i met pat petrus at a deadmau5 show...
jazz jams, "sandstorm" and mushroom-themed fiction
Today in The Molly Zone, an interview with musician and writer Pat Petrus!
I really did meet Pat at a deadmau5 show — specifically one at my favorite open-air giant-LCD-screen megaclub the Brooklyn Mirage. It was a show that technically served as a launch for a music NFT company that offered, among their wares, “collectible sonic data moments” made with a “proprietary Audio Fingerprinting algorithm”…man, 2022 was a heady time for tokens, fungible and nonfungible.
I wrote about that experience, and at the end of that night I exchanged contact info with Pat, who had showed me an old Microsoft Zune on which he had played the new-at-the-time deadmau5 song “XYZ” (the song rips btw). New songs on old tech is extremely approved and revered here in The Molly Zone.
Pat is a drummer who dabbles in the NYC jazz scene and also plays with the garage-y punk-y Brooklyn band Low Presh, who just put out an album LP III very recently. He is also a fiction writer! I chatted with him shortly before he was heading off to France for an artist residency and we talked about the jazz jams at Alan Cumming’s cabaret-style club, Google Wallet venue membership tags, self-producing an audiobook of a novel about shrooms that give you superpowers…
Molly O’Brien: How ya been? I haven't seen you since that deadmau5 show.
Pat Petrus: Oh man, that was an awesome show. That was actually my birthday.
I don't think I realized that. Well, happy extremely belated birthday. That's a sweet deal.
Oh, it was great. I got to see deadmau5 with all my friends, that’s the dream.
Well thanks for being down to do this interview. Let’s start with your musical history — when did you start playing music?
I got started playing music in church. The story goes that I was in my third grade church choir, and there was one particular song where there were three boy vocal parts, but four boys in the choir. So the teacher who led the choir was like, Okay, whoever doesn't want to sing can take a random instrument out of the closet and play that. And I just happened to be like, Oh, this song sucks, I hate it, so I’ll go play whatever I find in the closet. And the instrument that I happened to pull out was a pair of bongos.
So that's my musical inception. From there I graduated to begging my parents for a drum set and playing in garage bands, then to what I’m doing now, which is jazz music and hardcore music. With the jazz stuff, I just copied my brother. He played bass in our high school's jazz band and was having a lot of fun with all of his friends. So I was like, Oh, shoot, that's like something that I can do. My parents were happy that I was staying out of trouble and getting school credit. And I started taking it a bit more seriously in college.
Remind me where you’re from again?
I'm from the Midwest. I'm a child of the corn.
How does the New York jazz scene compare to the Midwest scene?
There's a lot more depth. There’s enough people in town that you can afford to specialize. Like, if you’re into hardcore music here, you don't have to do blanket hardcore music. You can play the very niche subgenre that you really, really love. The same goes with jazz. You can find the super straight-ahead bebop cats, and you can find the super niche free jazz people. There's people for whatever you want to do.
I know you said that you’ve been going to jams here. What kind of jams do you go to in New York?
I don't know if I'm exactly bumping anything new, but the Club Cumming sessions on Tuesdays are just a madhouse.
Wait - is that Alan Cumming's club?
Okay, I’ve heard of this club but I didn't know that this was a thing that happened there. Give me a Tuesday session scene report!
It's the best. Richard Cortez, the vocalist, has an earlyish set, and then a guitarist named Allan Bezama runs the late night jam session that runs from 11:30ish until 2:30, 3:00 in the morning.
On a Tuesday??
On a Tuesday. I have a day job! And by the time I get home — you know with how the trains are when it’s late — it's like four in the morning. But it's a really great scene.
That sounds like a lot of fun. What's the average person who goes to this kind of thing. Is it someone who’s a career musician, or people who are dabbling?
It’s a lot of career musicians. I think Club Cumming is really good at appealing to a diverse crowd and getting a lot of different people in and having a good time. But what what appeals to me in part as like a younger person is that there's so many people my age there. That’s not always the case. Some jam sessions have an older crowd, and it’s really important for musicians to play with people who have more experience than them and learn from them. But it's also just as important to get to interact with your peers.
Now this is me conjecturing from clichés about bands, but I feel like finding good drummers is the hardest part of starting a band. As a drummer, would you say that’s true or false?
Basically true…ish. In my experience, I’ve found bassists to be the most in-demand.
If you're getting into music just for the money, play bass. You shouldn't go into music for that reason! But if you do…play bass.
I mean, listen, if there's ever a purely profit-driven musician who might be reading this newsletter, then maybe they'll appreciate this business-style information.
This is the content they need.
So I met you at a deadmau5 show. Do you go see a lot of electronic music?
I do. I love it. EDM is amazing. It's a completely different vibe than a jazz show. I've never danced as hard as I've danced at EDM showcases. Like when Bladee and Ecco2K came through the Mirage earlier in the summer —
You saw that?
