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Phace interview: 'You're only as good as the amount of hours you put in'
Marko Kutlesa caught up with Phace to discuss new production techniques, collaborations, influences and much more.
Date published: 21st Apr 2017
Since releasing his first productions in 2004, Hamburg resident Phace aka Florian Harres has carved a name for himself with an inventive, wholly unique and sometimes frenetic drum n' bass sound. He is a prolific producer too. He has released four albums in that time, countless EPs on labels such as Vision, Lifted, Subtitles Music, Virus Recordings, Renegade Hardware, Blackout and his own Neosignal label, which he set up in 2008 with partner Michael Misanthrop.
Which producers inspired you to take such a unique and maverick approach to drum n' bass?
Many artists inspired me to start making music, so I guess my answer would have to be genre crossing. One of my first electronic contacts was Kraftwerk, so they're my early roots. Then the whole IDM thing was going on and I was into that. In terms of drum n' bass I'd have to name Konflict or Kemal and Ed Rush and Optical. They were a big inspiration at the time I first started.
More recently artists like Amon Tobin and also people who I started around the same time as, like Noisia.
What music do you listen to now when you're not listening to drum n' bass?
I used to go through specific phases where I was only listening to rock, other electronica, pop or hip hop, but now I really just look to see what's out there and if something catches my attention I'll listen to it over again and see how long it keeps me excited. Like everyone, I guess, you sometimes hear this great album which will keep you excited for a year. Those albums don't come very often. I haven't had that in a long time, also probably because I'm very busy trying to work on how I want my own sound to be. I'm currently very focussed on that and I'm trying not to look too much to the right or left.
You had a slightly less busy 2016 than 2015 was for you and you said you were spending time learning new production techniques. What new techniques were these and do you think implementing them have changed your sound in any way?
Of course. Techniques sometimes start with the most simple things like educating your hearing. I think that's an essential step I took over the last year. In terms of tricks and techniques there's always something new, new tricks for compression or EQing things, so they sit well in the mix. There are always lots of small things but the main one was training my hearing and that comes from spending shitloads of hours in the studio.
You only gain experience if you work and work and work. That's the same in any job, no matter what you do. You're only as good as the amount of hours you put into something. I'm constantly doing that and, of course, I think it will change my sound. Hopefully.
Your albums aren't always full of bangers. They sometimes have more reserved or minimal tracks on them like 'Exit Plan' from 'Shape The Random'. You've said before that diversity, variety is key to making an album not sound boring. Is it possible to include a similar sense of variety and drop down to more minimal, more reserved moments at your gigs?
Yes. I feel that now is the right time to do that anyway. Drum n' bass has always been loud, aggressive, but it changes. Sometimes it gets bored of a techy sound and people want it a bit more minimal again, as generations come and go. Right now I think is a very good time to be playing some more minimal or weirder tracks. It's a refreshing thing to do anyway, otherwise you'd get bored. You can't just play hard, you need the contrast or nothing will sound hard, it's all just soup.
You mentioned in an interview that besides music you share common views on many things with the guys from Noisia, with whom you've worked several times. What things were you referring to?
I think we all share a liberal way of thinking. Creative similarities too. Also our views on life, in terms of health, having good food, trying to exercise. We talk about what we do with sports, we all do a bit of running and we try to challenge ourselves with that. We all like spending quality time together too, having a drink, talking about different things like football. So it's like a friendship.
What's your football team?
My team is Bayern Munich. I've been very active in the past and I'm still interested, but not like I once was. It's still fun but it's so time consuming to follow a team all the time. I'm originally from a very small town and that team... ha! I'm sorry, I can't support that. It's so boring. It's so not cool football. My grandfather is from Munich so it was for me to follow. But it's just a hobby on the side for me now, nothing too important.
You seem to enjoy being around them in the studio. Do you prefer to be in the studio with someone when you collaborate, rather than sending ides back and forth electronically? Do you think the fact that Noisia live in a different country has stopped you from working together as much as might have been possible?
Yes, I believe human contact in the studio, sharing the same moment with someone, at the same time, you can't reproduce that with digital electronic collaboration. You might still be able to get a good result, but if you want to create something together, out of the moment, being in the same room is, for me, an essential thing.
Do I think the distance has stopped us working together as much as could have been possible? Yes and no. They're busy with their things, I'm busy with my things. If we find the time then we do something. I don't necessarily think it's a big hurdle, it's only a 3 or 4 hours car ride from where I am.
You recently played a back to back set with Ed Rush. Which particular releases of his have made an impact on you and how was the experience of playing with him?
Oh 'Wormhole' definitely. 'Wormhole' is a bit like my Bible. I played that record upside down when I was a teenager. I loved it. It had a huge impact on me. That and 'Pacman'.
It was a real honour playing back to back with him. Very cool. Something like that is not something that happens every day. When I was 16 or 17 me and my friends, from the small town where II'm from, would go out to gigs where he was playing, standing in the front row, raving. Now I'm playing a big show with him, on a big stage, playing back to back and my friends were like “Wow!” We never would have thought this would happen, it's funny to see. It's cool to see I've found my spot. I don't think I'm anything special, I'm still just doing crazy, freaky music. It's just, I guess, people enjoy it.
Do you always think the the latest album or EP you've just completed is the best album or EP you've done?
For me that's logical. Of course. Technically, I'd say yes, of course. In terms of songwriting? Maybe not always. I hope it's always a progression. I always try to progress, to be the best I can every day.
You're playing in Manchester very soon. Are you a fan of any particular music that comes from that city?
Good question. Aren't Joy Division from Manchester? I really like them.
What have you got coming on Neosignal in 2017?
We just released an EP by Emperor, a couple of weeks ago. We have a new EP on Neodigital coming at the end of the month. We're currently undecided how it's going to look for the rest of the year but we are working on a release schedule right now. There'll be more stuff from myself and from Michael Misanthrop, for sure. We should have some more concrete information soon.
Tickets for Relapse and 45 Filters with Phace are available below.