Solitary Refinement

Walk into Sweat Records and chances are you'll see a single employee quietly sitting at the desk in the corner. On occasion this employee is Paul Gaeta. You'll know him by his tall, lanky figure topped with dirty-blond hair framing a baby face. Given his appearance, it is easy to see how he attained the moniker PG-13. But looks are deceiving. Accurate with regard to his youthful visage, the title is not, however, indicative of Gaeta's skills as a DJ and producer — skills that are anything but callow. The 26-year-old's unassuming guise belies a serious knowledge of music and surprising affinity for hip-hop and rap.

Though he has always been a fan of music, Gaeta's devotion to the electronic beat began during college while he was studying art at New World School of the Arts. Since then, he has released a debut album, Seven Songs for My Friends, on his label, Circuitree Records, an imprint resulting from years of dedication and letdowns. Gaeta doesn't rap on this album, but the ambient electronic tracks are telling of his skills behind the deck, or rather the Mac. Not bad for someone who never made a beat until he was twenty years old.

As for the label — one of Gaeta's many projects — it offers an outlet for his interminable drive and creativity, despite the many obstacles he has encountered.

"I've done almost everything on my own, out of my own pocket, making barely enough to live and still giving birth to this thing. And I realized that if I wanted to do it, I'd have to do it on my own. So I kind of just stopped waiting for other people to help me and got [Circuitree] incorporated," says Gaeta.

In addition to PG-13, the label is home to musicians Damn Octo (who is also a founding member), Nived, Wake, Junc Ops (PG-13 and Kentsoundz), 000, and visual artist Jiae Hwang. Collaborations come frequently among the small collective of artists, whether they are for a live performance or an album. Recently PG-13, 000, and Hwang joined forces for a multimedia performance at Miami Art Central. The band, called Optokinetic Reflex, performed an improvised electronic music set paired with live video cuts. PG-13 also partners with Kentsoundz for the group Junc Ops, in which PG indulges his rapper persona while Kentsoundz handles the production.

"The label is more like a family tree to me than a label, because as an artist myself, this is what I want personally and for my friends. It will basically be run by the artists. More like a collective than an autocracy," Gaeta writes via e-mail.

It's no coincidence that everyone involved with Circuitree is a friend of Gaeta's. Assuming the role of the loner DJ, PG-13 does not often collaborate with fellow mix-masters. After too many experiences with flaky musicians and fickle producers, Gaeta has developed a disliking for musical alliances with those outside his inner circle.

"The hardest thing about being a producer is balancing my different interests and dealing with people, because I'm not such a good people person. It's kind of driven me further and further into being this isolated hermit," explains Gaeta.

On the bright side, the DJ's hermitical tendencies have allowed him to delve into his work. With a full plate of projects, Gaeta needs as much free time as possible. As if DJing, rapping, managing Circuitree, and working at Sweat weren't enough, he also teaches art at Frederick Douglass Elementary School and occasionally works with about four other side bands.

"I'm always scared I'm not working hard enough on my own art. It's weird; it's like this driving force. I have this obsession with feeling like I'm not productive enough, even though it's ... like every second I have is spent thinking about the label or my own music."

In the near future, Circuitree will issue a compilation and albums by label artists. PG-13's new disc, Another Sleepless Night with You, is slated for release in early spring. For those curious about this white boy's rapping skills, look for a Junc Ops album soon. Though PG-13's rapping style is seasoned with old-school flavor, his lyrical content is set in the here and now.

"I used to rap about all this abstract, heady stuff that was pretty much escapist. I wanted to hallucinate on the mike, basically," Gaeta says. "Then I took this two-year break where life became a lot more difficult ... and because of that, I realized I don't want to rap about things that aren't real, because I've got so many issues upstairs that I need to speak about. It's more like poetic journalism."

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