Philth: 100 tunes deep (and counting)
Philth requires very little introduction. With a career-span inching ever closer to the 10-year mark, the London-based producer has become a name synonymous with intricate production and sonic depth, as well as serious attention to detail in his studio mixes and DJ sets.
Having released across the likes of Dispatch, CIA, Renegade Hardware, Spearhead, Flexout Audio, Diffrent Music and more, including his own Peer Pressure Records imprint, his back-catalogue paints an intriguing picture of an artist who’s able to strike the perfect balance of heart-wrenching sonics and screw-face inducing riddims.
Recently reaching his 100-release milestone with a typically deep remix of Facing Jinx, we took the opportunity to chat with the man himself, and scored a exclusive guest mix along the way.
38-tracks deep, it’s a perfect snapshot of Philth’s ethos, repping the full spectrum of D&B, including a few tasty exclusives. Dive in…
Ez Phil! Thanks for taking the time to chat 🙂 Where have we caught you today?
Surprise surprise, I’m in my studio at home. I recorded my mix for you last night, and today I’m listening back to it while I write these answers.
What’s the most random thing in the room with you right now?
I try to keep the studio tidy and in order, but there’s a collection of silly shit in here to remind me to have fun while I’m working. The latest addition is the pair of eagle bracelets that I managed to bring home from Facing Jinx’s stag weekend. Needless to say we dressed him up in a ridiculous outfit (he looked fabbbbulous) and I found these beautiful accessories in my suitcase when I unpacked.
Haha awesome! You marked your 100th release with a gritty re-work of Facing Jinx – Facade. What was the inspiration for marking the milestone with a remix of this tune in particular? Brings you full circle to where your career began with a Facing Jinx collab, right?
Yeah we’ve worked together since my very first release back on Peer Pressure in 2010, all the way up to his wedding a few weeks ago where I was his best man. Now we own and run the label so it was nice to be able to have some control of my release schedule, and this seemed like the perfect way to mark 100 tracks in my career, back on the label where it all started with the man it all started with.
Alex actually managed to line up the release for his wedding day so we were able to sell the remix to all the guests at the wedding. As you say it’s all come full circle, and I’ve lined up a whole series of Philth EP’s to come on Peer Pressure over the next year or so to follow this release. I played the lead track from the first EP in my mix too…
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 100 releases ago, what would it be?
Don’t worry about mixdowns – focus on marketing! Seriously though, although the technical stuff is of course essential, if you want your music to get anywhere you also have to make sure people hear it. Actually, something that is overlooked in the digital age is being out and involved in the scene. Being around and making a personal connection with people in the scene has helped my career to advance as much as any technical improvements, being involved and sharing positivity (or a moan!) with your peers in the scene spurs you on to work harder, write more music, work with new people.
When I was starting out I spent a lot of time locked away making music on my own, then sending it all out over the internet hoping somebody would pick it up. Now I am much more of an active participant and there are so many more opportunities available to me.
What’s the biggest change within yourself and your approach to production you’ve noticed over 100 releases?
I work so much faster nowadays, I don’t second-guess my decisions. I trust my instinct and let the music flow and be what it wants to be, even if it isn’t what I intended to create when I sat down. Too many producers worry about what other people are going to think of their music, or where it fits, but I’ve decided that if I like it that’s the most important thing, so I just write music I enjoy making rather than tying myself in knots about whether it sounds like ‘X’ producer or fits into a certain labels sound. Sometimes you write songs that aren’t so popular with your peers, and others catch people’s ears and get lots of support, but as long as it comes from the heart I’m happy. And often this honest music is what has found it’s way on to the biggest labels I work with, rather than trying to recreate what other people on the label are doing.
At the moment when I send Ant music for Dispatch he keeps picking up on deep and rolling tracks that I made really quickly, where I just catch a vibe and run with it. It means I really enjoy writing music rather than getting frustrated that I can’t emulate somebody else’s sound.
Nobody wants to hear a carbon copy of someone else anyway! What’s your biggest inspiration these days then? You’re a real creature of the night aren’t you, working hard in the studio well into the morning.. Give us a bit of an insight into your creative process…
Yes I love to work at night when I’m writing new music. Daytime is better for mixdowns, where I will write notes and spend a maximum of two hours on a mix before I bounce it and move on. But during the daytime people always want to talk to you, emails, phone calls, admin tasks that have to be done during 9-5 hours, and I find it really hard to stay focused long enough to write music. After about 10pm that all slows down completely and normal people go to bed, so I go to work. My best hours are midnight-6am. This is when the music is going to be listened to, so it makes sense to me to write in the same headspace. I work with the lights low, the darkness makes the music more immersive and I can really lose track of time. My studio faces the sunrise and when the sun creeps into the room there is often a whole track created in one night session.
