Artist of the Month: Alan Fitzpatrick
Artist of the Month: Alan FitzpatrickNovember 8, 2021
With releases on Drumcode, Hotflush, FFRR and regular appearances at Awakenings, DC10, Creamfields and Glastonbury, Alan Fitzpatrick is one of techno’s biggest names. And while his new album defies expectations, he’s now ready to return to his rave-ready roots.
Alan Fitzpatrick’s studio is full of merch. There’s a three-foot-tall Storm Trooper standing next to one of his synths, and as we speak, he’s drinking from a glass which he places on a Back To The Future coaster. Next to his Yamaha keyboard, there’s a cabinet full of Rubik’s cubes, South Park minions, and Alan himself, sitting in front of his computer wearing a Darth Vader Supreme t-shirt. “It’s the kids,” he says. “My son’s obsessed with old stuff. He always says he wishes he was born in the ‘80s.”
It makes sense that Alan Fitzpatrick’s son would like to be born in the same era as his dad. Jedi Knights aside, Alan came of age in the mid-‘90s — the golden era of rave — when cassette tapes reigned supreme and you’d swap your right arm for a Charizard. Today, Alan is chatting from his studio in Southampton, the town he grew up in. He says he was about 14 or 15 when he started listening to rave music and trading eight-packs of rave tapes with his mates: live recordings of DJ sets with no edits or overdubs, crowd chat included. “We weren’t old enough to be in these clubs, but we could still soak up some of that vibe,” Alan says.
At 16 the gang bought fake IDs and took a train down to Bournemouth to go to trance club Slinky. From that moment, Alan was a goner. “I was just hit in the face by the smoke machines, lasers, lights and music. It all sort of clicked and I realised this is what I want to do.”
Back then, there was no branding or polish. “You never knew what you were going to get in the club — DJ styles would be all over the place. You might see Trevor Rockcliffe play techno followed by Pete Tong and then Carl Cox followed by Tiësto. It was all over the place, you’d hear all sorts of stuff.”
Alan and his mates purchased turntables before they were legally able to enter a club and would perform in each other’s bedrooms, one behind the decks and the rest sitting on the floor or bed. “After that we’d do small house parties. marquees in fields, sometimes a function room in a pub.”
Alan’s first paid gig was a taste of what’s to come. He’d been sending mixtapes to internet friends and one of them invited him to play his party, which just so happened to be in Calgary. So Alan stuffed his records in his suitcase, bid farewell to his parents and took off to Canada. “The gig was good fun. I didn’t really know what was good or bad then, I had no reference, but I had a good time.” Alan stayed for a few days, saw Calgary’s sights, then flew back to the UK. “I got back and was like, ‘Wow that was mental.’”
Back then, in 2002, Alan was neck deep in the UK’s hard house scene — “Tony De Vit, Tidy Trax, Riot! Recordings, Nukleuz Records, that kinda stuff.” Alan started producing and releasing music with his childhood (and current) best friend Dave Robertson, AKA Reset Robot, while working full-time in insurance. “I ended up being there for 10-plus years, but it was a solid salary and I could put the money I earned into records and studio equipment.”
So while his 2009 breakthrough track “Reflections” was BBC Radio 1’s essential new tune Alan was spending his days behind a desk working on marketing strategies. The turning point came in when he was driving home from work one day in 2010 and his track came on the radio. “That’s when I decided to go fully into DJing and leave full-time work which was quite a bold decision, my wife will tell you, because our first child was two weeks old.” Needless to say, the decision paid off. The following year he played close to 50 shows and delivered an Essential Mix.
Alan will tell you his career’s been a slow-burner. He’s been chipping away since he was 16, and those first few years as a full-time DJ followed the same sustainable, consistent trajectory. “I got a manager, started playing more gigs every month, building relationships — things started moving.”
Alan cites his long-standing relationship with Drumcode as a key factor in his success. He’s been releasing on the label since 2009 and they came of age together. Alan’s production style moved from hard house to hard techno to euphoric house to big room techno, and Drumcode spearhead that sound to this day. “Drumcode is huge now. It’s a massive brand. But back then it was just a record label,” Alan says. “We were playing residencies at Berghain and Tresor and doing tons of great shows. To see that progression and be part of that has been amazing.”
The success of Drumcode inspired Alan to start his own label. Alan launched We Are The Brave in 2017 in the exact same way he launched his career — by playing tons of wild house parties. “We did it with a £100,000 Void sound system,” Alan says. “The same one that’s in DC-10. We took journalists on the road with us on a massive tour bus, turned up at people’s houses in the afternoon, took the rig in, set up and had a mental house party.”
