By: Ricky Carden
If there is someone that you should talk to in Chicago's music industry, it would be Patrick Riley. I say this, not because he has a glorious life, nor is he making a ton of money; it is simply because he has lived through the trials and tribulations that comes from being in our city's music scene. This man has taught himself everything you need to know in order to be successful in music-- playing just about every instrument, working as a lighting designer, producing music, and succeeding as a very creative entrepreneur. He has not needed anyone's help. People ask for his... So lets get into this!
Ricky: When did you start playing music? We are going to take people way back…
Patrick: As far as music though, for real? Violin. In fifth grade of elementry school at Aldrin. I literally think I practiced with two other people in a janitor closest. From what I can remember, it was the weirdest thing. It was not like a class. I did it for two years max and decided to quit.
R: Haha I did CCD at Aldrin. At Nerge elementary school, I signed up to play the trombone because my sister played the trumpet, but I don't know... I just didn’t follow through.
R: What did you start playing after the violin?
R: Is that when you started playing in all your pop-punk bands?
P: My sister was dating a punk dude. They both went to NIU. When they would come visit the suburbs, her bf would bring an acoustic guitar and he would forget it from time-to-time. I started to learn by playing his guitar. My mom would tell me when my sister was coming home so that I could put it back without him finding out. I would do that up until the point I really needed to get my own guitar.
R: What was your first band?
P: Whoa, way back! Boycott was the name. Actually, the first band was one that never even played. We had instruments so it was cool to call ourselves a band. We were called Three-legged Chair.
R: Come on man! You cannot even sit on one of those... Haha.
P: My second band was called Rubberband. They always had terrible band names at first because we were not creative... Then, after that was All Looked Up. The problem was that all the good names were all looked up… So we were all about the corny ass names at that age. Ohhh, that was the good ole' 14 year old me...
R: That is about the time we met.
P: Yea. This was a weirder period of time for me, musically. I had been smoking pot and really had nothing else better to do other than sit in my bedroom, listen to Pink Floyd, and play with new pedals. This is when I realized I wanted to write psychedelic music.
R: Everybody seems to be writing psychedelic music these days…
P: HAHAHA Fact!
R: Why do you think that is?
P: Human development throughout the last couple of decades has caused people to prefer more stimulation. People get distracted too easily. Everyone is scatter-brained and they prefer music that has a variety of noises going on at once.
R: Do you think a little bit of it has to do with the internet and those who are trying to self-medicate themselves with different kinds of psychedelic drugs?
P: For some, yes. Have you ever heard of Fearless Radio? It is uncensored online radio. You could swear and talk about whatever. I was on it before with my latest band called Amrita. I actually just found a bunch of old, unreleased tunes of ours!
R: When did you start Amrita?
P: About ten years ago. It was Me, Mike Del Principe and Matt Robinson (who are now in Bronson Rock), and this guy name Alfred. He ended up playing for Empires. It wouldn't surprise me if he is on a beach somewhere right now. We went through a bunch of different changes throughout the years; calling it quits in 2013.
R: How many albums did you guys have?
P: Four released albums and two unreleased albums.
R: What is going to happen with those unreleased ones?
P: Haha. I don’t know. The universe can only tell. I do know the first three songs that were unreleased will never get released. We were experimenting. We recorded at Shures Warehouse. They were testing out new microphones on us, so we got a free recording. They actually sounded pretty good.
R: You guys have been playing together again, right?
P: Yea, a little. Mike D played drums with me recently. MELK asked me to cover two Radiohead songs with them at their last show at Tonic Room. Mike is on one of the songs. For the record: I asked Amrita to play these songs a long time ago and they didn’t want to. Now, Mike D is playing it-- right place, wrong time!
You can check out Amrita's catalogue on their Bandcamp page at www.bandcamp.com
R: When Amrita broke up, you kinda went in a different direction. Can you tell us about that?
P: I was trying to do anything I could at that point.
R: You started your own company, right?
