Oct 12, 2011

German drum’n’bass DJ/producer Florian Harres, aka Phace, has been in the dnb game for almost the entirety of the genre’s life, and has his feet still firmly planted in that territory. He spoke to LT3 about his Neosignal label, his relationship with Noisia, and the changing game of DJing.

Phace - Teufelswerk [Neosignal]
LessThan3: Where do you think is the next area of the world that will experience a big rise in drum’n’bass popularity? Is it already starting to happen there?
Florian: For the past years I have been playing at places all over the globe, from Paris to Toronto to Moscow, from Auckland to LA to Berlin. To me, dnb has a worldwide scene and plays its own consistent role pretty much anywhere you look at already. Sure there are ups and downs in specific areas in terms of popularity and activity, but it’s been around for almost twenty years. It never really broke out of the underground, even though you had chart-breaking dnb acts like Pendulum, Sub Focus, and Chase & Status, I am not sure if it ever will break out on such a huge scale as dubstep, for example. But personally I don’t really care about such things or developments; I care about quality music no matter where on earth or which genre. In terms of current dnb hotspots, London always was and is, France, Italy and Spain, and also eastern Europe is definitely on fire at the moment.
LessThan3: After 2010’s From Deep Space and your Basic Memory/Y release from earlier this year, can we expect more releases with Phace in the future?
Florian: Yep! I have been releasing music since 2004 on labels such as Vision, Lifted, Subtitles Music, Virus Recordings, and Renegade Hardware, and launched my own label Neosignal (together with my partner Misanthrop) at the end of 2008. My own label is where my focus is at, so I am constantly working on music and am still not fed up with it. It’s the other way around actually; sometimes it feels like it didn’t even start. I got a bigger EP entitled ENERGY forthcoming on Neosignal at the end of October (again in collaboration with Misanthrop). It will cover a wide variety of sounds, and has collaborations with Noisia, Rockwell, Misanthrop, Spor, and myself.
LessThan3: You and Noisia teamed up to make an incredibly dirty dnb track that we covered this year called Program. Do you plan to work with Noisia or anyone on the VISION record label again?
Florian: I know the Noisia boys from when we both started to produce and we have been really good friends ever since. Program is one out of many collaborations I have been writing with them over the past few years. I always enjoy being in the studio with them. The vibe we have in the studio flows naturally. Also, during our studio sessions, tracks sometimes seem to develop an independent existence and roll themselves out automatically. All three of the Noisia guys are brilliant producers and have lovely personalities. Besides music, we also share common ground on our views on many things, so we surely will keep on going to the studio together on a frequent basis. We actually just finished another new track entitled Imperial.
LessThan3: Your recent dubstep heater Teufelswerk marked a return to how dubstep sounded in its infancy. Are you a bigger fan of the original dubstep sounds, or the newer, heavier dubstep?
Florian: Teufelswerk actually is the first dubstep track I ever wrote, and was a bit of an experiment for me. I actually wanted to see how my music would sound if I was doing music around 140 bpm. While working on the track I thought it needed a vocal and a sort of “soul,” so I programmed and wrote these lyrics, which say that nowadays it pretty much is impossible to be offline. Your life is so dependent and connected to being online that it’s a vicious circle you are stuck in without even noticing. It’s “devil’s work,” so to speak. Personally, I don’t really follow the dubstep scene a lot, as I find most of the things I hear a bit noisy, transient or hedonistic. There surely is good dubstep out there, so I am not disrespecting it or anyone at all. I love Eskmo and Amon Tobin dubstep stuff for, and also Noisia and Feed Me’s approach to it. In general I love the energy this kind of music is transporting, but personally, next to dnb, I prefer music that is even below 140 or 128 bpm for electronic music.
LessThan3: There’s a lot of debate in the UK now between what’s called “brostep” vs more traditional dubstep. What do you think about the whole discussion?
Florian: As I live in Hamburg, Germany, I actually am sort of disconnected from most of the current discussions, hypes or trends. Hamburg indeed is Germany’s second biggest city, but it is very rock music-oriented and relaxed. We do have a good electronic music scene, and big artists pass through the city constantly, but for the size of the city and from a label or electronic artist point of view there honestly isn’t a huge amount of networking going on. Electronic music networking in Germany, except for tech and minimal house, generally isn’t as strong as in countries like the UK, USA, Australia or New Zealand. But back on the topic of your question; in general I am not into musical discussions when they are about genre categorizations. I prefer to let the music do its talking; I think too much political discussion in music can ruin its evolution. When I heard the term “brostep” first I honestly thought that it was related to a testosterone “sausage fest,” as I didn’t really know what the hell it was all about. Distorted midranges and talking or vocoded riffs/leads/stabs in dubstep aren’t a new thing to me, and when kids need their own term to categorize and define the music they enjoy dancing to, they should have the right to call it anything they want. Same happened to punk back in the days. But as I said before, personally I don’t really care about genre categorizations. I care about music and its character.
LessThan3: What are the pros and cons between working with another label and starting your own?
Florian: Running your own label means you have shitloads of work to deal with keeping you away from actually writing music. Sometimes it is hard to concentrate on both things–writing music and managing the label–equally. So the whole way up/evolution is slower, unless you can share the work with partners or outsource it onto other shoulders. In general, I am a control freak, though, and find it hard to let go and often feel like I want to do things on my own rather than have someone else doing it. But in getting older and wiser, I am getting more relaxed about it. We have our label network set up really nicely and efficiently these days, which took us a fair bit of time. The pros are you learn how the music market works and moves, you have your own musical freedom and independence, and you do not have to worry about label-people taking 50% of your achievements. You can represent yourself like you want to; you can stay true to yourself.
LessThan3: What changes do you see the rise of controllerism bringing specifically to the dnb realm?
Florian: I can’t really say what changes it brings to dnb other than having more creative possibilities and being able to control both audio and video way more easily. I started DJing back in 1996 on belt-driven turntables. I always loved to play vinyl, but like I am not riding a horse these days, but driving a car, I am also a person who tries to move along with technological evolution. Nowadays I play my tracks from CDs as I got tired of carrying endless amounts of vinyl around the world. I am sure you can do very creative things while performing your set as a digital DJ with a laptop or Touchpad, but Serato, Traktor or another laptop solution just isn’t for me yet. Pioneer CDJs are a standard at clubs and festivals these days same as Technics 1210s were 10 years ago. Personally I want to concentrate on entertaining the people when I play a DJ set, and not on setting up a piece of equipment or on caring about its stability. I am very comfortable with playing from CD and love that it still feels a bit like playing vinyl. Even though the CD as a musical medium also seems to be old fashioned these days and CD album sales in general are declining, I love the fact you can be really quick and flexible with CD while using them to perform your set. My preference of performing my DJ sets with CDs might change when a laptop is the size of a wallet and when everything would be set up wirelessly.
LessThan3: If the world were ending in LessThan3 minutes, and you had an iPod with every song ever made on it, what would you listen to?
Florian: The Endby The Doors, Jeremy by Pearl Jam, and Stripsearch by Faith No More.
LessThan3: Describe your sound in LessThan3 words.
Florian: Digital rebellion.
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