Alan Fitzpatrick has been a powerful force in the world of techno for a number of years now. After slowly building his reputation, Fitzpatrick was catapulted into the upper echelons of techno when he signed to Adam Beyer's now seminal Drumcode imprint and released 'Static/Rubix' in 2009. In between his busy touring schedule, Fitzpatrick took time out one morning to chat on Skype, talking in depth about being let loose on the White Isle at 17, blagging his way into raves, getting lost in Berghain, secret '80s references and everything in between.
Hi Alan, what have you been up to? Pretty hectic really! The touring schedule’s been pretty mental so I’m just in the studio now trying to finish off some grooves that I started on flights.
It must be quite hard to get into making music when you’re travelling around all the time. Yeah, it's a bit of a nightmare, because I’m not always the best at writing stuff on the go. I prefer to be in my studio environment. If I have to, I’ll start stuff, but I never get anything finished until I get back home and get in the studio.
I’m in Ibiza at the moment and you were playing at Sankeys Ibiza recently, how was it? Yeah, it was really good – it’s quite a cool sound system in that place as well. Lots of people came to see me – it was a lot of fun. It was nice to see it still so busy towards the end of the season so it was good!
What’s it like playing there? It’s obviously a smaller room and you play some massive shows. Yeah, it was nice, I like to get a good mix of playing the huge arena-size places and the club-size places. I always prefer playing club shows anyway really, I just feel it’s a bit more intimate – you’re close to the crowd and stuff. The festivals are great, it’s amazing to play big festivals and to see the production, but you’re quite far away from the people.
I suppose you can connect more. Yeah, there’s no sort of immediate interaction because people are quite far away from you. But in the club, when people can really see what you’re doing, it’s a lot more my style really.
Have you had a long relationship with Ibiza? Yeah, I’ve been going to the island probably since I was 17 maybe. So 14 or 15 years – I think I’ve been every year since I was 17 and I’m now 31! Not necessarily playing, but just being part of the island and soaking up the atmosphere. I actually got married in Ibiza. It’s a special place to me.
It’s the same with a lot of people – they have to go back every year. Definitely, even if it’s only for a day or two, just in and out. More often than not I make sure I’m spending a bit of time there every summer. I think you’re right – most people are the same nowadays. Once you go once, it seems to have this sort of draw to it that you end up going back for more and more every year.
What kind of parties were you going to when you first went? When I was first going I went to DC-10, when it was fully open air, there was no roof on the outside terrace and the planes would come over really close. Going to Space on Sundays, the terrace was also fully open, you just had this camo net thing flapping around. We’d just hang out on beaches like Salinas and stuff. A lot of the time we’d end up in somewhere like Amnesia or Privilege when it was Manumission. That was always really cool, checking out DJs from Danny Tenaglia to Tall Paul, John Kelly, all these kinds of guys – Alex P and Brandon Block [laughs], all that stuff. They were originators really, with the Space Terrace.
Manumission always gets a mention. Yeah, Manumission was a crazy party. They used to do the parade around San Antonio and Playa d’en Bossa, it was pretty mental. Those were crazy times, first discovering the island, going with 10 mates, renting mopeds and getting up to all sorts – it was a good laugh!
So I noticed your post on Facebook about The Stone Roses and you were talking about listening to lots of different music in the ‘90s – indie, techno, house, drum & bass – what was driving you towards these types of music? I’ve always been into music, from being a kid my parents were heavily into Motown and I always had an interest. I never really knew whether I wanted to listen to electronic music or sort of rock and indie, so I was always soaking up all of it. As you do in secondary school, you have different pockets of friends, so sometimes I’d be with the sort of wannabe mod types listening to The Beatles and The Stone Roses and around 94’, 95’, listening to Oasis.
On the other side, at weekends I was listening to a lot of ravey stuff with other friends, hanging around street corners drinking booze and playing down in the woods. I’d be there with my Walkman, listening to everything from hardcore, drum & bass, techno, house.
