By Kat Bein
By Laurie Charles
By Shea Serrano
By Jeff Weinberger
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Electronic music producers Michael Vincent Patrick and Theodore Paul Nelson, better known as Designer Drugs, represent the grimy underground club scene of the New York-Philly axis. Don't expect to find them there, though. Almost as soon as Patrick and Nelson began the project halfway through the past decade, they became two of the most in-demand party starters to emerge from the millennial electro crop.
Designer Drugs have famously remixed — officially and otherwise — everyone from Fischerspooner to Flo Rida, specializing in the kind of indie-dance alchemy that makes cool kids go nuts. And that has meant a nearly continuous slog across the international circuit, including a slot playing for thousands in Miami at this year's Ultra Music Festival. In fact, when New Times recently reached Patrick by phone, he was in an airport waiting to catch a flight to San Francisco.
But though the pair's profile with club kids is high, Designer Drugs released a proper debut album, Hardcore/Softcore, only this past February. "We just had so many remix offers that we continued to set aside the original stuff," Patrick says. "But then we got to the point where we wanted just to write our own stuff. We had a lot of songs laying around that were just half-finished, so we took the best ones and finished them."
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The final handful of 13 original tracks, however, is likely to surprise the casual listener who might have erroneously filed Designer Drugs with the rest of the loopy, neon-happy remixing duos of the recent past. However, there's a certain amount of buoyant, accessibly anthemic fare on the record. ("Crazy for You," featuring Norwegian chanteuse Annie, is one example.) There's plenty that pertains to the Hardcore part of the title.
The song titles alone — "The Terror," "Purgatory," "Dead Meat" — hint at a strange kind of creeping dread left by hard-thumping, deep-digging tracks. There's a heavy dose of classic industrial's metallic clang, along with an equivocally gonzo, punk-inspired attitude. And that skipping across the mood map was more or less intentional, Patrick says. "We have a pretty wide range of musical tastes," he says. "And that's how we came up with the title. Because some songs are so hard, and some are pretty soft. It's a full range of music."
Nevertheless, writing the first original album was still an exercise in paring down the Designer Drugs sound. It was also merely the kickoff to a new flurry of extra activity. Patrick says he and Nelson are already about halfway through writing their second album — never mind the fact that Nelson recently moved to California to finish some medical-school rotations.
This new batch of tracks is meant to dig deeper into the sounds explored on Hardcore/Softcore. But parts of it will sound even more left-field; "Joy Division meets Dirty South rap" is how Patrick describes some tracks, while others, he says, have an orchestral, Air-like feel.
Overall, the goal is to move further away from any specific genre. "Guys like Green Velvet or Felix da Housecat or Armand Van Helden, their styles have changed, and they're more 'electronic artists' as opposed to doing a specific style," he says. "Some of it's not even dance music, and that's what we're trying to do too."
But while Patrick and Nelson are developing the Designer Drugs sound, they're also hoping to push new creations by friends and peers. Enter their new label, Sex Cult, which so far features signees such as Black Matter, Albin Risk, FAT&EZ, and Your Dirty Habit. The plan is to send the collective up and down the East Coast in a tour bus this winter. (Surprisingly, the label will also showcase monthly in Gainesville and Tallahassee, where they've forged close friendships, Patrick says.)
In the meantime, though, Designer Drugs' road grind never stops. And this Saturday marks Patrick and Nelson's return to Miami since Ultra. The show at the Fillmore Miami Beach is also the latest installment of the Overthrow's monthly Honeymoon series at the venue, and a rare theater performance for a duo best acquainted with the dance floor. No worries, though: Designer Drugs performances are known to get rowdy, with crowd-surfing and other band-style antics a distinct possibility.
"We just do our thing," he says. "And it kills 99 percent of the time!"