Library #15

Dane Patterson – Wellness Center

New release for the library is radical electronic noise collage-work from the Brooklyn visual artist Dane Patterson.

Two sides of harrowing, hallucinating, spatially globular readymades for late night wide-awake insomnia. You can set your clocks to these jams and make life that much more interesting as it melts and slows down and fires you across altering planes while you try to focus on anything else and then fight for sleep. In better days, this was the good kind of tripping. This is monstrous material, and it floored me when he sent it along.

I think Dane’s visual artist brain has wires that get crossed with his guerrilla sampling/cut-up techniques when he puts the musical pen to 4-track paper and that pushes some of the decision-making into unbelievable psychedelic-tinged existential structuralism. Designs emerge in responsive balance: stark, loud, emotional bursts segue into droning, machinist living forms, gentle and mischievous and impermanent.

The album is called Wellness Center and it quite literally helps explain and soundtrack some of the thinking/feeling Dane’s conscious/unconscious of, and his melted take on electronic mind-fuck therapy has helped him carry the personal-blues along in such a creative fashion that you start to forget about the heaviness, but my advice is to let it breathe and be heavy, be a full-on undertaking, play it loud and throw the large sounds, shrinking and shrieking, at our own anxieties. Sometimes we’re able to channel something, some kind of power comes from somewhere else that’s slightly foreign to our everyday, either its from deep within or from outside us altogether in that spirit-way we have no idea of, but for a few seconds to a half of an hour, we’re in control and we’re flying.

I sent a few questions his way via email and here are his responses:

hey dane, thanks for doing this man, appreciate it! i was really blown away by yr record when you sent it to me, wasn’t totally sure what i was hearing and how it all got there. what sort of sounds were you initially after, and how did you go about getting that down? you mentioned to me that you were cutting up live drums and using a sampler, were you mixing analogue and digital means together for this? 4-track and computer? do you see this as straight up electronic music (whatever that can mean) or do you see it as more noise-based or lower-fi concrete type work? or does it matter?

Hey, I’m glad to do it. Thank you. I definitely didn’t have a particular sound in mind when I started this project. I’d just moved to a new place in Brooklyn after a long-term relationship came to an end. Sound recording was a way for me to escape for a bit and work through things. I think that’s where the title Wellness Center stems from. At that time recording became a bit of a retreat for me.

I started by just recording short bits and pieces and organizing the sound fragments. These didn’t necessarily relate in any way to one another. I recorded sections of detuned acoustic guitar, padded mallets on tin cylinders, sequenced bits from inexpensive korg analogue synths, and sounds from hitting kitchen utensils together. I also had some prior recordings of sounds I dug into, including some I’d attempted with violin. I just started making folders and sorting sound types initially. This portion of the process was chopped up via computer and saved to my sp404 sampler as loops or singular hits. I think it started to take shape when I hooked up my Vdrum set to the sampler and used that to trigger sounds along with the drum hits. Once I found a way to work with the parts I would record these bits of arrangement to 4-track cassette. It was a way to save the ideas, and it also changed the quality of the sounds. Later these tapes were recorded back into Abelton live where I refined the looped patterns and multi-tracked over top. It’s definitely electronic music as it was generated with computer and electronics, though I think the character is different than what that genre might call to mind.

did you have a master plan all along or were you fitting pieces together and sort of improvising with the collection of source material you had? how or when did you know you were getting something special? was there ever a moment where you were able to objectively step back and say, alright, this is turning into something here? were all the tracks finalized or mixed in similar ways?

I’d recorded a number of arrangements before anything really clicked. It was like a puzzle. I was sorting elements that fit together to maintain a flow that worked as a whole. There are times in the album where quiet drones or different instruments follow a crescendo of harsh sounds. I like to develop a feeling in a track and then undermine it.

so both sides of the tape are flowing collages of continuous themes or motifs, were you working around certain sections, like say a filmmaker might, in that you knew it had to get to this particular spot, but editing and cutting away would help reveal that and get it there? that’s interesting to me, i know that yr a visual artist and work in multi/mixed media ways and have been doing video-work of late as well, was that part of the process at all? were you seeing or visualizing anything art-wise when you were making this album? i think film-styled editing can be an underrated aspect to record production, having themes and narratives taking shape and knowing when to move things around sequence-wise, etc., does that make sense to you too?