Alan and his crew pissed off entire neighbourhoods in Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Brighton and Bristol. Alan remembers a very angry man banging down the door during soundcheck in Glasgow, saying he couldn’t hear his TV. “Turned out he lived three roads down,” Alan says.
This was Alan’s way of returning to his roots and giving his fans a taste of his own experiences. After his set Alan would play FIFA with the revellers, and they’d often jump on the decks after him. “I did the odd selfie but it felt more like we were just mates having a party,” Alan says. “It was just a great way to introduce We Are The Brave, so our fan base can feel included in our vision as opposed to us asking for them to pay us money for events. The label’s as much for them as it is for me, you know?”
Since its launch, We Are The Brave has released tracks from techno veterans and newcomers alike, including Eli Brown, Daniel Rifaterra, Maya Jane Coles (under her CAYAM alias), Alan’s old pal Reset Robot and dozens more. The general ethos of the label is to give a big fat middle finger to the rulebook. “We won’t be told what to do, like we can’t throw parties at people’s houses. We do what we want and that’s that, and if you want to follow us then great, and if you don’t then go and find something else to listen to.”
This premise sums up Alan Fitzpatrick’s new album nicely — he says it’s the most experimental and creative he’s been in the studio thus far. Machine Therapy is out on November 12th on Anjundadeep and is his first album in ten years. The Machine in Machine Therapy comes from the use of hardware in the productions, and Therapy comes from the escape and release that producing the album provided during the monotonous horror of the pandemic. “It’s definitely not a club album,” Alan says. “It was therapeutic for me to be in the studio writing music without having to worry about how it’s gonna sound in a club.”
“W.A.I.S.T.D.” is a different genre altogether — a euphoric electronica track with vocals from Bloc Party’s Kele. Alan was playing the long-game with this collab; he’d been emailing Kele asking to collaborate since 2005, to no avail. “But I messaged him during the pandemic and said, ‘Let’s do something together,’ and he came back and was like, ‘Yeah, I’m really into your music.’ And then it happened.” Alan’s not sure if Kele knew he’d been emailing him for the last 15 years, but I guess he’ll know now.
Machine Therapy also features appearances from Lawrence Hart, LOWES and Catrin Vincent, with styles ranging from atmospheric that borders on ambient, to melodic house, to straight-up techno. Alan stretched his creative legs, defying anyone who thought he fit neatly in a techno-shaped box. He says the collaborations and exchanges helped him feel connected during lockdown, and the versatility of his productions felt like an emotional release. Now, though, he’s ready to return to his techno roots. “[The album is] specifically from a period in my life when things were kind of uncertain, you know?” Alan says. “All the music that’s coming out post album is sort of heavy, fast, furious techno — back-in-the-clubs sort of stuff. I think I needed to release the creativity in that album to allow me to get my head back down into club music.”
Alan dove headfirst into gigging when the clubs re-opened this July, averaging 14 shows a month, including Park Life Festival, Tobacco Dock, ADE, The Warehouse Project — dance music’s biggest venues and events. “The pandemic was a bit of a reality check,” Alan says. “Before, I was sleep-deprived, [stayed up] late in the studio, and wasn’t spending enough time with my family. It felt normal. It was only when everything stopped that I realised I don’t need to take every show, and should pick my battles a bit more.”
For a moment there, having been locked inside for 22 months, Alan thought he might have lost his lust for the club and outgrown the home he first found in Slinky when he was 16. “I didn’t know how I was going to feel when I got back into a nightclub,” Alan says. “I was really hoping I wouldn’t go in and be like, yeah, I don’t want to do this anymore. But luckily, I walked back in and the lightbulb just went on again.”
Alan has modest hopes for the future. In previous interviews he’s said he can’t see himself DJing at 50, although now he’s not so sure. But if he had to choose a different profession, he’d go in the polar opposite direction. “I love carp fishing,” he says. “I’d like to own a lake and look after that and maybe have a couple of camping pods on it and some fields and some animals and just be there all the time.”
But Alan, 40 next year, can’t see himself retiring anytime soon. He might be one of the biggest DJs in the game, but he still hasn’t forgotten why he does what he does. Every time he plays a gig, he remembers that somewhere in the crowd there’s a kid experiencing all this for the first time. “I’ll always remember what it felt like being on the other side of the decks, and that I might be making a memory for someone that they’ll talk about in 20 years time.”
That’s probably why Alan Fitzpatrick remains so fresh and so loved— he never lost that big Bournemouth energy. He might be playing to tens of thousands of people every month, but he’s still the same lad with the mixtapes who loves nothing more than FIFA, Star Wars and playing techno to his mates.
Alice Austin is a Tel Aviv-based journalist, with bylines in Beatportal, Mixmag, DJ Mag and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter.