Two Years After Breaking Big With “Forget,” Patrick Topping Steps Up His DJ Game

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DJ Times: A lot of your story starts when you started your party Motion. When did that happen? How did it start and what were the first few years of it like?
Topping: That was 2009. It was basically just because me and my friends had been going out in Newcastle for about two or three years and just wanted to do our own thing and bring over some people that we liked. Initially, 150 [of the patrons] were just mates because we sold paper tickets, so for the first few we nearly knew everyone there. There were probably only about 100 people who bought tickets, so without our mates, it would’ve flopped since we half filled it with them. They didn’t even like the music! Most of them were just mates from school, so it was just like a school reunion for years. To be honest, it’s been the one thing that’s kept all of us from school still mates—we’re just very much still close. I think that’s been something that everyone’s latched onto, so it’s been nice for that. For me, musically, it’s where I first started DJing regularly. Off the back of that, I started getting asked to play at other nights in Newcastle.

DJ Times: You were doing most of the booking for the party. What sort of connections did that open for your own music career? Did it pave the way for anything?
Topping: I suppose so, yeah, in a way. I met people like Richy [Ahmed] for the first time when I booked him. I booked Lee Foss there, as well, but it wasn’t actually thought that I got in [Hot Creations and Paradise]. I actually kept in touch with Richy only, and it wasn’t through that kind of avenue that they got my music. It did help, I suppose, to give me the confidence to try and make something.

DJ Times: Then how did you get connected officially with Jamie Jones and Lee Foss?
Topping: A friend of mine sent a track to their SoundCloud, and luckily they listened to that and got in touch. It just went on from there.

DJ Times: Was that your release on Hot Trax?
Topping: It wasn’t actually. It was a track called “Fat Ballistic.” It’s a stupid name [laughs] and has a story from Ibiza that I won’t go into. That was probably only about the fifth track I had ever made. I had been sending a couple little things out to labels, but I hadn’t sent anything to Hot Creations because I didn’t think the tracks were good enough to go on [the label]. One of me mates sent that one, and then Jamie played it. I think the one on Hot Trax [2013’s "Walk On”] was the fifth one of mine he had been playing, and then he signed it. At that point, we started talking; before we hadn’t spoken—I was doing all of this via his tour manager.

DJ Times: Which came first: DJing or production?
Topping: I got decks first, but they just laid dormant; I didn’t put any time into them. I kind of felt like I had to learn production first before I could go on them. It sounds stupid, but I felt embarrassed trying to DJ. I felt like I needed to know the production first before I could be like, “I’m a DJ.” So I got the decks first, but I didn’t really do anything with them. Then I got into production and had made quite a few tracks before I actually learned how to DJ properly.

DJ Times: You took a Point Blank production course, correct?
Topping: Yeah.

DJ Times: I read it was in Minimal Techno, which is pretty different to what you’re doing now. What lessons did you take from that experience?
Topping: It wasn’t really the musical minimal techno side that I took, really. It was more being able to navigate Logic. It was getting the grips of the basics of how to use the software. It’s quite mindboggling when you first look at that type of program; it’s kind of complicated. That gave me the basics in how to use that [D[DAW]so after the course I was able to follow online tutorials on more advanced stuff.

DJ Times: What’s your current production setup?
Topping: It’s exactly the same as when I first started, except it used to just be a MacBook, but now I’ve got an iMac. It’s exactly the same speakers: KRK Rokit 5s. They’re not the best speakers, but I know how they translate into a club sound system and I’m really familiar with them, so I don’t want to change even though I could afford better ones now. I use them and mix down with my Sennheiser [H[HD 25]eadphones that I DJ with. I’ve got quite a few more software plug-ins than I used to.

DJ Times: Are you all software-based or do you have any hardware?
Topping: All software.

DJ Times: From a production standpoint, it seems most of your originals and remixes veer toward being set weapons rather than DJ tools. Is that by design?
Topping: Yes. I always try and make something memorable. I’m not trying to make a “hit,” but I always want something that people will remember. I’m not always making anthems, but I just feel like it’s a bit of a waste of your time to just make a DJ tool.

DJ Times: One of the massive anthems you made was “Forget.” Give me a little bit of the oral history of that track and how it came to be and take off.
Topping: That track came about like most new tracks do, really. I didn’t set out with an idea to make a big vocal track or a hit or anything; I was just messing about with sounds and looking for samples and I came across the vocal. The vocal inspired the full track, and it came about really quickly—in about three hours or something the main track came about. It was just one of those [s[songs]Sometimes it takes much longer, but that one came about really quick. It’s quite a simple track. I found that sometimes the simpler ones do the best.

