In advance of his upcoming live A/V show at London’s Jazz Cafe on 15th January, we revisit our 2018 conversation with electronic artist and producer Phaeleh.
Though his music could fall under the banner of dubstep or electronica, there’s really no way to pigeonhole Phaeleh. The Bristol-born DJ has been turning heads with his unique sound for a whole decade now (his first release was in 2008).
We started off at the beginning, asking him about his university studies. In a world of bedroom DJs, it’s somewhat rare to find a musician who has studied their craft in an academic setting.
So does Phaeleh think his studies have informed his music?
“I think my time at university gave me some different perspectives when it comes to listening to music, though the course wasn’t focused on production or engineering at all so I don’t think it’s helped on that front.”
Instead, Phaeleh’s degree has helped him think about textures and soundscapes on a deeper level:
“It was very much geared towards acousmatic music, so I would say that it definitely made me put a lot of thought into the more atmospheric elements of my output and gave me a very detailed approach to listening to how sounds transition through time and frequency and the relation of that upon the listener and their own ingrained experiences and expectations.”
From there, we delved into Phaeleh’s storied career. Asking him about milestones, memorable gigs, boundary pushing, and future projects…
Looking back, can you pinpoint the most important milestones that lead you to such a successful career?
“Well I think it really depends on what you define as successful. I think the one important thing was realising without committing 100% of my free time to making music, anything that followed wouldn’t have been possible. I would say setting up my first label back in 2008 to make it easier for people to get my music was probably the most important thing that happened back then. There were obviously releases later on that helped get me noticed by a larger audience, but I think the success of those releases were largely due to good timing and the hard work that went in before then to enable the tracks to reach as many people as possible.”
Of all the places in the world you’ve played, what country receives you best?
“America is definitely the place most receptive of my music. People seem to really embrace the music and aren’t so led by online publications or whatever is ‘hot’ at the moment. I think without the support from the States I wouldn’t have been able to make music full time for so long. I definitely started off with some strong support in Eastern Europe when I first began playing shows, I think I was playing more shows there than the UK in the early days, so I think that was an important part of the world for me.”
Are you an artist who feels responsible for pushing the boundaries of your discipline?
“Honestly, I really don’t think I am. I’ve always just done my thing, and tried to capture emotions in the music rather than actively trying to do anything that different. Whilst a part of me is very interested in more technical methods and different ways of working, I don’t think it really has a place in the music I make under the Phaeleh name, as it’s always been about the emotional response in the listener rather than providing a soundtrack for beard stroking.”
Tell us about your most memorable show.
“This is a tough one as there are ones for different reasons. The first time I played in Vilnius in Lithuania was very special for me, as it was the first time I’d headlined a show overseas and they were expecting about 30 people in this tiny bar I was playing in and I think we got about 150, so that was a very strange moment for me, especially as people seemed to know all the music and were singing along to some tracks.”
“I think the most important was probably my beach set at Outlook Festival in 2011, I think that was the first time I realised that something big was happening off the back of the Fallen Light album, and I still get people talking to me about that show now. The setting, the timing, the weather, everything was perfect for the music, and although I’ve played much bigger stages in subsequent years, that was the one where I felt there was a really strong connection between the music and the audience.”
“The most recent one would be when I was one of the headliners for Envision Festival in Costa Rica, I’d had a nightmare journey out there and wasn’t feeling particularly upbeat whilst I was there, but I played a very late set on the Sunday night, and the turnout was insane, I think that’s the only set I’ve played where I was really feeling the emotions that went into the tracks when I originally made them whilst I was playing them in a DJ set, so it was a strangely emotive 2 hours and probably the best set I’ve played of just my original tracks.”
Are there any exciting new projects you could tell us about?
“In terms of Phaeleh, I’d say the next few months are focussed on getting my next album together. It’s kind of a clean slate for me as there have been a few changes behind the scenes in the last few years, so this will be the first album I’ve made besides the recent ambient one where it’ll be made with my input alone, so I think I’m going to connect with the music a lot more than the beat-based releases of the last 6 or 7 years.”
“I would like to tour the live setup some more, but it’s not the most practical thing to do at the moment, so I think I’d like to focus on the writing rather than doing sporadic gigs with the live show, but hopefully I can pick that up again once the next album is ready.”