The Special Request project first surfaced on a series of white label 12"s in 2012, an exploration of old-school jungle and UK hardcore sounds that was something an anomaly at the time. Yet these breakneck efforts quickly found an audience, and the man behind the project, veteran house and techno producer Paul Woolford, soon realized that his self-indulgent side project had taken on a life of its own. With a new Special Request EP, Stairfoot Lane Bunker, about to drop on Houndstooth, Woolford discusses the project and the inspiration behind his new release with Shawn Reynaldo.
To listen to the full interview, tune into First Floor on Red Bull Radio here. It airs every Thursday at 1 PM EDT.
Your Special Request project officially started in 2012 with the series of white labels. Five years later, the project is still going. Did you imagine that it would have this kind of longevity?
I did in a lot of ways and I didn’t in a few others, because when those white labels came out I had already been working on it for a few years behind the scenes. I mean, in some ways you could say I’ve been doing it since I was 15 in a vague roundabout way.
In the past you’ve described Special Request as a self-indulgent project, an outlet where you can explore these sounds that you are passionate about, regardless of what anyone else thought. But once the music started gaining attention and found its own audience, did your approach to Special Request change?
No, not at all. I mean, it’s funny seeing how much those expectations have become a thing for some people, because I get messages from people on Facebook, complete strangers, and they’ll say, “Why does it sound like this? Why is that a jungle track? Why are you doing ambient things?”
All of these questions and all of these expectations are completely irrelevant because it’s my project. It’s not about expectations at all. It’s completely about indulgence and it always has been. And I actually think it’s a good thing that this happens, because what it shows is that the audience is passionate. It’s great to get feedback like that, in a way, because it shows that you’re making music that’s affecting people to the point where they will get off their ass and make an effort to get in touch with you.
The new EP comes out this week on Houndstooth. It’s called Stairfoot Lane Bunker. Is there anything to the title?
The Ministry of Defence own this land in Leeds called Stairfoot Lane Bunker. It’s about ten minutes away from my house. I used to sort of hang out there when we were teens. There are a lot of local rumors about it. In fact, you can dig up some of them on the Internet today. Some of these stories are pretty wild really, about how there are tunnels underneath the bunker that lead to the center of town in Leeds so all the bigwigs could get out of the way when the war was happening.
Whether all of that is true, I don’t know, but I did go into this bunker with a load of friends. So did my brother as well and all of his mates. This bunker’s bizarre. Inside, it’s quite big inside. You’re looking at maybe 100 square meters each floor and it goes down two, three, four, five floors. But the second floor and below were blocked off. It’s all been sort of concreted over and alarmed. The Ministry of Defence definitely don’t want people going in there.
There’s also Adel Woods in the area, where they apparently had pagan sacrifices over the years. When I was about 14 I was down there on a Friday night with some friends, and we saw a load of people in robes, midnight on a Friday night. There are a lot of strange stories about the woods up there.
I don’t know. You could make music for years about other music, but I think I’m not making music about other music anymore. I’m making music about other things, so I’d rather reflect the local environment and what’s around me.