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Interview with Patrice Bäumel

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22-01-2014 | 11.03

I have been doing these types of interviews for a while now and it is not very often you can sit down with an individual in a relaxed conversational manner. When I met Patrice Bäumel at Trouw however I quickly fell into a comfort zone that I have yet to experience in this context. He’s sanguine demeanour and intense knowledge on the subject of music made it effortless to pose questions and the responses were diverse, giving a unique insight into his musical understanding. It’s easy to discern why he is Resident of the Month. He looks comfortable and confident in his surroundings. He cites Trouw as his spiritual home where he is always pushing boundaries with mixes that are as esoteric as his musical tastes. He takes as much away from his audience and in some cases even more with every appearance he makes behind the decks and he’ll be frequently making these during the course of this month.
Your history with the Trouw family stretches back to the days of 11 and your own 360º nights. It must be quite special to be Resident of the Month.
It feels like a responsibility and it is a chance to contribute something extra to the club. I love working with Trouw. The residency is all about putting some effort in and giving people something extra back.
Would you say your relationship with the venue plays a distinct role in your DJ sets here?
Yes, this is the place where I try things out - especially with the Black Magic residency, where I have more time and I have the lone responsibility in musical programming. This is the place where I really feel connected to the crowd and know the sound systems, which makes me more confident to try things out. It helps that a lot of Trouw regulars are familiar with my music. Sometimes you just believe in a sound that is not yet accepted or embraced by the public, and Trouw would be the place where I would start pushing it. When I am playing in another club, I am not familiar with, I would be more careful about my choices. Either way, I try to find the right balance between being an artist and an entertainer.
That’s an interesting duality. As a resident you must still be expected to cater to the audience’s expectations (be an entertainer), but I’m sure you would also like to keep things interesting for yourself. How do you maintain that balance?
Especially with Black Magic, I compromise very little. I play exactly what I like. Because of the downstairs room’s capacity, there is more intimacy and less crowd pressure. It's also the floor that often seems to attract the hardcore music heads. But Trouw is generally a very open-minded place where it pays dividends not to underestimate the crowd. Generally, being a DJ is not just about me. I know my place within the larger context. No matter how arty or creative I think I am, if I don’t give people a good time I won't be able to reach them and spread a good energy. To me, that is a core component of a DJ's job description.
Do you feel like Trouw’s audience is more receptive to your own style and the need for compromise thus diminishes?
Yes. You get to know each other and you build a relationship with each other. Even on a musical level, that often works both ways – I get a lot of great musical tips from people I speak to in clubs, which then find their way back into my sets. I am often amazed about how much more they know about music than many DJs. We all bring something to the table.
That has a lot to do with the Internet’s role in music’s distribution today.
Yes everything is so accessible. I find the system of DJs uploading charts flawed. I would find it way more interesting for music heads to post their charts. If DJs just look at other DJs it becomes an incestuous circle and the scene, as a whole doesn’t really develop. If you let outside influences in much more, we could evolve at a much faster rate into more adventurous directions. I think we need do that, given how stagnant the musical development has been in the last few years. There have been interesting areas, but I think for a large part it’s been a re-hashing of something that’s been there for twenty years. If you take techno for instance, the Berghain sound is a very traditional form of techno that’s been forged by Hardwax since the late eighties. I think opening up the system to the heads would benefit everybody.
If the music heads are already on top of everything, where does the DJ come into it? Can we still consider him an artist?
I don’t think that any activity can be considered art if there is no creativity in it. A baker can be an artist if he does something truly creative. I think a DJ or even musician strictly playing by the book is not an artist. He is a craftsman at best. Art for me is creating something that hasn’t been there before and connects new dots and opens new doors, which also means that art is totally not limited to what we traditionally consider creative activities.
I can already tell that you have no prejudice towards the laptop DJ.
I love it that DJing has become so open to a much larger group of people. You can see how the established scene struggles with embracing the new reality. Some are trying to raise the bar of entrance by suggesting only vinyl-DJs are real DJs. Resistance to change is a very natural reflex and comfortable attitude. Many DJs had to invest a lot of time and money to get where they are and all of a sudden you can start a DJ career with very little investment. I think its great because if more people get involved, more talent gets involved, too, and the cream eventually rises to the top. I think people like Flying Lotus and Nicolas Jaar are some of the more innovative people on the scene and you don’t see them spinning vinyl. The delivery method shouldn’t matter; it's all about content. If there is something good coming out of the speakers, I respect it regardless of the medium used.
Speaking of Nicolas Jaar you recently opened for DARKSIDE at the Concertgebouw, with a special live show including a marimba. How did it come about and can we expect more of these in the future?
Olaf (Boswijk) from Trouw approached me. He knew I was involved in classical music a little. I was DJing for Yellow Lounge, which is a classical night that takes place throughout Europe, bringing classical artists and music into a club context. So he suggested that I represent Trouw on that ADE night. I agreed. I just did what I believed would be the perfect connection between our scene and the classical scene. And that’s minimalist music, which in DNA is Techno. Its repetitive, it has this trance-inducing, endlessly looping quality to it. I immediately knew I wanted to do something like that, but I still needed to find a way that would be appropriate for the venue. So I got in touch with Dominique (Vleeshouwers), a seasoned Marimba player who is familiar with the material and we built this electro-acoustic hybrid live act. It went down really well and feeling a new kind of energy was refreshing. We are back in the studio already. We want to build this act up a little more and hope the first show was only a starting point. I think it’s an interesting niche and it works in both an electronic and classical music context. A new challenge.
You mentioned Yellow Lounge there, which is already taking classical music into the club context. It’s interesting to see this mixture of the so-called low-and high arts rise in popularity. Do you see this as the way forward for DJ sets in the future?
Totally. Look at these young and exciting composers like Max Richter and Nils Frahm, who are making big waves in our scene now. I am convinced that the merging of electronic- and classical music will gain momentum. It’s bound to happen. These two scenes have so much to give to each other. Sonically, electronic music has an unlimited array of sounds. And classical music, on the other hand, has such an advanced tool-kit for musical expression. There’s a couple of hundred years worth of knowledge in classical music theory. The coming together of these two genres will give classical music a new lifeline, since its audience keeps getting older. The scene wants to rejuvenate itself and that’s why nights like Yellow Lounge were set up. Electronic music also needs to break out of that closed circle of where it only looks in towards itself. I think that a lot of people feel that there are exciting things happening within that grey area between those genres.

Text: Mischa Mathys