by Dr. Iain Corness
The production manager of Pattaya Mail on TV is a Scotsman, Paul
Strachan, whose very recognizable Scottish brogue is often heard on TV,
while his face is also becoming more recognizable as he does more ‘on
camera’ work for the television channel. For Paul to end up in creative
media has been a very long and circuitous route, but one that has had
music as the constant thread. That he has an ambition to write the score
for a movie is not surprising, after you get to know him.
He was born in Aberdeen in the north-east of Scotland, with his parents
very much involved in the hospitality industry, running hotels. The
children were expected to help after school, and Paul’s earliest
recollection was refilling the whiskey bottles when he was eight years
old. However, this was not his tipple, but he admitted the dregs of beer
often slipped over his throat as a youngster!
His father was the one who introduced Paul to classical music, but a
career in music was not encouraged by Strachan Senior, with Paul being
pushed towards studying accountancy. A struggle did eventuate, where by
the time he was 17 he had his own mobile disco (which incidentally
employed six bouncers, so he must have been playing in some fairly rough
neighborhoods), but parental pressure won, and under duress he went to
Dundee University to study Business Management. In retrospect, Paul does
not regret that decision, “Uni in many ways prepares you for life.”
However, wanting more than one string to his bow, Paul also trained as a
driving school instructor, including a course in basic psychology, and
it was his boast that he could get a tyro to pass the test in one week.
I am not sure whether he used the psychology on the student, or on the
By the time he had finished his four year university course, the wheels
had fallen off the mobile disco, but there was enough work for the
driving instructor, but he soon tired of that and so tried the
euphemistically described ‘Financial Services’. Despite the name, this
was selling insurance. “It went against everything (I believed in). I
hated it.” He did not last long.
It was music that was in his blood. He was playing keyboards at pub
gigs, and in one of those business decisions that was probably not the
best, he turned down a job as the permanent keyboard player for the
local band – which then went on to be ‘Top of the Pops’ six weeks later.
Still pursuing something in music, he joined the Richard Branson
organization and rose to become a store manager for a Virgin Records
outlet. This seemed to be a better fit with his knowledge, interest,
experience and training. Even the psychology helped as far as staff
instruction and motivation was concerned, and of course the business
studies suited the managerial position.
He was to spend five years with the Branson group, but it was an
invitation to join the committee of the Perth (Scotland) Festival of
Arts that was to see Paul’s creativity being given a chance to come to
the surface. The steering committee had the foresight to see that the
audiences were getting older, and depleted. They needed someone who
could attract a newer, younger age group, and Paul was that man. He was
able to gain the confidence of the much older committee to allow him a
free hand to organize the final day of the festival. He wrote music for
it, in a new younger style, but still had a symphony orchestra to play
it, a ‘cross-over’ between classical and modern. And it was a success,
in fact the most successful final day in the history of the festival.
After two years with the Festival of Arts, he was offered a job in radio
to do a series on film music. Film was Paul’s other love and it was the
right subject, one that he knew intimately. He recorded a series for
Scottish radio, and it is one series that is currently being re-run.
Paul knows his movies and knows his music.
However, he could see he was starting to burn out. He was doing four
hours ‘on air’ for six days a week. His marriage had failed, and there
seemed to be no good reason to continue to live in Scotland. He had been
to Thailand previously for holidays and he enjoyed traveling. A five
month tour of Europe soon gave way to another visit to the kingdom.
He was also reaching 40 years of age, and when he was offered the
opportunity to teach in Chonburi, it seemed as though a new life-line
was being thrown to him. But teaching did not encompass film and music,
that was to come very shortly afterwards.
With the increasingly professional production of the Pattaya Mail’s TV
shows, a native English speaker was needed, and Paul joined initially to
read the news. “After a week of learning how to pronounce the mayor’s
name, I embarked on one of the steepest learning curves of my life,”
said Paul. He also moved into production and is now the production
manager as well as his on-screen responsibilities. This entails his
viewing two hours of video every day from Associated Press TV and
selecting the overseas news items suitable for the local audiences. He
also writes the music for many items, as well as appearing on-camera for
outside broadcasts. However, he considers the latter as just part of the
job, and not an ego trip as some presenters do. Paul is not one to
cherish the limelight.
Music is still his prime love, particularly writing his own scores. “I
write instrumentals because I’m a lousy singer!” Paul actually gets very
animated while talking about his music, and describes himself as a
“romantic, that’s my problem musically.” However, Paul enjoys getting PM
TV on air each day, complete with some original Paul Strachan scores!
Welcome to Pattaya, Paul.