P: Yes, Biolume Productions. It is a lighting company that was named after biolumescent fish, which are an obsession of mine. After Amrita stopped playing together, I took a lot of time away from creating music. I had a pretty broken heart and was trying to figure things out. I went through an ego loss because I had associated myself directly with the band. I had to really see what I was made of. I was asked to sing for KID A, which is a very well known Radiohead cover band here in Chicago. I was asked to join Traveling Without Moving, which is a very well known Jamaroqui cover band here in Chicago. I had worked on some stuff with Colin Tyler Is Dead who is an electronic music producer here in Chicago. And, now I am doing stuff with Mike Golden & Friends that you may know from working with Chance The Rapper's crew. I even started writing my own stuff again, but it will go into other people’s hands to polish it this time around. I want to take a different approach to creating music from now on. Figure it all out before bringing all the pieces together. There is definitely going to be a lot of experimenting between both the lights and the music.
R: What is the end goal of the company then?
P: Right now, it is to just keep learning because bigger opportunities may present themselves at any time. I want to be ready whenever. It is a win-win because on the lower end, our network of local artists now have good light shows. We can keep these relationships strong.
R: Would you like to go on tour as an LD?
P: Sure. It would depend on who it was for and if the pay was good. It costs a lot of money for lighting gear and the effort it takes to set up and tear down is a lot. We are always the first people at the venue and the last ones to get to go home. It can get pretty tiring…
R: Lights play a huge roll in today's live performance.
P: They do. It adds to the band. People start to do different things in the crowd depending on what lights are being projected. There is a rule of thumb: soft stuff with reverb and delays—use blues and purples. I will show you and you guys can play around with all the buttons. I am constantly learning, but I am on a break from teaching myself anything more advanced at the moment. I want to write my music while my creative juices are flowing.
R: How was SXSW? You went down there to play with Mike Golden, right?
P: It was the extremes of every emotion.
R: What does that even mean?! Haha.
P: It means like one second we are playing this packed venue and the response is unbelieve. People actually thought I was am amazing keyboard player. That was awesome. Then, I walk out and there is 10,000 people on a two block radius. There was a knife fight and horses trampling people. It was my first time ever being on this side of the [hip-hop] industry-- playing with guys like Donnie Trumpet, Chance The Rapper, Mike Golden, and Kelechi. It was cool! These are all names I would not have said if I did not go to SXSW this year. The drummer of NIN even saw one of our shows and complimented us. The people in the hip-hop music scene all have live bands now. These type of performances are coming back in a big way. It felt good.
R: Are you going back to Burning Man this year?
P: Yea, I will be going back to perform with Crossroads.
R: How long have you been involved with this collective?
P: Since 2010. They are the most talented people I have ever performed with. It is funny: there is a Simpsons episode where they go to Burning Man. They illustrate a guy playing a trombone that shoots flames out of it. That guy is a real person. He was standing front row of one of our Crossroads' performances.
R: Anything else you want to tell us about your musical projects?
P: I have this idea that I want to get people together and form the perfect bands for our city. People have way too many projects going on at once. That is not what I am looking for. I am aiming to form more serious bands.
Samantha: I want to see a band with two drummers.
R: I have. Royal Canoe. I saw them at Bonnaroo when I was still a fan. I made Patrick come with me to their show at Beat Kitchen when they came in town. Patrick even stepped in to run lights for them. I will show you the music video for their song called 'Bathtubs.' It is genius.
P: See, do you hear that their sound does not cater to a certain crowd? Its emotionally written with specific tones. That is what I am looking for in my writing. It is like, “why did you use that tone? Why did you write this that way?” The producer that works with Mike Golden uses very specific tones like this. I had to download/crack these tone files to play it the way they wanted it done down at SXSW. It is the best software that I ever had. The possibilities are endless. That is why I am so inspired!
There you have it. One-on-one with Patrick Riley. He is a man of many talents. It is great to see someone deal with adversity in a positive light. He was able to find balance in his own creativity with both the lights and the music. Keep on the lookout for this man to be doing big things-- not only in Chicago, but all over the nation as well.
Follow him on Instagram @priles2