Stephen Paul Taylor

The Self Proclaimed Synth-pop King of the World Speaks!

Stephen Paul Taylor says:

We made an album really quick and I had no big plans

A lot of people developed addictions during the pandemic

I do a lot of dancing and a lot of bending

There’s so many free plug ins that just blow my mind

Stephen Paul Taylor knows the meaning of the word “success”. One of his videos got more than 10 million views, he has performed on the german talent show “Das Supertalent” and he in now working on a double album with musicians who usually collaborate with Kate Bush and Jamiroquai.
Let’s get to know him better in this interview for The Electronic Corner. 

Sir Joe: You went from playing your song EKSF in the streets of Berlin to playing on “Das Supertalent” and now, for your forthcoming double album, you are collaborating with musicians such as drummer Preston Heyman and bass guitarist Derrick Mcintyre.
How could all of this happen, leaving aside that your talent obviously played a big role in it?

Stephen Paul Taylor: It was kind of a happy coincidence how everything happened. If you get really spiritual about it, you could say the universe just helped me out a little bit or something.
When all this first happened, I was at a point where I put my head down, and I just worked. I started playing as much as possible, wrote as many songs as I could, and my friend came over and recorded my album in a really low key kind of way.
I did the tracks the way I do them on the street, just very simple. We made an album really quick and I had no big plans.
I didn’t release it on Spotify, I don’t even know if Spotify was around 10 years ago. It was just a very happy event, I guess, when I was filmed, and that went viral.

SJ: So, we could say one thing led to another…


SPT: Yes, and it all came from a dark place, because I was actually going through a breakup, and I was feeling really terrible.
One of the few things that made me happy was to go out and play music, because when I played music I didn’t have those bad feelings anymore. Depression was gone, sadness was gone, I was feeling really good. It’s amazing, like a magic drug, I guess.

SJ: If you are the “synth-pop king of the world”, as stated on your Facebook page, but “Synth-pop is dead”, at least according to the title of your 2020 album … what happens to the king?

SPT: I’ll tell you the origin of that. It is pretty tongue in cheek and the origin is a list on the YouTube channel WatchMojo.
In a video, they listed the top 10 music genres which according to them are dead. There was dubstep and a bunch of others, including synth-pop, and I was like: “What? They’re saying synth-pop is dead, but I tell everybody to make synth-pop”.
So I thought it would be kind of a funny title, and I still think I’m the synth-pop king. (laughs)

SJ: Considering that two Madonna “fans” sued the artist because she showed up late on stage at a gig they were attending and they had to get up early the next morning, do you think that in the relationship between artist and fans there is still room for irony and exaggeration, which you use occasionally in the name of fun, or are we heading toward a customer / supplier form of relationship?


SPT: It’s an interesting question but I really don’t know the answer. I feel like it’s been happening for a while, like, people acting a bit ridiculous.
I remember Axl Rose was playing in Vancouver, and he was really late, maybe 2 hours, and people freaked out. They actually started a riot, and were throwing stuff. And it happened maybe 25, 30 years ago.
That’s not exactly the same as suing, but it’s definitely an overreaction to it and maybe you could consider it a supply and demand thing.
I guess we can just wait and see if this sort of thing continues or not. We’re definitely living in entitled times. I think more and more people are feeling entitled to certain things, or being treated.

SJ: So, are you usually on time on stage, or do you like people to wait for you?

SPT: Well, in Berlin it’s like you should start a concert at 10 PM, and then it won’t start until 11, for example, or 12. So many times I’ve been asked to play at a certain time, and then I end up playing later anyway.
If they ask me at what time I’m playing, I just say “I don’t know. I don’t make decisions”, but I try not to be late myself. Sometimes, for sound checks, I may be 15 minutes late, but usually I’m pretty on time.

SJ: When you think of the Casio keyboard that you used to write your very first song when you were 14, what kind of feelings arise in you?

SPT: To be honest with you, I don’t really remember the keyboard very much. I remember the experience, and I remember the beat and the accompaniment that came with it. But I can’t for the life of me remember what it was like, or what model it was.
I remember where I was, though. I was sitting in the hallway at my uncle’s place, I remember that moment very clearly, but I just don’t remember the actual Casio keyboard for some reason. To me, it was just a means to make the track.

SJ: From your very first song to the last (so far): “Kicking the Habit”, released very recently, deals with an addiction you developed during the pandemic. Can you please elaborate on that?

SPT: I started exploring ketamine. Actually, I first took it years ago, and I was like, “What is this?” It was a little like LSD in a way. It’s a dissociative anesthetic and I really liked the effects, but I didn’t develop any sort of addiction at the time.
When the pandemic started, though, I was in a position where I could do it once a week, and I think a lot of people developed addictions during that time. When you’re stuck in the house and there’s not that much to do, it’s pretty easy to fall into something like that, I think.
Anyway, it kind of took over for a few years, and it got to the point where if I went a day without it, I was like, “Wow, I made it one day”. That was not a place I wanted be, and I ended up in a hospital as well, so I just decided that I needed to take care of myself. I was getting kind of freaked out. No good.

