Since graduating from the Red Bull Music Academy in Sao Paolo in 2002 and deciding to turn his hobby into a career, Patrice Bäumel has been on a mission to create and share music that spreads love, positivity and happiness. He was recently asked to mix the next installment of the acclaimed Balance compilation series, so we thought we'd catch up with him ahead of its imminent release to have a chat about how he approached the mix more as composition, why he used records that he's had a lasting relationship with, why contrasts are important to him and a whole load more.
I would hate it for my fans to get bored of my output; at the end I see it as my duty to bring entertainment... You've just released a new mix, 'Balance Presents: Patrice Bäumel'. What was the thinking behind this latest project?
First, to do something timeless that represents my sound 100%; second, to go a different route than your average DJ mix. Nowadays it is a big leap for people to buy a commercial mix rather than just stream a set from Soundcloud. That is why I wanted to give them something truly fresh and different.
Your mixes often go down a more conceptual route; why do you choose to approach them in such a manner?
I guess this is just the way my brain works. I have made many, many mixes in my life, at some point you are looking for a fresh angle to not repeat yourself constantly and keep things exciting. With that approach you automatically stray away from a traditional format. I would hate it for my fans to get bored of my output; at the end I see it as my duty to bring entertainment.
At the end everything - from a track to a field recording - is just sound...In the past, you've often deployed field recordings, found sound and speech samples in your mixes. What is your thinking behind using such a technique? In what ways do these sonic explorations compliment the musical side of your mixes?
These sound recordings create a very distinct atmosphere; it is like each mix gets its own signature sound. Especially with movie dialogues, you can actually tell a story in words and build music around them to support it. At the end everything - from a track to a field recording - is just sound. As soon as you stop seeing a mix as a sequence of records and start seeing it as a sound collage, a whole new world of possibilities opens up. That approach requires a certain willingness to abandon traditions.
A sense of drama can often be keenly felt in your mixes. Would it be right to say this was a fundamental element in your approach? Why is that so important to you?
I am not looking for drama but suspense, dynamic and contrast. The moment when music shifts from one state to another, from darkness to light, or from cold to warm, those transitions are the most exciting things for me in dance music. They create emotion and excitement, they move the story forward. It is the opposite of boredom. That's why it's so important to me.
I am not looking for drama but suspense, dynamic and contrast...Who have been your influences over the years in developing such a style?
The first real storytelling DJ that I encountered was Laurent Garnier in the mid-90s. Back then he was untouchable, his track selection was so interesting and he had a way of never losing energy, always building on top of the previous record. Since then I have listened to a ton of good music, but there hasn't been another big influential artist to shape me, it is more an accumulation of everything I have seen and heard.
The Balance mix approach allowed me to get much more into detail, to edit every aspect of every song where necessary...You've said with this latest mix for Balance that you “wanted to blur the lines between DJ set and production and turn it into a composition in its own right.” In what ways did this require you to take a differing approach, both creatively and technically, from that which you would use in simply crafting a DJ set?
Creating a DJ set is a very linear process; you do it step by step from start to finish. The Balance mix approach allowed me to get much more into detail, to edit every aspect of every song where necessary, to cut, copy, loop, stretch, transpose, delete. In the end I don't think there was a single track on the compilation that wasn't edited in some way. It felt like playing Lego - taking many small pieces and building a house. Creatively this means total freedom, every snippet of sound can be placed anywhere on the mix. It is not much different than producing a 70 minute track.
You've opted to use records from your collection that, for you, have stood the test of time, so “that way I knew that I had a lasting relationship with them and not just a brief fling.” Could you talk us through some of the more personal choices that have found their way into this mix?
Both M83 tracks are very personal. They take me back to very specific places, like sitting in the car with my best friends on the way home from a festival. The M83 sound with super warm and overwhelming pad sounds is something that I have integrated into many of my own productions.
What almost all of these tracks have in common is that I never fell out of love with them...How difficult was it in marrying this very personal approach you adopted with the very intricate, technical aspects of what you wanted to achieve? Were there any tracks you wanted to include that, for whatever reason, just didn't fit into the final composition?
To me, it felt natural to use records that I have loved for years and techniques that I have used for years. There really was not a lot of thinking involved, it all happened almost by itself, like I was just a passenger. From my pre-selection of about 100 tracks, only a quarter made it onto the mix, but that did not matter. I did not want to force anything as long as the total result made sense.
Getting from 95% to 100% is what makes or breaks the mix...Speaking of those intricate, technical aspects, you really did put as much thought into that side of things as you did the music, stating that “This was a pretty important phase. The difference between 95% and 100% is simply enormous.” Could you explain to our readers just what went into that mix for it to reach their ears in the way it has?
Getting from 95% to 100% is what makes or breaks the mix. For that last phase attention to detail is everything. It was not so much a technical challenge but it required a lot of careful listening, identifying and eliminating flaws. The overall flow had to be right. Some parts felt a little too long and needed cutting. Sometimes there was just an annoying frequency that I needed to eliminate. It is many little things that, as a total, make a big difference.
You've included three tracks that are exclusives, two of which are productions of your own and the other a remix you've done for Underworld. Could you tell us a little more about those please?
I made the intro and outro tracks after I was finished with the rough mix. They are custom-made to create the right start and ending, I was not even worried whether they would work on their own. The Underworld remix was originally an independent project. I fell in love with one of their tracks and asked them whether I could remix it. They sent me the parts and I went to work with it. The result fitted so well into the mix that it became the perfect way to release it.
To me, good dance music is all about contrast, about mixing warm with cold, gentle with noisy, machine-like with organic...You've said that all your music “is a dance between... two polar opposites.” Could you explain to us what you mean by this? Why do you think these two opposing styles complement each other so well?
To me, good dance music is all about contrast, about mixing warm with cold, gentle with noisy, machine-like with organic. Contrasts make music exciting; they create emotion, they surprise, they tell the story.
You've said that you “It's not all easy listening; some parts really have teeth. So by nature, the mix is not – and was never meant to be – for people with a low tolerance for music and sound that is outspoken.” Is it important to you that your mixes challenge people's expectations and perceptions?
It is important to my mixes because this it the way I am. I want there to be something more than just harmony and beauty, otherwise what would be the difference with elevator music? But I recognise that there is a time and place for music that doesn't challenge, that is just soothing and pleasant. I just feel that this would not be my story to tell.
Do you think that in doing so, yours is a style that helps give DJing more legitimacy as an art-form, in that it is a genuine form of creative expression at this point in the same way a painting or a film would be?
I don't know, but it really is not that important to me. I see the main mission of DJing in bringing people together; giving them a good time and making them feel the love. That in itself is a very powerful and positive thing to achieve.
The main mission of DJing in bringing people together; giving them a good time and making them feel the love...Music does not need to be recognized as art but can stand on its own legs. It is the most powerful form of self-expression known to mankind and has been for thousands of years.
Unlike art or film, music really has the ability to seamlessly cross cultural borders. We don't have to learn it, it is in our blood.
What else is upcoming on your horizons? Have you got any big plans for the summer?
I want to hit the studio and work on my next album and a few more singles. In the weekends there will be lots of touring going on. It's a simple and good life.