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October 01, 2023 16 min read

Paul Arnold is  52 and is another of our friends we'd like you to meet in our feature Past Present Future series!

Paul is currently A&R for Ultra Publishing and Helix Records hailing from Ipswich Paul paid his dues to the industry by being a pioneer dj of breakbeat and owning and running seminal record labels Certificate 18 and Fat Records 

Paul wears Lucas SB Microcord Shirt

 

Paul Arnold's unique vision to push the boundaries of dance music has led to a legacy few can match. His influence has spread far and wide, from the underground clubs of Europe to the festival main stages of the Americas, and his impact is impossible to ignore. His commitment to innovation and creativity has resulted in some of the most influential dance music of this era. Paul Arnold is truly a pioneer, and his contributions to the dance music industry will be felt for generations to come.

He has enjoyed equal success as a promoter, DJ, and Label Manager; everything he's done reflects how tight his finger is on the pulse of contemporary music. Paul has booked and played alongside some of the scene's biggest and diverse names, Derrick May, Plaid, Fabio, Grooverider and James Lavelle. 

Paul wears UNICO Sp Jean, Thom Denim Shirt

Paul's astute A & R ability first manifested itself in 1992 when he launched his successful proto-jungle label Certificate 18 which produced 75 singles and 18 artist albums. Paul almost single-handedly kick started the careers of many top name producers such as Photek, Klute, Teebee, Pilote, Source Direct, Digital and Polar. 

Paul "Trouble" Arnold as he's also sometimes known by completed a sell out tours of Australia where he headlined the Good Vibrations festival, South America and eventually took up residency in Ibiza with his club night Chew the Fat!

In 2007 after many successful  years of his club nights and record labels being at the forefront of the genre Paul was diagnosed of having  Leukaemia so withdrew from the music business he loved so much and worked so hard for, to focus on himself, getting healthy and changing his lifestyle.

We're happy to say he is clear of Leukaemia now and has been back in the industry he loves and knows so well, still working with new talent, finding new artists and indulging himself in his love of music.

Paul wears an exclusive Paola 1/4 zip Sweatshirt

So, Paul, what's what's your present roll?  What do you do as a job? 

"I am Creative A & R for Ultra Publishing and Helix Records, which is an American based company. Well their headquarters are in America, but it's a global record label and a global  music publisher." 

Okay, and how long have you been in that roll?  

"I've been with Helix…I've been with Patrick Moxie, who owns Ultra Publishing and Helix Records for about 12 years now". 

And what does your work entail? 

"I’m basically an A&R which is the abbreviation for Artists and Repertoire which is the full meaning. We find talent, or talented artists, sign them and help develop and release the new music. We help make it better with more sessions working with other singer, song writers, helping to develop their identity and ultimately release it on the record label. There’s a lot of time spent getting to know the talent, develop a good relationship, agree terms on a contract so you can move forward from there and both parties are protected within the agreement" 

 Do you then you get involved with the legal side as well? 

"to certain extent yeah, you're part of the negotiation to try and get the kind of deal that you want. All deals vary, as it depends on whether there’s an advance for a single, album or two Eps etc. Each deal is different pending where the artist is and the music they have, you're involved in advances on all the deals. Some artists don’t have a finished single to lead with others do, so plenty of variables of where a deal would be, both financially and contractually."  

And is it your job then to find and sign an artist that you see a good future for? 

"With Helix yes. these days a lot of major & smaller labels are signing artists for one or two singles but you can’t develop an artist with one or two singles. So Helix  is more artist focussed, we sign longer term artist deals so we can develop artists over a longer period of time, we may do singles plus an EP, an album or maybe two album options, which many labels don't do anymore. We get better results over a longer period. We like to invest in an artist and it's never a short term thing."

Right, okay so how did you come to get this job? Tell us a bit about your journey!   

"It just evolved by accident, I didn’t really set out to do it. I left school, with just a couple GCSE's, I didn’t go to University and ended up working in a record shop instead, my natural habitat." 

Where was this? 

"I worked in about six record shops in Ipswich, co-founded several before I set up my own shop, I even worked in Woolworths record department whilst running my own shop EFX records in Ipswich, by that point I had worked in nearly every record shop there was in Ipswich. Laurence Bell at Domino Records got me my last record shop job at Beggars Banguet on Putney Bridge in London with two legends Chris & Billy, that was ace and the last record shop I worked in" 

The Ipswich records shops, this was...? 

