Patrick Topping Interview: Party paradise

Patrick Topping spoke to Becca Frankland about the allure of smaller gigs, Newcastle's underground scene and his favourite party of 2016.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 7th Dec 2016

Patrick Topping is a raver's DJ. Always keen to interact, always upping his game and above all, always guaranteed to start a party, you'd be hard pushed to find a young dance music enthusiast who doesn't rate the Geordie. 

Topping began making music from his bedroom back in 2012 whilst running the popular house and techno club night Motion at Digital in Newcastle. As is the back story with a lot of stellar artists, the major move in his career came the following year when one of his productions fell into the lap of Jamie Jones, who snapped it up to Hot Creations' sister label Hot Trax.

He topped the Beatport charts with tracks like 'Forget' and 'Get Beasty' (both on Hot Creations) in 2014, and picked up the accolade for DJ Mag’s ‘Best Tune’ in their Best of British Awards. 2015 then saw him deliver the massive 'Voicemail' with Green Velvet along with his debut Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1.

Now you can catch his infectious, chunky house and groovy tech sets at festivals and clubs across the globe. He is, without doubt, one of the most in-demand DJs on the scene, something which is reiterated with each sellout event he headlines. With his debut mix CD album Paradise on Earth 01 just released, Topping is setting himself up for an equally impressive 2017.

We caught up with him to discuss his hometown, the allure of smaller gigs and the challenges of social media ahead of his upcoming gigs.

Find upcoming Patrick Topping events.

What were your early rave experiences? When did you get into dance music?

Some of the first dance music I got into was called New Monkey, named after the New Monkey nightclub in Sunderland where it was played. It was 180 bpm happy hardcore with MCs on top. I never actually went to The New Monkey, but loved it when I was 13-15. It wasn’t until I was about 17 that I started to like trance and electro house, then from there it was on to techno.

From your time co-running your own clubnight in Newcastle, who have been your favourite guests and why?

I still promote Motion in Newcastle at Digital, not as often as I used to, but still about four events a year. Some of my favourite ones were from when we first started at small 300 capacity club called The Other Rooms. We had an unreal atmosphere in there with the likes of 2000 & One, Solomun and Karotte.

Newcastle's underground scene is definitely present, but not as prominent as other UK cities. Who would you say are the current standout promoters there at the moment in your opinion?

The scene in Newcastle is actually very strong, not as big as Leeds, Manchester or London, but after those, I’d say it’s up there. There are so many promoters, such as Shindig who have been going over 24 years bringing the biggest names over like Carl Cox to the many student promoters like Ape-x. We also recently brought elrow to city for the first time.

Despite your popularity, you're still playing at smaller capacity venues regularly, do you think it's important to still take these gigs as well as the massive festival/warehouse showcases? If so, why?

For me a good night is always about the atmosphere and connection with the crowd, so even if there are just a few hundred people there, or even less, it can be even more special than a big festival with no vibe as long as they are really into it and everyone gets involved.

Sometimes the intimate ones can’t be beat. Also, I especially love those gigs where it's a big crowd, but the set up of the decks is on ground level like at a small club, so everyone is in your face, but the crowd go right back. That’s the best of both worlds.

Your Paradise On Earth compilation album has just come out on Hot Creations, do you find there's more pressure on track selections for a CD in comparison to say, a pre-recorded mix?

Totally, as each track has to be licensed from the label it came out on and not every track gets approved for use, so this brings a new challenge because you have a limited tracklist to work with and you can’t just add tracks at any point in the process. If a track you're hoping to use gets rejected, it can alter the path of the mix. This was my first licensed DJ mix like this and it give me a new, greater appreciation of them.

You've got a bit of a cult following on social media, what are the pros and cons that come with having such a big online presence?

I really enjoy social media, I do all mine myself and I couldn’t let someone else do it, I just find it too personal. I have tried letting others do a couple posts but it just felt unnatural and I wasn’t comfortable with it. I suppose one of the downsides of that is that I can get a bit obsessive with it. I think if I wasn’t DJing, I would have probably deleted Facebook etc for a bit and had a little social media break.

There are only a few artists who have been successful from DJing, but how crucial do you think it is to produce and DJ?   

I don’t think a DJ has to produce to be a good DJ, but it is very hard for a DJ to break through now without having their own tracks to initially shed light on their DJing. Having said that it can bring a new dimension to a DJ, when they have catalogue of their own well known, edited or unreleased music.

Do you see yourself as a producer first and a DJ second?

I’ve been doing both about equal length of time, but when my career first took off I would say I was known more as a producer and kind of felt more of a producer just because of that, even though I thought I could DJ as well. But now I hardly have time to make music, as I’m DJing all the time, so at the moment I feel more like a DJ. I’d like to think I'm known as both equally.

Would you ever be interested in starting up your own record label?

Yeah that’s definitely something I’m looking to do in the future. There are so many wicked unreleased tracks that I'd like to put out. Also I like the idea of being able to release my own music when I like, but at the moment I’m not sure when a label might happen, because I am really happy releasing on some of my favourite labels.

'Voicemail' is such a massive club track. Can you tell us about the production process with Green Velvet for that record?

He asked me to start some drums and bassline, so I sent him five different basslines and he picked one and added an extra note to it. Then he sent me the "Meet Me At The Club” vocal, I knew instantly how catchy that was.

We had been talking about ideas for the track and I told him I love his old one 'Answering Machine', he had the idea of making a new version of it, so that’s what 'Voicemail' is! He resurrected the characters from 'Answering Machine' and created new lyrics for them.

Whilst he was doing this I was building the beat and synths and the track came out within three days. He was in Chicago and I was in Newcastle, on different time zones and we both stayed up through the night working on it and listening together over Skype, arranging the track together and adding and changing bits in real time. I can still remember my neighbours banging on the wall telling me turn it down late at night and I was just thinking, "Fuck off I’m on Skype with Green Velvet!" haha. 

Which track (not one of your own productions) is without fail making its way into your sets at the moments?

Gary Beck 'Barefoot Sunday' is absolutely slamming and I’ve been hammering it for a while.

We're approaching the end of the year so I have to ask, what's been your standout party of 2016?

Parklife in Manchester. I played b2b with Richy Ahmed to the biggest crowd I’ve ever played to. At the time I was told 10,000, but since then the festival owner has told me he thought 25,000! Another DJ was late or didn’t turn up too, so we got an extra hour, it was surreal. 

You can catch Patrick Topping at Kaluki's NYE at Sankeys East and The Rainbow Venues NYE in Birmingham.

Check out other upcoming Patrick Topping gigs.