Patrice Bäumel is a forward-thinking German audiovisual artist, dj and producer currently living in Amsterdam. He describes his own style of music as “modern dance music for adults”. Next to running his own free “EX” label, he is a resident dj at Trouw, one of Europe’s leading venues for electronic music. His “Black Magic” nights explore the outer, darker fringes of electronic dance and listening music.
Bäumel’s productions defy categorisation. They feel alien, unhinged, at times uncomfortable and anything but domesticated. Paying no homage at all to the traditions of house and techno, they are a celebration of the free spirit within the tightly regimented world of contemporary dance music.
Bäumel describes himself as “somewhat multi-talented with a functioning left and right side of the brain, pretty good at many things without being great at any of them”. Combine that with a broad interest ranging from modern art, literature and film to technology or politics and expanding his artistic ways of expression became the logical step forward.
Bäumel is involved in several crossover projects involving classical music, such as his rendition of Steve Reich’s “Drumming” at the Concertgebouw during ADE in 2013 or his “Yellow Lounge” residency at Trouw. He also also extends his live performance with a visual component, acknowledging the need of today’s educated crowds for a more expressive, overall stage experience.
Regardless of the format, it is Bäumel’s intention to bring something unconventional and challenging to the table and cover a broader spectrum of emotions than the usual mix of comfort and ecstasy.
Some people are collectors. They collect photo’s, books, records. They cherish the memories that are attached to these things, mentally re-living bygone days. The older and rarer an object is, the more valuable and fascinating it seems to them.
Patrice is not one of those people. No photo collection. Memory is baggage. No vinyl fetish. Tradition is limitation. Future, however, is a blank sheet of paper, waiting to be scribbled upon in the maddest colours imaginable. The excitement of the unknown is what motivates him to experiment and break free from the herd. Holy cows need to be slaughtered every now and then. Look closely and you will see blood on his hands…
Hi Patrice, thanks for sparing a few minutes to chat to us at Decoded. Lets start with EX. You started the label in September last year and it came out of left field a bit and caused a massive ripple in the pond. I like the concept behind the label – you can’t steal whats already free. How has it been going? you’re 4 releases in now..
First of all, trying a different approach has taught me tons – about communicating with people, about sales psychology, about what works and what doesn’t. I love the independence from any other label and all the hassle of having to wait for months prior to a record being released. Being able to have full access to all statistics is great for testing whether something hits home or fails. The biggest disadvantage of the free label has been the perceived idea of something with no price tag being worthless. I sometimes felt that a cool vinyl release could have made a positive difference in terms of credibility as well as collectability. Only vinyl is a truly permanent medium, so I will keep that option open for the future. Overall I am super-pleased but also very aware that only the very best music has any legs in this hyper-competitive market if there’s no marketing power behind it.
Have you experienced any fall out from other labels/press? How have you overcome that? Has your Trouw label suffered?
Apart from a few questions about why I did this or that there wasn’t any controversial response. I think people who don’t disagree with you tend to push the ‘ignore’-button rather than engaging in a discussion. Time is more precious than ever. So the real battle has been getting any sort of real traction with the label, connecting with a larger audience. I still have some way to go there. The Trouw label was put on hold even before I started EX, so there was never any conflict.
It’s been mentioned in other interviews you moved from Dresden, Germany where you were born and grew up to Amsterdam, Holland where you’ve worked and lived since the late 90s. You’ve made a great career for yourself over that time, but what I was curious about was how did you get started in a new country? Would it be something you’d recommend to others now?
I would recommend spending time in a different country, especially one that forces you to learn a new language and culture, to anyone. It has helped me immensely to learn standing on my own legs. The first year in Amsterdam was tough – no friends, no secure place to live, little money. I was tempted to head back home more than once. But I somehow survived and am so thankful for the experience. As they say, “everything is hard before it is easy”. It took me years to make any kind of meaningful headway with my musical career. I was begging people for free gigs in bars and never had a whiff at a slot at a proper club night until much later. Looking back, it makes me appreciate the good times while trying to stay modest and appreciative of every good thing happening to me.
Amsterdam has a wonderful cosmopolitan vibe and I always enjoy visiting, I’ve even hired a bike and checked out the outskirts of the city. Of course most tourists head straight for the red-light district and cafes. If you were a travel consultant whats the one place you would advise people to see?
In the summer, the very best way to see the city is by hiring a small boat (not the big touristy ones, although even they are worthwhile) and discovering all the canals – there is nothing like it. Bring some friends, plenty of food and booze and you’re golden.
ADE is over for another year, how was it for you? Did you see everyone you wanted to?
I had lots of work to do during ADE – meeting, panels, lectures and rehearsals for a classical vs electronic live show at the famous Concertgebouw, Amsterdam’s concert hall for classical music. I didn’t have nearly enough time to see everybody I wanted to see and missed out on most of the party action. I felt as tired as I hadn’t in years by the end of the festival.
