Home Interviews Feature: Jay Phonic [Interview]

Feature: Jay Phonic [Interview]

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jay phonic

Based in Argovia, Switzerland Jay Phonic first discovered electronic music in the early nineties. A DJ first, Jay’s passion quickly evolved into music production, experimenting with sounds and grooves until ultimately making his debut in 2010. His penchant for crafting cross pollinated creations quickly found favour with some of the underground’s most cutting edge DJs, while landing him releases on Audio Safari and Tenor Sounds. Now embarking on the most anticipated release of his career, we sit down with Jay for an exclusive interview as he debuts on Inspired By Trees with ‘Fighter’.

Hello Jay, I hope you’re having a good day and thanks for joining us, what are your plans for this week?

Yes, I’m having a busy week besides work, my studio needs a bit of cleanup, maybe there is time left to craft some new tunes and ideas for future project. But normally pre-xmas time is very busy in the music shop where I work, so there is a good time management needed during December.

Tell us about growing up in Switzerland, how did you find your way into the world of electronic music?

I was always interested in “different” music, and before internet, this meant going to record shops and listen to all the news they have available. So my musical journey brought me from Death Metal to HipHop to Techno. Around 1991 i was listening to a late night radio show where they talked about something called house and acid house, I think those sounds instantly grabbed my attention. I was fascinated by the beauty of raw synthesizer sounds and drum machines. In 1994 I bought myself some turntables and a really crappy mixer and started buying records. I was very into trance, acid house and rave at that time. I guess it was around 1996 when I started experimenting with music software/hardware and from there on it became a passion. In 2009 I started working at a music instrument retailer, that’s what I love to do. Having my hobby as a job is cool a.f.

How do you think living in Switzerland has affected your sound and career?

Switzerland influenced my musical career, because in Switzerland it’s like: first get a real job, then try to make a living off your hobbies. So was I, I made music during my free time, tried to read as much about music technology as I can, but it all was during my free time. Soundwise Switzerland is very diverse but the crowd is less open to unusual or experimental music, as long as there are pumpin 4/4 Kickdrums, everything’s fine. When I started to play minimal techno tunes I was one of the first in my area, and I got a lot of hate for this. Half a year later.. everyone was into minimal techno. This kept me following no trends and blending different categories together. Nowadays I sometimes play Disco between harder Technobangers..just for the fun of it.

Talk to us about the nightlife there, do you get a chance to play much in your home country and where are some of the best places to hear fresh electronic music?

Nightlife in Switzerland during middle/end of the 90’s was great. Famous clubs like Rohstofflager, Dachkantine, and so on changed the face of nightlife in switzerland’s underground nightlife. Those were the spots where I was the most besides local illegal parties. I started out playing at local parties, than local clubs and so on. I can’t remember all of the gigs but there were a lot in the past 20yrs. Right now I think some of the best places in our country are: Nordstern, Viertel, Hive, Friedas Büxe, Gate 54, Elysia, Schlaflos and some more.

Given that you’ve been a DJ since the early nineties, tell us about your vinyl collection, what are some of your most beloved records?

I guess I have around 4000-5000 records in total, ranging from early 90’s rave techno, to modern click n cuts experimental stuff. My most favorite series of records? Woah… difficult question… I say early Harthouse Records, Warp Records and releases from Spicelab (Oliver Lieb), these shaped my deeper understanding of electronic music.

Name five tracks that were most important in your musical development and why are these pieces so significant for you.

Spicelab – Spy vs. Spice / brilliant production by O.Lieb, it’s musical storytelling, a journey across sounds and styles Warp Records – VA Artifical Intelligence 1&2 / beautiful leftfield electronic music, every track is a story of its own Adam Beyer & Lenk – Drumcode 01 / if somebody asks what techno is.. this is it. Straight, no nonsense beats and sounds Cristian Vogel – Neon Underground / there is something magical in this leftfield tune, it’s a masterpiece full of surprises Sister Bliss – Sister Sister (Nalin & Kane Remix) / eclectic, atmospheric, melodic heaven, be ready to trip Guy J – Fixation / I think this track combines what I search in electronic music, it’s emotional, melodic and takes you on a trip after the 2min break ends

Are you musically trained? And do you think it’s necessary for success in writing electronic music?

