A man who needs little introduction, Alan Fitzpatrick is synonymous with hard hitting beats and has fast become one of the most influential artists in his field. We find out how this techno powerhouse manages to sustain a highly successful DJ career, alongside running his ‘We Are The Brave’ imprint and his most important role as father and husband.
Do you ever miss playing smaller clubs? Have you had to play different as you’ve gotten put on bigger and bigger stages?
Alan Fitzpatrick – I’d say I still get the best of both worlds as my diary is fairly balanced between smaller and bigger events, but it is certainly the case that from say May until October I am generally only playing festival stages or big clubs, like Amnesia in Ibiza, so when it gets to the winter I do find myself craving the chance to play more intimate venues after months of smashing it out on bigger stages. I wouldn’t say I have had to change my style to adapt to the bigger stages as the music I play is always pretty powerful and high on impact. The big difference with playing festivals verses playing clubs is the amount of time you have to play. If you only have 90 minutes for a festival set then you just have to get on with it whereas if I get to play 3 or 4 hours in a club you can take time to build more of a musical story.
How much research do you do before you play a club in terms of who is on before and after, what the sound is like, the size of the room and so on, or is it your job to adapt to all those things on the night?
If I am booked to play somewhere new I will naturally be curious as to what the room is like, but to be honest I always play on instinct really. I think that is a very important part of being a DJ, to read the crowd and the situation so that you make musical selections that make sense. So for this reason it doesn’t make sense to over-prepare because then you are less able to react in the spur of the moment on the night.
How often do you re-pack your record bag or USB? Every day, every gig, every week?
I prepare music for every set I play which will mean downloading new music I have been sent and refreshing the playlists I keep updated on my SD cards. So for most of the year this is a once or twice a week job. Right now in the middle of the busy summer season I’ll be working on it most days.
Do you read reviews of your DJ sets or tracks? How do they make you feel? Are they useful?
Honestly, the only feedback that I take seriously is the reaction that I get from an audience I am DJing to, whether that be to my set as a whole or to individual tracks that play. Of course, it is nice to read positive reviews but ultimately that is only ever one opinion. The combined reaction of a few thousand people means a lot more, especially as the reaction you get in a club setting is all about emotion and feeling. It’s real and raw and what our scene is all about – raving!
What makes the perfect set for you – what has to go right, what factors affect it (setting, crowd, your own mood, the technical set up, set time etc?)
I’m sure every DJ will say the same thing in answer to this question. If you want to get the best out of a DJ then the basics need to be taken care of such as good sound, the correct technical set up, and making sure there is a logical musical progression to the event with a good respectful warm up or sensible programming of the line up. If all this is in place and there is a good vibe in the venue with an excited audience, then the rest usually takes care of itself.
And how do you arrange your records, if at all? Do you have play lists, like party, deep, melodic, or do you arrange by genre or do you just fly by the seat of your pants?
Ha! I have a system which is way too personal to me to explain easily but yeah, all the tracks in my playlists will be assigned a tag or colour code which helps me navigate quickly and accurately while making selections on the fly.
What’s the worst gig you’ve ever had, and why?
Urgh… I don’t tend to let the bad ones linger too long in the memory TBH! That said, there was one show a couple of years ago in Germany where I just couldn’t help thinking “why am I here?!”. The “warm up” guy was playing way over 130bpm and the crowd didn’t seem to have any understanding of my music or what to expect from me. It was all just totally awkward and back to front. A very unenjoyable two hours followed….
Have you ever done anything, made a record, released with a label, taken a gig you wish you hadn’t?
Well, apart from that German gig…. not really. I’m very conscious of that sort of thing and have some good people around me to help with the decision making, so I have managed to avoid genuinely regrettable situations.
How hard is it not to repeat yourself in the studio and evolve with each release, but at the same time stay true to your own sound? Do you wrestle with this?
I wouldn’t say that I wrestle with it, but it is something that I am conscious of, more so for my own peace of mind than anything else. To be my creative best I have to be excited about what I am doing and so I always try to push boundaries and reach for new ideas or angles on stuff rather than focus on what has gone before. That’s just my nature, but it does work in my advantage when it comes to the studio. I’m glad I am naturally forward thinking as opposed to someone who has to force themselves in new directions. That would be a nightmare.
Do you think about the future? Can you see yourself doing this into your 40s/50s/60s?
It’s impossible not to think about the future isn’t it? But I know what you mean. When I first started out I was in my early 20s and as you do at that age I wasn’t really thinking much further ahead than the next gig or whatever. It’s very different now. I’ve got a family and a team of people working with me, so it has become much more of a business in terms of how we plan and analyse what we do. I think I’ll still want to DJ as long as I am enjoying it, but I am not so sure about being a touring DJ in my 50s or 60s. That feels like waaay too much hard work.
When was the last time you cried, or got really upset or angry, and why?
I always end up getting emotional when watching movies on long haul flights. I dunno what it is exactly about that specific environment – the going away from home…the intense nature of watching a screen up close with headphones on… the glasses of red wine I’ve had with dinner…. hahaha.
What are the downsides to your job? What have you had to sacrifice in terms of friendships or relationships, family time, your own health and so on?
Family time! It is a constant battle to keep a balance between touring and being the best Dad and husband I can be. I am used to it now, and I make sure I take regular weekends off and don’t work on special periods like Christmas or if a close friend is getting married etc. These are things you learn with experience. When you start out you want to take every gig going and it is easy to neglect the rest of your life, but those lessons are soon learned, and you realise that somethings have to take priority and in the long run that’s what keeps you happy and healthy and working for longer.