Patrice Bäumel is an internationally renowned Dj and producer currently living in Amsterdam. 2017 was Patrice’s most successful year yet, the culmination of many years travelling the road, a positive change in lifestyle, lots more hard work, fun, and spreading the love. From being invited by Radio 1 to contribute to the esteemed Essential Mix series, to his Afterlife released single ‘Glutes’ being voted one of the biggest tracks of the year, 2017 was a year to remember for Patrice, and a sign of things to come. Patrice is currently busy in the studio working on his eagerly anticipated follow ups for both Afterlife and Kompakt. After’s 2016’s prolific musical output which included the Balance compilation series, EPs on Correspondant and Speicher/Kompakt, plus remixes for Underworld and Depeche Mode. His musical footprint grew even larger in 2017 with releases on Crosstown Rebels, Anjunadeep, Kompakt and more, whilst continuing his growth as a DJ, performing every weekend to new fans around the world. Since graduating from the Red Bull Music Academy in Sao Paolo in 2002 and deciding to turn his hobby into a career, Patrice has been on a mission to create and share music that spreads love, positivity and happiness, works in a peaktime context and most of all connects people with each other.
Patrice was born in the small East German town of Freital, amidst the restrictive political situation of Eastern Bloc communism. With his father working as a music journalist, there was music around the house all the time. From free jazz, Frank Zappa, Nick Cave, Laurie Anderson right through to rock and punk bands like The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, Sex Pistols or The Ramones. His father encouraged him to find his own musical path, which led him to childhood obsessions with Depeche Mode and The Cure, the bands whose melancholic nature still are at the root of Patrice’s sound today.
When did you start DJing – and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started buying and playing my first records in 1994. At the beginning my big passion was Dutch Hardcore, better known as Gabber. I would listen to tapes by Gizmo, Dark Raver and Ilsa Gold a lot. It was the perfect counter balance to my shy, awkward everyday teenage life. The sheer brutality and speed was something I had never witnessed before, and at the time it was the most fun one could have on the dancefloor.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
When I started out producing music around 2003, of course there were artists who I really admired and tried to copy, like for instance Akufen with his incredible take on micro-sampling. I quickly discovered that I really suck at imitating other people and just let go of that completely. My strength has always been in creating chaos and accidents and then somehow using these gifts of coincidence as core ideas for my productions. I have realised this early on and am still swearing by it today – the best ideas do not come out of my head but simply just happen. I am merely the medium through which these ideas are being manifested. Looking back at many of my productions, I often wonder how I even did it. At no point of the creative process am I fully in control of what is happening.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
The first hurdle was finding gigs and getting to play in front of people. Competition is fiercest at the bottom of the game. Everybody hustles, getting paid isn’t even part of the equation yet. You send out countless demos without reply. I cut my teeth playing small bar gigs for many years. While some skills like beatmatching were fairly easy to learn, others took me decades to get to a level that I would call professional, like reading the crowd and interacting with it in a positive way. That is also the biggest difference between DJing and producing – it’s not only you anymore. DJing is a highly psychological game of triumph, failure, acceptance and rejection. Its success is determined how you, the DJ, see yourself in relation to the crowd in front of you. The crowd is a mirror of your inner world. It is only now that I understand some of the finer details of this game.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
My job is creating connections, between me and the crowd and between people amongst each other. I see music merely as a means to an end to achieve that connection. Abandoning the concept of me, the artist, being in the center of everything and adopting a stance of me being a servant to the people and helping them find to each other has completely changed the way I do my work. I am way more generous with playing the big records, I smile more, I take time for personal interaction with fans before and after the show. That contact is everything to me now.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I learned mixing on a cheap Soundlab turntable, a 50 euro Conrad mixer and a tape deck. Really ghetto. After that I probably tried every setup imaginable, 2 Technics, 3 Technics, CD players, Traktor. Today I play with SD Cards and 3 or 4 Pioneer CDJ’s and a standard quality mixer. It is the most travel-friendly setup and allows me to incorporate the many unreleased tracks and edits I use. Using more than 2 decks also helps planning several tracks ahead in a set.
You were a long-running resident at Trouw – which booked artists spread across a wide range of genres. Typically, genre-spanning artists tend to receive less audience appeal because it is too deviant from ‘specialists’ – yet you have managed to show the opposite. What motivated you stick to such a genre spanning approach?
I don’t feel I have been a hyped artist at any point of my career. Every bit of growth has been slow and gradual. I have talked about this with my friend Nuno dos Santos many times – his career has followed a very similar trajectory. While others went from 0 to 100 in a few months, we have been able to make a living in this industry for a long time. We have seen many artists come and go. Hot today, gone tomorrow. It wasn’t a tactical career choice to embrace a lot of different genres, we just followed what we loved and disregarded trends and fads. For me personally, my choice of music is actually very consistent, from my perspective it doesn’t feel eclectic at all. I am always looking for the contrast of futuristic, machine-like sounds and warm, human elements. Maybe I should call the genre “cyber-organic techno” and market the shit out of it.
What’s the craziest or most ‘unorthodox’ moment of spontaneity you’ve had when getting in the mood to write music?
I think that was when I made “Mike Tyson”. I was preparing for a DJ set at the time using Traktor and just playing around with some of the built-in effects. All of a sudden there was this stuttering beat that sounded fucking huge. I just pressed “record” and jammed for 30 minutes straight. I just needed to edit the recording to keep the best bits and that was almost all I needed for the track. 2 hours work, tops. “Roar” was made in much the same way, playing around with the sampler and suddenly striking gold. 10 minutes of free-wheeling in the studio gave me my best-selling record to date. A random approach gifted me two totally unique tracks that I could have never come up with by myself. The trick is to create the circumstances to let these accidents happen.
You went through a pretty painstaking editing process for this mix. What was this process like and what kind of setup did you use to balance between technicality and emotive feel?
I laid out every song in a big Ableton project and tried countless combinations between tracks. I wanted the mix to be harmonically sound, so I did a lot of transposing (changing of the musical key) in order to make melodies fit with each other. I also added lots of sound effects, hi hats, kick drums etc, but in a way that is subtle – I wanted the technique to be invisibly doing its work in the background – it’s all about the music and the emotion. Anyway, at some point there was a rough mix. At that stage the balance between technique and emotion was still off, the flow wasn’t right, it felt too brainy. I let the mix marinate for a couple of days and came back to it with a set of fresh ears and a notepad. I wrote down everything that needed improving and ironed out all the creases. After that I started working on the sound quality. I sent each track through my analog mixer and did a lot of eq’ing. Once everything felt right I just let it go. It is easy to fall into the perfection trap and endlessly try to improve little details, so it was good to work on a tight deadline and just finish the damn thing.
You’ve got a new quarterly residency and event at De Marktkantine – ‘Midnight Sun’. What’s the concept behind it?
“Big tracks. Big fun. Midnight sun.” That’s kind of the tagline. This is a fun-oriented big room night that is intended to make people go crazy and just have a huge ball. Unpretentious without being cheap.
Seems the title was derived based off some sort of late-night visualization – is there a deep underlying meaning?
I was sitting in the plane next to an old Norwegian guy who was talking to me about the beautiful midnight sun that hits the northern parts of his country in the summer. Right there I knew that this would be the name of my night. I love the idea of turning night into day. The sun brings the warmth and the light. Perfect.