No, I only had two years guitar lessons and the rest came from intensive training and playing multiple instruments. I can’t ready sheet music, but I know where the right notes are. I don’t think it’s necessary to write electronic music – but it can be helpful or even necessary if your music wants to be very melodic

You are a DJ but also play live as well, tell us about your live setup and which do you prefer?

Dirty Sandwich is the project name of our duo, we use 6 Elektron machines, 2 Moog and a few FX, from time to time I take my modular with me as well. We make melodic techno, techhouse. I really love to play as a DJ, but playing live is a different beast.. DJ is fun, Live is work.

You have an amazing new single out now on Inspired By Trees, one which seems to be resonating well with a cross section of DJs. Tell us a bit about the production process behind the track and how it ended up finding a home on the label.

Actually I made this track in 2007, but I never released it. It was a 14 minute epos, way too big for a club release. In 2012 I made rework that missed the spirit of the original version and now I
recreated the tune with some sounds 11 year old sounds and new parts. I think I experimented with delays on a mid-range chord part and tried to extend the feeling of these chords onto the bass and lead parts. It should sound epic and atmospheric without being too soft. I used a lot of my hardware synth collection for this track but I processed every sound in my DAW.

When Paege asked me for some tunes for his label, I sent him some tracks and this was one of them, he instantly asked me to do a release for it.

Is that a typical process for you or is every track a different journey in terms of the creative process?

Every track starts different, sometimes I go to my studio just to program synthesizers, not actual composing, just making new presets. Then I record just a phrase with the new presets and listen to them when I drive to my studio the next time.. often I hear sequences or melodies during that 30min drive, then I rush into my studio and quickly move forward. I often finish the main parts of a track in one evening I believe that a good mix between experimentation and focusing leads to good results. If I work on club tune, then I’m very focussed on structures, but when I do a dubtechno tune, I let everything flow and catch the parts that I might would throw out.

There is also a great remix from Marc DePulse, was he always someone you had in mind as a remixer and how do you like the end result?

Yes, exactly. Marc DePulse is a good friend and when Paege asked me to search a remixer, I knew that I ask Marc right away. Luckily he agreed one day later and started working on the remix. I am a big fan of Marc’s interpretation of musical emotions and how he looks at the original material before he starts a remix.

How do you feel about your music being remixed in general?

I like to hear what other producers can hear in the fragments of my material.

Inspired By Trees is a relatively new label with this being just their third release, but they already seem to be on a path to becoming one of your country’s best imprints. Why was it such a comfortable place for you to release ‘Fighter’?

Paege told me about his vision with the label, how the musical output should sound like and his general idea behind it. Paege is also a very good friend of mine and I’m happy to support him in anyway.

What’s the thing most people think they understand about being an artist but don’t? And what are the biggest challenges you currently face as an artist?

There are times when your creative mind is just empty and needs a break. I also think that there’s too much mediocrity in the Beatport charts. Being original takes a lot of work, being a copycat is a lot easier to do. For example, Stephan Bodzin came up with those epic long breaks and a certain signature sound. Not that he invented that sound, but you can easily hear his signature. Go on Beatport today.. you’ll find a shit load of copycats, trying to imitate his style. That wasted effort to me.

Most producers come across creative blocks from time to time, how do you break through when you get stuck on a project?

I go out for walks in nature or I play DayZ for three days straight or I cook and enjoy good food with my lovely girlfriend. I try to bring my mind as far away from music productions as possible and when I return to the studio it feels fresh and catchy again

Who would you love to collaborate with and why?

Oliver Lieb, because he made some of my favorite tracks and I think he’s a genius Solar Fields, because he is a mastermind in sound design and musicianship

Cristian Vogel, because he does stuff as leftfield as possible, but still contains his unique sound signature

Cari Lekebusch, because he’s a legend and I dig his productions

Where can fans hear you in the coming months and what new music can we expect in 2019, anything you can share with us?

Due to busy times in my day job, I took less booking request. Next I play at Club Schlaflos in Aarau, Dec. 21

Next releases beside my Fighter EP, Remix for Paege next release on Inspired by Trees, Remix for Nae:TeK on Deeperfect

More to come.. as always

I try to release at least one DJ-mix on my Mixcloud Page: https://www.mixcloud.com/jay_phonic/

‘Fighter’ is out now on Inspired By Trees, you can purchase the release here: https://bit.ly/2A3UNAf

Release Promo: http://releasepromo.com

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