When Patrice Scott launched his Sistrum Recordings label in 2006 it was clear that the three fathoms-deep cuts on his Atmospheric Emotions EP were not the work of a beginner. Indeed Scott had been DJing since the 80’s alongside many of his more well-known Detroit compatriots, and had been producing for many years, though didn’t seriously begin to work on his music until a year or so before the release. Since then Scott has built Sistrum into a label that stands as a by-word for quality deep house and techno, releasing artists like Leonid, XDB and Imugem Orihasam, while his remixes have lent extra kudos to the likes of Tazz, Fred P, Raiders of the Lost Arp and Oliver Deutschmann. LWE spoke to Scott recently about the likelihood of a full length album, the importance of sticking to your convictions, and the constant inspiration of Detroit. He also put together our 129th exclusive podcast; a faultless mix of late-night house and techno that exhibits not only his supreme taste but also the underlying deepness that is inherent in his own productions.
LWE Podcast 129: Patrice Scott (72:27)
01. Scott Grooves, “Reminisce” [Natural Midi]
02. Christopher Rau, “Swearing” [Thema]
03. Chris Mitchell, “Y.I.C.U.” [Vanguard Sound]
04. Chris Mitchell, “Lonely Nights” (Dakini9 Remix) [Plan B Recordings]
05. The Abstract Eye, “Nobody Else (Pt. 2)” [Valentine Connexion Records]
06. Scott Grooves, “Dub Delay” [Natural Midi]
07. Joe Babylon, “Detroit Beatdown Tribute” (XDB Firstfloor Mix)
08. Dubtribe Sound System, “Do It Now” [Imperial Dub Recordings]
09. Gemini, “Crossing Mars” (Remix) [Planet E]
10. Counterplan, “90 Degrees” (DJ Q Remix) [Soma Quality Recordings]
11. Chris Mitchell, “Limitations Force Everything” [Vanguard Sound]
12. Mike Delgado, “Soul Good” [Henry Street Music]
13. Two Armadillos, “Phantom” [Two Armadillos Music]
14. Theo Parrish, “Falling Up” (Technasia Remix) [Syncrophone]
15. Stephen Brown, “HMI” [Heliocentric Music]
In terms of production, you’re a bit of a late-bloomer. When did you first think about wanting to produce, and then how many years of incubation — of starting to do so, before you released your first EP?
Patrice Scott: I really, seriously thought about producing, and I actually did start producing back around 1998, and, you know, I had bought some analog equipment during that time. I started producing, tinkering around with it; but what happened was I started working this very demanding job at an auto plant in Detroit, where I used to be a production supervisor, and it was just so demanding. I was working 10/12 hours a day, seven days a week so, you know, the production was limited, and it kind of put everything on the back burner. Around 2004 I was still working a lot, but I was making time to produce when I was free. And I really got serious about it around 2004 or maybe early 2005. And I just started just going at it, man, and really trying to perfect the craft, and actually, my first release, which came out in 2006, I shopped it around to various Detroit labels, and they were just making suggestions as to what I should do to change the A-side track, which was the main track I was shopping around. It was “Atmospheric Emotions,” which we actually just re-pressed and it’s doing pretty good for a re-press. But yeah, they were just saying I should change this, change that, and I just thought the track was cool the way it was, simple and straight to the point, nice groove. So I just decided to start my own label, and that’s how it came about, so I could just do it the way I want to do it, when I want to do it.
I guess that takes a certain confidence to strike out perhaps against what people have said, offering you advice on what to do. Do you feel that perhaps being a little bit older when you set up the label and when you started producing that that gave you a better understanding of what you wanted your music to be?
