In an age where stagnation and the status quo are king, bedroom electronic artist, Patrick Cortes, has chosen a road less traveled.
Operating under his alter-ego, Animalweapon, Cortes has once again crafted a viable smorgasbord of electronic bliss with his newest offering, “Set of Constraints,” where Cortes once again has shown the world that you don’t need to align yourself with the mainstream to making a lasting, and impactful artistic statement.
Correspondent, Andrew Daly, recently dug in with the ever-progressive Cortes for a chat regarding, among other things, Patrick’s newest music, his origins, evolution, and more in this latest interview.
Patrick, as a young musician, what first gravitated you toward music?
I always grew up with music in my household — I wouldn’t say we were “that musical family” per se, but there was plenty of music. A lot of early Beatles, Rolling Stones, Motown — basically whatever you’d hear on the oldies station. My first concert was The Beach Boys when I was five. As I started getting into later elementary school, I started listening to whatever contemporary pop/rock was on but didn’t really latch onto anything, besides maybe my Backstreet Boys phase, which I’m proud to acknowledge. [Laughs]. It wasn’t until I got into Nirvana around twelve or thirteen, that I wanted to pick up a guitar.
What were some of your early gigs where you cut your teeth, so to speak?
I started out doing solo, acoustic coffee house stuff when I was nineteen. I remember vividly my very first show, which was just this tiny coffee shop in a shopping center like five minutes away from my house. I think I played two original songs, and covers of “In The Sun” by Joseph Arthur and “In This Twilight” by Nine Inch Nails. I was scared absolutely shitless because it was the first time I’d sang in front of a group of people, but I felt good about it and kept doing it for a few years, later sprinkled in with some pretty eye-rolly cover band stuff in bars and restaurants. Sometimes Borders. Nearly all of that was pretty cringy, and I didn’t make any money.
Take me through the formation of Animalweapon.
I had been doing those coffee house/bar band shows for a few years, and even released a little music solo, but what I really wanted to do was play in a band. A couple of friends and I started writing some really cool stuff that was kind of a hybrid between something like Explosions in the Sky and maybe The Mars Volta, but less convoluted. We had a small handful of songs — maybe four or five that we were starting to practice but the lineup kept switching out because we were all in our early twenties and working a lot, so we never really got anywhere with it. Eventually, I got fed up with the idea of having to rely on anyone, and right around that time I’d been listening to a lot of electronic music that was new to me — stuff like Baths, or Jogger, maybe Flying Lotus — and started playing around in Logic with a track that was electronic but with a lot of guitars. That song became “Mexican Standoff,” and thus became Animalweapon, which was briefly considered my “electronic side project” before quickly becoming my main thing.
Let’s talk about recent events. Tell us about your new release, Set of Constraints. What went into choosing “Deserve” as the lead single?
That was a much later-stage decision, actually. I thought I’d had a finished EP, and then, in late summer/early fall of last year, all of a sudden three more songs came together very quickly. Once they did, I decided this was an album instead of an EP. “Deserve” was the last of those three tracks. I’d been planning to use “Check Engine Light” as the next single but as soon as I started writing “Deserve,” I talked to my manager and PR folks and I was like, “Nope, scratch that — this one’s the single.” It just felt right at the time, as fast as it was moving.
From a songwriting perspective, how have you evolved to this point? What’s changed from your younger years?
Compared to even just a few years ago, I’m certainly a lot more laid back about it now. I used to constantly let it drive me up a wall, and it’s just not a good way to write. I’ve also doubled down on hating the idea that you have to suffer to make good art because it’s bullshit. I can’t put a finger on how my lyricism has changed or how much it even has, but I just know that I’m way better at it now. I’ve made a conscious choice not to have every single lyric be a metaphor or something veiled. I still never overtly spell out what whatever song is about, because I still find that to be incredibly lazy writing, but I’m a lot more comfortable with not having to disguise every line to throw people off the trail or whatever.
Did you self-produce this record, or did you bring in outside voices?
Mostly self-produced, but with a lot more outside help in the mixing stages this time, and more importantly, the production side of things is the collaboration. There were two songs that I worked on in Nashville with Rory Rositas at Omnisound Studios in Nashville, which was a new experience for me. Rory also recorded the string arrangement for the new version of “Summer’s Over,” although unfortunately, I didn’t get to be there for that. Telalit Charsky did this just breathtaking string arrangement that sounds like at least a quintet if not more, but it’s actually just her doing layer after layer on cello, sometimes playing in much higher registers so it sounds like there are violas and violins in there. I didn’t get to be there for the mix, either, so there was a day when I had Rory and Scot, my managers, sending me mixes, and I listen while they were still in the studio, call them with notes, and they’d send me another one. Then, of course, there’s MJ Burns, a literal outside voice, doing backing vocals on “Set of Constraints” and “Summer’s Over (Coda)” — working with her from the comfort of my apartment was a really special experience.
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?
Movies and television and all sorts of imaginative nerdy shit eventually find some way or another to worm my way into my music, but mostly just in pieces here and there. That said, I have another project down the line that’s going to be a lot more aligned with my outside interests. I’ll leave it at that to maintain the mystery.
What sort of gear are you using in the studio vs. the live setting?
They’re definitely different sets of tools but they’re both minimal. At home, I do everything in Logic Pro. I don’t really have room for outboard gear, and if I’m going to use it, it’s going to be in someone else’s studio anyway, so everything is done in the box. I mostly do vocals at home too, with an isolation kit and a Bluebird Mic — those are amazing, by the way. Other than that, I just use a few MIDI Controllers — I have a bare-bones 49-Key one for playing, and an Alesis V-Mini on my desk, since it’s helpful for finding sounds more quickly and I can map parameters to a few knobs if I need to. For live shows, I stem everything out and throw them into Ableton, where I can run effects on them. Depending on the setting, I might run my vocals through Ableton as well, but if there’s good sound, I tend to leave it to the sound guy. This whole time I’ve been using an Akai MPD32 to control the effects during the live set, but I’ve recently gotten an Ableton Push, so I’ve been working on translating the show into something that works for that, with a goal of also using it and Ableton for production.
Last one. What’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the post-COVID world?
I’ve already got other projects lined up once this album is out, so I’m not going to take much of a break. I don’t feel like I need one right now. There are at least two I have in the works, neither of which I’m ready to talk about but they’re both unique and they’re both going to be a lot of fun. Other than that, I’m going to try to play in as many other places as I can manage to because that’s way, way overdue. Looking forward to hopefully meeting new people when I do, as well as getting to see some friends. Travel and going back to live shows are going to be the thing I look forward to most about the post-COVID world and I can’t wait.