In the booth with Bill Patrick
COBALT: A resident DJ, specifically the evening's opener, holds a unique responsibility in a club's evening of music. What are those duties, and how do you fulfill them in your residency at Arc?
Bill Patrick: The opening set has always been my favorite part of the night. It goes back to the Twilo daze; I would get there at 11-12 o’clock every Friday in order to hear the opening DJ’s set. Guys like Jimmy Van M, Sean Cusick, DJ Three, and Danny Howells would play this unique sound that always created a warm feeling inside the club, and carried you right into the headlining set. I always admired how well it flowed together. I remember walking into the club sometimes and hearing some guys banging it out at 11:30 with 20 people on the floor, and I would get so upset.
The warm-up set is an art, and very few DJs have mastered it. I’m still learning how to go about it myself. I look back at when I first started my residency a year ago at Arc and can’t believe some of the music I was playing when I opened. As I’ve grown into my role at Arc and become more comfortable playing in such a big room and mega sound system, my sets have evolved as well. I try to keep things moving with dubby, grooving house / tech-house, yet be respectful to the main DJ. The goal is to set him / her up with a great vibe in the club and clubbers who are ready to be taken to the next level. You have to understand that the majority of the people are not coming to hear you. I feel as if a lot of openers think that if they bang it out, they will get noticed quicker. It’s the worst thing you can do really. Whether it’s the fact that they think they’re rocking it, or just don’t understand the music they're playing, it comes off sounding bad, and can ruin a night.
COBALT: What's the difference between Bill Patrick the opener, and Bill Patrick the headliner?
Bill Patrick: My name is bigger on the flyer when I headline ; )
It’s actually something that has taken me some time to get used to. I'd played small clubs and lounges my first 3 years as a DJ, and would buy music that fit that atmosphere. When I got the gig at Arc I put so much time and effort into my opening sets that I found myself struggling when I first got booked to play headlining gigs. Now that I’ve gotten more bookings as a headliner, I definitely feel more comfortable with the role and look forward it.
As an opener I play everything from deep house, to minimal techno. Producers such as Steve Bug, Ricardo Villalobos, Lance DeSardi, and SCSI-9. When headlining, I tend to play more on the techno-house side of things. Depending on how long I’m playing for and where, I’ll play everything from Danilo Vigorito, Billy Dalessandro, and Richie Hawtin, to Casa Del Soul, Jeff Bennett, and Garth.
COBALT: When it comes to DJs who share the same role as you do as the opener, whom do you think gets it right (or has so in the past)?
Bill Patrick: Greg Pappanastos at Lush in North Carolina, Simbad in Argentina is wicked, and of course, 112’ers Tom Amoroso, Matt Licata, and Dennis Rodgers are smooooth. Greatest openers I have ever had the pleasure of listening to are Jimmy Van M and Danny Howells. Jimmy was the foundation of those legendary Sasha and Digweed nights. And though I never got a chance to hear Danny at Bedrock, I have learned a lot from his opening sets here at Arc, and when he first started doing his marathon sets at Twilo.
COBALT: Working with the likes of Tenaglia and Howells at Arc must be alternately mind-blowing and intimidating for someone of your age. What are some of the lessons you've learned thus far?
Bill Patrick: The lessons and knowledge are never ending. Danny Howells is a genius DJ, and true friend. He’s been so supportive of my career through the years, and now that we both have the Arc residency I have gotten the opportunity to learn from him on a continuous basis. I admire the way he has succeeded as an opening DJ, to now being one of the most sought after jocks in the world. (It’s) a path I would love to take myself, and hope to one day achieve. His personality is tops as well, he’s one of the most approachable and friendliest people I know, (and these are) characteristics that I believe will get you farther in life than anything else. Musically, he brings it all to the table and makes it work. There are so many different types of music out there that I enjoy playing. I’ve become more confident mixing it up and taking chances by listening to his 10 hour sets at Arc.