I remember having a lot of mixtapes from people like Pete Tong, Boy George, Jeremy Healy – all that housey stuff. As well as listening to Carl Cox when he used to play hardcore and Andy C – all this sort of stuff really. I think a lot of that shaped my sound today. Influences from dubby stuff right through to rave stuff to more underground techno. There are mixtures of all of it in there.
I think it’s always best when people have a really broad spectrum of influence. Yeah, definitely, I’m still the same now. I listen to everything. When I’m not DJing I’m listening to all sorts of styles of music just because I draw inspiration from various places. It’s good to keep an open mind. That helps when you’re producing music, it definitely comes out in your style.
Do you think the ‘90s in general was a really good time to be listening to music? Yeah, especially in the ‘90s, everyone was discovering different stuff and music in general was quite varied. I used to watch Top of the Pops all the time, for example. When there was only four channels [on TV], everyone would sit down and watch Top of the Pops. One week you might have an indie band on, then Black Box, then Inner City, then some sort of love ballad or whatever. Even on a commercial level, there were lots of different sounds. What we could class as classic house was in the charts in the ‘90s.
At that time you’d have loads of people listening to bands during the week and then going off to raves. Yeah, exactly, that’s what it was like for me in the week. I had a guitar that I couldn’t play and then at 14 was when I first got a pair of Technics and I first started mixing and stuff.
It was exactly that, in the week I’d be listening to bands and whatever else, some dance stuff on a Walkman at school. At the weekend, with fake IDs we’d be going down to Bournemouth and going to raves.
That must’ve be an experience as a young kid. It was mental. We’d get the coach down from Southampton and when you got in the club you’d stay in one place – you’d buy a bottle of water and literally stay in one place until 3am then you’d leave. You wouldn’t see anything else, it was literally just about music. It wouldn’t matter if you lost your mates, you were just in there for that experience.
You’d go back to school on a Monday and it’d be very hard to focus because you’d know what you’d being doing at the weekend – pretty crazy.
I also read that you’re influenced by ‘80s music – how does that manifest itself? Yeah, that’s basically having music that you associate with memories. All ‘80s stuff reminds me of being young and growing up. I was born in ’83 and throughout that ‘80s period as a kid and with my parents being quite musical, the radio was always on and I spent a lot of time at my nan’s. My mum had three brothers and they were all massively into ‘80s synth pop and people like Prince, Human League, Depeche Mode, Japan and OMD. I was hearing all that stuff, all the time. I still listen to ‘80s stuff, even the cheesy stuff, Cindi Lauper and Phil Collins. Just because when I hear it, it reminds me of a simpler time - being young, music, different styles and the flamboyant dress sense people had back then. I remember my sister wearing the leg warmers and the weird perms.
Because all my family, my uncles and stuff, they were in their early 20s in that era, they were really soaking it up and getting into it. They were buying lots of vinyl and 7-inches so a lot of that has been donated down to me. In my studio I’ve got loads of old Bowie albums, Stevie Wonder, Simple Minds – so much music that’s been passed down to me that I now own on vinyl. It still plays a big part in me listening to that stuff and owning it all. It’s got a special place, that decade of music.
My parents are the same, when you’ve got a load of old vinyl it’s always interesting to look through it. Yeah, with my parents and my other uncles from my dad’s side all being into disco and Motown and quite a lot of black music, I’ve got loads of disco stuff. Listening to that definitely influenced me in listening to house music in the ‘90s.
When it came to making music what drove you towards making techno? I think mainly the fact that I was always buying techno records in the record shops, when I was buying house and trance and everything else. I could never really get my head around how it was all put to together. I used to listen to it like, “Yeah, this stuff’s mad, I love it”, but at the time I was playing slower stuff. Initially the first stuff I was buying, the acid techno, was about 150bpm. And the early Jeff Mills stuff and the early Drumcode stuff – it was really tribal “shucka-shucka-shucka” sort of stuff.
