I tend to produce music that has a message, no matter how odd, funny, subconscious or plain obvious that message might be.
As the 20th Anniversary of Nocturnal Wonderland rapidly approaches, the anticipation continues to build as none other than Phace prepares to wreck shop when he steps up for his debut appearance. Having been on a massive run ever since he stepped out in solo mode a little over eight years ago, the German wunderkind is still reeling off the success of his To Shape The Random LP that completely blew doors earlier this year.
Having locked himself in the lab for over a year to complete the project, the album was an overwhelming success that helped to cement his status as one of the most exciting drum & bass artists in the game. With releases on imprints as varied as Vision, Owsla, Mau5trap, Shogun Audio, Virus, Critical, Subtitles and his own Neosignal imprint, it’s not as if Phace has come out of nowhere. From his boundary-pushing work alongside Misanthrop under their Neosignal moniker on through to his various collaborations and abilities to absolutely shred it on the decks, the unique and twisted bass-funk sound of Phace promises to absolutely demolish the dance when he touches down in L.A. next month.
It’s been a big year for you! With the release of a huge album and the massive touring that you’ve done in support, how are you feeling as we move into the second half of the year?
Thank you very much! I couldn’t be more thankful for having an absolutely awesome year so far. Even though my life has been extremely hectic for the past six months I am fully enjoying it and am definitely motivated and energized for everything lined up for the second half of 2015 and beyond.
Before we get too far in the future, let’s take things back to your youth. I remember us chatting it up years ago and you saying your dad was a drummer. Is that where drum & bass begins for you?
My dad played the drums in a rock band. Not a full-on hard rock band, today you probably would call it an “indie” or “alternative” rock band. His favorite bands he looked up to were bands like Supertramp or the Beatles. He preferred that mellow but musically more sophisticated and groovy sound so I grew up with a lot of that type of music and it definitely had an impact on my musical preferences. Even though my father’s main profession was architecture music was his passion and escape from work. Unfortunately he passed away just a few weeks ago after suffering for years.
That’s tough to hear man, sorry for your loss.
Yes, thanks, even though I never was extremely close to him it did feel like a part of me passed away, too. Without him I probably wouldn’t be doing things the way I am doing them today.
At what point did you begin to drift towards electronic music?
When I was 8 or 9 I found out about the German electronic band Kraftwerk. I randomly saw their “The Robots” music video on MTV. It fascinated me. It sounded so different from all the acoustic music I knew. The fact that they actually were doing music without any of the usual instruments I knew from my dad’s band kept me digging deeper to find out more about electronic music in general, and from there I fell in love with the sound of synthesizers.
When does drum & bass enter the picture?
Drum & bass entered my life way later, around 1994, when my sister introduced me to Prodigy and early breakbeat and early drum & bass mixtapes. I kind of got addicted to electronic underground music and it seems to still last, even though I listen to all types of music I like these days, no matter what style, tempo or origin.
Was a career in music something you were set on from an early age or was it something that just happened along the way?
I never seriously planned to have a career in music. It pretty much developed naturally and autodidactically. I went to university and finished my degree in marketing economics and was doing music as a hobby since I was 16. That was the age I started to DJ and a little later moved into digital music production. I didn’t want to DJ only other people’s music but wanted to play my own music even though I always have been too lazy to learn a “real instrument” like a guitar or keys. I also wanted to know more about the whole science of electronic music production and wanted to be able to work with synthesizers. I was especially fascinated by what you musically could do with a computer.
I didn’t really force anything to happen but I was behind it, had punch for it, and took it step by step. At one point when I realized that people actually do appreciate my music and things were working out great in regards to the amount of gigs I got booked for, I decided to try to make a real living out of music. You only regret the things you don’t do in life and so far it was the best decision I ever took. If the whole music thing wouldn’t have happened I’d probably still be working in media, communication or marketing and probably would be frustrated and burned out as hell.
How do you think being from Germany has affected your taste and/or sound?
Of course your origin and the surroundings you grew up in play a big role in why and how you do things. I never consciously planned or felt I do the things I do because I’m German. Also I never consciously planned my music to sound German or to represent or serve that “German role.” I guess that’s just who I am and how my music feels to other people. My music is my own vision, something that simply comes out of my mind and reflects my life and things I like or am interested in. Personally I think you could call my music weird, wild, twisted, experimental or sometimes even minimal instead.
This rebellious “fuck the norm” attitude really shines through in a wonderful way on your Shape The Random album. Do you see your music as being political or being aligned with an aesthetic that refuses to be boxed in by any preconceived genre and sub-genre boundaries?
To me drum & bass always has been a type of rebellious electronic punk rock. I tend to produce music that has a message, no matter how odd, funny, subconscious or plain obvious that message might be. I just don’t want my music to be too serious or too calculated. I am not a too serious character. To me fun is something more important and I do not want to constantly wave the flag for something. With music I would like to entertain others and hopefully myself so I wouldn’t call my music political. Music is communication and I am no friend of empty talking or of constantly talking about the same things.
Likewise, I am not friend of putting music into too many boxes, but I do understand the market and the need to be able to talk about it. I find it hard to label or position my own music but find it more interesting to ask others about my music and how they would describe it. I just personally don’t really care about music categorizations as to me good music simply is good music and it’s such a great thing that you can play so many different types of music together in one set these days.
Speaking of which, you’ve been on the road non-stop; are you able to get any work done when you’re on the road?
Yes, I do enjoy writing music while I am on tour; mainly just layouts of short musical ideas I put down on my mobile studio laptop. I then decide and finish things properly in my home studio. To me it feels great to write music not being in my home comfort zone but in a completely different surrounding. At the moment I am finalizing a collaborative EP project entitled Phace & Friends. Only it is undecided yet when and where it will be released, probably in October or November. More details on this soon!
We are so stoked to have you touching down at Nocturnal Wonderland in a little over a month, and that mini-mix you put together for Fabriclive and Blackout has us so amped to witness you dropping heat live! Is there anything you’re looking forward to in particular when you arrive in L.A.?
Glad you liked the mix and the pleasure is all on my side. I can’t wait to play the Nocturnal Wonderland show, too! I have no specific plans yet for L.A. but simply want to suck in the whole vibe out there and want to meet Stateside friends and musicians I barely see over here in Europe. I also am really curious to see how people will react to my music on that side of the planet.
If there’s some unsuspecting friend of a friend out there who’s never had the pleasure of hearing you live, what should we tell them to expect?
What they can expect from my set? Well, a bit of everything. Don’t expect a non-stop rinseout massacre, though. Of course I play hard-hitting music, but I don’t want to do that throughout my whole set; that would be a boring and quite tiring thing to do. I like my sets to be more diverse these days and take people on a ride like a rollercoaster.