One of n5MD’s most creative and original forces, Kevin Patzelt (aka Dreissk), talks about his new album edge_horizon, musical influences, his studio, future plans and more…
Kevin Patzelt :: I didn’t have a goal when I started writing music. More than anything, I just wanted to see if I could. As I continue making music, I continue trying to evoke emotion without words. n5md’s mantra of “emotional experiments in music” is truer to me today than when I first sought to be a part of the label. I’m not sure exactly which emotion or blend of feelings I’m going after when I begin a song but by the time I call a piece final, I hope the tracks evoke a thought or reaction in the listener. Like many others, I’m trying to push this auditory presentation into the mind’s eye for the audience to create their own vision behind the music.
I was fortunate to have a background in audio editing from my day job to give me the technical know-how to ease into creating music. Because of that experience, my compositions tend to be heavily layered and processed as I leverage the techniques of sound design for picture. Likewise, my sound design for games and film has matured as I hear things more musically now. My sound effects take on a rhythm and attention to musical tones in a way they haven’t before.
Your debut album, ‘The Finding’ (n5MD, 2011) gained a lot of praise from the press and listeners across the globe as well. It has been called “Undefinable…” and “Otherworldly…” among other things. From who are you drawing your musical inspiration? Tell us a bit about the music you’re listening to.
To this day I can’t even define my own music when trying to explain it to people I meet. It’s actually quite frustrating. I don’t have an end goal when beginning a track; the music will expose itself to me as the piece progresses. There have been artists that have stuck with me over the years and have had a defining impact on my life. Muse, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Sigur Rós, and, of course, Bitcrush are easily on the top of my ‘most played’ counts in iTunes.
Your sophomore album, ‘edge_horizon’ was released on n5MD in February this year. Surely after the success of your debut you knew people will have certain expectations and hopes regarding your next album. Was it something you took into consideration when creating the music for ‘edge_horizon’ or did it not affect you that much?
Since the first album was repeatedly called ‘undefinable’ it was impossible to predict peoples’ expectations for the second album. However, what I considered before starting the edge_horizon were comments made in reviews and social media. I also looked at what tracks were played the most on services like SoundCloud and last.fm. Most revealing was that “unknown discontent,” a track that barely made the cut for the album, was by far the most played and liked by the audience. I took time reflecting upon the similarities of the more popular tracks. In this way, public feedback helped shape the course of the second album by keeping those thoughts in the back of my mind while composing.
I feel that ‘edge_horizon’ can be a suitable soundtrack to a thrilling Sci-Fi movie with a post-apocalyptic theme. Did you intend to induce that type of atmosphere or was it something that came out of you subconsciously?
I didn’t consider edge_horizon to be a film soundtrack when I completed it but the reference has come up several times since the album released so it was definitely something subconscious. I did, however, try to give the album an overarching theme in its pacing and organization. This subtle narrative is designed to take the listener through the course of a day. From the breaking dawn in “wake,” the morning mist of “vision blur,” the afternoon sun in “what awakes” and the approaching twilight of “set,” the tracks follow the course of the sun. Whether I accomplished that or not is up to the listener but it was something I tried to convey with subtlety.
‘edge_horizon’ features a great collaborative track with Anklebiter that was also released last year as a part of a three-track digital EP on n5MD. Are there any other collaborations on the horizon? I feel that a Dreissk + Bitcrush combo album can be something really special. Is there a chance that such a thing will happen?
Working with Tanner Volz on the EP was one of my favorite moments on this album. The collaboration of handing stems back and forth really inspired both of us to push our composition. Originally it was only meant to be a single track on edge_horizon until Mike Cadoo suggested we create an EP by including a mix of our individual components. Both Tanner and I resisted at first but after I put together the individual mixes, it was clear that we had something unique to offer our combined audiences.
“Absent Without Leave” reached out for a remix on an upcoming release. It was a treat to work on and I would love to collaborate with others in the future. A Dreissk + Bitcrush collaboration would be something amazing, especially since Cadoo’s music has been such an inspiration for me.
Tell us a bit about the video you made for “Shadow Fall.”
Originally I was going to work with Tanner Volz on a music video for edge_horizon. We had met up in Portland to discuss concepts but his time was spread too thin to release anything that could line up with the release of the album. I had never shot video before and decided to try my hand at it with the “shadow fall” piece. Mistakenly, I thought my background in still photography would transfer to video. The science between the two is the same but motion video is a completely different beast. I have never used video editing software before and settled on FCPX for this project. I definitely had an uphill battle in front of me. Regardless, I pushed through, capturing and editing the footage in three days. The video is far from perfect but I was committed to releasing a visual component to the album, for good or bad. I can’t say I’m proud of the end result but I learned an amazing amount from that first video and have already begun two others. They might not be great but I’ll keep improving each time. It’s something I’m going to continue pursuing in the future.
The guitar is something you combine quite often in your music, sometimes in a more obvious way, and sometimes in a more abstract way. Did you have any formal musical training or are you self-taught?
I’ve been playing guitar since seventh grade with private lessons from my local music store. Years later I ended up working there as a salesperson during college. After locking in my foundation with lessons I continued playing on and off for many years. Guitar is definitely my instrument of choice for discovering and recording melodies since I’m most comfortable on that instrument. Even so, it tends to come last in all of my compositions as I usually develop the chordal structure and rhythms on the keyboard.
What can you tell us about AudioSurgery?
AudioSurgery is the studio I’ve been building over the last seven years. I record, edit, and mix all of my albums in that space. Over time I’ve been building out racks of modern and vintage outboard gear where most of my mixing takes place. Beyond music, I also use the studio for sound design and mixing other projects such as films, commercials, and documentaries. Since my background is in sound editing, I continue to work as a freelance audio engineer.
Most of my design work as the Audio Director at Undead Labs also occurs at AudioSurgery. Being in my own studio speeds up my work and fuels my creativity for my sound design and mixing on our game titles. Our first game at Undead Labs will be coming out soon, “State of Decay.” Along with creating and implementing 95% of the sound effects, I also have a composer credit along with Jesper Kyd on the title. For the game I created about 70 minutes of musical atmospheres, and two full-production tracks. Jesper was also gracious enough to provide me stems for his contributions so I remixed variations of his tracks, tripling the amount of music you’ll hear in the game.
What does the future hold for Dreissk?
A few things are already in play for the future. I’ve started concept and storyboard for a new music video for edge_horizon. Once the weather up here in Seattle starts improving, I’ll be able to get all of the shots I need. I’ve also started capturing footage for visuals to accompany the next album. The content will be similar to the “shadow fall” video except on a much smaller scale of colors and chemical reactions. Work has already begun on tracks for my third full release. Three tracks are completed so far that I’m very happy with. Since I’ve been hearing so many comparisons of my work to that of a soundtrack I will write the next album with that in mind and see what happens. Now all I need is a film to go with the music… :-)
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