Underground music producer making waves across the pond

Paul Anthony just might be the most successful Ottawa musician you've never heard of. But if his fans have any say, that soon could change.

From his basement studio in Orléans, Paul Anthony has reached the ears of electronic music scene influencers

Paul Anthony makes music from his basement studio in Orléans. (Submitted)

Paul Anthony just might be the most successful Ottawa musician you've never heard of.

By day the 48-year-old is a financial officer with a small research and development firm in Bells Corners. In his down time he's a sought-after producer of electronic music with record deals in the U.K. and airplay around the world.

He's been making music since high school, but Anthony has studiously avoided self promotion, relying instead on friends and fans in the industry to generate buzz and spread the word.

He's adopted different monikers for different music projects, including Wilhaeven, Canada High and, Equal Ways. 

Anthony's latest full-length release, The Inner Life of Man, is out now.

CBC Ottawa asked Anthony about his success, and his apparent reluctance to step out of his basement studio and into the limelight. (Answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

Despite having a busy family and work life, you've managed to produce quite a bit of music. How do you get it done?

I think the fact I have limited time is the exact reason why I'm such a prolific producer. When I was a student and had more time on my hands, I would hem and haw and work over my music at a snail's pace. But knowing you only have a couple of hours here and there late at night turns you into a super-efficient self-editor. I have no time to audition a thousand snare drums, so I tend to get down to business and get things done. I try to complete at least one work a week.

How did you get the attention of British labels?

It was a complete fluke, to be honest. In 2010 I made a remix for my pal Todd Nickolas just for fun. Todd was sending demos of his music out to his vast Rolodex of label contacts, and my remix got the attention of Edzy from Unique 3, who runs Mutate Records. Edzy got in touch with me and asked if I had any other tracks to share. I sent him a link to about 80 more. I signed with their publisher Funk Labs soon after, and since then have gotten requests to remix other UK acts such as Mark Archer/Altern8, Si Begg, Unique 3 and Rhythmatic. Over time, other label heads started to get in touch with me, and it just took off from there. As of today, I have releases out on more than a dozen different labels. 

Why so many monikers?

I soon discovered that a release that had a downtempo track alongside a techno track was not going to rate well if you sent it to a radio show or DJ that specialized in one genre or the other. The obvious thing to do was to split my productions under various different names. It sucks that you have to pigeonhole your work, but it's the most effective way to get airplay.

You're going by Wilhaeven with this latest release. Where did that name come from?

If you've ever tried to come up with an original band name, trust me, even the most obscure idea has probably been taken already. My two sons used to attend a Montessori school near our house, and I would drive them past a similarly named crossroad every morning. I was looking for a name that didn't have any preconceived connections to anything else, and added the "ae" as a bit of an homage to the duo Autechre. I ran the name past some friends, and they thought it decent enough. A quick check of all the usual sites also showed it had not been taken.

Paul Anthony's latest record, The Inner Life of Man, has been released under the name Wilhaeven.

You have a day job. And you're not doing this for the fame and fortune. What do you get out of making music in your basement studio? 

I'm a quiet guy, I suppose, and I'm creating these solely for myself as a soundtrack for my commute to work. I share them with literally a handful of people. I've never actively tried to monetize these things, or sent out a demo to a label. I owe any attention I've received so far to my friends and label heads who promote my music. But to answer your question, it just feels good to hear your music in a film, or on TV, or to see people dancing to one of your tracks. My friends will send me links to radio shows playing things I've made in my basement in Orléans on FM radio in Spain or Portugal. That's just crazy to me.

Are you looking forward to doing more live shows and getting back to touring?

I credit my friend Jim Roditis from Toronto for pushing me out of the studio and playing shows. Making music alone late at night is a pretty antisocial activity, so it's good to get out once in a while and interact with real people. I do feel like it's a bit like showing off though, and even though I've played almost 30 shows, I still get nervous playing my music in front of strangers. I started adding visuals to my sets last summer, so I don't see as many eyes looking at me when I play. The feedback has been nothing but positive though. 

Where can people in Ottawa see you? 

My next show is an event called "Out There" at the Handlebar in Kensington Market in Toronto Nov. 9. I won't be playing in Ottawa until early December at a show that has not been announced yet. So keep your eyes on your local event listings.