Oh, my God. That was a wild time. That was so much fun. From the concert gossip I heard, Ecco2K had been asked to come on as the opener super last-minute. So the the visuals were all just blanket, black-and-white stabs across that giant Brooklyn Mirage screen. Really taxing on the eyes.
EDM is a subgenre-rich type of music. What would you say your preferred EDM subgenres are?
I have phases. Psytrance is a personal favorite. Or dark, atmospheric dub techno. The meme is that it's super easy to make dub techno, but it's really hard to make it sound good. It’s like Italian cooking. You only use a few ingredients, but you’ve really got to make them really good.
Oh, I love that. Where else do you go listen to EDM?
I've seen good EDM across the board actually from Elsewhere. Especially since they opened up that membership program. I somehow got one of the top tier memberships before they sold out. I got super lucky, the perks are crazy. You get free entrance to, I think, eight shows a month, half-off entry for one other guest, line skips, free coat check, merch… and then if you’re into this, you get a cool little tag on your Google Wallet, like a digital membership card.
Ooh, I'm not familiar with the Google Wallet tag thing! It’s like a badge of honor type of deal?
Badge of honor, but equally functional. You scan it, but you also get to show off to your friends, I'm a patron saint level member of Elsewhere. And Elsewhere has a Discord, and they incorporate the membership aspects into it really well. I just love the community element to it. You can talk to other people before a show, you can sell a ticket if you want to do that. They have AMAs too, which is great. I was able to catch an AMA with Darude before his most recent set.
I got to ask him a question too.
What did you ask?
I think it was like, “Do you have any advice for people who are just entering the scene and starting out and trying to like book gigs as EDM musicians?” He said something to the effect of, I'm not the right person to ask that question because I've had an agent for the past 20 years, so I have no idea how you book gigs now.
Ha! Okay, that's fair. So you saw Darude play a show?
I did, yeah.
I have to ask. Did he play “Sandstorm?”
Not only did he play “Sandstorm,” he teased “Sandstorm” for, like, three quarters of the set.
No fucking way.
Within the first 30 minutes of his set, you heard that ba-da-da-da-da. Everyone freaked out, like, oh, my God, is he going to play it now? Then 30 minutes later, again: ba-da-da-da-da. Then he slowly started incorporating more elements into it, and he did it for the grand finale.
Amazing. Like, Radiohead barely plays “Creep” anymore…you always risk an artist rejecting their biggest hit for live performances. I’m glad to hear Darude is still embracing “Sandstorm.”
He made a really good point about that in particular when he was doing his AMA. He was like, yeah, sometimes if you play the same song for 20 years, it can get kind of old. So he's constantly trying to find new ways to present it. But he also said that with people going nuts over it even 20-plus years after the song came out, it’s a big badge of honor for him to make something that was still relevant.
Amazing. Okay so in addition to playing music, you write fiction as well. Do the two ever intersect?
There are a lot of elements that are very improvisational with writing that mirror music. But the pacing is really drastically different. If I'm playing jazz music, it's all very in the moment. With writing, it’s preserved. And you also have the option to delete what you made, which I think is the biggest difference: the backspace key. With music, there's no backspace key. You do it and if you fuck up, that's that’s it.
And you’re about to go to France for a writer’s residency, right?
Yes, to Orquevaux to take part in an artist and writer’s residency. It's kind of a bring-your-own-work thing. I recently completed a novel, a fantasy novel. So I’m going to take some time and finish the editing process on it, and then hopefully get started on the audiobook recording of it.
May I ask what the what the book is about, if it's not too annoying to give a logline for it?
No, not at all. The book is called Haze and it is a fantasy set in a fictional Eastern mountain setting. It follows an acolyte of a religious order that focuses their devotion and dedication onto psychedelic mushrooms that only grow on their little plot of of land. And in addition to having the craziest trips of your life, these mushrooms also give you super strength. They let you see the future. You can fly. They give you superpowers, basically. And so the novel is all about the various large-scale forces that are trying to control this natural resource and how people can get swept up in things that are well beyond their comprehension.
Mushroom-themed fantasy novel, sign me up.
It was tough to explain to my parents. Like, Pat, how do you know what drugs are like? “I just read about it in books.”
MO: Ha! How long is the residency?
It's about two weeks. I have no idea if I'll be able to record an entire audiobook in two weeks, but I'm going to try.
So you’re self-recording an audiobook. When you're making music, are you self-producing and self-recording as well?
Yeah, it’s a fun challenge to try and figure out how to produce a song without any of the traditional manpower at your disposal. The first record I ever cut was in a studio with an engineer making everything. We had someone else mix and master it. When I came back for a second record, I was like, Well, instead of paying, $900 or $1,000, what if I tried to do it myself?
Turns out I suck. Or at least I did suck. But it was a good learning experience. That experience instilled a very hefty respect for people who mix and master stuff because it is a game of inches. It's almost akin to computer coding. At my day job, I do a lot of coding in Python with SQL, so figuring out dynamic-y cues for songs and automating stuff is very similar to that.
Thanks for reading! Next week, more music enjoyment.