"It was about '91 and one of the record shops I started was Red Eye Records, I then went to work round the corner with Essential Selection. Rob & Didi had set up their own record label through Prince’s Trust. At that time, people were bringing in demos, all  sorts of  music, but it was early hardcore, drum and bass that was so exciting at the time, so the guys at Essential suggested I set up a record label, I put together a very basic business plan and managed to get £3500 from the Prince's Trust, which was a miracle. That  helped me set up Certificate 18 Records and I somehow managed to press and release a few records, which evolved from there. Alongside the label I started to run and promote club nights in Ipswich as there was nothing going on, nowhere to hear the incredible electronic music that we were selling in the record shop and releasing on the label."

DJing yourself or other DJs and you promoting the events?  

"I didn't really put myself forward to DJ I was more into promoting the nights, but because I was in a record shop and I had alot of records I ended up DJing, warming up for the other guests at my own nights that I was putting on." 

When's the last time you did a DJ set? Do you still play now? 

"I stopped djing professionally in 2007...." 

Was that just out of choice?  

"Kind of, I guess, I ran myself into the ground with my lifestyle. I got ill, very ill.  I was DJing all over the world, running a dj agency, label, club nights, it just caught up with me, I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle, I  had to stop DJing to be well again, a no brainer really". 

What was your illness ? 

"I got leukaemia.. I was diagnosed after a season in Ibiza promoting and DJing ‘Chew the Fat’ at We Love Space on Sundays. It was Chew the Fat’s 10th birthday so every weekend and weekdays I was flying to shows all over the place, partying all the time, probably over 30 dates around UK and Europe. Then come October 2007, things were starting to happen to my body and I was luckily diagnosed early with leukaemia." 

Wow! 

"So yeah, it kind of put a stop to the DJing, as it was the one obvious thing I could do to help. Me djing then was  such an unhealthy lifestyle, the lack of sleep, bad diet, drink, and the obviously things that go with it."   

And now you're fine? 

 "yes health wise. I'm fine. I didn't go back to dj-ing I didn't want to put myself in a situation where all the flying, late nights, partying, lack of sleep would be detrimental to my health again having made a recovery." 

because you were quite prolific at partying,  back in the late 90's from what I remember .....you were working a lot and always out... 

"Who wasn't..(we both laughed) 

Yeah. It just goes to the territory, doesn't it? I was, I mean the whole ride from working in a record shop, promoting the nights and the record label, to then doing the DJing was just… fun. I had a fucking great time and don’t regret any of it. I didn't think of it as work, it was just fun, living in the moment it caught up with me a big lesson learnt" 

Right so at this stage now,  are you enjoying the business, the music business now?

"100%, I love it, absolutely. It's what I do and love it" 

It's obviously different to what you were doing back then. 

"I’m actually in a role which is very similar to what I was doing back then. I was finding new music for my own label and now I’m finding new music for a bigger label, that can release and promote the music globally and I don't have the stress of paying my myself or paying the staff."  

Okay. I Googled your name and it said that you seem to be a record breaker! You have been given the title of “having the longest running breakbeat night in the world”  

"Ha where was that? I guess it was… (laughing) The Chew the Fat!! I was out in Clapham a lot and found myself being asked to play at the launch party for this bar in Brixton, called The Bug Bar, I played on the opening Friday night and it went so well, they asked me to play every Friday. It became an incredible residency where I cut my teeth and honed my DJ skills. I played every Friday night at The Bug Bar for five years, I loved it, it was an incredible time" 

When was this? 

"The early naughties, through the Bug Bar being every Friday, it out grew The Bug Bar, so I took it North of the river, into a monthly night at The Key in Kings Cross, as well as that we took it to the back room in Steve Lawlers night at The End, which then evolved into the Main room at The End. For a period of over 15 years, Chew the Fat was hosting club nights every week in different venues. The breakbeat thing happened to be the scene I was around at the time, which I was into and it was good party music. I always felt it was more than just breakbeat as we played techno, house, broken beats but I booked a lot of the breakbeat djs of the time so it became known Breakbeat night I guess!"

So you we’re doing the nights and then you were also running the record label??

"Yes, correct. I started Certificate 18 Records which was a drum and bass label set up in Ipswich, that led me to London. Lawrence Bell, who runs Domino records (Arctic Monkeys), he was also from Ipswich and he was excited by the music I was releasing and wanted to be involved, so he invested a little and moved me and the label to his office in Wandsworth where I could grow the label with more releases and artist albums. This eventually ended after a large MCPS bill. All the while I was promoting club nights like Breaking Point and the Chew The Fat! And having said I wouldn't do another record label Chew the Fat! The club night led to Fat Records being born"

 Any well known artists came out of that we might know from either record labels? 

"Certificate 18 was about  Drum & Bass, I signed Studio Pressure, he became more well known with his Photek alias. Sounds of Life signed as Source Direct, there was Klute ,Teebee, Polar they're more well known in the Drum and Bass world. On Fat! Records I signed Maribou States first two Eps, released all Foamo’s music, who is now, one half of Gorgon City and Ted Jasper, now known as Berlioz they're probably the most well-known."