I’d always be buying it and trying to get my head around how it was put together. I was noticing more and more that a lot of my mates were more into the techno stuff. I was hearing it more and becoming more influenced by that stuff really. When I started producing properly, it came more naturally working on the techno stuff because I had more influence from it and I knew a bit more about the culture of it than other stuff really.
For me, nowadays, I think techno is the party music in a club really. I love house music and I love all different genres, but if you’re in a nightclub and people are really having it’s got to be techno music for me really.
It’s got that extra intensity hasn’t it? Yeah, it’s got intensity, it’s hypnotic and people can kind of get lost in it, which I like. It’s a bit less ‘hands-in-the-air’. It’s dance music to me really.
Yet it’s a bit more subtle in a way – you think about it more. Yeah, definitely. I’ve had times in places like Berghain when I’ve been in there for two days and you just start to listen to the music on a different level. You’ve heard the track and it sounds different. It just becomes a feeling in that moment. Whereas I don’t think you get that if you’re listening to a vocal house track or something, because after a while you’re fed up with it.
There are times and places where it’s really good to have that sort of stuff. If I’m playing a beach party I’m not going to be slamming it.
When you’ve got places like Berghain the music really is elevated. There’s no other place like that. Every time I play at that place it’s like, “Wow”. You always feel like it’s the best set you’ve ever done, the music policy’s the best and everything just works there really. I like to play vinyl in my sets as well, but I very rarely do because a lot of the time clubs just aren’t set up for it. It’s such a digital age now, there’s no cushioning or the needles jumps everywhere or the decks have never been serviced so the BPM is all over the place.
When you play in Germany and certain areas in Spain, you always know you can bring some vinyl because it’s going to be set up properly. Places like Berghain all that kind of stuff is guaranteed so you can play all the right stuff and people can lose it.
I was thinking about Drumcode as well, your first release was in 2009, how important have Drumcode and Adam Beyer been in your career? Massive – I owe those guys a lot. I was releasing and touring globally before Drumcode, but on a different level really. When I signed to Drumcode, even when I joined it was very well known, much like a sort of Minus or something. It’s an even huger label and brand now, it’s massive. It definitely put my music on a global stage and allowed a lot of people to know what I’m doing.
I’ve got another single out on Drumcode which is my 10th individual single. If you include remixes on the label, collaborations with Adam and compilation releases, I’ve probably had about 16 or 17 releases on the label, which is a lot!
It’s definitely a big part of my career – we tour together a lot and we’re doing very large scale events like Awakenings and events in New York, Berghain, Drumcode London. We’re doing this thing at Tobacco Dock, which is for like 6,000 people. It’s definitely a huge part of what I do. I’ve been with the label a very long time now and I’ve seen it grow. I think my first release was something like Drumcode 56 and now it’s got to be something like Drumcode 126.
It’s been key in my success and the cool thing now is that even though I’m still heavily associated with the label, I’m known in my own right for my own music and for me as an individual, which wouldn’t have happened without Drumcode really.
You mentioned Tobacco Dock and Awakenings – do you feel the pressure to bring something bigger or different because they’re such massive shows? Yeah, I think so, especially Awakenings. It’s huge, it’s an absolutely massive event. More often than not they’re broadcasting live on Be-At TV so as well as 8,000 in front of you, you’ve got however many thousand watching live. Because there’s always a substantial line-up you always want to try and have something a bit special and interesting than a normal club set because there are so many people watching.
It’s a massive experience for a lot of people, they save up all year or they try and get tickets and they come to this event expecting it to blow their heads off because they’ve never been before. You want to make it an experience for them. Because there are so many of you playing as well you want to make sure you’re different from the guy before, you don’t want to end up playing three of the same tracks. I always tend to make an intro or some edits for each show. Historically I’ve always tried to reveal a new track exclusively in that set. It causes a lot of chatter and people are like, “What’s this?” It’s quite fun to do it on that sort of scale.