Lets move on to the Trouw residency with Nuno. Firstly can you explain to the non Europeans the concept of the club and how the opportunity to become a resident come about. Secondly, could you also explain how do you plan to develop your sound to keep it fresh and give the crowds a unique clubbing experience?
Trouw is club, restaurant and cultural space all rolled in one. We work closely with the local modern art and photography museums to bring a lot of good art to the club, not just music. The club itself tries to embrace a broad spectrum of underground dance music with different resident nights. Proper techno, UK bass, experimental electronic music – it’s all there and constantly evolves organically. By far the most important element of Trouw is the crowd. They make the difference between ordinary and special. Any promoter can get the check book out and hire the biggest DJs, it’s the crowd that can lift the experience to the next level. They come first at Trouw.
I became a resident because I had already successfully worked with the Trouw crew in their previous venue, Club 11. It’s a big family.
With regards to my sound, I want to take things in a more hypnotic, drone-like direction, something alien yet warm, away from the traditional house and techno feel but with a familiar flowing groove. Something that feels like a soundscape on steroids, with lots of layers and tracks playing a subordinate role. Something that just goes on and on. That’s also the reason why personally I swear by Traktor. I could never do what I want to do with turntables.
You’ve DJed since your teens and it was ‘Mutant Pop’ on Trapez that really turned me on to your sound in I think about 2007/8, but it wasn’t until ‘Roar’ on Get Physical came out that your career went stratospheric. Other than the obvious increase in bookings, what changes to your life have happened as a result of your success? Has becoming more well know been a burden or a blessing?
What goes up must come down. The biggest hit is soon forgotten and replaced by another one. Success itself is a very fleeting notion, especially the definition our society has of it – dividing everything up in groups of winners and losers. I have experienced all kinds of highs and lows. The best lesson for me was to not make these uncontrollable outside circumstances determine my inner happiness. I just keep on working and enjoying myself, no matter whether I have a hit single in the charts or the phone hasn’t rung in a week. Making things gives me plenty of pleasure. Success for me is conquering those inner demons – laziness, jealousy, negative thinking – and replace them with love and generosity.
My level of “celebrity” is still at the level where I am genuinely surprised when people even recognise me, so things haven’t changed much in that respect. I try to embrace whatever good vibes come my way, though.
Sticking with Roar for a moment. How did the idea of the track develop?
As with cooking, simplicity is far more powerful than complex and over complicated. Like any good idea I’ve ever had in the studio, this one is mostly the result of messing around in the studio and allowing things to happen on their own. Causing and curating accidents. “Roar” was done in less than an hour and just meant as a personal DJ tool for myself. Things turned out quite differently. And yes, I totally agree with that simplicity is best most of the time. Even today, few of my songs have more than 8-10 different tracks, I like a certain economy in my arrangements.
I understand you’re view of music was influenced by Laurent Garnier, 80s synth pop and your dad. How do you feel dance culture has evolved in the last 25 years? Whats your opinion of the US market and their EDM explosion?
To me, the major difference with dance music compared to even a decade ago is that more people are listening to it. I think we are ready for another quantum leap forward. I am sensing a tendency that we are just getting older along with our music and things are not changing radically, similar to what happened to rock music between the 70’s and 00’s. It’s still the same music, Rolling Stones concerts still sell out but the average age of the crowd is 60+. I would not like to be part of a similar never ending trip down memory lane with electronic music. The need for constantly pushing forward should be ingrained in our scene. Yet, there seems to be a stronger push for conservatism, for preserving a certain culture.
It’s hard for me to judge what’s happening in the US. Even while touring there, I am never exposed to the EDM scene any more than coming across the odd video clip or article. Lots of people seem to have a massive amount of fun. I applaud that of course. I am not sure that the mere fact that EDM is computer-generated music means that the underground club scene will explode the same way – flamenco and rock both use guitars yet have very little influence on each other. EDM relies heavily on the promise of a lifestyle of riches, glamour and a few superstar role models, the new RnB. It’s more Paris Hilton than Kraftwerk. The only thing to ever come out of that scene which I found musically interesting was Skrillex with his crazy, unpredictable sound design.
DJs like Garnier were well known for moving through genres and breaking rules. For me today, that DJ is James Zabiela, but who do you look up to as a DJ idol/influence? And who is up and coming that you find moves you?
