Many students have seen Patrick Awesome around town flicking controls and blending beats in dark basements and sweaty frat houses.
Some assume that all DJs succeed merely by buying a Macbook Pro and a flat-brimmed hat. But Patrick Mayer’s road to local DJ fame was a long one achieved through a level of dedication rivaling that of any traditional band.
Mayer’s story began in high school, where he experimented with sounds foreign to what one might expect in suburban Milwaukee.
“In high school, I was in a live band with two keyboards. I was doing what would best be described as a live trance act,” Mayer said.
As he played trance in high school, Mayer’s passion for the music grew quickly, but it wasn’t until college that he learned about the wide array of electronic music that influences his mixes and productions today.
“I was like, ‘Why didn’t I hear about all this music?’ like, ‘Why didn’t I know about it?’ … No one had really told me about the vast amounts of electronic music there is,” Mayer said. “I kind of wanted to spread the word the best way I can. So I started DJing and also producing my own tracks.”
Electronic music has been gaining a lot of ground in the U.S. over the past few years, but Mayer sees the education process as anything but finished.
“A lot of people — especially in America — they just think that it’s all ‘techno’ and call it just ‘techno,’ which couldn’t be further from the truth,” Mayer said.
After developing his mixing and mastering skills for years, Mayer’s goals as a musician have departed widely from his high school days.
“At this point I really don’t think I would ever do a live band,” Mayer said. “I’ve talked to people about maybe working with one instrumentalist and having a sequencer and loops that I would be triggering. But mostly right now I focus on my productions, which is all just inside a computer.”
It took some time before Mayer ended up being the guy on stage bobbling his head between giant speakers. The success of Mayer, and perhaps any DJ, started as grassroots as an act can.
“Early on, I got some help from the WUD Music student org, later on from sending emails out,” Mayer said. “A lot of what’s been helping me now has been house parties.”
Things only got bigger from there. Mayer has opened for major artists in the field and is now getting paid by some of Madison’s most popular venues.
“I opened for LA Riots once, almost two years ago. I like them a lot and I’ve seen them four or five times. It was pretty fun,” Mayer said. “I actually got to meet them at the after party.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Mayer does not aspire to open for bigger artists. The ambitious DJ wants more than just a few opening gigs a month.
“These days a lot of people have the conception that the way to get bigger is to just start playing more local shows and opening for people, when really a lot of artists just make one track that gets them famous — or not famous, just bigger than they are,” Mayer said. “They get a lot of publicity making one good track. That’s kind of my focus more now.”
Instead of looking for local opportunities to warm up audiences for touring acts, Mayer is working on perfecting his own dance night at The Bayou.
“It’s a monthly way for me to help all my friends who have helped me get shows by getting them shows,” Mayer said, also remarking that “It’s also a way to get away from house parties and legitimize [my music] at a bar because it’s legal and there’s no worrying about cops.”
After college, Mayer, who is studying mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, plans on continuing his passion for music even more zealously.
“I plan to devote around a full amount of time to [DJing] after I get out of college,” Mayer said. “Right now it’s a balance between schoolwork and the time I have to produce.”
You can catch Patrick Awesome April 7 playing at The Bayou doing his dance night, MUMBO JUMBO with frequent collaborator Bulldoggar. The show starts at 9 p.m.