Each side of the tape had a couple of sections that I knew I wanted to include. A lot of the editing became about figuring out how to build up to them or accent them. I’m a visual artist as well, and making the music definitely called up imagery as I worked. There is video involved with the audio now, but it was only created after the recording was complete.

can you tell us a little about yr history working as an artist and how yr development has changed or taken on new stronger forms? is there any particular media that yr more comfortable working in? and since you work with different materials and software, are there choices that you make that are tactile or decision-based in yr music-making that would more emulate working in other fields, like in video or in installation or drawing or paper collage? do you like when the differing forms interact and blend together? ‘how do i make that drum tom sound like a withered rope fall through a window’ thing going on? visualizing components both imaginary or in ways that will actually take artistic form?

The basis for my visual art has always been drawing. It’s definitely what I’m most comfortable with as a medium. It translates nicely into some of the video work I’ve done. A lot of my more recent drawings have started as photo collages these days. Mock-ups that I make in Photoshop are then rendered with pencil. I think that way of working stems from the collage method of music making I’ve been doing. Working from photographs has been a big part of my drawing projects since around 2003 or so. It used to be very important to me that I worked from photographs that I’d totally staged myself. Today I will work from photographs I’ve taken and collaged bits from Google image for example. I’m not a purist about that at all anymore.

As for sound work, I don’t think too much about visual narrative as I work. I did do some short one-minute animations where I made the audio and animation at the same time. I really like the idea of sound accompanying visual elements. It’s new for me still.

so you used to run the plant migration record label, was that new york-based? what made you want to get that going? you issued many formats on that label as well, cassettes, cdrs, seven-inches, three-inch cdrs, even lp, why no wax cylinder or microcassette? kidding. what made you make those moves with the formats and did you let the specific material dictate what direction you wanted to go in? and i’m assuming you wanted to spend time on other artforms and life things, so it just naturally went to the back-burner? any thoughts on getting that back going? did you do the art and layout for the label?

Yes, Plant Migration was a label I ran for a few years starting in 2007 I believe. I was in New York at the time and was really inspired by a lot of the small tape labels in the city. I also really wanted to design album art and that was a quick way to do it. The various formats I released really came down to what raw elements I had on hand. I’d been buying lots of blank media and cases and just wanted to use them and make designs for projects. I did the majority of the artwork and the layout for the label. I had the chance to have Dennis Tyfus of Ultra Eczema do a 7” cover for Rust Worship. That was really exciting. I ended up getting to work with a lot of artists that I really admire and am inspired by; Andrew Pekler, Rust Worship (Paul Haney), Jaap Blonk, Eliza and Parry (Cammisa Buerhuas), and Cindy Cindy (Cindy Daignault) for example. I think that was easily the best part about releasing music as a label, getting to be a small part of helping out artists who were inspiring to me. It’s an incredible amount of work, and financially difficult to maintain. Eventually it just made sense to move on to other projects. I wouldn’t rule out starting it up again, but it won’t be soon.

how has yr work specifically changed over time with this new release versus say yr older circle circle square material? and what prompted using yr own name for the record? i can really dig that, i think about that all the time dropping the artist names and just going right to it. there’s more honesty there when you present, though sometimes it’s good to hide behind a layer a little bit, like pessoa used to riff on, the many-personed idea. do you have any other projects on the go as well besides this solo material?

Circle Circle Square was a drone project I started for fun. I was using 1 min looped cassettes and pedal based noise strategies. I wanted it to be slow moving and similar to the mediation practice I had started at the time. Those early recordings were done in one take per side and with little editing. Today I like to work with more complex structures in my music. I’m interested in percussion changes, and with more variety to the sounds. I’m also working in more of a sound collage style now.

I started using my name on my recordings shortly after that. I had been doing a lot of shows of my visual artwork and it just made sense to me that both should just be under my name. As for upcoming projects, I have some elements for some new music I’m playing with. However, I’m switching gears back to a new drawing series.

back to the art side of things, when did this gloopy/colour palette/psychedelia take shape? there’s colours and patterns and rotating globs of objects/readymades, things slowly turn and things are confidently blurred and abstracted even when presented in perfect realistic ways, is there a philosophy at all that is attached to some of the work? i detect an autobiographical vibe and also a heavy surrealistic element to having two or three or four disparate ideas or shapes morph into one new idea, maybe there’s an absurdist dada thread there where meaning is thrown out the window in favour of finding new ways to look or think about things? it’s not primitive and you don’t work against yr strengths by doing ‘sloppier’ technique, you really want to present it as it takes form in yr head and imagination, what the hell is going on there?

