If you had expected to hear James Patrick (JP) talk about audio production or go on about how today’s music business provides all kinds of new ways to monetize your digital content, you might think you were at the wrong DIY 360. Instead he offered us a landmark DIY replete with personal history, artistic philosophy, and the delivery of two astounding electronic music improvisations.
JP is a 15 year music business veteran that, simply put, loves sound. He spent his first ten years in the industry creating sound for the sake of sound. The joy this brought him, almost without exception, took precedence over the generally accepted American journey: the pursuit of money.
Over time, Buddhist thought has become an important influence to both JP’s artistic and personal philosophies; according to Buddhist thought (paraphrase) there is nothing permanent or fixed in our existence, and the only way to realize joy is to live for the journey. JP lives by the mantra “Be true to yourself, and do what you love. And if somebody tells you that you’re a failure because you’re not rich, they’re full of ####. It’s about being happy.” Well said.
“I left college to be a DJ and I was doing that for a few years and finding some great success, and then…” his excesses came back to bite him. By the age of 21, JP had partied himself into a heroin addiction that for the next three years dragged him through an immense amount of suffering.
JP is no stranger to a path gone awry; he’s lived it. But he gives his early choices, and the suffering he endured because of them, a great deal of credit for teaching him some valuable lessons; even so, he doesn’t recommend dropping out of college to learn these lessons the way he did.
It could be argued that music, the thing that offered JP the most joy, had opened the doors to a lifestyle that would see him on a roller coaster through jail and treatment for his addiction. As he moved through the recovery process, this same tool continued to call to and motivate JP on his journey, “…I was coming out of this and trying to find myself again with a new path, a sober path, a path that is tuned into nature’s needs and the flow of this great universe that we’re all a part of, without drugs, of course, and it was music that saved me.”
At a crucial point in JP’s own journey, an audio production guru by the name of Jackie Lee Robinson (IPR Co -Founder) made a profound impact on JP’s life through the Electronic Musician’s Workshop. The Electronic Musicians Workshop was Jackie’s way of offering independent instruction to students interested in, audio production, music business, audio engineering, and, of course, electronic music creation. It’s obvious by JP’s referral to Jackie that he is very thankful for that relationship, and so it’s no accident that JP now seeks to “give back” in similar ways.
Whether grateful for the gifts he’s been blessed with or moved to see others experience the same salvation music has brought to him, JP’s own continuing education project, Slam Academy, along with his teaching for IPR and Ableton Live, have put JP in a position to play a mentoring role in the lives of other young, aspiring electronic music enthusiasts.
JP WAXES MUSICAL
As any audience member who attended can attest, JP’s pre-show philosophizing was a very important part to understanding his performance.
His first piece was without noticeable structure, but it was clear JP was enjoying every knob tweak, cable patch and signal route of his own, self-built analog styling; he looked like a kid in a candy store gleefully picking through the best sounding morsels, respecting and connecting with every waveform he could persuade the device to produce.
Spacey, drone-like, wispy, and wonderful don’t fully describe what he was up to, but, being there, brought the piece into focus. The beautiful impromptu rendering might best be described as an “audio meditation”. This piece was not a song by any traditional definition, but having JP’s backstory brought with it “audio understanding”, if you will. Proof filled the room as the 7+ minute piece came to a close and the audience erupted with genuine applause; the moment appeared as magical for JP as it was for the rest of us.
Throughout both performances he would occasionally peer over his shoulder at Nick Bjelopetrovich, student DIY Host, as if to say, “that was really cool, did you hear that?” And it was obvious Bjelopetrovich did, because he would often nod and smile before JP had the chance to offer full eye contact: master and apprentice sharing a moment, respecting each flow, each turn, and passing the joy on to the rest of us.
The second piece had more structure to it: drum samples, MIDI clips, bits which had been thought through and constructed. JP transitioned from a mostly analog performance into one fully infused with his favorite digital instrument: Ableton Live. Still tweaking knobs with a huge grin, little controller lights throbbing in time with his Live session, it was clear JP was connected with the audience in a more recognizable way this time. This second piece had structure and recognizable elements, but it was still entirely its own, hard to define entity… such is the nature of improvisation.
He shared later, “The only way to really realize real music is to be aware of this present moment and create it right now.” Recorded music is a static example of what we enjoy when the artist who put it together is unable to be there and perform for us in person; but real music must be experienced as it is created, on the spot, in order for it to be realized in its most natural way.
Wrapping up with an audience Q & A, JP was asked when it was he first realized that the music business was where he wanted to pursue his life’s calling. He responded by saying, “I think it was first failing at everything else… literally.” He went on, “We’re all on this great quest together and I think honestly that if you can realize that the path is your destination, it is only then that you have ‘arrived.’ In other words, the learning process itself is the goal.”
Those who know him closely could’ve told us why it is JP is so important to IPR, but most of us needed to experience it firsthand to truly understand. JP is one of many remarkable Instructors that guide our students through an incredible educational journey, and we are truly blessed that he took the time to share his story with us.