Ask the DJ/production duo DESIGNER DRUGS how many air miles they’ve logged over the past year and the answer requires more than a bit of calculating. “Over 300,000,” Michael Vincent Patrick referencing numerous spots around the world where the group has performed. “I have a really nice apartment in New York City, but I’ve only been there three days this month.”
It’s a testament both to the duo’s popularity and work ethic that that number may become the annual norm. After nearly 50 remixes for everyone from Mariah Carey to Annie to Thieves Like Us, the diverse electronic group, comprised of Patrick and Theodore Paul Nelson, is set to release their debut album HARDCORE/SOFTCORE on Ultra Records in February 2011.
Where past productions and remixes have been on the poppier end of the musical spectrum, Hardcore conjures up a darker, edgier vibe – think the throbbing, industrial-heavy opening club scene in “The Doom Generation” – yet still retains a melodic center on many of the tracks. “I think we’re making music for the apocalypse,” says Michael, only half-joking. “The state of society is at a place where people just don’t give a fuck and that’s what inspires our music.”
On Hardcore/Softcore, numerous sounds saddle up against each other, proving the title’s veracity. The punishing electro-industrial punk of “Dead Meat” and grinding, pounding beat of club bangers “Face Melter” and “The Terror” provide contrast to the pop vocals of Norwegian singer Annie on “Crazy For You” and fist-pumping up-tempo anthem “Into The Light.” Elsewhere, the classic electro-funk of “Leather Gang” sits comfortably against the Italo-shoegaze of “For All We Know” and lead single “Through The Prism” (out 10/26, Ultra Music), the new electro classic featuring Cerebral Vortex. In stark contrast to albums that sound like they’re on repeat by track four, Hardcore/Softcore ’s myriad styles are a welcome change from many electronic LPs.
While a debut album, Hardcore/Softcore functions as much as a culmination of a decade’s work as it does the next stage in a bourgeoning career. As the electro scene started to flourish in the early 2000s, the pair built a studio in Philadelphia and christened themselves DESIGNER DRUGS, balancing an in-demand DJing schedule with near-constant demand for track remixes, including Little Boots’ “Meddle,” Fischerspooner’s “The Best Revenge,” IAMX’s “Spit It Out” and Heartsrevolution’s “Switchblade.”
With Nelson currently in medical school, the duo has still found a way to keep up their busy musical careers. “I don’t really do anything else besides med school and music,” admits Theo. “I do worry about if I want to be a doctor or a DJ when I finish school, but I’ll just cross that bridge when I come to it.” Adds Michael: “When he has time off, we’ll meet and just write every day.”
School hasn’t stopped the group from putting on memorable live sets as much as possible. Spend a few minutes at one of DESIGNER DRUGS’ live shows and you’ll see the normally humble pair, spurred on by the intense energy of their music, transform into a different beast. “It gets pretty wild,” admits Michael. “Even though we’re mellow, there’s lots of stage diving and almost slam dancing. It’s next level dance club shit that almost morphs into that ‘90s hardcore/punk vibe.”
As for the future, more remixes, more original production, more DJ mixes (the online DATAMIX series is on 11 and counting) and many more DJ gigs promise to keep the pair busy for the foreseeable future. And no school will stop DESIGNER DRUGS from achieving their musical goals. “I got a month off coming up,” says Theo. “As soon as I get my first free day, it’s back to the studio with Michael.”