I don’t work with Tenaglia (his party is on Fridays and I do Saturdays), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been schooled by him many a night. It wasn’t until I went to see him at the Winter Music Conference in 2000, his 25 year anniversary party at Space, where I realized how important and amazing he is. (It was) a legendary night and one that changed my whole outlook and approach to DJing. After that WMC I made it a point to go to Vinyl on a regular basis. I’d usually head over to hear Danny around 6 or 7 in the morning.
The music that could be heard at those times was the most ridiculous, scary, filthy, mind-blowing tribal techno-house with effects, accapellas, loops, and anything else that was laying around. Danny used it and put on a show like no one else. Till this day I have yet to hear another DJ that can compare to what Danny did back then. I wasn’t always in the clearest head during those nights, but every time was a new lesson learned – how he took control of the club and everyone in it. There is a confidence level Danny has with his crowd, it’s unmatched, (and has been) perfected through his years of DJing. The crowd knows that they will be rewarded at the end of the night. It’s something that as a DJ you strive for, to be able to gain the confidence of the crowd each and every night you play.
COBALT: Danny T's caught some flack recently from the institution of certain "rules" at his Be Yourself night, pointing to what some characterize as a control-freak personality. What insights can you offer about the man many regard as the best DJ in the business?
Bill Patrick: It’s a touchy subject. I have the utmost respect for Danny and what he has achieved and done for this scene. It’s his night, and he has total control of it. If he wants to make rules he has definitely earned the right to do so. Things have changed a lot over the years – especially here in NY. The crowd and vibe at the clubs are not what they used to be. Everyone has his or her own theory and reasons as to what the cause of this is. It’s a whole new generation of people going out to clubs, and with that brings change, both good and bad. I’m sure Danny’s intentions are not to piss people off, but to try and bring it back to what going out used to and should be about: the music.
COBALT: What would you say is the biggest problem with DJing in 2003 (particularly concerning style, genres, big rooms vs. small rooms, etc.)?
Bill Patrick: Paul Oakenfold’s Jesus Christ pose. Actually, it may all derive from that. Too many of these guys think they’re more important than they really are, charging astronomical fees and thus raising the cover at clubs. A $30-$40 cover charge is ridiculous in a time when the economy, worldwide, is horrible.
I’ll probably get (shit) for this, but it almost seems as if some of these “superstar” DJs get too comfortable and lazy, and just rely on playing whatever is sent to them. Just take a look at some of the charts that are sent out. No work is done to try and push things forward musically. Do we really need to hear 3 mixes of Coldplay, U2, and Depeche Mode or 27 remixes of “Space Manoeuvres”???
Everything is either a white label, CDR, or promo, and then maybe at the end of the set we’ll get a treat and hear a classic from 2002! It gets stale and doesn’t help the scene at all. There’s wicked music to be found if you research and take time to hunt through bins and backstock. It’s not always going to be at your fingertips, but finding gems is half the fun of being a DJ.
For me, a good DJ is one who can mix old with new and plays a wide range of styles, never pigeon-holing themselves to any one genre. Josh Wink, Richie Hawtin, Danny Howells, Tyrant, Laurent Garnier, the list goes on. Of course, this is my opinion and I know others think differently. But you’re interviewing me so I’ll tell you what I think J
Every DJ is out there trying to do their thing to succeed in a rough business. A lot of people have dreams of becoming the next Sasha or Tiesto but that’s like winning the lotto. It takes a lot of time and commitment but there are some people that try and take the easy route. Jumping on the “flavor of the month” sound might get you a gig now but in the long run it’s a bad move. Creativity and originality will always win in the end.
COBALT: As of 2003, how would you characterize the New York club scene's health, post-Twilo?
Bill Patrick: I have a lot of faith in the NY club scene. After Twilo closed, it really seemed like a domino effect of sorts. Other clubs got shut down, parties that had been around for ages (e.g. Body and Soul) closed their doors, and people started staying in. Sept 11th just sank us even lower and at times it seemed so bleak. But we knew that it was a cycle, and truly believed that it was going to come back around.