DJ Times: What did you think when you made it?
Topping: As soon as I made it, I knew initially that it was definitely something I wanted to play in my sets. I sent it to Jamie, and as soon as I sent it, he emailed me back and said, “This is the biggest track you’ve ever done.” I had already had two EPs with him before that, and the one before that had done really well. So when he said that, I was thinking, “If he thinks this is the biggest one, hopefully this can do well as well!” He played it at BPM Festival 2014 on [a[a]E-AT.TV [o[online stream]t the Paradise Party, and it got ID’d and people went mad for it there. From then, it kind of snowballed and started growing this massive hype on it. I was thinking then, “Hopefully, this can do well!” Four months later—it came out in April—and it did really well.

DJ Times: It was a big Ibiza hit. You’ve been a resident at Paradise at DC-10 on the island for three seasons. What sort of experience has each one been, and does being a resident at a club in Ibiza teach you more as a DJ?
Topping: It’s been really fun! I’ve been doing more and more dates each year. I actually played there [a[at Paradise]our summers ago, but that was as a guest. During my first year as a resident, I think I did four dates, then last year six dates, and then this year I did seven. Playing more regularly has been a bit more of a challenge to mix it up and not just go in and play the same set every time. It keeps you looking for new stuff. I’ve had quite a few back-to-back sets there this summer: Richy Ahmed wAFF, Eats Everything. I definitely think after doing back-to-back sets that I’ve become a better DJ, especially off the ones with Eats Everything. He’s really technical with what he does, and I think that some of the stuff he’s been doing—I’ve played with him quite a bit—has been rubbing off on me. The style of the way he does it… I’ve been picking up on that myself. I never used to play in that style, so I think that’s been a cool way to develop.

DJ Times: Preferred setup for gigs?
Topping: Three [P[Pioneer]DJs. I’m not constantly on three CDJs like some people, but sometimes during the set you’re doing a capellas or loops and sometimes you need three. Then the new DJM-900nxs2 is probably the best mixer.

DJ Times: You’re no stranger to Ibiza. This summer has seen a lot of changes out on the island: police crackdowns, club ownerships changing, shifts toward VIP, etc. What have you noticed personally and what effect has that had on the island and its place as a dance music institution?
Topping: I think musically that the island is in a really good place. There is EDM there, but the main music on island is techno and tech-house. I think it’s really strong there, but then I do worry increasing regulations and stuff like that. I just hope that side doesn’t spoil it because musically—and all the clubs—it’s got all the infrastructure there. I hope they don’t get too much with the closing times and putting pressures on the clubs because that would be a real shame. I know it was closing at [6[6:30 a.m.]his summer, hopefully they don’t push it any earlier. That’s part of the thing about Ibiza: you’ve got massive opening hours so you can have such good lineups and such long sets. That’s part of the draw of it. It’d be a shame if it ended up like Newcastle, which ends at 3 a.m. As a holiday destination, this is [p[people’s]ig thing. They want to have a big blowout and make the most of it; they don’t want to go in early. There’s also been starting to be small outdoor parties there, but they’ve been clamping down after 4 a.m. Hopefully they don’t shut that down anymore because outdoor clubbing is part of the appeal of it as well.

DJ Times: A lot of people have come to know you through your productions, which I’m sure brings people to your shows. How do you aim to balance your production identity and your DJ identity?
Topping: I think when I first started, I was a little bit paranoid about that because I had quite a few big tracks initially. I didn’t want to just be known as a producer. But now I hope I’m equally as known as a DJ as I am a producer. I suppose that could be part of the reason why I don’t play as many of my tracks as I used to—I used to play loads of my tracks. I don’t play as many anymore maybe because subconsciously I’m trying to show my DJing off. That being said, some people don’t play any of their tracks at all; I do like including my own tracks, especially when I’m going to a new place for the first-ever time.

DJ Times: Will you play “Forget”?
Topping: In a new city or new country, I will play “Forget.” But I won’t play “Forget” in DC-10 because I’ve played there loads, or I won’t play any of the big tracks at the gigs here [a[at Amsterdam Dance Event]ecause I’d rather present some new music I’ve made or music by someone else. It’s a bit of a balance. If I’m at a gigs and loads of people are asking for “Voicemail,” then I will play it to make their night. I enjoy playing it still, but I try not to depend on [m[my big tracks]oo much.

DJ Times: Do DJing and producing have an influence on each other for you?
Topping: Massively. I get most of my ideas from hearing other people DJing and the songs they play and the songs I play, as well. I love these songs and I love hearing what they’re like, so then from hearing tracks in those environments, I’m always getting ideas on what I want to do in the studio. Me biggest influence is hearing influences in clubs, definitely. In the studio, loads of times I’m just making stuff for my sets based on reactions I’ve been seeing for certain things.

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