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Interview: Pachyman - The Others Way Festival 2023

Interview: Pachyman - The Others Way Festival 2023

Chris Cudby / Photo credit: Abraham Recio / Tuesday 28th November, 2023 10:21AM

Bringing his dancefloor blazing energy back to Tāmaki Makaurau for The Others Way multi-venue extravaganza this coming Friday, LA-based Puerto Rican one man sound machine Pachyman aka Pachy Garcia was here at the start of this year, delivering a standout performance alongside US new wavers Automatic. A charismatic figure of non-stop motion on stage, the producer / multi-instrumentalist / singer dubs out his mixes live through a small arsenal of gear, while keeping the crowd seriously hyped on the mic. Definitely a must-see act at this week's festival (playing 9.30pm on the East Street Hall stage), we chatted with Pachyman from his studio HQ about the melting pot of sounds channelled into his superb new album Switched-On, his personal dub music journey growing up in Puerto Rico, paying tribute to his daily life in music and more...


Friday 1st December - across Karangahape Road, Auckland, festival timetable HERE



Tickets are on sale HERE via UTR and instore at Flying Out, with laybuy options available via Banished Music
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*The Underground all ages stage tickets available HERE via UTR

Chris Cudby: I saw you play in Auckland, when you were here at the beginning of this year.

Pachyman: With Automatic! Oh my god, that was so much fun. That was a great show.

It was a heck of a party. You have one of the most distinctive live setups and performance styles that I've seen in a little while, it really got the crowd movin'. Could you please explain for those who may not have experienced Pachyman live — what's your live setup?

My live setup consists of an old mixing board from Tascam that breaks way too often. A couple of keyboards, some pedals. Reverb delay, a high pass filter that kind of sounds like King Tubby big knob sound and a vocal mic. Then I have a computer underneath my table that like feeds my stems, the recorded stuff — the things that I record in this basement that you're looking at — through my mixer and I do live dub mixing of my own songs on stage. There's some stuff that is on the records that I don't have going through the tracks, because I play them. Like the keyboard or the parts that I sing, etcetera. So I do a lot of moving and shaking and twisting and turning.

There's just energy the whole time. How did you come up with the idea of facing your mixing disk to the audience, so that people can see what you're actually doing?

That was actually a suggestion from Mark Speer from Khruangbin. We've geeked out on reggae a bunch of times, I opened for Khruangbin on a couple of dates. There was there was a moment that I was trying to figure out if I wanted to like put a live band together and what I wanted to do with the project, he kind of talked me off the edge a little bit on that. He was like "I believe in what you do". And he's like, "Can I make a suggestion on something that I've seen before that I've never seen in dub, is to tilt the mixer forward". He used as reference Daedelus the producer from Los Angeles, who is now I think a professor in Berklee (College of Music). He used to play his Monome tilted towards the audience. I was a huge Daedelus fan, so I was like, "Oh wow, that's a really good idea". I always thought that was fascinating, I never thought about tilting it forward. Since I did that, it's like been a little bit more engaging with the audience. I feel people actually can see what's going on in my hands and stuff. When I'm not playing the keyboards, they can see like me doing all the effects and sends and muting the tracks and all that.

Something else that I really loved about your live show, is you on the mic continuously hyping up the crowd. Reminding us that Pachyman is in the house. Where does that kind of like hype man MC technique come from, do you think?

In a way from that old school DJ, toasting over songs, where the dancehall stuff came from and that kind of sound system culture. But also I believe it was because I was doing a lot of opening slots for bands that have a fan base. So I felt I needed to engage with the crowd a little bit more, because most of my music used to be mostly instrumental... I wanted to like be a participant of the show as well, in the same way and kind of put myself in the shoes of them. Try to keep you on your toes in that way.

I did a run with opening for Black Pumas, through Europe and a couple of shows in New York. They're really big shows, so it was a way for me to maintain people's attention. Seeing Eric Burton every night do it, he's an incredible hype mean. Not only he is an incredible singer and songwriter, this is the lead singer of Black Pumas, but he also does crowd work like no one that I've ever seen before... doing it to the next level. I was always taking cues and be like, holy shit, this is this is how you do it. This is real crowd work. That inspired me into trying to get that better. I will say that it gets to a point where sometimes I feel like I talk too much [laughs]. I gotta let the music speak for itself as well.

It's like framing instrumental music and providing a context for it. Congratulations on your new album Switched-On. I've had a really nice time listening to it over the last couple of days. Does the title of that album, does that speak to your own personal relationship with synths and "gear"?

My music used to be way more minimalist and drum and bass heavy. Very little emphasis on on the harmonic aspect or the melodic aspect. I've always been a fan of synthesisers and I've like been collecting things little by little. I wanted with this record to put more emphasis into that, this is before I decided on the title Switched-On. And then the record became so like synth heavy, that it dawned on me when I was listening back to the song 'Switched-On', on the record. It was like, oh my god, this is Switched On. I think I had recently been listening to Switched On Stereolab as well... it was like an aha moment. It makes sense, because this is what I'm doing on this record more than any other record that I've done. And it felt appropriate to pay homage to what I was doing.

It's funny that you say Stereolab, that would be where a lot of New Zealand listeners might first associate with that title and trace it back to Wendy Carlos from there. The new record weaves all kinds of genres and sounds into your dubbed out approach, in your mix. I read that you incorporated a Puerto Rico traditional instrument, a güiro.

