It's not every day that you get to sit down and talk with an actual living legend - though they are hardly the types to claim that designation on their own. It's even less likely that that individual lives and creates in your same city, so we understand just how lucky we are to not only have an Artist like Paten Locke in Jacksonville, but also to be able to pick his brain for this interview - and, dare we say, call him a good friend!
Considering his extensive, highly impressive resume and insane amount of skill, Paten is extremely unpretentious and down-to-earth. Born in Boston and raised by artist parents, his life has been full of music and creativity since day one. From "digging" through his father's expansive record collections as a child, to amassing a mind-bending collection of his own that threatens the very real possibility of taking over his home, his repertoire runs the gamut from DJ, to emcee, to producer, with some of everything else in between. And while his "spirit is fundamentally and philosophically Hip Hop", his tastes are as vast, eclectic, sophisticated, and it shows in every project that he touches - and there are MANY.
Read on after the jump to get to know the visionary and constantly developing Paten Locke, and understand why he is a mainstay in Duval's Hip Hop history.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions - it's an absolute honor to feature you here! Tell our readers a little about you before we get started...
Hello! My name is Paten Locke and I’m a full time artist/musician, a DJ, MC and producer, originally born and
raised in Boston, Massachusetts. I am also the co-owner of a record label called Full Plate based in Atlanta, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, where I have resided for quite some time. Since the early 2000's I have been an international touring artist performing all over the world in many different capacities. Mostly as an MC and as a DJ - and sometimes as an educator (college lectures, first Hip Hop workshop in saudi arabia, and the list goes on...)
So, after growing up in boston, I moved to Chicago for the last few years of high school, where I started writing rhymes and gathering production ideas. After graduating, I went to the University of Maryland for a time, then to Columbia College of Art for a spell for visual arts, which was once my focus... Then moved to Jax, where I bought a home and had my daughter, Asha.
Music has been my only job since 2000. In Jax people knew me for years as DJ Therapy until I changed my professional name to Paten Locke around 2009 when I put out my first solo album. My folks were revolutionaries and arts minded, so this path was kinda etched out since my youth. I'm a philosopher, visionary, and curator of beauty... I am PlanetLocke.com
Can you give us a quick rundown of all of (or your most prominent) musical projects, collaborations, and recurring events?
I've done and been involved in a great many ventures since I started this musical journey. I was the DJ at Jax
seminal clubs The Cave and then The Voodoo which gave me notoriety in the city as a DJ and MC. I was an
original member of the group Asamov, with my brothers J.One.Da, Basic, and Willie Evans Jr. who I met in the
tight knit scene of 90's Duval Hip Hop. I produced and rhymed in the group, and we put out an album called “And
Now...” on 6 Hole records. After we kinda stopped rocking, I formed a group called The Smile Rays with
Batsauce and his wife, Lady Daisey. In this group I was the main vocalist/MC and we put out a couple
albums - ”Party...Place” though Japanese label Subcontact and “Smilin on You” through Rawkus 50, as well as
some singles with German label JAKARTA.
Around 2008 I was touring with my partners The Perceptionists (Mr. Lif and Akrobatik) as their tour DJ, (also as their individual tour DJ for their separate solo touring, which I'd done since 2005. We had some shows in LA where I was approached by a label called Tres Records and asked if I wanted to put out a solo record through them. I then spent three months in Berlin, Germany recording and fully producing what would be my solo debut “Super Ramen Rocketship” which came out in 2009.
When that was released my good friend Edan the Humble Magnificent asked if I wanted to tour with him and we started doing a two man show around 2010. All this time I was producing for many other artists and DJing all
over. I fully produced an album for my friend Dillon called “Studies in Hunger” in 2009, and when we
prepared to put out our follow up record, we decided to start our own label - Full Plate - to produce it.
I still work in all of those capacities, but my focus now is the Label, and also on the two groups that I currently fully produce and perform with - Stono Echo with my brother Jay Myztroh, and Steam Mechanics with Arsun Fist and Stillwater, and my group DumbTron with my brother Willie Evans Jr. Stono Echo released a record last year called “Black Diamonds” that I fully produced, and we are finishing up Steam Mechanics first album now. I make music everyday while working on solo stuff, and Stono stuff and Steam stuff and the new Dillon record, I am also putting together my newest solo album. I'm also continuing to DJ gigs like my all 45 vinyl bi-monthly night "Little Plates" which I curate, and producing all kinds of stuff like the latest single from Hip Hop legend Dres of Black Sheep for example... There're a lot of other projects too, but yeah... I have 9 albums I’m fully producing for fellow artists, but all those things make up my daily life.
Did I mention that I spend most of my time amassing an extremely heavy record collection? Yep, that too......I’m leaving out a lot I know... There's a great deal of multitasking... I'm tired! [laughs] ... Not really though, I love it.
