Lobster Theremin's Synth Loving Upstart, Palms Trax

It’d be a pretty straightforward thing to note that the music of Palms Trax has been creating ripples of interest over the last year or so; but ever since he hit out on the Lobster Theremin label with his Equation EP in 2013, a lot of people have been excitedly discussing the Berlin resident’s work. It’s pretty clear, from even a casual glance at his schedule, that he’s not a man who is afraid of hard work. Racking up a string of successful releases and remixes and a monthly radio show on Berlin Community Radio he earned himself a spot at the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo last year before releasing his critically acclaimed In Gold EP for the Amsterdam label, Dekmantel.

After voicing his own slight disparity with those, more hardware obsessive producers - famously joking ‘I can’t even afford bed linen, let alone a 909!’ in an interview with Electronic Beats - Jay Donaldson has since built himself a live show that relies on a few key pieces of equipment. As his recent performance at Panorama Bar proved, his blend of raw, heavy grooves translates perfectly from the stage to dancefloor so ahead of his debut live show here in Room One this weekend we caught up with Palms Trax to discuss everything from his newfound access to hardware to his move to Berlin.

You are somewhat known for your anti-perfectionist attitude. How would you say this has shaped your live set up? Was it a simple decision to decide what hardware to use?

Palms Trax: Well [the live set’s] kind of been changing as it’s gone along - mainly because I got bored of using the Juno 60 and with the TR-8 can I effectively have four, easily programmable drum machines at my disposal. The 303 is a no brainer too since I often like having that running as a base for my tracks anyway and it adds some nice movement. Nothing else is set in stone really. It depends on the venue and what I think the vibe is going to be like. For example there’s a recording of a set I did at Sonar floating about which is more tailored towards the 7pm, AstroTurf and flip flops crowd whereas this weekend will probably turn out to be a lot heavier. Lots of patience is basically the only essential thing.

Your tracks ‘Forever’ and ‘People Of Tusk’ have a prominent nostalgic feel that echoes early Chicago and Detroit acid house. How do you achieve that type of analogue atmosphere in a modern club environment?

I guess that nostalgic feel just comes from the fact I’m using a lot of dry 707 samples and Juno sounds and not mixing them down to death - that’s not too hard to recreate live. Just having the 303 running on top of an 808 kick drum sounds pretty good in a club to be honest!

A lot of your material is pretty pad driven… what piece of hardware is at the core of your live performance for that aspect?

Well it used to be the Juno, but actually I got a little tired of using it and since I’m not part of a duo or anything it’s quite important for me to be able to flick between sounds as quickly as possible, so I started using the Akai MPK49 and having that hooked up to all the patches I’ve made. It’s basically meant that I could play a track like ‘Forever’ all the way through, live, if I wanted to - although that’s not really the fun of a live set. I’ll be bringing something extra along this weekend too, although I’m not sure what yet. I’ve been using the Roland JV-2080 quite a bit so perhaps that…

In the past you’ve mentioned your love for improvising as this allows for creativity, is this something we can expect from a live set?

I will be noodling over everything, yes. And I’ll probably be fiddling about with the ride cymbal way too much.
I still feel like I’ll wake up a pre-pubescent teen any minute now, having been in a coma for seven years. It's really quite mad that I get to do this.

Are you an avid vinyl collector? Is there a record that represents a significant moment in your life that you’d care to share with us?

I’ve been buying a lot of records for a couple of years but I think it would take me at least another twenty to have a proper ‘collection’. I met DJ Deep on Saturday, he has 50,000 records. Mental. In all honesty something important to me would be like, a Neil Young album or something I’d listen to all the time as a kid. Getting a Blue Peter badge soundtracked by ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ was pretty memorable; I only own that on CD though…

Well.. is there a go to record that resonates with you? One that you play in every set?

If everything’s going well, Terrence Parker’s ‘A Track 4 O.J. Simpson (Acquittal Mix)’. It’s one of my favourite tracks ever. I still get goosebumps every time.

It was only a couple of months after your move to Berlin that you released the Equation EP. Was that a coincidence do you think? What effect did this move have on your career?

Well, I didn’t have any career before it! I still feel like I’ll wake up a pre-pubescent teen any minute now, having been in a coma for seven years. It's really quite mad that I get to do this.

There have been widespread reports of other young creatives ditching London in favour of Berlin being published for years now. What advantages does Berlin have as you see it?

Being exposed to the club culture here has been important; there’s a real nice sense of community around places like Berghain that I couldn’t have envisaged growing up in a smaller town. I’m also really lucky to have met some amazing producers, DJs, bookers and radio people in a relatively short space of time who have made me want to better myself enormously - both within music and outside of it. I met a lot in London too and of course there’s countless inspiring things happening there, but the sheer size of it made it slightly intimidating for me at the time. I think being removed from the wealth of a huge city also means you largely avoid the music-as-a-lifestyle crowd who treat it as a playground and move on once they hit their thirties so the atmosphere is usually always pretty pleasant. I do wish Berlin would get some decent coleslaw though.


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