Spotlight On: Phon.o
One of Germany’s most interesting electronic artist exports is undoubtedly Phon.o. Pushing boundaries in his productions and live performances alike, the skilled producer has spent the better part of the last year gigging all over the world. Phon.o draws from elements of techno, dubstep, house, hip hop, and beyond to create a sound full of twists, turns, energy, and emotion. He has a fresh release on Ellen Allien’s BPitch Control which follows past appearances on Tectonic, 50 Weapons, Shitkatapult, and more. We had the chance to chat up with him after catching one of his memorable live sets over Movement weekend in Detroit.
RP: Hi there! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. Where are you right now?
Phon.o: Hi guys, I am in Berlin right now.
You just released your new EP Fractions on BPitch Control. It’s really lovely and complex. What were some of the main tools you used in the studio to make it?
I mainly don’t use any outboard anymore. So basically I use a lot of software, cause I love and need to save my work and leave it for a while to check if it’s worth to finish it. I always start in Ableton Live with my sketches and do a rough arrangement. I use Push 2 as a controller, which is a great combination. The final arrangement and detailed edits I am doing in Cubase. My favourite software plugins are Max for Live devices, Razor, Massive, Diva, Bazille and for sure some Korg VSTs.
Tell us a little about the cover art.
I did a synthesis of 2 pictures I glitched before and afterwards as well. The face of the woman – which is based on the artwork of Rosa Menkman – should bring the human aspect of the EP and stands for the “fragmental vocals” I used. All in all I wanted to achieve a 90ies influenced feeling on the cover. So it has this bleached out pink and the ruff-ness of a hand copied flyer on one side and the modern approach of our times through all the edits and digital manipulations.
You haven’t release an LP since 2012. Any plans to make another soon? Does your production style change when you’re making tracks for an album vs an EP?
I am more into EPs nowadays. For sure I will start doing an album, but I am not feeling ready yet. It’s a huge thing and will suck a lot of energy doing an album. There is definitely a difference between a LP and an EP. An EP is mostly more club orientated and it does not need to be fully listenable at home – what would be my approach for an album. But even if I am doing songs for an EP I try to give them a kind of a song arrangement and I try to tell a story with each song as well. I am not able to write just toolish tracks anymore.
We recently saw you at the Anthology party in Detroit (and were blown away!) – how was your experience in the city?
It was my 4th time I’ve been in Detroit over the last 12 years. I could see a light progress of the city itself. It’s still got a lot to improve but I really hope and wish that Detroit gets more vital and lively again. There’s a lot of potential in case of cheap warehouses, cultural background and so on. I can imagine it’s not easy in an American city like this, but I love Detroit and really want to see it growing. I really liked the off parties around the Movement festival. There was a vibe we had back in the days in Berlin as well. Maybe it would be a good idea for the next Movement to include some of the off party promoters with their off locations into their festival. This could be a great chance to merge and push the local scene with crowd who comes into the city.
What kind of setup do you have for your live sets? Does it change based on the gig or stay the same?
My setup is pretty much the same since some years, cause I can control it “blindly” and it’s stable. I am using Ableton Live, Akai MPC 40 MK2, NI-F1 and NI-X1 as controllers as well. I build a pretty complex setup where I can control, modulate and mangle my material inside of the computer. For my music it does not really makes sense to work with drum computers and modular systems, cause my rhythms and harmonic content is a bit more complex and off the grid. So I am happy with my setup and that’s a pretty important thing to get focused on the set itself.
You recently mentioned you started off DJing and producing with Apparat – have you guys done anything together recently or do you think you ever will?
Really back in the days we played a bunch of live shows together. We also did an EP under the name “Robotron”. I am sure we will do something together again in the future, but we don’t have something in the pipeline at the moment. I think we keep our friendship and working on music separate, so we don’t risk stressing our friendship. It really has to fit if we will do something together. So let’s wait for this moment.
What has been your most memorable gig of the past year and what are you most looking forward to for the remainder of 2016?
I mainly love every gig I played and it’s really hard to judge but I really liked my last gig I had in Gerogia’s capital Tiflis. It was at the new and awesome club Khidi. There are some events ahead that are not totally confirmed yet, but I am looking forward to play in Asia end of the year again.