Oh, definitely. Definitely. I think if I would’ve started producing and releasing when I was, like, 18 or 20 years old, it would be totally different than what it is right now. So I think it has a lot to do with a maturity level and where I am at this point in time. So yeah, yeah, definitely. I think it helped me. And let me put it like this: I don’t think I will regret anything that I did because, like, to give an example, what I did early on, years ago, I probably wouldn’t do now, but at the same time, I’m still proud of what I did because of the fact that at that point in time, that’s where I was, you know what I mean? And I wouldn’t have released it if I wasn’t proud of it so, that’s just how it goes.
Prior to that, had you been thinking about running your own label, as well?
Getting that feedback from different labels.
No. I had never even thought about running my own label. My goal was I always wanted to express myself musically through my own creations, and it was just about, “OK, what outlets can I reach out to to get the music out there?” But no, I’d never even thought about setting up my own label. That was the main reason that made me start my label.
So kind of a blessing in disguise, really?
Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
And when you first started producing, I guess in the late 90s and then again when you really got back into it, had you had other friends who were doing the same thing who you shared tips with?
Oh yeah, definitely. When I first got some analog equipment, Alton Miller and Mike Grant were a couple of guys, and they actually came over and hooked up everything for me because I had no idea what I was doing, and I was like, “Man, I got this 16-channel mixing board; I can’t get anything to come out.” So yeah, they helped me out a lot with that. And I know most of the guys in Detroit, the guys who had been producing longer than me, and I knew what they were doing. So yeah, yeah.
What was the thing you had to work hardest at to get your tracks sounding how you want them to?
You mean sounding as just to getting it the way I want it, or do you mean quality-wise?
Yeah, getting them to sound how you want them to.
Well, for me, I have to say the hardest thing — I consider my tracks to be pretty simplistic, but at the same time, there’s a musicality in my tracks, and I don’t know, man. I guess it’s really the whole thing is it’s gotten easier for me, but it’s hard for me because I’m not a musician. It can take me days to just figure out to get something to sound the way I want it to sound because I’m just tinkering and toying around with the notes and trying to make sure everything is in key and not in key. I do know that. I know some music theory that a friend of mine has taught me and that I’ve learned on my own, but sometimes I can spend a long time just getting stuff in key because I’m not a musician, and it doesn’t happen fast for me. And I’m real critical of myself too.
Your label, Sistrum Recordings, it seems to be a very well-thought-out label, in terms of its release frequency and the consistency of the music that’s coming out and also the quality of it. Do you plan out how many outside artists will release on the label each year, or perhaps even how many releases you’ll do yourself?
There’s always a plan, but does that plan always fall accordingly in place? No. In regards to other artists, no, it’s not really planned. I get a ton of demos from people. I try to respond but some I can’t. For those who I can’t respond to, I apologize, but it’s just — I don’t know, man. How can I put it? When I come across something from another artist it’s usually because I contacted that artist, because I’m a fan of what they do, and somehow our paths crossed and it started that way. But it’s never really planned out, to be honest with you. As far as the release schedule, I sit up and go, “OK, this year I want to do this, this, this, this, and this.” And last year it didn’t happen like that. This year it’s happening the way I planned it, but it’s kind of starting to change now because there was supposed to be a release by me coming out around this time, but that’s been pushed back because of various reasons. The schedule is still in place as far as the releases coming out, but it may not happen the way I actually plan it to happen.
With the label, you’ve kept it largely vinyl only. I think I saw one of your releases got a digital release as well. Is that something you’ve done to perhaps give the tracks a certain exclusivity to proper DJs?
No, you know, it started off as — I have digital now, but it started off as vinyl only, but for three years now, I have been doing digital releases. Most of the vinyl is available on digital, except I’m not – I’ll put it to you like this: for example, release number 18 came out at the end of April, but it’s not on digital, and 17 came out in February and it’s not on digital. So there’s no real schedule, as far as digital. I need to get better with that, but to answer your question, there are digital releases now. I believe up to number 15 is available on digital. Yeah for the last three years I started doing that, and in the beginning I wasn’t going to do that, but I decided to go ahead and do it. There are people who want digital and there are people who want vinyl. If people really want the vinyl, they’re going to buy the vinyl. So it hasn’t affected vinyl sales at all.
