid drum & bass with Simon Sinfield under our new guise Weissach. Really looking forward to our first single that features Ana Be, she just sounds amazing on the track and suits D & B in a big way. We are looking at regularly releasing, so it’s nice to have another outlet and focus on another genre.

We will keep on building the labels over the next 10 years, continuing to release the Chill albums and the Textures album, we’re really happy with how those albums have done so far. Perhaps in 10 years time we will be speaking again about celebrating 40 years! 

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from your thirty years in the industry?

I have found over the years that you really need to just keep going. The music industry is a huge roller-coaster and at times the negativity that surrounds it makes you consider giving up. You hear this talked about a lot and I’ve seen many people just give up and I have considered it many times myself.

So much can be achieved as long as you dedicate a massive amount of time into it and enjoy it along the way. Being prepared to help others is a big part of the scene, working together for the same goal. I’ve managed to connect with so many people over the years in various parts of the world, there aren’t many jobs where you get that opportunity.


Preview 30 Years A DJ below

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