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General Midi interview - Bristol Breaks

Author: Cyclone
Thursday, February 9, 2006

It's taken years but the UK breakbeat stalwart General Midi, aka Paul Crossman, has finally completed an album. With 'Midi-Style' the DJ restores an ol' skool funkiness to breaks. He lately flew to Australia to plug 'Midi-Style' with a DJ tour, albeit bypassing Melbourne. Paul was as excited about the prospect of acquiring a suntan as playing any parties. "I spend too much time in front of the computer screen underground, man - we call it the Microsoft tan," he kids.

General Midi is a product of Bristol's club culture, the same underground that spawned the drum'n'bass Roni Size. If Crossman exists on the periphery of the breakstream, then it's because he's removed from London - and Brighton. The DJ is unsure where he fits in. General Midi isn't obsessed with scenes yet he's gladdened that breaks has at last established itself in the UK since, in contrast to Australia, the music has never been on a par with house, techno or even drum'n'bass. "It always was a backroom music, or it was the music that engineers made in their spare time between producing for other people, and it's grown into a genre of its own - and I think that's fantastic."

For years breaks has been touted as 'the next big thing' in the UK - and now electro is 'it' - but the sound has evolved without the pressure of media hype. "Breaks has been waiting for the rest of the world to wake up and realise what it's really about."

Since the late '90s General Midi has unleashed a series of classic breaks records (like 1999's Westerner) on a cross-spectrum of labels, as well as a mix CD in 'Genetically Modified', and for Midi-Style he's aligned himself with Distinctive. "It's the first proper 'artist' album as General Midi," he says. "For me it is definitely the combination of a good few years of this, of being in the scene, and I've been around doing a lot of 12 inches and doing a lot more dancefloor orientated stuff.

"The thing with an album, I suppose it would probably be the same for most people, is it's a chance to branch out and not to have to focus purely on a dancefloor - you can spread your wings a little bit and just try a few different styles.
"I wanted to keep it firmly placed within the breaks world and then just try and look at different variations, so there's some ol' skool electro flavours on there, there's your club stuff, there's more hip hop bits - it's just really playing around with the idea. I'm really proud of the results."

So why has General Midi procrastinated- What stalled him- DJ commitments- Or was he simply waiting for the auspicious circumstances- They were all factors. Crossman has collaborated with his writing partner Al Watson (Eelz) on the progressive trance Starecase. He's likewise been distracted by DJing. "Sometimes you've gotta put your ideas on the burner just to earn a bit of money more than anything else," Paul laughs. Above all, he wanted to do an album on his own terms. "I didn't wanna force it, I didn't wanna rush into it, because, 'Oh, you're a breakbeat artist, you must do an album' - I didn't want that. So I've taken some time as well. It just felt like 'right place, right time', really - the way the whole thing worked out."