He is particular, precise, and plays with the concept of boundaries. These qualities are the driving force for Patrick Russell as both a selector and a DJ within the underground.
Russell grew up in a rural area outside of Detroit proper. During his early years he became enraptured by sound. In the country he experienced a spectrum of natural soundscapes on a silent background. In the industrial prairie of Detroit, city sounds and acid lines crack through the quietude.
It was here that he started to find initial inspiration in the ambient beauty of nature. “Growing up in a rural area impacted my musical tastes in a few ways. When your sonic existence is mostly silent, especially throughout formative years, I think you greatly appreciate the detail of distant thunder, wind rustling the leaves, even the slight buzzing of power lines when you’re out walking in the field,” he says. “Add to this the visual context of wide open spaces and just nature in general – be it endless trees, approaching storm clouds, or meteors in the nighttime sky – it not only creates a sense of mental space but also allows creative thoughts to move freely. I think this is why I have always been drawn to ambient and psychedelic music, since it matches these surroundings so well.”
Eventually, he was introduced to DJing through his teenage friend Phil, who would visit his sister in 1992 to go to N.A.S.A. raves in New York City. With this exposure and the evolution of his youthful soundscapes, he reached new sonic ground. He began studying the DJs he danced to. Initially he would watch and learn during sets from Mike Huckaby and D-Wynn at a club called Industry in Pontiac, Michigan. Soon Daniel Bell became a guiding inspiration, while Richie Hawtin dropped Russell deeper into a world of strange sounds and acid.
“I’ve always been enamored with music and sound, even as a small child. By age seven I had a tape recorder and headphones, and before that I’d sit in fascination listening to records or playing with the radio dial. This foundation isn’t necessarily unique to me, I realize…but the fact musical experiences can be that personal is, ironically, one of the reasons I’ve always wanted to share it. When I’m moved by music, it’s incredibly powerful and I have a strong desire to pay that experience forward. That transfer of energy and shared consciousness continues to be my sole motivation, even after all these years.” – PATRICK RUSSELL
Meanwhile, he has been crafting his art as a DJ since the early ‘90s. His method: creating a long format, hypnotic music narrative. He makes his choices carefully and in a definitive manner; he plays to bring the consciousness of a listener in and out until, ultimately, in an altered state. By doing so he is able to provide space for others to explore outside of their comfortable boundaries on the floor.
This technique and taste is what brought him deeper into, and eventually a resident of, Detroit’s Interdimensional Transmissions. He says he has been a fan of Ectomorph since their first record on the label. Subsonic Vibrations was a 1995 release of four electro tracks and three loops. Russell says, “To me those tracks were hugely influential, and they carved out a special niche at the time due to the stripped down, minimal freakout factor that operated outside the usual Detroit electro template.” As Detroit worked its way out of a scene slump during the early 2000s – pumping electro, techno and acid brought life back into the city. This motivation is what actually inspired the beginning of No Way Back.
Not only is Russell driven by the permeating beauty of the 303 sound, he (among so many Midwest ravers) live with an understanding that acid stretches beyond. “This is something many of us in the No Way Back crew have said for years, that acid is not limited to a 303; it’s broader than that instrument, but it’s also undefinable to a certain degree. I mean, you can’t always put your finger on what makes it ‘that’ sound, but there is something specific that clicks when you hear it. That intangible element immediately transports you to a different place where genre, and to a different degree, time, cease to apply. You can feel it on a dance floor and just react, almost involuntarily.”
Beyond the imprint, IT is a collective of like-minded folks on a similar sonic mission. Co-conspirators Erika Sherman and Brendan Gillen work along with Derek Plaslaiko, Michael Servito, Carlos Souffront, and others to present both parties and productions.
“I got to know BMG and Erika more personally through Carlos Souffront and the Crush Collision radio show in Ann Arbor, where I would drop by and play from time to time,” Russell says. “Eventually I started frequenting BMG’s place to have in-depth discussions on old Chicago house culture, Italo, disco, and like. I think he saw something in how studied I was in certain areas like this, and as a result started having me play IT parties from the early 2000s onward. Since then, I’ve considered them my home base…my musical family.”
Around 10 years ago Plaslaiko became a resident of The Bunker while Russell was throwing parties in Detroit with Adriel Thornton (FreshCorp). “I’ve known Derek for over 20 years, and we’ve always been supportive of each other’s careers,” he says. “We were keen on bringing The Bunker crew for an all-day DEMF party. This is when I first met Bryan Kasenic, and in the years that followed we got to know each other better through my trips to New York and when he began partnering with No Way Back.” Russell first appeared at a Bunker party in February 2010 for the inaugural Unsound festival. “The response I received in Brooklyn that night was greater than I could have ever imagined, and along with meeting some truly incredible people it was my impetus for moving later that year. After years of regularly playing The Bunker as a guest, Bryan offered me a residency. It’s been a great ride so far.”
As a DJ he has become acclaimed worldwide. He pulls from his realms of sound and clearly follows a “no filler” mantra. This makes him not only a high-caliber selector but one that is able to succinctly navigate the listener through space and time. With a breadth of knowledge he is a versatile DJ and if you have experienced a set from Russell it is beyond clear he is a digger with a streamlined record collection. Maybe you have seen him crank a slamming set to a packed ballroom at No Way Back, or weave intricate soundscapes during his ambient set at Labyrinth in Japan. By harnessing this storytelling and mapping ability it has made him capable to play extended sets, such as the 10-hour stint at The Bunker/Unter 36-hour party.
As a producer he has had a few releases. In 2008 Valt Trax, a collaborative EP with Seth Troxler, was released through Circus Company. Additionally, through The Bunker he put out a 3-track EP with remixes of Clay Wilson, Romans, and Zemi.
On the horizon Russell has some productions in the works. “I have a few things to announce that I’m quite excited about.” A collaboration with Jasen Loveland is recently finished and he says hopes to be out later this year. “In addition, I have a remix of Mr. Loveland out this week on vinyl via LA’s Acid Camp,” he continues. “Also coming soon is a more experimental/dub remix of Certain Creatures on the new Mysteries Of The Deep label, which incidentally also launched this week. Lastly, a remix is also forthcoming in late spring for a major UK artist, which I’m particularly stoked about.”
If you’re in the North East this weekend Patrick Russell makes his Buffalo weekend debut for the next installation of REDUX this Saturday, January 13. Not to mention he will be playing a special ambient set the following night.