Dollars to Pounds: Interview with patten

In our biweekly column about British music, Selim Bulut interviews Warp’s fantastic, anonymous producer patten.

December 05, 2013

"Hopefully alive, but then if not, that’s fine too"

Selim Bulut is a music writer who lives in London. He has the most meticulously organized iTunes folder in the land. He’ll be writing about some of the excellent music coming out of the UK every other week.

It might not seem easy to make sense of patten. “Abstract” is a word that often gets thrown around when talking about experimental music, but patten’s sounds are genuinely intangible, amorphous and seem to be constantly in flux. Familiar sounds become foreign, foreign sounds seem familiar, and it’s impossible to say where one thing ends and another begins. His live shows are a collage of different noises, voices, and instruments, neither with any obvious definition, while his DJ sets sit at a crossroad between a traditional mix (insofar that he is playing other people’s songs) and a live show (insofar that they’re loaded with live edits and effects), carrying a similar quality where the borders between, say, a dank trap instrumental and a Siouxsie & The Banshees song seem porous.

Following the release of his debut album, the tongue-twistingly titled GLAQJO XACCSO, for No Pain In Pop in 2011, patten has found a very appropriate home in Warp Recordings, who released his EOLIAN INSTATE EP last week (November 25th) as a precursor to a full-length next year. It’s his first release of original material since that album, but he’s kept busy with the occasional remix project and with curating releases for his great label, Kaleidoscope, which puts out short-run cassettes by likeminded artists.

Fittingly, patten is also an anonymous artist—and that’s genuinely anonymous, rather than just elusive. Nobody knows his name (he’s only ever given it as “D”), and finding a photograph of him with a visible face will prove impossible, meaning that pinning any biographical narrative to his discography is impossible. But unlike a lot of reclusive or publicity-shy producers, patten is keen to speak about what he does as an artist, and talk about it confidently. He thinks about what his music means from a conceptual perspective before a musical or personal one, which is perhaps what makes his sound so refreshingly non-referential.

I spoke to patten via email (attempts to meet in person consistently fell through, but it’s worth stressing that he is far from averse to face-to-face interviews) to talk a bit about his ideas as an artist and his signing to Warp. While his answers may seem evasive or even cagey, what he talks about is really his reality—even if you have to re-read what he’s saying once or twice.

Why have you've kept your biographical information under wraps? You're not an "anonymous musician" in the usual sense—you do interviews, you do live shows, you don't wear a mask… It’s a question, really. A proposition. I wonder whether the focus could remain more fully on the materials produced without it being about the person, or people, who made it as such. I honestly value the time and experience of people out there so highly and sense that they are bombarded daily with surplus information of all types. The hope is to work in an altogether different way. There's so much potential.

What state of mind did you most often find yourself in when making your new EP? What environment were you in? So many different ones. All manner of times of day and states of mind, from deep 11AM focus to 4AM drift. A fleeting thought mid-conversation, a novel combination of switches flicked in the midst of a live show, at rest in the arms of a loved one—to try and excavate choices and decision-making from these various states, this means a lot. 

"Best and worst don't actually exist."

And what environment do you reckon is best to listen to this EP in? Hierarchy is illusory. Concrete value systems cloud thought and block experience. Best and worst don't actually exist.

Do you feel there's anything explicitly "different" about the way you worked on this new EP and they way you made GLAQJO XAACSSO, from either a personal perspective or a practical/technical one? The process is part of an unbroken continuum that spans further back and forward in time than the dates of any records that have and will be made.

Would you consider yourself to have a particular mission statement across all of the music you make? Is there a particular feeling you'd want a listener to experience? Sometimes we can't tell if or what we are feeling exactly. Language has its limits. Sometimes minds can go past those limits, and distinct boundaries melt away into gossamer-thin, permeable wisps of things deeply apparent yet half there.

Am I right in finding "Aviary" to be very uplifting? There's no wrong response as such in this scenario. It's an open thing, your perception, so if “uplifting” were to be replaced with 'sad', 'fast, 'slow', 'colourful', 'monochrome', 'dense', 'sparse', 'light', 'heavy', the answer would always be yes. 

Let's talk a bit about you signing to Warp. I think a lot of people will consider that a very natural fit. What does Warp mean to you? It is a rare organization based on a constant strive for innovation, excellence and the pure, distilled expression of ideas. Warp is filled with smart, hard-working, forward-thinking people in every single area of activity. Everyone there is just fully on top of what they are doing and willing to go further than usual for no other reason than the fact that they love what they do and find it important for some particular personal reason. It's quite peculiar to be surrounded by people who understand that drive to create in ways that don't yet exist.  

Do you often go to clubs? Nightclubs, yes, often.

Where do you see yourself in five years time? Hopefully alive, but then if not, that's fine too. There's really no telling. I could be typing my last words right now for all we know. It's strange. Impermanent. Constantly appearing. Constantly disappearing.

With Kaleidoscope, you're also an A&R. What do you look for in the artists that you release? We've not yet looked for a single artist as such. These relationships and dialogues that are in part externally visible through the release of various materials are real things that have grown naturally over time with no particular outcome in sight. It might look like a traditional label, but it's something very different to that.

From The Collection:

Dollars To Pounds
Dollars to Pounds: Interview with patten