Le plus frappant quand on essaye d’appréhender le parcours de Phon.o, c’est sa capacité à changer de registre comme de chemise. Il n’a même pas 30 ans, mais il a déjà tout fait : de la tech-house la plus festive d’Ibiza à la techno la plus aérienne. Il a également produit sur tous les supports possibles : performance de production sur vinyle “locked groove” en live, ou sur ordinateur depuis les débuts de l’informatique grand public dans les années 90.
Alors je vous vois déjà imaginer que le bonhomme a quelques histoires sympa à raconter, et des avis pertinents sur pas mal de sujets. En fait, vous avez tout à fait raison.
MiXiT : In France, some people don’t know you yet. What do you have to say to people who are wondering who is Phon.o?
Phon.o : Maybe I would say: That is the DJ and producer from Berlin who releases on Modeselektor’s label 50 weapons and makes a weird blend of techno, UK garage and post dubstep.
MiXiT : My dream is to live in the Star-Wars Universe, but as a regular citizen, without all the Jedi responsibilities going on. What about you?
Phon.o : I am sorry I never was a fan of Star Wars… So I would prefer to live in the Star Trek Universe instead. Especially “Next Generation” was a way more ahead than Star Wars. I like the complex story and that the people live in an utopia. That means there is peace on earth and everybody just work what they love to work and all this great visions.
MiXiT : While a lot of artists stick to a single identity, you seem not to take into account prejudices and have experienced an astonishing number of genres during your career. From deep and trippy IDM to dub, to 2step, to locked groove performance, to tech-house, to aerial techno, how do you describe your music?
Phon.o : It maybe looks like I was really genre hopping, but it was a natural evolution. When I was young and did not had a glue of making music the easiest thing was to make techno for me. Later on I started to explore more techniques (especially with the upcoming power of computers around 1999) and did more experimental stuff. I can not stick just on one genre. I love to listen to a lot of different music styles and this influences my way of making music. And another reason is, that I do not want to copy myself and I need diversity for myself while I am in the studio.
MiXiT : Your name also has changed, with the Bareback Show, and CLP. Did you want to create different characters, and keep Phon.O running the darker music world?
Phon.o : For my solo project I always keep Phon.o as my artist name. But if I am working with other people together than I start using an alias. So CLP and the Bareback Show were just some side projects with other people together.
MiXiT : I’ve read on your biography (available on your website), that you grew up “far in the darkest reaches of the ruff’n’tuff Harz Mountains in former East Germany”, and that you practiced your mixing “at night by candlelight” in your aunts farm. Seriously?
Phon.o : Haha, not really. I mean I grew up in the Harz Mountains in former East Germany and it was boring over there. That’s why I started to DJ and throwing parties with my buddy Apparat. Both of us knew that we had to leave after finishing school and civil service. So we escaped from that. The rest is just a kind of humoristic version of my biography.
MiXiT : Your last releases on 50 Weapons are very different from your work with Chris de Luca. You have returned to a more melancholic music, maybe closer to your first productions on Cytrax, for example the Modul EP. What could explain this fact?
Phon.o : Yeah, I mean it was a great time playing with Chris but I needed a break from this music and we decided to stop it. I just had the feeling to make music with no compromises. Just music by myself again. It feels better to me or maybe more natural.
I think all this “vinyl sounds best”-discussion is total bullshit.
MiXiT : You seem to have developed a darker landscape, aesthetically speaking. You cite, and I quote your official website, “the hay in the barn, the dirt in the fields and the sheep form calling him from beyond the hills” as strong influences for your music. First: wait, what? And second, what are your musical influences?
Phon.o : Mmhhh… I do not know why I am more melancholic while I am producing. Maybe because I am a critical and political person who gets a little bit depressed by this bad situation the world or mankind is in. I get sick if I read all the newspapers and see no change or better progress. But on the other side I am getting very happy and relaxed when I make music. It’s definitely not because I grew up on the country side. I really had a great childhood and I am happy I had this in the nature and not in a big city.
MiXiT : How did you join 50 Weapons? Originally dedicated to release compilations of 50 “dancefloor weapons”, the label has become a strong structure, releasing some tracks of the best techno artists (Marcel Dettmann, Benjamin Damage, Bambounou…). Will it last long?
Phon.o : I know Modeselektor since a long time. And they listened to some remixes I did when I stopped CLP. They like it a lot and told me they gonna start a label and if I have some stuff done I should give it to them. So they got it and loved it … and released it.
MiXiT : Technically speaking, how do you produce your music and mix (live and set)?
Phon.o : If I am producing I am nearly just use software like Ableton and Cubase. I love the fact I can save everything and leave the tracks for a while. The possibility to check a song sketch after several weeks to hear if it’s worth arranging it got a really essential step in my way of producing.
When I am playing live I am using Ableton Live and a bunch of controllers. I am definitely working on while playing live and not looking like “checking emails” haha !
MiXiT : We are facing a comeback of vinyl, since you’ve experienced a lot of different mixing solutions; do you agree with those who say that vinyl is the only “noble” format, and way of mixing? Do you think there is such thing as “electronic music ethics”, or just a bunch of boring purists?
Phon.o : I love vinyl as an object (the big cover and the beautiful 12” itself) but honestly I think all this “vinyl sounds best”-discussion is total bullshit. As a producer I can tell you that the best “medium” of my song is the finished mastered version 24bits Wav file I get from the mastering studio. There is no loss and it sounds how I wanted to have plus the extra the master engineer put on top. So that’s perfect. But this does not mean that a vinyl sounds bad. It’s just not as good as the mastered Wav file.
MiXiT : We arrive at the end of this interview; could you give us a hint (or two) about the future of Phon.o?
Phon.o : I am working on a new album right now and it will come out in spring 2014. After the album I keep working as a producer for a cool weird singer girl. So I will be busy for sure.