Yeah I incorporated a güiro on the record. That song in particular that's 'Toyota Neuvo'... it's like a love song in a way. It's based on me and my wife's experience living in a mountain in Puerto Rico when we were very young. It tells that story in a very Puerto Rican way. It's funny too, because it's a song called 'New Toyota'. There's so many Toyotas in the mountains of Puerto Rico, I kind of didn't put two and two together until a while. But yeah, I introduced that instrument in the record with that song.

What is the sound that it makes?

It's like tch-tch-tch-tch-tch! It's hollow inside, it comes from a plant and they make this kind of metal thing.

It looks like a gourd kind of shape.

Looks like a medieval instrument of torture in a weird way.

Would you be playing that live?

My friend made this one and he like made it electric, it has a guitar input. This is so delicate this is not leaving my house. This will break anywhere.

That's sick. Dub and reggae music is really big in New Zealand, especially during summer. Actually the festival you're playing (The Others Way) is being opened by one of the most legendary New Zealand reggae groups, Herbs who are from the late '70s and '80s. They're political activists as well. I highly recommend like checking them out. Did you grow up listening to dub music, dancehall, reggae in Puerto Rico?

I was introduced to it through a friend that I was taking summer school with. There's this band called Cultura Profética, they're very popular in Puerto Rico. They've been around for like 25 years. When I was growing up, they had just put out a live record. It was the first time I heard a Moog synthesiser, not only in reggae music, but also kind of on the radio in Puerto Rico, that was what drove my interest. A friend of mine from summer school gave me that CD, I asked him if I could rip the CD. He gave me a couple of more records and like, "you should check out King Tubby and Scientist." I remember also, that was around the time that Grand Theft Auto III came out on PlayStation. They may had K-JAH, a radio station which was literally Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires, the whole record was just that radio station. That's my moment of "sounds sick". That was around ninth grade. Since then, I started listening to it and got kind of obsessed it, then got obsessed with Augustus Pablo.

There was a huge scene in Puerto Rico of reggae bands playing during that time. I'd go to see them, whenever I had the chance. Every Saturday, you would go to this dive bar, actually a very beautiful bar, made out of wood in the mountains of like a town in Puerto Rico, close to the capital. They had reggae shows every Saturday, and it was just like a bunch of rastas. All the local reggae bands and I just spent years going to that place every Saturday.

You've mentioned Boards Of Canada as one of the inspirations for the new album (on the World Café podcast). Were you aiming to give the record a lost in time kind of feel to it?

I try to make records that are not of this time in a way, always like kind of throwback. It seems like this was lost in time, because I was merging all these different influences — it was kind of lo-fi but it was also kind of hi-fi. It's hard to tell when the record was recorded, which I'm very proud of that. One of the first synthesisers that I got, I got it for the last record that I made (The Return Of...). It's the Roland SH-01A, a clone of the particular Roland synthesiser (SH-101) that Boards Of Canada and Aphex Twin used to use a lot. I found this patch that I tweaked and it sounds very Boards-ish, in a way. I tried implementing that lead sound in the record. It's actually in the last tune of the record ('You Looked At Me'), it's pretty prominent, that synthesiser.

Your song 'Goldline'...

That is named after the bar that I work at. It's a high fidelity listening bar, kind of inspired by the Japanese Jazz kissa stuff. A lot of Japanese whiskey and they have a lot of disco and boogie records. So I feel when I started working there, I started getting a taste of like what real disco and boogie was. There's DJs booked every night and they show up and you can only pick from the selection. You can't really like bring records, you have to pick from the record wall. Which is all Peanut Butter Wolf's collection, because it's his bar. I was submitted to listening to disco and boogie and it gave me this new appreciation for it. When I was recording this record, I also wanted to do like a lover's rock, disco, reggae kind of vibe and I figured it out with 'Goldline'. I like paying tribute to my daily life in my music and it felt like that was the name for the song. Because this is how it feels to be in 'Goldline', when I'm working at least.

I just love the sound of your of your new album, it's so nice and magical sounding. Was it recorded onto tape? Do you have any secret or not so secret recipes that add to the flavour of the album — like particular reverb, favourite echo, or anything like that?

I used to record onto tape. This record I particularly didn't record onto tape, because it was broken. I really needed to work on this record, I tried to get a new tape machine and it didn't work out. I decided to go digital for this record, because I was running out of time to really try to make a new record, in time for my sanity.

What time frame do you have for putting together a record?

I wanted to finish the record by April and I hadn't a record the year prior. I made a million demos, I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do on the record. And if I'm not finishing songs, I don't know what's going on, you know? I needed to finish songs in order to get into the mentality of making a record. I wanted to do it as fast as I could without compromising the quality either. I wasn't expecting the record would be out. So I started recording in November last year. I was like, if I'm starting to record now and I want to record all these demos, I don't think I'm gonna be done in time. But because I figured out a way to make a record sound equally as good as, at least for my standards, when I was using a tape machine — digitally I could actually go way faster.

All of a sudden I got in the zone and I finished the record by the end of April. I was like I just need one more song and that song came out of nowhere, it was the beginning song of the record 'Lovers'. It was perfect, we're done. I definitely over-processed shit to make it sound as lost in time as possible. I also have a Soundcraft board from from '79, like the same one that Lee Perry used to have in Black Ark, or very similar to that one. That definitely has a sound. It gave you some secret sauce in there. I actually purchased a ribbon microphone from the '50s and that also is all over the record.

Will you be singing live at The Others Way Festival?

Yeah. It's weird because I've never been a singer before and now I am a singer.


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