I had a show of drawings and paintings in Paris this year at Kogan Gallery called “Object Studies”. This is really where I started combining types of objects together in my drawings. In that show there were a lot of depictions of expensive designer furniture being mistreated for example. There is a lot of comedy in that for me and I think that’s an important part of it. In my drawings I could show things that would not have been easily possible with sculpture and ready-mades. I think the idea is delivered in a drawing well. I like the control I have in a drawing over how the viewer sees them.

can you tell me a bit about the video you did as a small trailer for the release? we talked before about how you wanted a representation of a place, the ‘wellness center’ i take it, and the camera and viewer moves through the rooms seeing all of these wild objects and ideas splattered inside, what are some of those things that you wanted to show? there’s faces, posters, media, things from yr past i’m guessing and then there’s these weirdo art pieces all moving around free in these rooms, what are we looking at? it’s super great man, it makes me laugh but it also carries this extra emotional weight to it, how did you go about finding the right balance of absurd vs real life, real feeling?

The video trailer for the release was started after the completion of the tape. I’d done some drawings in the past of rooms that I had trashed and photographed. I thought that it could be interesting to do an animation moving through a space like that. As I worked the idea turned more into having elements in the space arranged in almost sculptural formations: a combination of found objects from a house and just random combinations of junk and various materials. I wanted the visuals to mirror the sounds in a way. I tried to do this by having sort of horrific or unnerving shapes that are neutralized by more comical or lighter elements. There is a shot with two gross faces cut out and stuck on a pile of materials that are set on a wooden kitchen chair. To balance that out I had the shot reveal a framed image next to it depicting a bag of Funyuns. Really random stuff, but I like that one diffuses the other somehow. I guess that was the game for this video… Taking pleasant things like get-well flowers and nice furniture and rearranging them and pairing them with things that make them less so.

what artists/artwork or personal experiences have influenced or helped shape yr work? do you think about art in that way, being inspired by? or is it more of an accumulation of seeing and experiencing great art that helps us look back on our work with fresh perspective? and that doesn’t even need to be ‘great art’ even, just things happening with friends and travels, where it all sort of helps push us forward with our own thoughts and work. is there anything you’ve been into or have been checking out of late, what have you been digging on?

I definitely think of art that way. There are a lot of people who inspire the things that I make. I’m really into Luciernaga, and the stuff that has been coming out on Fabrica Records. I’m also really into the drum projects by Ted Byrnes. There are tons of tape labels that have inspired me as well. Baked Tapes, Hausu Mountain, 905 tapes, Obsolete Units, Hanson Records, Cryptic Carousel…

I listen to a lot of noise music. When I draw I like the Rita, Sewer Election, and harsh noise for some reason. I’m still obsessed with Hanatarash recordings and Boredoms. John Zorn of course, and more intense free jazz like Peter Brotzmann.

do you go through phases of things, where you only listen to certain sounds or read certain books, etc? and does any of this relate to when you were working on this album? does yr listening/reading/viewing habits change at all when you are in the middle of a big project, whatever that art form is?

I tend to not listen to any music at all when I am in a recording phase these days. I do find that books really inform the next phase of my visual artwork as I go. I really enjoy books on Philosophy. Short stories have been informative as well. There is a short story by SAKI called The Unrest Cure. It’s about a man stuck in a rut in life. His friend comes in and trashes his home in an effort to break him out of his rut. This was definitely the point when I decided to make the room arrangement drawings. This was the series with trashed spaces, which I’d drawn photo-realistically.

I tend to work in phases. I spend the majority of my time with drawing and visual art, then as a breather in between shows or series I focus on music. It’s a nice balance that keeps me moving forward, and by the time I’m finished with a project I’m always eager to jump back to the other.

thanks man, think i’ll leave it there. thank you for being into this! what’s coming up for you? anything else you want to share about this particular record or new year that’s about to happen?

Thanks! I’ve got a show of some drawings coming up in a fair called Illustrative that is happening in Beijing, China around March 2017. The work will be presented by the Berlin based Johanssen Gallery at the event. I’m also getting ideas together for a new drawing series, which should come together sometime soon.

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