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Interview: Multi-Instrumentalist Paul Stafford

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Q: You received your first drum kit at the age of five. Did your family already know you had an interest in music?

A: I would say yes. The drum kit was purchased based on the constant beating on shoe boxes. My mindset was drumming as one would do in a school marching band. Although not being my main instrument, it definitely played an important part of my younger years as a multi-instrumentalist on stage in my brother's band.

Q: Growing up, what artists had the biggest impact on you, creatively speaking?

A: I was always focused on bands instead of a certain artist early on. Learning the character of each band members instrument as well as different ways to approach a particular instrument has always been a very important part of my approach. Return to Forever was one of the first bands that really caught my attention. I would read the album covers from front to back and cross reference the artist with other projects or bands at that time. It gave me a great understanding of versatility and being able to identify with the artist approach on any given project. I was later introduced to the sounds of Jeff Lorber Fusion in the late '70s. I've been hooked by this guy since. There are others, but Lorber's approach has always amazed me.

Q: Your brother was also a musician. What did he do and was he an influence on you?

A: My brother Frank Stafford played trumpet through high school as well as with a few local bands around Houston, Texas. He introduced me to sheet music at a very young age. This was a proactive process years before entering high school. I was playing all brass instruments by now and learning concert (symphony) sheet music, for in high school it was important to claim a spot in the school band. He would place a particular piece in front of me and perform it on his trumpet as a reference as I would rush home to perfect my chops on my cornet.

Q: When did you realize that music was going to be an integral part of your adult life?

A: I've always believed that if you visualize and understand the process with hard work and timing, anything is possible. I was around 14 or 15 years of age performing around Houston and Austin and realized that my sounds were forming quite well based on my approach to each instrument. It was at that time that I began to believe and visualize that this could be a strong possibility.

Q: What instruments do you play? What did you learn first?

A: My main instrument are keyboards. I favor the old analog sounds as well as the demanding sound of a grand piano. I've played all brass - bass and treble clef instruments, anything percussive, and I'm a student of strings (guitar and bass) at the moment. The drums were my first instrument; I've always loved great rhythm. I did a particular song titled “The Brown Recluse" with the CD being of the same title back in 1996. This piece will give you a greater understanding of my drumming as well as my appreciation for fusion.

Q: You relocated to Europe in 1982. How did that affect your evolution as an artist?

A: That was around the time - 1982, 1983 - MIDI became available. I remember it quite well, visiting my first European studio in Germany and being introduced to this technology. I was intrigued and immediately became aware of the possibilities. I was also introduced to the early fusion sounds of the group Brand X. This was the first time I heard Phil Collins on drums. I began to understand the importance of music as an international language.

Q: How would you describe the jazz scene in Houston, Texas?

A: Although I'm a bit reclusive while working on music in Houston, the jazz scene is in constant growth here, thanks to one of our college-radio stations and the support of its 250,000 weekly listeners. There's an annual four-day “Jazz Fest" hosted by the Red Cat Jazz Cafe of Houston in the Moody Garden district located in Galveston, TX.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your new single, “Chill'd"?

A: My music always reflect the way I'm feeling at the moment. Although the majority of my music will reflect a soulful urban rhythm, be it jazz, blues, fusion, funk, or rock. “Chill'd" was a late-night groove that had been in my head for sometime. Like most artists, my music is born before the storm, when my mind is at peace and everything is quiet. If you listen to an artist closely, you can tell a lot about them within the tone/character of the music. “Chill'd" is a taste of many tonalities and characters of music that is down in my soul. My passion is fusion and or rock fusion while not being limited to any particular genre.

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