Although little known to most casual music fans, Patrick Cowley may be one of the more influential and important figures of American electronica music, as he was responsible for crafting what was then known as the “San Francisco Sound.”
Cowley, who was born in Buffalo, NY moved to San Francisco, CA when he was 21. While studying at the City College of San Francisco, Cowley founded the Electronic Music Lab, where he started creating radio jingles and other pieces using the school’s electronic equipment – first with a Putney, then an E-MU System and then finally a Serge synthesizer. Influenced by the likes of the legendary Giorgio Moroder, Tomila and Wendy Carlos, Cowley created a sound from various synthesizers, modified guitars and self-constructed equipment. He started creating experimental, instrumental compositions by blending various types of music and then adapting them to the synthesizer.
By the mid 1970s, Crowley’s compositions landed him big-time gigs composing and producing songs for disco superstars including Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” “Dance Disco Heat” and “Stars.” His reputation blew up even more after a legendary 18 minute remix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and his production work with New Wave act, Indoor Life.
1981 may have been his biggest year as he founded Megatone Records and released a string of popular dance singles. And interestingly, enough John Coletti the owner of gay porn film company Fox Studio had reached out to Cowley, and proposed that he compose music for some of his films. But his rising success was marked by tragedy as he was diagnosed with then-unknown illness – an illness later known as AIDS. Shortly before his tragic death he produced Sylvester’s “Do You Wanna Funk” and Paul Parker’s “Right on Target.”
School Dazeis a compilation of Cowley’s work including compositions from two Fox Studios films, Muscle Up and School Daze (which hadn’t been previously released on vinyl or any other format before), as well as other material Cowley had written. The original masters were re-mastered from analog tape, specifically for vinyl. Released on what would have been Cowlye’s 63rd birthday – October 19th – proceeds from the compilation will be donated to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, a foundation that has been committed to finding a cure for AIDS.
“Nightcrawler” is the first single from the compilation and although it was recorded over 30 years ago, it still manages to sound futuristic – and almost contemporary. It has the downtempo, icy fee of modern chillwave but it also manages to have a industrial murkiness that’s kind of sexy.