Right now things are looking up. We went through our initiation period but Arc is now steady. Nights such as Sander Kleinenberg, Danny Howells, Richie Hawtin and Sven Vath bring in great numbers. The success of those nights helps us to take chances on smaller, lesser-known DJs and local talent. (We’re able) to move things ahead and it’s something I’m really proud to be a part of.
With all these new clubs opening I believe things are going to get even better. Avalon, Crobar, Spirit, they will all help the scene here in NY. When you have clubs on a bigger scale like these opening, it has a trickle-down effect. You’ll have your big-name, more popular DJs and acts playing there, but it will also help to develop a strong underground scene which has been lacking here. So I’m looking forward to what the future holds for the New York club scene.
COBALT: On paper it's an odd partnership: a member of the 112 Crew with the trance mecca of Gatecrasher. How did that relationship begin, and how do you play those events?
Bill Patrick: The Gatecrasher residency was a short stint back in the summer of ’01. Matt Licata (112 Crew) and I got booked to do the opening slots for their NY residency at Limelight. It was really a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. I walked into Satellite Records one night and Simon Raine (owner of Gatecrasher) was asking some staff members about local DJs. My name was mentioned and I was introduced to him. He told me that the club was starting a new night here in NY, and they wanted local talent to do the warm-up slot. I gave him this demo that Matt and I had just completed that week. I didn’t think the music we played was what they were looking for so I wasn’t really expecting to hear back from them. A month had passed when I received an e-mail asking if we would like to play the opening party with Judge Jules and Ashley Casselle. After the initial shock and then laughter when I imagined myself on the same bill as Judge Jules, I called Matt and we gladly agreed to do it. It didn’t last very long because Sept 11th occurred after only 3 parties and they decided to put an end to it. Gatecrasher did a few one-offs at Arc, and I did opening and closing sets for a couple of them. Since the beginning I had told them that I wasn’t going to play trance, and they respected that. I don’t play for them anymore but I do appreciate the chance they gave me back then. I was a complete unknown and they were really the first club to give me a shot. It was a great experience and the first big room I ever played, so I am grateful for that.
COBALT: For the uninitiated, tell us a bit about what the members of the 112 Crew have in common, and what makes the collective's relationship work?
Bill Patrick: First I should let people know who we are. One Twelve Crew is me,Tom Amoroso, Matt Licata, and Dennis Rodgers.
I’d have to say the biggest thing we have in common is the love / sickness of staying up for ungodly amounts of hours playing music. It started 3 years ago in building 112, where we would throw after-parties. (It was) a 5-story walk up which turned into a makeshift club every Saturday morning after Twilo and Vinyl. We’d carry all the equipment and records up and set everything in my girlfriend’s 2 bedroom apartment that fit 10 comfortably. Turntables on the sink, speakers on top of the microwave, and a fridge full of Coronas. Many would come and go but the four of us always found ourselves playing records deep into the afternoon and evening. We loved playing those inside cuts that you could never play or hear anywhere else and that is something that has continued today. But now we are lucky enough to be able to play those tracks out and are really excited about the response it has gotten. We just landed a bi-monthly residency at Arc that will feature us on the main floor all night long. It’s a big jump from the 2-bedroom club we started in. However, not much will change except the Coronas (Arc has no liquor license)!
Honestly what makes it work is that we have so much fun playing music together and are always amazed at the other person’s records. Each of us has our own sound, but when we combine them it works.
COBALT: Finally, what would you like to say to those in attendance at Cobalt to expect you to bring when you play there on November 7th?
Bill Patrick: I’m really looking forward to playing out on the west coast for the first time and especially in L.A. I’ll be bringing a taste of what goes on here in New York and at Arc on Saturdays. I hope that people walk away from the night experiencing a sound that is new, fresh and something they are into.