Yeah. And thinking about offering things digitally – I mean I’m not sure what the rate of digital copies sold versus illegal ones that you’re going to find somewhere on the Internet, but was that something to consider as well?
That’s the main reason why I did go digital, is because I figured, “OK, every time I released the vinyl, there it was up for free download.” The quality might not be that great, but there it was up for a download and it was kind of irritating, to be honest with you. So I said, “Hey, let me provide some good digital copies for people who really want digital, and at the same time, maybe I can make a couple of pennies off of it.”
Yeah, make it easier for them to actually pay for them.
Now generally your tracks are very emotive, and I feel they really carry with them a quality of something that’s being said without words. On that, have you thought about using vocals in your tracks?
Yes, yes. There are vocals coming out on Sistrum. That’s something that I’ve really been thinking about and been planning to do, and there are a couple of vocalists I’ve been speaking with. I’m getting together some things that I want them to do some vocals on. So yeah there’s some different things coming. And that’s definitely one of them: a vocal track, yeah.
Oh, excellent. And also can we expect a Patrice Scott album any time soon?
I’ve said it before, but the plan right now — and like I said, plans don’t always happen like you want them to — but I’m looking to release an album in 2013.
And so are the vocals going to play a big part of that?
There may be a vocal track on it. The plan right now with the album is just to have a variety of things. I really want to express myself on the album; it’s not going to be just dance tracks. I plan on re-releasing some of the earlier stuff on the album, as well as some new tracks. You know, maybe a downtempo track, a vocal track, a track that’s kind of more jazzy so there’s going to be a variety of things on the album. So if anybody’s expecting to get, like, eight, nine, 10 tracks of just bumping dance music, it’s not going to be like that.
I read an interview with you from a couple of years ago, and you were saying at that stage you weren’t really getting booked much in the States. Is that still the case, or are you playing there more often now?
It’s pretty much the same. You know, I have a gig next weekend, June 30th in New York, and then I believe it’s July 11th I’m in Chicago. But I played in San Francisco at the end of last year, but yeah, it’s not too often that I play in the States. It’s still pretty much the same.
Yeah. So it’s really Europe for you.
So what is the most inspiring place for you in terms of music. I don’t know, things that, where you hear the best music and things that make you want to make better music, as well.
Yeah. The city itself, the atmosphere, the people, the way of living, it’s total inspiration when it comes to music. Nothing else like it. I guess you’ve got to live here to know what I mean, but yeah, Detroit. Detroit itself, even the other artists here. I know I might be biased, but it’s just something about Detroit. I think if I did not grow up in Detroit and I chose to express myself with creating music, I don’t think it would be the same. I know it wouldn’t be the same.
Pretty much every producer I talk to from there, they just feel that it’s this bottomless well of inspiration.
OK, and what can you tell us about the mix that you’ve put together for us?
The mix — it’s basically, it’s what I was feeling at the moment. A lot of people, they like to get into these themes of their mixes and this and that. Podcasts are rare for me. I like to just get down and do what I do, for example, in a club setting because there haven’t been many podcasts that I have put out there. Once I get some more podcasts out there, I may express myself a little differently, maybe a little more of a downtempo mix, but basically, the mix just starts off kind of mild and builds itself up to in the end. And it’s just what I normally do: a mix of house and techno.
And lastly, what can we expect to hear from you and from Sistrum over the next year?
Well, what’s planned next is The Aphotic Segments Part Two, which will feature myself, Chris Mitchell, and Tony Ollivierra, a Detroit artist better known as Ibex, formerly known as Ibex. This is part two of that series. I’m looking to release that late August, early September. Then before the year ends, there will be another EP out by myself, a 12″. In 2013 there will be a solo EP from Chris Mitchell and then the album from me, which is tentatively scheduled. You know, we’ll see how it goes.