As an artist, Special Request, aka Paul Woolford, has crossed a multitude of spheres spanning genres, decades and scenes. A wealth of musical influence in his childhood provided strong cultivation of his character, being born of a jazz drummer and growing up with his adoptive father’s fascinating record collection, along with an innate passion to create from his early years, paving the way for him to craft an intense musical path. Radio was a key part of his influences; as a teenager he was constantly listening, absorbing and recording sounds he found interesting, something that rapidly escalated into an obsession when he discovered pirate stations by complete accident.
He has produced under various aliases and experimented with multiple labels, forging links that span from Carl Craig's Planet E Communications in Detroit, through to London's XL Recordings, Gerd Janson's Running Back in Germany, and many more notable points in between. His music has repeatedly been used by various fashion houses to soundtrack runway shows, most recently Fendi for their SS2017 collection. His 2005 break-out release 'Erotic Discourse’ (recorded under the name Bobby Peru - a nod to the influence of multi-disciplinary artist David Lynch), was a record that cut across scenes, influenced multiple producers the world over and still sounds boldly futuristic 12 years later. The success of this recording led Woolford to question the structures and significance of the music industry, and the outcome of this questioning was a fevered period of recording that has not stopped since. This venture became Special Request, and after releasing 3 white label 12"s, he signed to Houndstooth in January 2013.
Paul was first invited to play at fabric in 2004 alongside D’Julz & Martin Landsky in Room 1. Since then he has played all three rooms in various contexts and he recalls some of his fondest memories have been playing both Room 1 and 2 on the same Saturday night, playing for Metalheadz as Special Request, very late techno sessions in Room 2 and also playing Room 3 in an all-night b2b with Howie B. He could never hold preference between these, it was equally enjoyable for him to open up Room 1 as it was banging it out in Room 2 in the very late hours or playing dub in Room 3. His musical versatility and broad tastes finding a welcoming home within the cavernous brickwork. He finds it impossible to describe his relationship with those rooms and felt a really strong emotional charge walking back into the venue after it’s re-opening recently.
Following a slightly surreal and cavernous beginning, classic UK techno opens up proceedings with Caustic Window (an alias of Richard D. James - Aphex Twin) laying the foundation of the mix, into a volley of electro of varying shades & styles from the sci-fi of Detroit's DJ Stingray, the emotive of Claro Intelecto’s “Peace Of Mind”, jagged and hardcore-edged from Polygon Window’s “Audax Powder” (Richard James again), through to the heavyweight grime-flecked bass pressure of Plastician. The momentum builds as the ruthless tones of 214 "Frostbite" signify a turn into darker waters, this track being flanked by a fierce pair of Dutch creations from the likes of Dexter & Alden Tyrell. The addition of Stanislav Tolkachev's "See You Tomorrow" furthermore ratchets up the murky tension, setting the scene for one of six new Special Request tracks, "Redrum", to appear. A pause to breathe occurs in the interlude - consisting of the lush and emotive “Aquilae” and a voice recording from Cristian Vogel's “Atomic Layers”, before crescendoing into sheer intense fear with “Enlightenment” and descending into the second half, where we travel rapidly through various shades of jungle, drum & bass and noise, from the dubwise movement of Forest Drive West, to classic Dillinja, and beyond. Two new forthcoming Special Request tracks “Replicant” and “Stairfoot Lane Bunker” provide the backdrop for the inclusion of a stone-cold classic, of the extremely underplayed variety, Rood Project "Thunder". Woolford has gone on record (during an expansive interview with Tony Poland at Juno Plus) as saying this record, to him, is "pure melancholic energy... completely sensory and it's how this music should be". This section sets up a ramp for the undisputed apex of the mix, wherein the furious drum & bass of DJ Trace & Nico is counterpointed by Keith Fullerton Whitman's "Stereo Music For Serge Modular Part Two". This audacious blend takes two completely opposite tracks from different realms and uses each as a prism, reflecting alternate perspectives. At various points you can hear a variety of techniques being deployed to devastating effect; the frequencies being cut down to bottom-end only, spinbacks, straight channel flips, a slow-wheel up at a certain point. On the final approach, the mix culminates in a widescreen and emotive blast of interlocking textures and ambience from Carl Craig, ASC, Mika Vaino and cult ambient producer Abul Mogard, taking us right up to date in 2017 and delivering a moment of absolute enlightenment.
“This mix is about heightened emotions and making them as contrasting and intense as they can be - I wanted to create something lush that slowly moves into the realm of the unhinged. There were no moments of doubt, which is rare with studio mixes. Usually there is some trepidation and soul-searching, but I felt no pressure this time. Beyond the tracks themselves, the overarching idea was that it needed to hold the power of suggestion. So you hear the textures collide and the sensations unlock like valves. For the most part it was recorded and mixed by hand, vinyl & files, so you can feel the traction from time to time. There's some editing on occasion, only where it absolutely demanded it. I wanted it to feel as live as it could be, with all the momentary tension that entails.”