SJ: Did it affect your creativity as well?

SPT: Not in a negative way. Actually, during the pandemic I started learning classical pieces on the piano.
I’ve never taken piano lessons, I was trained on other instruments, but I just started learning Deboussy and all this stuff, and it was really good for my playing, I became a much better piano player.
I don’t remember if I wrote many songs, I think I used that time mostly to improve my skills.

SJ: Should you write a song in a completely different genre to what you do right now, what would it be and why?

SPT: I like the idea of combining different genres, so I’d probably try to combine them, but, instinctively, I think I would say folk. It would be a really stripped down folk album, very emotional and maybe not as jokey as I tend to be sometimes.
It would be something to make people cry, basically Americana folk, like Susan Vega.

SJ: You have been living in Germany for quite some time, but let’s assume you never left Canada. How would you see yourself right now, in terms of your music career?

SPT: When I go back to Canada, I’m pretty amazed at how expensive the country is, I’m always blown away. It’s fair to say, though, that when you’re in a country, the amount you are paid is adjusted according to how much you spend.
I think in Canada they support the arts, but I feel like in Berlin, at least, there’s more opportunities.
I went back to Vancouver, which is where I spent a lot of time, and the city has completely changed from when I was there playing with my old band.
We used to play Vancouver a lot, we built up a following, we felt a really nice energy and it was a little more livable. It didn’t cost you as much to live there, but now it has changed a lot.
I went to ‘Commercial Drive’, which is where we spent a lot of time because it’s where the scene was really happening. All these cafes I used to go to, they all shut down, and there’s a little more gentrification.
So I don’t know if I could really do what I’m doing now in Canada. Maybe in Montreal or in the States, a place like Austin maybe. It should be a place where there’s more subculture and more of a supportive community for artists. It’s really hard to say.

SJ: Still on this subject, I have interviewed other people who live in Berlin and what you just said reminded me of a quote by Neversleep.
He said something like “What I love here is that nobody cares what you do. You may do avant garde, you may do any kind of electronic music, nobody will ever judge you. There is total freedom and opportunities to meet other creative minds, therefore lots of chances for collaboration”.
Do you agree with such a description?

SPT: I do agree, but at the same time I think people tend to be quite individualistic. So, there is indeed a sense of community, but there’s also a feeling that people tend to do their own thing.
I was talking to a friend of mine who was in Berlin, and she moved to the UK. She’s half british, half american, and she was saying that in Liverpool, where she lives now, you get the feeling that you could really move ahead, whereas you don’t necessarily get that feeling here in the same way.
I think Berlin is a great city for creation, for incubation. You can have a project, work on it, get different ideas, put your energy towards those ideas and finalize them. In fact, I’ve had a number of different musicians from here on my recordings.
However, I feel like if you wanna grow past that, and really have a good career in music, it might work better in other places.

SJ: Your live performances are described as “electrifying, energetic and colorful”. How do you develop the ideas that you bring on stage and what is your most typical stage set-up?

SPT: My live setup has started to evolve a little bit. Now I have two keyboards, one is the Roland VR-09, very sophisticated and quite expensive, the other is a Yamaha PSR E363, very cheap and falling apart.
At the last show I did, I also incorporated a bit more of Ableton Live, to make the beats more punchy.
Then I have different costumes. I do costume changes and I do a lot of dancing and a lot of bending. I like to bend back as far as I can go. I was working on doing the splits, but unfortunately I think I pulled my glute muscles, so I’m taking a break from from doing that.

SJ: Is the stuff you do on stage spontaneous, or is it something you rehearse a lot? In other words, are you a planner, or do you rely mostly on your instinct?

SPT: I rely on my instinct, but I also have a lot of stuff that has been developed over time. So, on certain songs I do, I have theatrics. For example, every time there’s a break on a specific song, I do a kick, it’s the same song where I also lean back.
But I would like to spend more time working on the show, so I can get even more accurate movements and things like that.
I really respect musicians like Michael Jackson, because he was so meticulous with every movement that it’s mastery, to me.

SJ: How about your studio? Are you mostly a hardware or a software guy, and which products do you use more often?

SPT: I use a lot of software, I’ve been basically accumulating a lot of plug ins. I have everything from Waves and there’s so many free plug ins that just blow my mind, like Vital.
I like products by Voxengo, Toybox and BABY Audio, but my favorite company is probably Symantec, they have some really good stuff.
In terms of hardware, I have an expensive AKG microphone, which I finally purchased. I also have a Sennheiser, which I use mostly when I play live. Then I have an Audient iD4 audio interface, and of course the Yamaha and Roland keyboards I mentioned earlier.
My DAW of choice is Ableton Live.

(Now I invite you to watch the following video, starting at 23:02. We are going to have a look at Stephen’s studio).

We say thanks to “King” Stephen Paul Taylor for the interview and we wish him all the best.

Don’t forget to visit his official website

You are also welcome to check the other interviews for The Electronic Corner

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