So as a DJ and a promoter what nights have stood out to you as your proudest and why? 

"My best nights? Well, actually, there's there's quite a few. Having Derrick May playing in Ipswich was a big night, the fact that Derek May was in Ipswich was mind blowing.  Running Chew the Fat at the Bug Bar every Friday for five years was just incredible, amazing times and then managing to hold a residency at We Love Space in Ibiza. They all send tingles up my spine, thinking about them....  Australia! touring Australia was a lot of fun, they had a great breakbeat scene so went there 8 years in row touring always in their summer, which was in our winter.. The first Christmas day I spent a way from family I found myself on a huge boat sailing around Sydney harbour with Sasha, Digweed and a bunch of other incredible dj's. I remember thinking ! was never going to spend another Christmas in the U.K. after that." 

What about your worst night and why? 

"Errr... there's loads and it's just hard to remember them. I had a great one in Ipswich. DJ Peshay turned up to DJ at the Double O Club whilst some crackhead had me in a headlock behind the DJ booth because he couldn't find his coat. He was punching me in the face when Peshay turned up to get on the decks, Peshay was like “Oi what’s going on ere Paul” I was like “ hold on I won’t be a minute” (we all roar with laughter)

......Being chased around a carpark by a club owner, with an empty bottle of wine to smash over my head, he wanted me back in the club after I left the decks because it was  full of squaddies asking for shit music. I had no choice but to run back in and carry on playing!

 …. things like that. And there were a few real life disasters, all sorts of things. I mean, I played in Argentina and unfortunately there was a big fire where 200 people were killed, it was the year of the tsunami, it was new years eve, eve, was due to play in Buenos Aries but they had shut all the clubs down in the whole of Argentina as such an aweful event,  that was pretty mental. I played in Gothenburg in 1998 the same weekend an arsonist set fire to a club which also killed a couple of hundred kids, awful.. It made me very aware of fire exits after that." 

Have you ever done anything else? Other than working in Woolworths which you mentioned earlier? 

"Not really, nothing serious, none other than I taught music business at a music production school called Point Blank Music for a little while, I really enjoyed it, teaching was very much like a DJ set, the ups and downs, engagement of a crowd, the buzz after a good lesson. I was still running the label alongside.... I did the usual crap after school kind of jobs, in a pig factory, loads of washing up jobs. I never wanted to do bar jobs as I thought I wouldn't be  able to remember what people ordered." 

Ok So you grew up in Ipswich in the 80s? Is that right? 

"Yes, alongside the great football team of Sir Bobby Robson."

I guess that makes you an Ipswich town supporter??

"Off course- I still go to home matches, sometimes with my son, when i can as I live closer to Ipswich now I've moved out of London"

Any memorable stories that sticks in your mind from like school, school days? Good or bad?Y funny ones? 

"I got pretty much chucked out of school for skating to school, in sixth form. Just kind of rollerskating in backwards  into a teacher they'd enough of me, so I was sent to see the headmistress at the end of the year, she said "you blew it with us when you skated to school". That was it!! 

So then I went to Suffolk College and a mate who went there for a bit was a weed dealer, so obviously we didn't get much work done there. And that's when I ended up working in the record shop."

Quick Fire Questions!

 

What was your first car you ever bought?

 "I was actually given a car is that cool?" 

 

Depends what it was! 

"A red Maestro" 

 

Maestro? A car that is definitely not a great looker. 

"I pranged it a few times!"

 

Your  favourite car you've ever owned?

 "White Peugeot 205 GTI."

 

 The 1.9 or 1.6?

 "It was 1.6 Actually, thank God."  

 

 What's your favourite decade? 

"I guess I can say for the nighlife it was the 00’s but that's 20 years ago now. The 90s were raw hedonistic days, but man you know, dance music, clubbing was all just so new, formative & exciting. It wasn’t 88 but seeing where we are now, those decades were untapped, no phones, the whole going out, raves and the culture was so new. Un-commercialised to an extent compared to now. The club nights and the whole scene were amazing. I was still very young when I was living in Ipswich, so felt I grew into it a little bit slower than the guys before me who were there at the raves in 88. The 2000's, when I was really Djing internationally, I was able to travel the world with it that was incredible as well."

 

What you listen to now?

"I’m listening to Good Lies album by Overmono actually.  Yeah. On XL recordings." 

 

What's your favourite clothing brand? Do you have one?? 

"Not really. The brand  doesn't bother me. It’s more about what i want to wear or feel comfortable in." 

 

Ok then Nike or Adidas?

