Media Arts Lab's Chris Pattinson on Radiohead, 'Behind the Mac,' and Why Music Is the Answer
Chris Pattinson is director of music at the London hub of Apple's dedicated creative agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab, where for nearly 10 years as leader of a small team he has overseen the music used in Apple's advertising in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Before MAL, he co-founded the award-winning "Black Cab Sessions," in which artists including Jack White, Brian Wilson and the Roots would play a song in the back of a London cab.
We caught up with Chris for our Liner Notes series to learn more about his musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work he's proud of and admired.
Chris tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Oxford, which has been responsible for some huge bands, including Radiohead and Glass Animals. In 2000, I moved to London, where I live now. The borough of Hackney has been home for the last 10 years, and continues to provide nice surprises and inspiration.
Your earliest musical memory.
Driving in my dad's car, listening to "Graceland" live on Paul Simon's Concert in the Park album. My dad would always turn up the big cymbal crash halfway through that amazing horn section. He still does it whenever that song comes on!
Your first concert.
My first concert was Roy Ayers at The Zodiac club in Oxford. I remember my mum and dad didn't want to let me go, as I was underage, but my big brother and his best friend said they'd look after me, so I went. It was amazing. I saw Roy Ayers play about a year ago, and I think he played the same set, all those years later! I'd see him perform live every month if I could. I love his music so much.
Your favorite bands/musicians
Hmmm, tricky one! I was brought up in a household of Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen, so those artists always have a special place in my heart. But if I think of what I'm currently really into, I love the new Pusha T record, fifty-fifty produced by Ye and by Pharrell. You can really hear their different styles on that album, along with Pusha's amazing flow.
The U.K. music scene is flourishing right now: Wet Leg, Poppy Ajudah, Alabaster DePlume, among others. It's very rich and versatile, which is really making going back out to gigs so much fun. But I guess, growing up in Oxford, Radiohead was always in my earphones, and continues to be to this day. Incredible band.
How you get your music these days.
Like many people, over the pandemic I rediscovered the importance of radio. There is so much variety out there. I'm always finding myself Shazam-ing a lot of stuff I've never heard. Through my day-to-day, I'm privileged to get a lot of music sent in advance of release, so I try to use all my London commuting time listening to new stuff. There is so much! It's sometimes overwhelming.
Your favorite place to see a concert.
We have a newish venue in Hackney called Earth, which is beautiful. It's an old covered cinema, and it sounds amazing. I remember seeing Colin Stetson there once, and it was a really ethereal experience, partly due to the venue and its atmosphere.
There is a new jazz club, opened up just near my house by the guys who run Brilliant Corners. It seems like it's going to be the spot for new jazz and experimental stuff, so I'm excited to see where it goes.
Your favorite music video.
My sister would often make VCR compilations of music videos. I remember amazing videos, from people like Paula Abdul, Madonna and Michael Jackson. The one I remember most, and learned all the moves to, was Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation." I just thought, "She looks so cool in it!" The choreography had this rigid, "mechanical" feel to it that worked so well with the industrial surroundings where it was shot. I also love the "Whatsup Fatlip" video by Spike Jonze. I often put it on after getting home late. It always makes me laugh, but feel sorry for him at the same time.
Your favorite music-focused TV show or podcast.
There is a great show in the U.K. called, Desert Island Discs. It's been running for years and years. It asks a leader in their field to bring the top eight tracks that mean something to them. The show interviews artists, scientists, architects, musicians and others. The stories they tell—and how music has played such a pivotal role in their lives—are so fascinating. You also get to hear a lot of music you'd never really hear otherwise, so it's a great show to discover music on.
A recent project you're proud of.
I'm really proud of the work we did on the "Behind the Mac" series. Music is always such an important component to those spots, as it really helps the viewer understand why we are highlighting these creators in the ads. Last year, we ran one in Germany using an artist called LAYLA who I just think is really cool. She had this demo about being the "hungry caterpillar," which worked really well with the idea of creativity and making things. I love finding those new artists like LAYLA who are working hard to break through, and anything we can do to help that and highlight their talent is important to me.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
My friends Louise and Cherish are managers of an artist called Self Esteem, who released an incredible song, "I Do This All the Time," just over a year ago. Her career has gone through the roof since then. From seeing her in a small venue in London a while back, to seeing her at South by Southwest—and now, in some massive venues—is really cool. I'm very happy for them all.
What music can do that nothing else can.
Music is the answer. No matter what your mood, environment, company or situation, music will show up and provide you with a feeling. Not sure many other things can give you that.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.
At the beginning of the pandemic, someone was throwing out an easel on the street. I picked it up and went and brought lots of paint, and brushes, along with some canvases. It became a bit of an obsession: I would love to be a professional artist. I'm really, really nowhere near good enough—but I love how it makes me feel.
Liner Notes is our weekly interview series, publishing every Monday, where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.