When I listen to Phon.o, some wonderful things happen. The stable, confident sense of rhythm invites me to move, and the emotional vulnerability calls for a deeper experience. His productions meld with my sensitive personality and my desire to feel something real. It’s a combination of approaches that I find most impressive, and this man has it down. We talk about his newest release on 50 Weapons (Modeselektor’s label), his thoughts on channeling emotions as a producer, his free Live Pack for Ableton and my favorite track of his, “Fukushima”..
DD Hello Phon.o. Thank you for taking time to talk with me on Disco Droppings.
P.O Hi Jimi.
DD You have a new release on 50 Weapons. It’s a nice balance between the dark, emotional “Schn33” and the more fun, upbeat “Go”. What goes into choosing which tracks get released? Did you know these were the ones you wanted to put out, or was it more of a collaborative effort with Modeselektor (heads of the label) sorting through a lot of your productions and deciding these were the ones?
P.O When I work on songs, I leave the sketches for several days and go back to them to check if they’re worth arranging into a full-length. In this case I was very happy with these tracks and was sure they’d come out great if I arranged them well. So in the end, I did these 2 songs and gave them to Modeselektor. They liked them immediately which was great. There were just a few hints Gernot gave me concerning the levels of the rides in “Schn33”. But that was all he had to “criticize”.
DD My recent feelings of loneliness and introspection have helped me connect to your “Black Boulder” album. It sits right between coldness and things shifting towards the positive..
P.O Somehow, I am always suffering when I am doing music, because I think “oh damn… that’s not good enough” or “is it worth releasing?” and so on. I guess this kind of fight with myself has an affect on my music. It’s a good and necessary struggle you find yourself in as a musician. I love to make songs and not just tracks especially for an album. That means I always use melodies or harmonic progressions to create songs. And for sure, I love melodies :] I need to get an emotional moment in the studio while I am working on songs. I can’t just do a rhythm. It would be boring for me.
DD I’m really enjoying the sounds included in your free Live Pack for Ableton. You mentioned in your Ableton interview that about half of the sounds used in “Black Boulder” are included here. Some artists can be very protective of the sounds and samples used in their tracks, what to you is the benefit of being more open-handed?
P.O Yes, it’s true that a lot of artists protect their samples. I don’t understand, because with drum samples you can’t make songs or create impressive ideas. And that is what matters in the end. I see the drum samples just as a tool and I am happy if people can use a sound here and there. I was never interested in creating a blue print sound for myself. I just do what I like and if people come afterwards and tell me that it’s a typical “Phon.o sound” I am happy. I guess this comes how I do the songs, the beats and how I mix them at the end.
DD I opened a recent set of mine with your track “Fukushima”. It is refreshing to see dance music reflect society as this track does. The emotional and dire intensity you’ve created, matches the real life events surrounding the title. Was this a deliberate connection?
P.O When I did the sketch for this song this big disaster was happening at Fukushima. I just saved the project with “Fukushima” as a working title. Months later I opened it up and realized that there was some drama going on and that the name fit really well. I added the sample “save me” to emphasize this dramatic feeling of the synths and it was done. I am a political or better yet quite critical person, but I don’t often put political content in my music. Here and there but not too often.
DD What do you hope to accomplish in the remainder of 2013?
P.O I start working on my album after my holidays and hope to finish it in autumn. Besides that, U am working on a great project with a singer and musician called “Born in Flamez”. I am doing co-production for it. It’s very interesting to me, because its musically very different and more arty. I will learn a lot.
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– Jimi Jaxon