Phaseone Interview: “Stuff that cuts your soul.”

25.01.10, Words by: Ruth Saxelby

One of my favourite albums of last year was ‘Thanks But No Thanks’ by St. Louis’ PHASEONE. Coming from the hip hop culture of disseminating sounds and ideas – and profile-building – through mixtapes, it’s perhaps not surprising he decided to give away his debut album. (You can get it here.) What is surprising is that it’s so damn good. ‘Thanks But No Thanks’ is a lush, considered and cohesive debut of liquid, languid beats and rolling slow-mo grooves. Undeniably influenced by master craftsman DILLA (the only blog entry on PHASEONE’s myspace is a reposting of a moving article about James Yancey’s last days), the St. Louis beatmaker has an intuitive, instinctive way of teasing emotion from machines in the way that established artists like FOUR TET have wrought to perfection. While Kieran Hebden casts his eyes above the clouds with celestial sounds on his new album ‘There Is Love In You’ however, PHASEONE is deep in heavy rain-filled territory. Tracks like the heady Love Test (Only) (download it on the right) soak you to the bone, easing you into a sublime, lean-back state of mind. Steadily gaining recognition for his remixes of Fool’s Gold and Animal Collective (the latter getting mad love from Mad Decent), I caught up with Andrew, the dude behind PHASEONE, over email late last year. Here’s how it went.

So you gave away your album…?

Yeah, I released it myself, sort of. I just uploaded it online and starting giving out the link to whoever wanted it. It took me so long to finish it, I just wanted people to hear it and I wanted to move on to something else.

How did you get into making music?

I played a few instruments growing up, not very well though, and my grandfather played in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra so I was always around music. I got into making electronic music about nine years ago when some friends of mine and myself started making jungle and IDM beats on the computer. That progressed into me making rap beats which progressed into the sort of thing I do now.

Who are you influenced by?

All kinds of music, more recently by Herbie Hancock, Outkast, The Streets, the Brazilian Tropicalia movement, Sa-Ra, and I’ve been watching a lot of Seinfeld re-runs.

How do you describe your music?

I hate the term “hip-hop” – because there’s always people bitching about what it is and what it isn’t – so I would say I make rap music, but there usually aren’t any MCs so I just say electronic.

I find your music really emotional – what are you trying to achieve when you write/create it?

Well I’m always drawn to really emotional harmonies and chord progressions when I listen to music – stuff that cuts your soul. So that’s what I try to do with my music, whether it’s the music I write or the samples I choose or the artists I remix.

I liked your remix of Fool’s Gold. What other remixes have you done/got up your sleeve?

There were a lot that I had done but no one had heard so I put them all together on a mixtape called ‘White Collar Crime’ (download it here) along with some unheard beats and some of Frank Heat’s tunes. Right now I’m trying to chill out on remixes and work on original material.

What was the highlight of 2009 for you?

Finally finishing my album since it was supposed to be finished late last year, that was good. Wichita Records putting out my Bloc Party remix was cool too.

What are looking forward to in 2010?

Putting out some new records and doing some shows! I’ve got a record coming out called ‘Stealing To Feed Your Family’, its very organic-sounding with heavy samba influence, the label is still to be determined. I’m also working on a record that’s a lot more electronic and forward-thinking, but that’s still in its infant stages. A couple of other surprises too!

And finally, what’s the music scene in St. Louis like?

The scene is pretty awful, although there are a handful of good club nights, one of which being Dirty Money which I run with Frank Heat and Matt Leach. We play all sorts of shit. Then there’s Found Future, a bunch of weirdos who play weird noise shit, hardcore rap and 80’s. There is also a crew of guys, Dub Hz, who have been playing dubstep since like 2006 which is pretty major for St. Louis because we’re behind on a lot of stuff.

Download ‘Thanks But No Thanks’ via the link in the intro now and look out for new album ‘Stealing To Feed Your Family’ later this year.

Phaseone’s myspace

Hudson Mohawke is another very exciting Dilla-influenced producer.