The music itself is really inspired by not listening to drum & bass as much as possible. I have a range of music I listen to when I’m not working, a lot of funk, soul and disco, also a lot of soundtrack and ambient music. I make ‘sample me’ playlists and write notes of stuff that really grabs me and a lot of my music starts with a sample as the initial spark of inspiration, then I build around it, layering chords and working out new musical ideas. What I am focusing on at the moment is having a strong core of musical parts that can stand on their own before I build the drums and bass, I want to create something that has some emotional pull and musical progression before I get into the D&B groove itself. The track will stay interesting because it’s built around chords and hooks, not just a few ambient sounds chucked in to fill up the first 32 bars cos you need an intro for DJ’s to mix.
This comes back to what I was saying about trying to match a certain producer’s sound – there is a lot of D&B being made where it sounds to me like the only idea was to make drums and bass that replicate somebody else. It’s very rare that I start with drums or bass now unless I have a very specific rhythmic idea or a break I want to work with. Vibes are what inspire me to finish a tune.
Your highly-anticipated collab project with Phil Tangent has finally been unveiled with the Heavy Hearts EP on Integral.. Well worth the wait, this one is an absolute gem! Has an EP been in the pipeline for a while then?
We’ve been working together for about a year and a half now (bloody hell the time flies!) but the first track we did together is on this EP and was signed as soon as Glenn heard Phil play it at a gig, so it has been a very fluent process, gradually building up a catalogue of music for the guys at Integral to choose our first release from while continuing to work on our solo projects.
What inspired the new moniker ‘Phil:osophy’ rather than Philth Tangent?
The idea behind the name Philth Tangent was to keep both of our identities intact but still create a new project. But we got some advice from friends in the scene who felt like it would end up being confusing for listeners, promoters, it might be hard to differentiate from our solo projects. As soon as we looked at it from an outsider perspective we knew they were right. So we needed a new name but of course it had to have Phil in there somewhere, and this feels like the perfect fit. We don’t aim for a specific style; our music represents our philosophy of what we both love in D&B.
The music speaks for itself but you guys clearly gel really well in the studio – what is it that allows you to work so well together do you think?
The fact we’re never in the studio at the same time?? Haha, it’s not intentional but I’m in London and Phil is quite a way outside, and we both work part-time alongside music so it isn’t practical to work together too often. It means we both have time to explore the music at our leisure and go off on a few tangents (boom!) before sending each other stems that are often pretty well developed tunes. Then there is a lot of discussion on what we each like about the new ideas and anything we both don’t like gets scrapped. Whenever we do meet up we just drink beer and talk about music so I guess we’ve developed a good understanding through talking (defining our philosophy!) rather than sitting together and dividing up roles in the studio.
Makes sense! There’s a lot of emotion behind the EP, did anything in particular inspire it?
For me it’s not any particular themes or life events inspiring this EP. It’s more a case of wanting every track we write to resonate with the listener on an emotional level, not just trying to write a banger that sounds like the other bangers of the moment. The emotional elements are the parts we focus on the most, the bass and drums are important but not if the tune has no vibes.
Can we expect more collabs in future then?
Lots more. Since we completed this first EP back in May we’ve continued to crack on and are close to completing the second EP. We have done a remix that has been supported well so far, and when the music is flowing the way it has been we’re just going to keep on writing and see how far we can take it.
Can’t wait to hear more! You guys played B2B at Sun & Bass last year – can we expect future Phil:osophy DJ sets?
Yes please! We played at Innersoul last year as well and played two hours, and we’re playing at their next event in December. I hope they give us two hours again; we played such a variety of music beyond just liquid rollers, all the different flavours that make up our influences. We’re playing in Reading in October for an Integral party and hopefully we can get out and play many more shows with Glenn, Zula, Emma and the rest of the crew.
Here’s hoping! You recently made your fabric debut alongside a seriously heavyweight line-up, must’ve been a dream come true?
Quite literally, fabric and The End are the two clubs I went to the most during my early years and I heard so many tunes there for the first time. I have so many good memories of that club; it has always been the place I wanted to play the most so I was very happy when my new agent Steve at Bassic locked it in as one of the first gigs he booked me. Yes the lineup was serious – I watched DJ Craze from the side of the stage and thought to myself how much better than me he was haha!
Haha! Do you get nervous ahead of gigs like that then?
I was thinking about it a lot in the weeks leading up, but I spent ages prepping music so I knew I was ready, and the monitoring and equipment was of course on point so I knew it would be fun. Not being able to hear or being unsure about the setup makes me much more nervous than the occasion itself! I don’t practice as much as I should but I always mix for a good few hours the day before, or the evening of a gig, and it makes such a big difference when you get on the decks and have already spent some time warming up. This was no exception and I worked out some mixes with some of the classic music that makes up my early fabric memories and really enjoyed myself 🙂
Glad to hear it! How do you approach your sets then – is it a case of arming yourself with tunes and winging it depending on the vibe of the night, or do you always have an idea of what you’re going to play before a gig?
