Phace & Misanthrop: Mixed Signals
On the eve of a new audio/visual live music venture with their electronic Neosignal band project – which premiered recently in France – Phace & Misanthrop took time to talk about the rather special new single on Neosignal Recordings ‘Sex Sells’.
With this single I felt you wanted to ruffle some feathers and stir it up a bit… the vocals may or may not be from porn for a start…
P: The vocals actually are no porn samples, I recorded them!
If you produce electronic music, you should at least try to sometimes get a message across… Especially the more mainstream part of the scene tends to grade itself down to hedonism only and should not just say nothing.
Needless to say music should also not be über-conceptualized.
It will then lose it’s easiness, charm and emotion.
With this single though we thought ‘We’re gonna make a statement here’, along the ‘sex sells’ problematic… it’s a thing in advertising, it happens as standard these days. People forget, they get brainwashed in a way: you put tits, ass and naked skin in there and people are gonna… just like it somehow?
M: During the process we both agreed to the title – Sex Sells. For us this had a certain provocation to it.
So would you say that sexism in marketing still happens to the same extent it used to in past times? Is this the point?
M: Yes, it is indeed about ads and marketing and I think it’s present everywhere nowadays. We of course just scratched the surface of this topic, with this very obvious long legged cover girl.
There are other more subtle signs of ‘sex sells’ in today’s media; for example the photoshopped model pictures on the front pages of a magazines or product presentations in an ideal media world.
This seems to be a very common mindset and is a very stupid and dangerous sign to young people, because it’s a visual lie.
It’s great that some THOUGHT has gone into this: sometimes with D&B, producers just call a track a reference/abstract name as they have to call it something…
P: When naming a track we think about it. Sometimes we try to build a relation between music and title. I think especially within instrumental music this can help to draw a more holistic picture of the topic and also can be a fun creative process.
In pop music, the lyrics usually TELL you most of the content. It’s pretty easy to know what the song is about. The human voice is the best instrument to transfer and evoke emotions.
On the other hand, naming something can be quite random too. Art to me does not always have to make sense. it should be something enjoyable and fun in its first place. Sometimes you just let it happen and in the end it usually comes together anyway.
Back to the sex thing, could D&B do with some sort of sexual aspect in it’s appeal? It can be very male dominated.
M: Of course sex is not something bad at all: it’s just bad if it’s used to manipulate people.
P: If you look at some aspects of the liquid scene, some of it is, well, sexy. But then again girls like the hard stuff too… it must be ‘sexy’ as well. Ha ha. Drum & Bass is sexy, how about that?
OK here’s another thought: if I didn’t know you guys, and the cover you’ve chosen, with the legs and the so forth I might think you guys were possibly using sex to sell…
P: We’re making a pisstake… we don’t support using sex to sell: but we USE it on the release to point towards the problematic of it… it’s kind of a contradiction in a way.
Plus we’re somehow going to see if sex really sells.
Maybe it will bring in new listeners that don’t know us! I don’t think it will sell a lot more just because of the cover image though. The musical content hopefully will be what people convinces to buy or like it.
M: What is really important to us is that we of course did not intend to show that we like or support this very common marketing approach: au contraire: we do find it absurd and want to put it into a critical light.
When you listen to the track you hopefully should get that.
What about live, is it a mix of male and female in the audience at Phace & Misanthrop shows?
P: When we play out I can see almost half of the audience is female. I can see it’s not just a sausage festival as it used to be back in the day…
M: To sum up: besides all these deeper philosophical meanings about the cover and the title, at the end we make dance music and I’m pretty sure that people on a weekend at 2am in the club only want one thing – they want to get dirty!
Is the overall sound here state of the art for Phace & Misanthrop? & is it a nightmare to work in a tech-fuelled field where the technology is always changing?
M: I think after nearly 15 years into music production I can say that I found the main tools I need to express my musical ideas. I update these tools on a regular base, but it can indeed keep you very busy.
I always try to stay up to date with the latest news about production, because you don’t want to miss the secret new weapon.
And I don’t think you need that much software nowadays to produce high quality music. In my opinion the music industry profits from the uncertainty of newcomers and bedroom producers. The Industry make the people think their production quality or creativity will improve when they buy their products.
Any advice you’d give?
M: For me it’s important to find and learn a handful of plugins and synths and know exactly how they work, instead of trying to buy them all but don’t understand and use any of them.
The knowledge you gain will make you confident and will help you decide which tool you need and will also save you a lot of money.
What about the production of this single?
P: ‘Sex Sells’ itself really flowed, it really came fast, out of a nice situation. We got the sounds together and thought ‘This works’.
M: ‘Sex Sells’ got the final injection for our inspiration when Flo dropped those very strong vocal samples from an earlier recording session into the arrangement.
Speaking of collaboration, how does it work in practice with you two?
P: If you’re a solo artist there’s surely always a compromise when you collaborate. But for us it really seems to run smooth. If Misanthrop had done this solo or if Phace had done this solo it might have sounded a little different.
That’s the beauty of collaborating – you can never really tell where and how you are going to end up. Plus, with the right vibe collaboration sessions can get really funny and crazy.
In the studio is it a case where you say ‘I want to hear more of that/less of that… ‘ etc to each other?
P: Yeah that’s how it is, sometimes it’s a case of saying ‘I want that a little louder’ or ‘something’s missing in that part’, but it’s cool when you are direct and honest: sometimes you’re not objective anymore when you’ve been listening over and over again. Your brain tells you it’s cool and it may NOT be cool. So when collaborating it is great to directly have a second opinion.
The wicked b side, what is it with that title, ‘Nordwand’? It’s sort of ‘occult’ or ‘phallic’ sounding, sort of like some black metal Scandinavian weirdness…
P: OK… (laughs) It’s the German translation of the Eiger North Face, the mountain in the Alps… when we had Mefjus over to visit. We had this Austrian vibe: Michael said ‘Let’s give this an Austrian touch’, so we tried to give the idea of being up that majestic and dangerous mountain on an icy night.
We stepped back and thought ‘How that would feel, how it would translate to music?’