 "I was generally Adidas apart from I loved Nike Air Max ‘Safaris’ which I can’t get any more so Adidas."

 

First pair of Jeans you bought, what brand was it? 

"It was Syndicate. Have you heard of them?  Syndicate Stretch." 

 

No I’ve not heard of them! Do you shop alot?

"No, Im crap at shopping for myself, rather by two of something so I don’t have to go again."

 

What's the last thing you bought and where from?

"That was last week, some posh charcoal from a local store in the village I live in!"

 

Posh charcoal? for barbecuing?

"Yep, smokes well so makes the food taste sweet!!"

 

 

Okay. Was there a specific shop you used to go to when you were growing up in Ipswich?

"A record shop, Andy’s Records."

 

What's your favourite 5 albums?

Plaid - Mbuki Mvuki

Smog - Knock Knock 

Four Tet - Albums - Pause, Rounds & There is Love In You-All 3 are amazing

Public Enemy - Yo Bum Rush The Show & Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us back

Fugazi -13 Songs

 

That's more than 5 but we'll allow you! (Ha ha), what's your favourite item of clothing? That you've got

"I don't have one sorry, not good for a clothing brand interview. But whatever piece of clothing I own, I wear them till they fall off me." 

 

Most cherished item?  Anything, record, jewellery. …………Dog? (Laugh!)

"My record collection, as I can't get rid of some I guess. I also kept a lot of the flyers from the club nights I promoted and djayed at, they help keep memories."

At school, were you in any sort of tribes? So was you mod, casual? 

"No I guess we're just a bit later than mod. Rockers & casuals? I certainly wasn't cool enough and or have money to buy the clothes and I was just wasn't that cool, I was kind of very average middle of the road, sort of student who  started listening to and getting into music."  

So what was your first record you bought?

"I was given the Police Regatta de Blanc as a Christmas present. I loved it and  I knew every lyric on every single track. I used to play the album over and over and over again. That definitely got me into vinyl because soon after I bought Adam and the Ants and Duran Duran albums."

Moving on to the future. So how do you see the music industry in the future?

 

"If I knew I'd be rich man. It's got to be artist based and real people. As AI can make anything now. So having an artist or finding an artist with a point of view, and something to say is going to be ever more important."

 

So there is a lot of talk about AI making music and more?

 

"Yeah, it's definitely starting to come into it here! But we want a real artist, so we will stay away from that tech, that being said, artists will use AI to help make their records. They can certainly help create, recreate things, sample things..." 

 

Any tips of new artists or  producers or record labels to look out for that you’ve  seen or heard?

 

"Yeah, DJ Heartstring & Marlon Hoffstadt from Germany. All Cane & Christian Rodgers from Ireland and Scotland respectively, these guys are just pushing it out. It's kind of trance, which I hated when I was growing up but it's kind of fresh now. I love the melodies, energy and feel good music that kids are into. It's up tempo, it's fun, it’s energetic! Post pandemic, they kind of need that, right?"

 

Yeah agreed, but it's new music rather than samples?

 

"Loads of samples as always, every 10 years, people recycle as a new generation hasn’t heard what was before, it’s fun.."

 

It does seem to be a lot of samples in “new” songs.

 

"Yeah, but it's kind of natural. People have always sampled, there's another generation that have not heard the records we listened to, so if it's good, a reactive tune, why not recreate in a new piece of music. It’s a new interpretation, I don’t get too caught up in the rights and wrongs of it."

 

Will clubbing  still be a thing or will it be video clubbing? 

 

"I went to a club in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago it was a really great atmosphere. Even though they all had phones, when someone put on a tune, they put their phones up in the air but it didn’t take away from the atmosphere there was still human connection in the club……"

 

Do you think it will still be possible, as you did, to start a record label and produce artists for other people? Or do you think it's driven by the big guys?

 

"It's far easier for people to start labels, produce, because it's so cheap. Anyone can make a track on their laptop, in their bedroom and post on Soundcloud or Bandcamp."

 

 Okay. Viny! Will vinyl still be a thing for the future? 

 

"I hope so, I think so. It’ll keep ticking over. People will still keep making it. People like having something  physical to hold. But it’s niche!"

 

Niche compared to the downloads?

 

"No not really downloads but streaming?  Everyone is streaming, I guess DJs are downloading to be able to play"

 

Finally Paul, any new plans for you?

 

"Yeah, I'm also music mentoring, helping young kids through the early stages of their music/producer/dj careers  so that's rewarding and enjoyable, giving back to the youth drawing from my experiences in the industry!" 

 

Thanks for your time Paul!

Checkout more about Paul "Trouble" Arnold by listening to 

 10 years of Fat Tunes! Spotify

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