DJ, broadcaster, club promoter, concert producer, journalist, publicist, magazine publisher, music producer, record label owner, webmaster, and iPhone app designer are just a few of the titles that have applied to Dave Paul over the years. But the San Francisco born and bred Paul is probably best known for both his respected Bomb Hip-Hop Magazine, that began 20 years ago (hence the Bomb 20 Year Anniversary party tomorrow night at Madrone Bar in San Francisco) and his pioneering Bomb Hip-Hop record label that came a few years later, and would be instrumental in helping propel the global turntablist movement thanks to his influential Return of the DJ series.
I first met Dave back in the late 80's when he was at KCSF out of City College of San Francisco doing a weekly hip-hop radio show called Beat Box Fridays (he'd already been DJing for a good five years at that point) and was immediately impressed with what an ambitious, hard-working, self-driven, and focused individual he was - but never in an overbearing or unpleasant way. Dave is just a genuinely nice guy: someone you want to be around and someone who is always upfront and always passionate about his work. He is also never one to rest on his laurels.
Since I've known him he has been a hustler; up at the crack of dawn working hard on whatever project he has going on at the time. Key to his success is that he doesn't wait for things to have to be done - he projects ahead and initiates change in the present: like how one day he developed an iPhone app for Bomb Hip-Hop. And as times change (especially in the ever fickle music industry) Dave always seems prepared; constantly evolving and expanding his skill base.
These days he flies all over the country to do his famed Prince Vs Michael Jackon parties (in the past month he's DJed this event in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco) - a traveling party he's tirelessly built up over the past nine years. Yesterday I caught up with the man synonymous with Bomb Hip-Hop, since he basically ran the whole record label and magazine all by himself, to ask him about both the history of Bomb Hip-Hop and his own personal illustrious career which have always been so closely intertwined.
Amoeblog: If you had to pick just one thing to describe what it is you do - would it be DJ or something else?
Dave Paul: It would definitely have to be DJ’ing. I started when I was 17 years old and that’s what led me down all my other music/entertainment paths.
Amoeblog: The very first time you DJ'ed: what records do you remember spinning?
Dave Paul: Back then it was rap, electro hip-hop, Miami freestyle and rock. So I was spinning Run DMC, Ice T, Debbie Deb, Def Leppard and Prince. So as you can see not much has changed cause I’m still playing all those records. What’s old is new again.
Amoeblog: You are about the celebrate the Bomb Hip Hop 20th year anniversary but it goes back more than 20 years for you, back to the KCSF newsletter and the radio show - which both played role in magazine and label -right?
Dave Paul: KCSF radio was only broadcast on cable TV channel, on Viacom 25. But like you always told me Billy, when you have lemons, you make lemonade. So I took what I had, which wasn’t much, and made it into something. Sometimes you have to be a magician, and pull something out of thin air. While I did the radio show that lead to the newsletter which turned into the magazine and from that came mail order, concerts, a store and the record label.
Amoeblog: Doing the magazine from scratch - starting out, what was it like dealing with labels and artists? And what other hip-hop news outlets were out there at that time?
Dave Paul: The main publication at the time was The Source. But then there were other indie zines like the Bomb - One Nut Network, The Flavor, Straight From The Lip and others.
Amoeblog: What was the BOMB's editorial niche or slant on hip-hop or was it simply all encompassing?
Dave Paul: It was pretty much everything. I think at the time it was just about real rap music, and the hip-hop culture, not just here in the US but internationally.
Amoeblog: How did you get the idea to do flexi discs and how many did you do in all and how many were pressed up of each?
Dave Paul: Punk and rock mags had done it and I noticed that no rap magazine had done it. So we did. We only pressed 500 units of each flexi.
Amoeblog: You put on a lot of legendary hip-hop live shows as Bomb Hip Hop Magazine presents. What were some of the best or most memorable ones?
