Having made a name for himself by constantly making people second guess his next musical endeavour – flirting with fidget, disco, breakbeat, downtempo, drum’n’bass, hiphop and everything in between – Phonat is not an artist content with churning out a formulaic or tried-and-tested sound. Yet everything he does has a distinct sonic signature to it.
His second EP for OWSLA is eagerly anticipated and, off the back of his latest single featuring Jolie and the Key, we thought it a good time to catch up with the man himself and discuss his catalog so far, the state of the plug-in industry, some chin stroking production chat and Juventus.
Zeros and Ones: Hey man! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How’s L.A. treating you and how was the recent studio move?
Phonat: Good man, just moved into a loft in Downtown where I have my home studio. The acoustics are shite so I’m mostly mixing in headphones, but I’m using OWLA’s studios every now and then.
ZO: I’ll start from where I bumped into you. I remember a summer disco mix from 2011 that’s sadly been taken down from SoundCloud; in a strange turn of events your most recent mix for Nest HQ is quite disco-y, so in a way it’s come almost full circle. What inspired you to do this mix?
P: I get bored really easily so I’m always trying to do something different from the last one. For this one it was nice to go back to something simpler, more housy/disco. But it also all happens by accident: I bumped into a lot of nice housy/disco tracks on my hard drive and that’s how it came about.
ZO: …and four years later you’re still playing that Tiger and Woods tune?
P: That’s my screen saver (and it was the only tune I could mix with Fire…).
ZO: Actually before that mix I’d seen your Computer Music Producer Masterclass interview from 2009 and have been using the CamelPhat trick since. In an odd turn of events that issue had the second article I’d ever had published – small world!
P: CamelPhat is the best value for money plug-in ever.
ZO: Tell us a little about your most recent single, ‘Fire (feat. Jolie and the Key)’:
P: It’s been an interesting journey. I met Jolie (singer) through a friend and I loved her voice instantly. I wanted to do something with her exploiting her full vocal potential and try to make an actual song rather than a “track” if that makes sense. And I’ve worked with a few amazing songwriters (Sam Grimley, Jake Filed, Gianluca Pizzorno) so it was a bit of a collective effort which was new for me as I mostly work by myself or with my partner in crime, Hal Ritson.
ZO: Ahhh Hal, do you still get to chat to him much?
P: I try but he hardly replies, the fucker. I did a three-minute edit of Genesis’s Invisible Touch intro looped for him and he ignored me.
[Zeros and Ones can confirm that Hal is indeed poor at replying to IM]
ZO: Talking of Hal, let’s go back to the beginning. You signed to Heavy Disco Records back in 2005, previously living in the sleepy Florence country-side. How did this come about?
P: I went to London for the first time in 2003 ‘cos I wanted to be a professional musician and brought many demo CDs of my music with me. I ended up washing dishes in an Italian restaurant in West Hampstead for 4 months so I went back home in Florence and I discovered this thing called the internet which was kinda cool.
Breakbeat record labels had demo/A&R sections where you could submit your 128kbps MP3s without having to physically knock on their door. One of the labels I ended up sending stuff to (and one of the very few that replied) was Heavy Disco.