The Detroit-bred DJ and producer showcases his turntable experience on this week's RA podcast.
He may not have a very big discography, but Patrick Russell has been present on Detroit's electronic music scene since the early '90s, DJing Chicago house and Detroit techno at various warehouse parties across Michigan. Appearances at the city's Detroit Electronic Music festival followed in 2001 and 2008, and he was even picked to warm up for Jeff Mills when the techno legend made his Detroit stop during his One Man Spaceship tour three years ago.
Over the last decade, Russell has also been distributing his own limited edition mix cassettes and CDs via his own Mentalux imprint, but only really started to gain interest in Europe after collaborating with fellow Michigan man Seth Troxler on a 12-inch for Circus Company. The resulting three tracks reference Chicago, Berlin and Detroit, working a low slung house vibe on both "Doctor Of Romance" and "Last Date," and electro on the rough and raw groove of "Love Spray." Since then, he's been hard at work on new solo material: The funky minimal house of "Sky Burial"—which is featured at the tail end of Russell's RA podcast—only hints at where his future production work is to lead.
What have you been up to recently?
I just returned from New York City where I had the opportunity to perform at Bunker as part of the Unsound Festival. Every possible element was in place that night, from the sound system to an amazing packed house and being surrounded by extraordinary friends and peers. There's nothing better than a willing peak-hour crowd with an open mind, and they seemed to just want more and more that night. Intense. Otherwise, I've spent the last six months focusing energy back into my productions, and somewhat redefining and streamlining my sound. I also keep a healthy DJ schedule, along with working logistics for large events and festivals around Detroit.
How and where did you record the mix?
The mix was recorded at my home/studio using two 1200s and a Urei mixer. Until recently I used only vinyl with the occasional CD, however with the number of various edits and digital tracks accumulating in my collection I was feeling held back so I finally made the leap to Traktor Scratch Pro. I'm a record collector and vinyl junkie at heart (and continue to buy physical copies of records), but I can't see the point of limiting myself or moving backwards at this point. The software has given me loads of creative freedom thus far, and I can't wait to push it further.
Can you tell us a little bit about the idea behind the mix?
I am constantly flipping between various genres—drone to disco, early electronics to deep house, acid techno to dub—which can be challenging to cohesively present in such a short period of time... I like to have time to stretch out. Additionally, I like extremely detailed and lush melodic songs but truly love very repetitive tracks that barely change (if at all) and have a hypnotic effect. I enjoy weaving these all together and taking some chances with my sets; I wouldn't have it any other way, because playing boring one-note "dance" sets just isn't my style. With non-club mixes in particular, I try to find an overall common thread through the texture of the sounds themselves or some deeper subtext, but for this podcast I simply wanted to follow a path through some more classic/obscure tracks I love and span a few genres at the same time. I'm a huge fan of older Chicago house and grittier sounding tracks, which I think are both well represented here.
Have you been working on your solo productions much at all, or do you prefer to collaborate?
Lately I've been strictly working on solo productions, though I have one or two potential collaborations on the horizon involving live instrumentation, which is pretty exciting. What I value most about great collaborative efforts is the fact all parties can showcase and concentrate on their utmost strengths, and with proper vision and focus that synergy can yield some magic results, as in the case of my collaboration with Seth Troxler. That said, I also thoroughly enjoy the solo creative process and have been recently finishing a number of projects, old and new.
Can you reveal anything about your re-edit project The Truth?
I don't necessarily have one particular style when it comes to edits. Occasionally a track is perfect except for one element that needs removing, and with many others I've stripped out a single loop plus a few individual sounds, and completely rebuilt the track from the ground up. It depends. My main influences when it comes to edits and rearranging samples would have to be Ron Hardy, Kenny Dixon Jr, and Theo Parrish, with special nods to Walter Gibbons and Shep Pettibone. I love finding that one small piece that just pops, and then driving that point home through creative repetition and arrangement. Even though I always have a specific idea in mind when creating edits, I often keep that core mentality. In my opinion there have been far too many edit records in the last few years that try and utilize "obscure" disco and leftfield tracks that fall way short of the mark; if you're just gonna extend the intro and leave in the worst cheesy part, why even do it at all?
You've been DJing in Detroit for a long time now. Do you have any interesting anecdotes about your time in the warehouse party scene during the early '90s?
Ha... Too many! The story of Detroit between the Music Institute days and the mid-late 90s rave scene remains largely untold, and was a truly amazing time. Crowds were very mixed (gay, straight, black, white), as was the music. There was a sense we were on the edge of something special, with no rules... It felt like the world was there for the taking. In fact, much of the recent house renaissance is exactly what we were listening to back then: MK, Chez Damier, Ron Trent, Todd Terry, Murk Records, etc.
We were also fortunate to have so many amazing DJs who influenced myself and our scene such as Mike Huckaby, D. Wynn, Ken Collier, Anthony "Shake" Shakir, KDJ and Claude Young (amongst many others), and getting to see them so often at intimate one-off venues set a very unique standard. For me this is the core vibe of Detroit, and those who pass that torch of knowledge get nothing but the utmost respect from me: DJs like Mike Huckaby and Mike Servito who continue to pay that forward through music, and people like Gehrick Mohr who perfectly demonstrate that Detroit essence through some of the most amazing and soulful dancing I've ever seen in my life.
What are you up to next?
Acquiring more gear, and maybe sleep? I'm playing some great events in the upcoming months, along with preparing for the Movement and Mutek festivals. I'm also currently working on a series of concept tracks revolving around irregular heart rhythms which I'm having fun with, doing some A&R work for Detroit label The Few Records, and of course more edits.