Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Ryan Patterson, a.k.a Fotocrime, is back with a brand new album. Heart of Crime is his third full-length and it’s a very personal record as well a political one, but also his first album recorded and mixed by himself. We had the pleasure to talk with Ryan about the new record, how was it like the whole writing process and much more.
Heart of Crime is Fotocrime’s third album. What did you want to explore on these new songs?
One of my goals is always to grow and expand as a songwriter and musician, another is to always do something new and different than what I’ve done before. I wanted to try different instrumentation, like playing saxophone and more bass VI, try some songs that were more stripped-down, and try darker and deeper singing as well.
Why naming this album as Heart of Crime?
Heart of Crime is up to the listener to interpret… It means a lot of things to me. Some of the idea is the concept of “crime” as a fact versus being a social construct or government mandate. Another interpretation for me is the title’s connection to the name Fotocrime, heart of Fotocrime.
Heart of Crime seems like a very personal record as well a political one, how do you feel about that?
I think the personal is the political, these are things that are entirely intertwined and cannot be disconnected from one another. It feels more personal than political to me, there aren’t too many grand socio-political concepts on Heart of Crime. Even “Politi Policia Polizei” is more of a mocking of modern policing, I imagine the Keystone Cops when I think of that song. It is a very personal record, I try to put as much of my honest thought and feeling into my songs without feeling overexposed.
The worldwide pandemic broke out right as you kicked off the tour cycle for your 2020’s album, South of Heaven. Amidst the circumstances of this global pandemic, how was it like to write the new album and what impact had the whole situation on you and your music?
It’s been strange and difficult. Initially I had to give up playing music live and touring, find a peace within myself that didn’t rely on that. Music and touring have been the driving force in my life since I was a teenager, so I had to adjust to the forced break from that. Eventually I was able to be creative and find focus by working on the new album. Working on new music, pouring myself into that, and making it just for me without the thought of when it would be released or if it would be played live truly saved me through the last half of 2020.
You are now playing your first live shows due to the new album’s release. How is it like to be back on stage?
It’s wonderful. In some ways I feel most comfortable on stage. Of course, the pandemic is still raging, so it’s not exactly like a celebration… It’s more of a tentative step back toward the beautiful life of playing shows and touring, rather than a dive back into the world we knew before.
This is the first album you’ve ever recorded and mixed by yourself, how was that experience for you?
It was scary and intimidating, but ultimately wonderful and rewarding. I was able to spend much more time on the songs and the production of album. I learned so much and had a truly great time making Heart of Crime and the final result was beyond what I could have hoped. I did the occasional guidance of some friends and a final mix consultation from J. Robbins, which greatly helped and gave me the confidence to know the album was worthy of release and stood up next to my other work.
You had a few guest contributions for this album, how was it like to work with those musicians and what did they bring new to your music?
It’s always great having friends contribute to my songs. It’s important to me to include good friends whose talents or voices are different than mine. For the most part the contributions we recorded remotely due to the pandemic and usual geographic distances, but the sounds made my all these great people gave a warmth and sense of community to Heart of Crime that I truly appreciated.
The first single to be revealed was “Delicate Prey” with an accompanying video. What can you tell us about this song and the video in particular?
The title “Delicate Prey” was inspired by a short story by Paul Bowles, one of my favorite authors. The lyrics celebrate the innocence of youth, when we felt invincible and pursued every dream and went down all the winding avenues that led to adventure. I try to tap into the best parts of that innocence as much as I can, to avoid the reservation and fear that creep in more and more every year. Musically the song is possibly my most full-on dance track. Every Fotocrime album has a few fully electronic songs and I’ve often considered making an album that is entirely electronic with a bigger focus on dance music, but I always come back to the guitar. The video was created by my friend and accomplished fashion designer Katie Lovecraft. With the video she intended to create a visual that portrayed some of the energy, magic, and grandiosity of young love and finding moments of freedom and transcendence. I think she did a wonderful job and I really love the video.
The album’s artwork was created by Noelia Towers. Can you tell us more about the concept behind that stunning painting?
Noelia Towers is an absolutely incredible painter from Barcelona who now lives in Chicago. She painted the cover art for the first Fotocrime album, Principle of Pain, and it was great to work with her again on Heart of Crime. The image is inspired by a scene from a film and connects to the mystery and film noir elements that inspire me and Fotocrime. It feels to me like the cover of a pulp detective novel or a poster for a classic thriller. Noelia is amazing, I love her work and the covers she has painted for me.
Our society have been through some dark and challenging times, like the pandemic, climate changes, among other important things. What are your thoughts about the current state of things?
I think it’s too much to sum up in any brief answer or article. I have hope. I have fear. I try to do good and contribute to positive change. I try to put positivity and beautiful art into the world as well as spread progressive social ideals and activism. If I dwelled on the “state of things” too much I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night or leave my house. So, I hope for the best and move forward.