Dead Horse Beats, aka Patrick Wade, is a Nova Scotian-born, Montreal-based painting-with-samples-producer. He came up with the name Dead Horse Beats because when he first started out, he said his beats were white boy college stuff – like beating a dead horse.
Dead Horse Beats sure isn’t putting forth anything stale these days, if in fact he ever did. (2012’s Campfire Sessions? That shit is tight!)
I got to sit down with Wade at local gem, Sparrow, and pick his brain. Here’s what happened:
Ceilidh Michelle: What was the first thing that got you into music?
Dead Horse Beats: When I was kid I was into [banging on] the pots and pans with sticks. I thought Travis Barker was pretty cool.
CM: He is a good drummer… So you played drums?
DHB: Yeah, I started playing drums when I was six or seven years old. I picked up a fifty dollar set from the old Bargain Hunter [Editor’s Note: Kids from the Maritimes will be familiar with the Bargain Hunter].
I played all the way through high school. I started making beats in university because I couldn’t be in a band anymore.
CM: So was it being a drummer that led to your beat-making?
DHB: And I was into hip hop, rapping, free-style battling and stuff. I wanted to capture the immediacy of [what I heard] in hip hop, that element of ‘something could happen at any minute.’
CM: What did you first get into when you were listening to hip hop?
CM: I’m reading an essay by Jordan Ferguson called Dilla’s Donuts, and it’s about that last album Dilla made. The essay was talking about how one of the things that really set J Dilla apart as a producer was his attention to percussion. And I notice that percussive quality in your music as well.
DHB: Well, that’s a high compliment for sure, to have any comparison to J Dilla…But he was obviously a huge inspiration. [Like when I am] recording my drums for longer than a four-bar-beat, changing up my loops so people have a harder time catching it…little percussive swells and accents.
I guess having the background of playing drums gives you a little bit more of an idea on how a drummer would play things, and the phyisicality of making your way around a drum kit and the things that are possible.
CM: When you play, do you ever involve live instrumentation in any way?
DHB: I used to do a live show that was just myself playing guitar, singing, and using samples. I used to tour with a saxophone player…most recently I’ve been doing tracks with a keyboard player and a guitar player and myself.
CM: Have you ever worked with a label before?
DHB: For about a year, I was signed to a UK label called Black Butter Records. They’re big in the European House and electronica scene. It didn’t work out with them at all; it was a weird fit.
I was in London one day, and they asked me to come into their studios. I told them I was from Halifax, and they’re like, “Oh, that’s not far from London.” [Because there is a Halifax in England] It just never really worked out, and we parted ways.
CM: Oh yeah, I heard he’s in Montreal sometimes.
DHB: He used to do a thing at Honey Martins in N.D.G.
CM: What were your first experiences getting into the Montreal music scene?
CM: How did you feel playing that show then?
DHB: Amazing. I was totally for it. It’s weird to look back on, because now I know a lot more about club culture, I guess, and what kinds of things DJ’s play. I didn’t know that before, I’d never spent much time in nightclubs. So I’d be playing a bunch of weird down tempo stuff…
CM: How did you figure all of that out, and get to where you are now?
DHB: It’s a lot of trial and and a lot of error. But you can learn so much from watching the people around you.
Before I moved to Montreal, I was only really making sample-based beats for rappers, but now I’ve gotten more into dance music, music that connects people in an immediate, visceral way on the dance floor.
CM: What do you love the most about the club scene in Montreal, as compared to other Canadian cities?
DHB: People here are just really enthusiastic, really open-minded, and are more willing to suspend their pretensions and expectations.
When you play in other cities, I think you get a lot more requests, whereas here, there seems to be a pretty good understanding that you should let DJ’s do what they’re gonna do.
CM: Are you playing a weekly slot anywhere?
DHB: Not necessarily. But I play Newspeak at least once a month; it’s owned by a couple friends of mine.
CM: I gotta ask, where did you get that sample from on the track Homegrown?
DHB: That’s a song called “Three Sides to a Triangle,” by Jerry Towns.
Now Again Records [is an] amazing label. They put out these rare, weird eccentric old collections. Gems.
CM: I remember reading your description of Single People, how the album was about breaking up with someone and acting like a child about it.
Would you say that working on and then releasing that LP was a growing process for you?
DHB: Definitely, yeah. It took a long time to make that album and I think that [Single People] tracks the movement and the genesis of my [growth] from sample-based [work] to a broader array of influences.
[Single People] helped me grow musically, but it also helped me grow personally. It was the first time I’d ever really tried to make songs that were about personal subjects, or writing songs that had lyrical content that meant something to me.
It’s kind of an emotional experience to listen to [the album] again, and remember how I was feeling when I was making those tracks.
CM: You recently played at M for Montreal, right?
DHB: Yeah, that was a really fun show.
CM: First time playing the festival?
DHB: Yeah. It was great, such a fun party. It was eleven, and [Newspeak] was full.
CM: That’s really cool, especially since Grimes was also playing that night. After playing M for Montreal, do you feel like an integrated Montreal artist now?
DHB: Well, I guess I already was officially welcomed once [before].
I was playing a show with RjD2, at SAT [Societe des Arts Technologiques] – RjD2 was one of my ultimate influences growing up and making beats, so it was pretty crazy to play with him. [During my set] this guy ran up on stage and put his Montreal Expos hat on my head and grabbed the mic and was like, “You’re an official Montrealer now.”