Dave Paul: One of the best ones is the one I don’t have on video. Pharcyde, Masta Ace, Nas, Crazy Legs and more. That was an incredible show.
Amoeblog: What are some of the most significant changes in the rap music industry in 1991 or 1993 versus now/today?
Dave Paul: As far as the industry back in the day if you made a quality indie album you could sell 5,000 copies, now you’re lucky if you can sell 500 units. But that’s just not the rap industry that the music industry in general. Kids nowadays think and expect music to be free.
Amoeblog: And how much has the vibe of the Bay Area hip-hop scene specifically changed between 1991 and 2011?
Dave Paul: Funny thing is I don’t think it’s changed a whole lot. You still have your street rappers, your conscious rappers and so forth; underground and commercial.
Amoeblog: When exactly and how did the first Bomb Hip-Hop Compilation come about - and was it supposed to be a one off thing or did you plan on starting a label?
Dave Paul: The first album Bomb Hip Hop Compilation I thought was a one off. I did it through a label called PGA so it wasn’t even on my label. They got credit from the pressing plant, sold the albums, collected the dollars and then took off and left the pressing plant, me, and the artists with nothing. Welcome to the record business. That wasn’t the only time a label or distributor split without paying what was owed to me. Makes you look like a dick when you try to explain to artists there’s no money.
Amoeblog: And with the first Return of the DJ - how would you describe the environment in hip-hop for the DJ in the time you put out that album?
Dave Paul: Rappers had basically turned their backs on the DJ. Why pay a DJ 50% when you could play a DAT tape at a show and keep all the money. Other factors also played a role. That’s when people were getting busted for samples so major labels didn’t want those DJ tracks on the albums etc.
Amoeblog: How many releases in all did Bomb Hip-Hop Records put out in total (including any imprints or anonymous releases) and what would the top five be in terms of popularity?
Dave Paul: It would be around 90 to 120 releases. I’d have to go count everything. In terms of popularity I’d have to say:
1. - Return of the DJ Vol 2
2. - Revenge of the B-Boy
3 - Return of the DJ Vol 1
4. - Droppen the Bomb
5. - Bomb Hip Hop Compilation
Amoeblog: Tell me about your current traveling DJ parties and how the Prince/MJ thing came about?
Dave Paul: Back in 2002 I wanted to do an all Prince party. I’ve always been a Prince fan and back in the 80s and early 90s I was a Prince collector too (posters, buttons, magazine, imports etc.). There were already Prince parties in the Bay. Dream Factory and a couple of others, so I was reluctant to do an all Prince party. My friend Jeff Harris who is a huge MJ fan said well, why don’t we do Prince and Michael Jackson. So I brought all my Prince records and he brought all his Michael records and that's how we did the first one in November of 2002. Traveling the party has been great, it’s really cool to meet Prince and MJ fans in different cities. It’s all about connecting with people and all sharing the love for the music.
Amoeblog: Best tip for always been self-employed and self- sufficient?
Dave Paul: You can’t be lazy. If you are you’re in big trouble. Pace your finances because sometimes you never know when your next payday is. When you do have a big payday don’t blow it all. Save a third for taxes, and save a third for when you really need it.
Amoeblog: Anything to add or shout-outs?
Dave Paul: Shouts to Funken-Klein (RIP) and mad respect to Victor Orborne who helped me when I first started the magazine. I didn’t have a computer or anything and that dude put in a lot of time to help me out. Thank you.
The Bomb Hip Hop 20 Year Anniversary party will take place at Madrone Bar on Divisidaro in San Francisco tomorrow, Friday September 30th, with hip-hop music from the years 1979 to 1999 been spun by Jeff Harris, DJ 4AM, DJ Worldwise, and of course DJ Dave Paul himself. There is also a special, as yet unannounced, DJ to spin. 9pm show. $5 admission. 21+ More information here. And for more general info on the label and magazine visit the Bomb Hip-Hop website.