Name: Patrice Bäumel
Current Release: Glutes on Afterlife
Recommendations: The single most impressive piece of art I have ever seen was Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project at Tate Modern.
Anselm Kiefer's documentary “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow” is an example of how far an artist can go to manifest his ideas into the world. Must watch.
Website: If you enjoyed this interview with Patrice Bäumel, check out his Facebook profile for more information and current updates.
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.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
In the studio, I use technology like a child. Just twist buttons and wait for magic to happen. I try to not let my brain get in the way of the creation process. I purposely do not read manuals beyond the point of basic operation. I want there to be some mystery. For that reason I prefer using machines that are immediate, that have one function per knob and not a ton of features hidden in deep sub-menus. I feel comfortable using a Moog, as can be heard extensively on my latest Afterlife release “Glutes”, but am too stupid for any of the Elektron gear. I also love machines that are free-wheeling, that do not operate on a grid. Things like the MPC, NI Maschine or Ableton Push are not for me for that reason. It is just not how I work. The separation between human and machine is one I have a problem with. To me a machine is just another limb, like an arm and a leg. The better the interface design, the easier it is for your brain to control the machine, the more useful and precise working with a machine becomes. I would go as far as to say that machines have a bigger influence on the music we create than the human beings that operate them.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
On a normal studio day, I would get up pretty early, let's say 7am, and work non-stop until noon. Morning hours are by far my most productive hours. Then I have lunch, walk my dog and, unless pressing deadlines force me back into the studio, I would do other things not related to music, like doing paperwork, emails or go to the gym. In the evening hours I might return to the studio and have some fun, just playing around with the machines without aim. That's how I learn and get some good ideas going. Generally, I am a firm believer in a short but highly productive working day that starts early. I never work at night as I would simply lose the next day. I need to be in bed by around midnight to function well. Sleep depravation is a huge creativity killer.