We have reached the final week of our Ode to Detroit feature series, the first of our themed month editions. To conclude this series and kick-off the official countdown to this weekend’s Movement Festival, we bring you a jacking mix by Detroit-bred Patrick Russell, exclusively made for this month’s Lost in Sound episode. Scroll to the end of the interview to stream the mix or for direct download.
"A cross between haunted memory, elevation to an out-of-body experience, a temporal shift, primal sexuality, the unstoppable desire to go all tasmanian devil on a dancefloor?"
Russell has been (and still is) integral to the fabric that makes up Detroit’s dynamic electronic music scene, as an artist, producer and DJ, and has played at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2001 and 2008 among many other respected nationwide shows and events. He is a Detroit gem, and thus the unquestionable candidate for this month’s Lost in Sound episode, where we specifically asked him to make us a mix that would reflect his “Ode to Detroit.” Complete with classic house jams and techno cuts from back-in-the-day, this mix successfully captures the character of Detroit electronic music, unique in its complexity, sophistication and machine soul sound. This mix had us whipping our hair around at our desks, wondering how we're going to make it through the week when we're already in a Detroit state of mind. Can't we fast forward time and get there already?
If you’re Detroit bound this weekend, catch Patrick Russell at the Smart Bar Detroit Electronic Music Festival Opening Party this Friday with Stimming and Ellen Allien or, if you arrive a day earlier, he’s lined up to play at Detroit’s “TV Dinners” pre-fest edition. Before all the mayhem, we caught up with Russell to talk about his Mentalux label, the secret life of a reality hacker and the “intangible subtexts” of electronic music.
Let’s begin by talking about your Mentalux label. When you break down the name in “mental” and “lux,” it makes sense, but can you elaborate more on what inspired you to start your own imprint? How has founding your own label influenced your musical career and the music you make?
Around 8 years ago I'd moved out of Detroit temporarily to take a mental break, was working night shifts alone and became a bit isolated. This was during the rise of (new) minimal in Detroit, and on the flip side house music had become a little too soft and polished in my opinion. I suddenly felt like an outsider because all I cared about at the time was disco edits, jacky chicago house, experimental and ambient music. I guess all this prompted me to start a personal imprint; a way to funnel all my interests, help focus and define myself. To that end I think I've succeeded, although I have yet to fully realize Mentalux as a proper "label".
What do you do outside of producing and DJing? We’re curious if it has something to do with being a “reality hacker”?
Haha...yeah I forgot I somewhat jokingly referred to that as my work. "Reality hacking" is more of an everyday mindset than an occupation per se; to me it has little to do with active technological subversion, but rather it's mostly about creative problem-solving and new ways of communicating ideas. That said, aside from music I work doing operational logistics for large-scale events in the Detroit area.
I found this sentence in your bio interesting: “Through these tools he seeks to extract the intangible subtext of electronic music's history and present it in its raw and most purest form.” Sounds like an invigorating challenge for a producer. Can you elaborate a little more on this statement? What is this “intangible subtext”? Can you give me some examples of this raw and pure form?
Take techno and house for example: If you collectively boil down the recorded history of these genres to their most concentrated and deepest essence, could you really verbally define what that is, exactly? I think most of us have felt it at least once, yet we all have different and arbitrary man-made words for it. A cross between haunted memory, elevation to an out-of-body experience, a temporal shift, primal sexuality, the unstoppable desire to go all tasmanian devil on a dancefloor? I'm not referring to generic get-wasted party music here but the occasional peek we get into something much deeper, violently burned to the roots and free of any trendiness, posturing, or gimmicks. A record that exemplifies this rawness is Maurizio 4.5, which I personally consider to be the most perfect track ever made. I can't tell you how many times I've put it on repeat and gotten completely lost in time. To that effect, I think that this 'intangible subtext' in the music is either something you get or you don't, and it's much bigger and older than all of us. I feel bad when I hear people say "Stop being so serious, it's just techno/house", as if it were that easy. I have a responsibility to pay this forward...I have no choice in the matter. Yes it's daunting to have such an extreme musical goal, but the challenge is what keeps me motivated, always trying to streamline and improve over my last effort.
In your interview with Resident Advisor earlier this year you mentioned you are working on solo productions. How are those going? What can we expect from you this year? Upcoming events? Can you tell me a little more about the concept tracks you are working on?
Production is slow-ish but definitely steady. I am still in the process of mastering my tools and trying to correctly execute my ideas. This summer I have a remix of Codine coming out on Blank Artists, and later this year a full techno-oriented 12" on a new US label called Borrowed Language. In the meantime, I am also finishing a deep house EP to shop around. The concept tracks are somewhat on the back burner until those projects are completed, but in a nutshell I found an old arrhythmic heart sound record a few years ago while listening to Thomas Brinkmann's 'Klick' and the concept just created itself. At this time I don't want to shackle myself with time constraints on that project, but hopefully I can finish it up in the very near future.
Now I’m also curious about artistic influences outside of music that influences you. Is there any specific literature or visual art that specifically touches you and influences you?
Yes, in fact I am very inspired by both. I'm really into artists such as Maya Lin, Tara Donovan, and Paul Edmunds, who make pieces I enjoy on a repetitive molecular level but on a larger scale they are very organic with distinctly different voices. I'm also a huge fan of Carsten Nicolai, not only for his incredible music on Raster-Noton but in particular his sound sculptures and installation works resonate very strongly with me. As for literature, I'm not big on novels or fiction but gravitate towards books on ancient history, especially concerning the topics of anthropological and archeological anomalies.
Now tell me a little bit more about the mix you made for this Lost in Sound episode. Given that it is dedicated to the Ode to Detroit theme we’re running can you elaborate a little on your musical selections? Why does this mix capture the soul of Detroit, in your
My original intention was to do a proper Detroit electronic music retrospective giving due respect to every major artist and label, but given the time constraints I just couldn't put it together in a way or length that made sense. In the 11th hour, I just scrapped it all and decided to do a completely improvised DJ set with a variety of Detroit or Detroit-related artists and labels. Naturally some of my favorite tracks by artists such as Jeff Mills, Drexciya, Derrick May, Kenny Larkin, KDJ, etc were left out, but I went with what worked at the time. A few tracks on there may not be technically "Detroit" to some, but there have always been select labels like Black Nation, artists like Orlando Voorn, and tracks like Scion's "Emerge" that are all considered to be our very own, like family. The track selection ranges from deeper cuts to classic party jams, and combined with the impromptu nature of the mix, the overall vibe, and the fact it's far from perfect and a bit rough around the edges, all of these elements effectively capture the spirit of Detroit.
Detroit Escalator Co. - Gratiot (Ferox)
Connection Machine - Poly 800 (Planet E)
Shake - Breathe Deeper (Frictional)
Silent Phase - Psychotic Funk (Transmat/R&S)
Robert Hood - Untitled (M-Plant)
Tailback 35 - 1st & 10 (Black Nation)
Low Res - Amuck (Juan's Remix 2) (Metroplex)
Scion - Emerge (Chain Reaction)
DBX - Electric Shock (Accelerate)
Baruka - Play It Loud (Night Vision)
Esser'ay - Forces (Chez N Trent Remix) (KMS)
Roland King - Flashbacks From The M1 (M3)
Claude Young & Terrance Parker - Untitled (Dow)
4th Measure Men - 4You (Area 10)