I don’t look up to or down on anyone. I listen, get inspired by a local warm-up as much as anyone else. My heroes of old, like Garnier, don’t really do much for me anymore artistically, even though my respect for them is as great as ever. I find Flying Lotus, James Holden and Nicolas Jaar sonically really interesting, they all operate way outside the box yet do it in a way that speaks to a broad spectrum of people. That’s so hard to do. Anyone can sound weird, but will they connect to people? I get a lot of inspiration from music outside my own genre. Nils Frahm is on everybody’s lips, a classically trained piano player who has been crossing over into electronic territory and who is just supremely talented. Thom Yorke’s band Atoms for Peace are making really cool music, some of the most interesting stuff is happening in ambient/drone music with acts like Orcas, Heathered Pearls, Simon Scott or Deaf Center making incredibly dense, intense and hypnotic music. Spotify is my discovery tool of choice.
You’ve been quoted as saying “Democratically elected governments are taking decisions against the very people who put them into office, all to protect banks, oil and big money in general. We are already living right in the middle of a New World Order.” I tend to agree. Do you see an alternative solution on the horizon? Have we reached the end game of our monetary system?
Overcoming greed and the illusion that we are all disconnected from each other and in perpetual competition with each other are things we need to overcome in order to move forward as humankind. We might have to learn the hard way, but I hope that by more and more people wising up and and choosing to set an example to live a life that cares for the greater good and leaves no one behind – animals, plants, fellow human beings – others will catch on and follow them. Nothing is more powerful than the living proof of a better way. People need to realise that the democratic system affords them no power whatsoever, but that their consumption behaviour is a huge weapon. Wherever they put their money, that is where the power shifts.
Not only our money system but our whole economic model has reached an endgame. It’s a system that needs growth to survive. Since we cannot grow indefinitely – we are stretching the capacity of the planet already – the system will have to collapse unless we pull the brakes soon.
In 2012 you predicted (among other things) more indie music would cross over into the dance scene, that did kinda happen with deep house becoming more popular. What do you think helps you to keep ahead of the game?
With the indie crossover I was more referring to guitar bands infiltrating electronic music. I think it has happened, but the other way around. Electronic music has infiltrated any major genre of popular music to the bone (Daft Punk, EDM, dubstep are good examples). I see the re-emergence of deep house as a mere cyclical reoccurrence as we have seen many within the techno and house scene.
I think today, there isn’t much of a “game” anymore, the market is super-fragmented and it is all about building your own niche successfully and nurturing your own fan base. Individuality paired with artistic quality, good communication skills and effort sustained over several years is a winning formula.
Can a DJ survive in the current club scene by playing other peoples music alone?
I think so. Incredible talent, the right friends, a personality or simply some marketing talent will all get you places.
Finally, how will 2014 develop for you, the labels and the club night?
I take it day by day. I have a big list of plans and ideas compiled for 2014. I want to do a few art-related projects like installations and film music interpretations, I have just finished a new album, there are a few collaborations in the pipeline and I also want to continue mixing classical with electronic music. But most importantly, I want to enjoy the ride and feel the love, not put myself under any pressure and embrace what life throws at me.
Track list (Live from Trouw, Amsterdam on 21st Dec 2013)
01 Steve Moore – Worldbuilding
02 Tense – Mine Too
03 Heartthrob – Baby Kate
04 David K – Yakiniku
05 VCMG – Single Blip (Mathew Jonson Rmx)
06 Michael Mayer – Baumhaus (Robag’s Paavo and Veita Rehand)
07 Depeche Mode – Sinner In Me (Ricardo Villalobos Rmx)
08 Plastikman – Consumed
09 Brock van Wey – Forever A Stranger
10 The Field – Black Sea
11 Area – Tangled In (Vox)
12 Blondes – Gold
13 Geiger – Good Evening (Supermayer Rmx)
14 Steve Moore – Beyond Tyken’s Rift
15 Plastikman – Consumed
16 Patrice Baumel – Untitled Tool
17 Mathew Jonson & Exercise One – Lost Forever In A Happy Crowd
18 Zoot Woman – More Than Ever (Grand Son Rmx)
19 Geiger – Bambam
20 Isolee – Dennis
21 Hunter Game – The Island (Baikal Rmx)
22 Lawrence – Along The Wire (Superpitcher Rmx)
23 Carl Craig – Futurelovetheme
24 Paul Kalkbrenner – Brennt
25 Tobias. & Atom TM – Physik G321V
26 Shackleton – Blood On My Hands (Ricardo Villalobos Rmx)
27 Popnoname – Nightliner
28 Superpitcher – Moon Fever (Gluteus Maximus Rmx)
29 Matthew Dear – Another
30 Francois K – Looking At The Stars
31 David K – Boul De Nerf
32 INXS – Mediate
33 Stefan Goldmann – Art Of Sorrow
34 Ben Sims – I Feel It Deep (Sandwell District Rmx)
35 The Rice Twins – The Signifier
36 Mogwai – Mogwai Fear Satan (Surgeon Rmx)
37 Untold – Motion The Dance
38 Aril Brikha – Room 337
39 Depeche Mode – Suffering Well (M83 Rmx)
40 Wild Beasts – Two Dancers (ii) (Jon Hopkins Rmx)