I don't think a lot of people realize that, in you, we have a living Hip Hop legend dwelling low-key in our midst who has been credited (at least in part) for creating Jacksonville’s hip-hop scene. How do you feel about that responsibility? What was the state of hip-hop in Jacksonville before you started your work here?
Well thank you..! I don’t feel any responsibility beyond what I normally do and have always done. I create on a daily basis and have encouraged many other artists here to do so as well. I can take the weight of that because it's how
I’m wired... and I’m not sure of the state [of Hip Hop in Jacksonville] before I got here... I wasn’t here! hahaaa!
You've been living and working as an artist in Jacksonville for a while now. How do you view the evolution of the arts since you first put down roots in this city?
(see response below the next question...)
You have an extensive portfolio that stretches far beyond the borders of this city. How is it different working and creating outside of Jacksonville? Why have you (thus far) chosen Jacksonville to be your home base?
I have seen the city make strides in the realm of the Arts. For instance - when I was featured in Folio Weekly for
the first time back in 2000, I was the first Hip Hop cat here to do so. Now it's a pretty regular occurance to see a Hip Hop artist in the city featured, and that's great to see.
I don’t treat any geographical place differently in terms of my art. I am guided by my own inner ambitions and they set the scene for me no matter where I am in the world. I have chosen to stay in Jacksonville because I have a house here and an airport which is very easy going. I can make my art here and when I need to get it to the people, I simply travel to them. Also, moving all the boxes and shelves of records in my house is not task I would be excited about.
How do you feel about the music scene in Jacksonville, specifically as it pertains to the realm of Hip Hop and Black and Brown Culture?
I'm not sure... I mean, black and brown folks are marginalized everywhere I’ve been in the world and unfortunately Jax is no different. But I’m very proud of my folks for pushing through and making our lives and art more visible. I know some very strong thinkers here and I see movement daily.
One of my absolute favorite things about you as a DJ is your unique style - listening to one of your sets is like getting a musical history lesson that goes far beyond the realm and genre of Hip Hop. You have probably the largest collections of vinyl I have ever seen and you regularly incorporate the most obscure and rare deep cuts in your sets that typically represent the original tracks that get sampled in the more popular and recognizable tracks of today. When did your love of music begin, how long have you been collecting your art, what steered you in the direction of Hip Hop, and how has your overall love of music informed your musical journey and pathway?
Heeey thank you, thank you...! Yeah, I obsess over new/old sounds. I look for rare, original vinyl pressings in all genres from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, pretty much every day. It is my passion and it also informs my own production and DJing ideas.
I started by raiding my dad's collection way back. Luckily he was a heavy funk, soul, jazz, and rock collector when he was younger so I had a great foundation. I moved to Jax with a couple crates full, and now it takes up most of the space in my house, much to my lady, DJ Pizza Galore and my daughter, Ash's (drummer for the band Gilt) chagrin... [laughs]. I’m quite obsessive about it, but searching for records, or “digging” is high priority for me. I’m addicted to discovering “new” old music and sounds. I first started listening to jazz and funk for samples in '89, and it was a Hip Hop thing that started that journey... but now it's much more broad - these musical ideas inform my understanding and interaction with the world. But there is a common spirit I look for in all genres, and that spirit is fundamentally and philosophically Hip Hop.
The face of Hip Hop has morphed considerably since the days of its birth and development in the Northeast. How do you feel about the changes Hip Hop has experienced, do you feel like the pillars upon which Hip Hop was built still stand, and do you think we'll see a circling back to those roots and original ideals?
Music changes, rhythms change and therefore hip hop does as well. On my new LP I explore some other genres like folk and psych rock, so I change and evolve as well. I don’t think art should be stagnant nor should it change for the sake of change - art can only be what is in you to express, and people use the rhythms of their time to do so. I don't know or care if Hip Hop will circle back to earlier principles, but perhaps it shouldn't. And if it does it should be because people feel that way in their hearts, not to bring something back. That is nostalgia driven and often perpetuated by those who were never too deep in their involvement in the first place. I don’t care what is going on in the world musically, I only know and believe in following your own souls ideas. So I may make music for international b-boying competitions but I don’t wish for that to be the state of the music - I just do what i do. People should start living by the pillars of being kind to others first and foremost.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistry and career?
I have learned that love is half the story and that even when you are passionate you must be disciplined. I’ve learned to work with others, and to encourage others and help guide them is something I do pretty ok. I like to inspire and I like to be inspired. I’ve also learned that I prefer not having to necessarily wake up at 630am everyday and put on a tie and work clothes... I always knew that, but now I’m sure of it!
How do you define success in what you do?
Hmmmmmm.... well, paying the bills is a good measure! Another, for me, is meeting and gaining the respect of those you came up admiring. Another is happiness... I am a very happy human - and now I get to help the careers of my lady and daughter, who are both artists as well. Touring when I want and recording when I want, with friends who are also the most amazing artists... Yes, I am very happy.
We'd like to thank Paten for his participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for reading.
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