With the regards to the Drumcode London thing I’m really looking forward to it because it’s bigger and better than we’ve ever done before. We’ve been at the Suffolk Street warehouse, which I guess holds 2,000 maybe, over three rooms. Every year it’s got better and we’ve put more into the production. Last year we had people dressing up, actors dressed up as zombies in cages, freaking people out, it was pretty mad – it looked like a scene from The Walking Dead. It was done properly with professional make-up artists and stuff.
Now we’ve expanded even more to have a 6,000 capacity place, again with three rooms and you’ve got an even bigger DJ bill with people not necessarily associated with the label, but it’s really good music. We’ve got Nina Kraviz, Mr. G live, Agoria, Scuba – it’s sort of like a mini-festival. It’s running from midday to midnight and there are rumours about after parties so it could potentially be three parties in one day for me!
Just thinking about some of your productions – your Trus’me remix has been huge in Ibiza, when you’re making a remix like that do you have an idea about where you want to go? I just approached that mix with elements of me and the heavy chunky beats, but still with that sort of sexiness and groove really. When I started playing around with it, it really worked with just playing around with the vocals and keeping a groove. Not trying to complicate it too much with loads going on. I didn’t have a summer anthem in mind at all because I didn’t know when the track was going to be released.
I’m pretty sure I did the track in the winter, but I can see why it works out there. It’s great that everybody has been playing it. There have been people saying they were in Ibiza for a week and they heard it four times or whatever. It’s really great to hear. I think it’s the biggest selling track on Prime Numbers. It was number one on Beatport – I’m not too bothered about that, but it’s a nice indicator to show the people are into it.
It’s an honour to be the biggest selling track considering some of the other artists they’ve had – Dettmann, Klock, DVS1, all sorts on that label.
The remixers for that album are pretty much a who’s who of techno producers. Yeah it’s wicked – I’ve just seen the final artwork for the vinyl double LP pack, which looks wicked. I knew it was going to be a big track because I was getting messages from people asking for it way before it was out.
There was a radio rip, from an Adam and Ida set in Miami, on YouTube – it had got thousands of hits and people were just sending me that link and asking for the track. Roisin Murphy, Terry Farley, Boy George right through to your techno and house producers of today. I had a feeling it was going to blow-up – it was a bit of a slow burner in the chart, it came out and took a little while to find its feet, but people like Green Velvet started charting it and it rocketed from there really.
The minute people start hearing it in Ibiza and it’s on Shazam people start to know what it is.
Also you had your first release on Cocoon – Sven has been playing it a lot. Yeah, Cocoon have been asking me for music for a long time, but because I was only really doing stuff with Drumcode I never really had a Space to give them some music. I never like to put too much music out, a couple of EPs a year is probably enough. I had an opportunity to send them some music, I already had scheduled my Drumcode stuff and I really wanted to work with them because they’re a wicked label – I’ve been playing a lot of their music and I know Sven’s been a supporter of my stuff for many years.
It felt right to send them some music really so I gave them ‘Truant’. Again, that was another real successful release, it’s been played a lot and sold pretty well. I followed it up with a compilation track for them as well. A real melodic ambient thing called ‘For Fear Tonight Is All’.
That’s another funny thing, we were talking about ‘80s stuff, that track name is actually a lyric from David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’.
Actually loads of my music is linked to the ‘80s in titles, maybe I’ll run a competition one day to guess them all. I’ve done about 100 tracks now, there’s a good chance that some of them will link to the ‘80s – something from a film, a character or something. ‘Skeksis’ for example, Skeksis is a character in The Dark Crystal, an old ‘80s film.
Finally, what’s next for you? I’ve got a new Drumcode, which will be a three-tracker, called ‘Turn Down the Lights'. I’m working on a release for Len Faki’s label, which is going to come out next year. I’m planning on working on a new album and I’ve got a remix for Suara as well. I’ve got a vinyl coming out on my vinyl only label, that’s a track called ‘Solaris’, it’s limited to 300 copies, orange vinyl, no repress. I do a few each year.
Alan Fitzpatrick plays Awakenings & LWE present Drumcode Halloween on Saturday 1 November at Tobacco Dock in London.