A bit of both… Because I produce and play a wide range of D&B I prepare a bit differently for each set; I don’t just want to go and play the same style/tunes every time. I will look at who else is on the lineup, check previous events and try to get a vibe for the night and their crowd, and then my selection will be tailored for what I anticipate might be right for the crowd.
I use Rekordbox so I make a new folder of playlists for each gig, but whatever night it is I still have a mix of liquid, tech, classics, dubs. Its important to me to represent variety at every gig, but for example if I’m playing at Innersoul their crowd are more receptive to liquid and I know I can dig deeper in that direction, or I might want to have a high-energy selection for a 5am set. But I still wing it as much as possible; I have lots of little sequences of mixes that I plan at home, but if it’s not right for the crowd I will continue to switch up the flavours until I can really lock into what they want to hear. I’ll play whatever is right for the people in front of me.
When was the last time you surprised even yourself with the selection you drew for and thought “fuck me, where did that come from?!”?
I was playing at my friends wedding the week before fabric, I pulled out ‘I Like To Move It Move It’ and it absolutely went offfff. Gave myself a big pat on the back after that!
Should’ve tried dropping that one at 4am at fabric?! What about your studio mixes, they always seem to have a lot of care and thought put into them. How many takes to you generally do before you think “alright, this one’s a winner”?
Yeah studio mixes are where I work out what songs go well together and explore new combos, so I normally spend a long time just mixing and testing out new music before I actually record. Gradually I will put together a tracklist for about half a mix, then record it and wing it for the later sections. The dream is to roll out the mix perfectly the first time but what actually happens is I get stupidly fussy about the intro and end up recording it quite a few times before I am happy, and then roll out the rest of the mix freestyle. For this new mix I spent 2-3 hours in the afternoon working what I wanted to play and the running order, had a break for a few hours then came back and refined the tracklist before finally rolling it out that evening.
Do you consider yourself a producer or DJ first?
DJ. I started buying records when I was around 13 or 14, and although I messed around with making music (on the Playstation at first!), and went to college to study Music Tech at 17, I have always loved being the person choosing the music and trying to lock into the people in the room. I really love the art of mixing, finding new combos, making new basslines by cutting up two tracks, pacing a set to control the energy, knowing when it’s time to go fast and time to play some smoother stuff. I often forget because I’m so busy these days, but I’m at my happiest on a set of decks rolling out a mix – whether it’s to a crowd or in my studio at home. Saying that, you can’t have one without the other and the more time I have put into production the more sucked-in I have become, and I’m talking about ten years of writing music every week, to the point where if I haven’t written music for maybe a week I start to get really grouchy.
When I’m in the studio nowadays I feel more confident than ever before and I love writing music, but DJing is my first love. I find writing music very relaxing and therapeutic, whereas DJing is the opposite and gives me a massive buzz. I think I need both just to stay sane.
Which releases have been giving you goosebumps or distorting your face lately?
There is just so much good music at the moment… I honestly can’t keep up with everything. There is a massive over-saturation of music nowadays, but what’s nice for somebody like me who plays a range of styles is that there’s so much to pick from. I can pick my favourites of each style I play and have a wide range of music to choose from. In terms of some current favs though the new AI EP on Integral is so good, super smooth. Definitely ticks the goosebumps box.
There has been a lot of great dancefloor music on Dispatch and Flexout recently as well, all the new stuff from Survey is wicked… DLR’s remix of Hybris is one of my favourite tunes for ages, I love how it sounds so old but bang up to date.
The OneMind and Total Science tune is maybe my favourite of the year, it sounds like Photek, Dillinja, Hive, the classic Headz template refined for 2017. I’ve realised I’m just listing the tunes in my mix. Listen to the mix, that’s my favourite music at the moment. I mixed it like a club set so it’s got upfront music, forthcoming dubs, and of course a sprinkle of classics. I wanted it to sound like a Philth gig not a radio show.
What’s been your highlight of 2017 so far?
Traveling to Australia, seeing one of my best friends get married and playing a tour (including playing a few Dillinja tunes at the wedding reception), meeting some lovely people, eating seriously great food and just generally enjoying the other side of the world… That’s going to be pretty difficult to top. Massive thanks to everybody who made that happen and all the new friends I made in Oz, you know who you are x
Those Aussies are a special bunch, aren’t they? So where to from here? What’s coming up for the rest of the year?
More beats, more gigs, more late nights and sunrises. I’m going to Sweden next month, Holland in November, there are lots of nice UK gigs lined up. My agent is smashing it.
In terms of my music there is this Phil:osophy EP and much more to come from us. I have started a series of collaborative EP’s for Peer Pressure and the first instalment will be out soonish.
More music with Jinx and Wreckless in various combos too, we have started a supergroup called Studio Tan. Then I have a lot of music I’m sitting on, I’m working on a couple of EP’s that are in the early stages and then most importantly putting aside music for my album project.
Oooft, looking forward to it all. Final words of wisdom?
Always use butter when you cook. Everything tastes better with butter.
Get Phil:osophy’s Heavy Hearts EP here.