As one-half of CLP he produced together with his friend Chris De Luca our very first Carhartt Radio edition in in November 2008. Now he is back with a collection of music from the labels 50Weapons and Monkeytown - two record companies guided by the tasty leadership of Modeselektor. Last May he released his third longplayer Black Boulder on 50Weapons and returned with a thrilling mix of captivating Dubstep, froggy UK Garage, deep Berlin Techno, and some foggy Dub atmospheres. For Carhartt Radio he prepared a mix that features his music beside the sound of artists such as Addison Groove, Cosmin TRG, Marcel Dettmann, or Modeselektor. What happend to PHON.O's life in the past four years, what he thinks and feels about the two labels he represents in his mix, and what he dreamed about the future during his childhood in the countryside he told us in an interview for our December 2012 Artist Feature edition.
How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt Radio show? What was your inspiration?
PHON.O: I tried to recreate a club feeling at home. So I recorded in one take and decided it spontanteously. It was a cold grey day, so I guess that's why it got more technoid.
How did you prepare the mix. With what tools?
PHON.O: I am djing digital. Just a mixer, software, and a controller. That's it.
Your mix is very Techno – does this sound represent your hometown Berlin for you?
PHON.O: For sure I am influenced through Berlin. I grew up with Techno, but because its just an hour long it does not represent so many different genres I normally play in a longer set.
If you have to describe the Monkeytown/50Weapons sound in one sentence, what would you say?
PHON.O: The sound is an open, fresh, and eclectic one without any limitations.
What is your most liked record on each label?
PHON.O: On 50Weapons I like Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka ones most (beside my own one :-)). And on Monkeytown I like Modeselektors most.
Why do you think both labels are currently so successful?
PHON.O: I think Gernot and Basti (Modeselektor) doing a great job as an A&R and push interesting artists with their own sound, no matter what style they have and no matter what other people say. Also the whole label family is doing a great job with their work. It's honest and real.
How are you connected to the head-honchos Modeselektor? What is your story?
PHON.O: I got in touch with Gernot and Basti around 2002 when they did their Labland Parties together with Pfadfinderei. So from then on we got closer friends. We played a bunch of shows together and shared often the same taste for music. Two and a half years ago, Gernot mentioned that he is planning to run 50Weapons and start Monkeytown Records in a more serious way ( I mean with a frequent release schedule) and asked me if I have some tracks for him. I sent them three songs some weeks later and he was really into it and they released the 10inch split with Anstam and my own 12inch.
You once moved with your buddy and flat mate Apparat from the East German Harz countryside to Berlin. Since then you make music professionally – how big is the influence of Berlin on your work and how did it change over the course of the years?
PHON.O: Berlin is a melting pot for a lot of different scenes and genres, not just Techno. It's a great city to live and work. It's also not so stressy and hyped like London. I guess this are the bigger features for me. But for sure Techno was and is a big thing to me. Nowadays I profit from my time when I played a lot (and still playing) of this Basic Channel and Maurizio sound. I think I got a sense of this sound patina and reverbish rooms etc. which helps me to improve my actual sound in the way of atmosphere and layering. So in my production this influences are little hidden but if I am djing I play a bunch of old, timeless songs, and mix them with new stuff. Somehow it comes full circle.
This year you released your third PHON.O longplayer Black Boulder - if you would describe the progression from your first album to your last what would you say?
PHON.O: My first album was made at a time when it was totally fine to make just tracks instead of songs. At this time my musical knowledge was not really big. I tried to learn a way more about harmonics etc. and also got better in arranging. So I would say, that Black Boulder is a way more complex in terms of harmony, grooves, sound, and it has real songs which are still playable in the club.
What is your musical background?
PHON.O: I started to learn a little bit piano when I was 6, but my parents were unfortunately not strict enough to push me to keep learning it. When I was 14 I tried to make music with some friends in a band, but figured out it was not my cup of tea. I bought a cheap sampler and got into working with electronic instruments like sampler and computer. But all on a really low level, because I could not afford expensive synthesizers and drum machines. In 1994 I got seriously into Techno and electronic music. I saved all my money to buy records and ask older friends for more informations. It was pretty hard to get input on a countryside without the Wolrd Wide Web. So I started djing and did parties with my friend Apparat and after finishing school and civil service we moved to Berlin in 1997. We spent all of our money in building up a studio step by step. We really worked hard on getting out as much as possible of every machine, because we just had so less in the beginning. But I think this was good to learn how synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers work. From there my story started slowly, step by step.
For some time you toured together with Chris De Luca from Funkstörung as CLP. Any new collaborations in the future? Or do you plan to continue as CLP?
PHON.O: Yeah was an intersting and funny time. But we both decided to stop CLP and I think will not do a collab in the future so far. But you never know.
What advice would you give to producers, DJs who are just starting out?
PHON.O: For production I think it is important to start with less equipment or software as possible to understand the techniques of synthesis and sound. If you would use to many plug-ins at the same time you will not get a good chance to get productive and creative. It is also important to avoid using all the presets and pre-made loops. You need to take your time to get to a point where you know what are you doing. And beside this technical aspects you should learn an instrument. This is really helpful. For DJs I think this are great times. You don't need 2 turntables or CDJs. You could start with a computer easily. But this is just the technical part. The problem I often noticed with newcomer DJs is, that they don't know how to play a proper warm up set. They often just checked what famous DJs play at peaktime. So they copy it and start immediately with 100% energy tracks. They often do the mistake to not build up an own style and will not create a vision of their DJ-set. So in this case it could be helpful to really BUY your music, because then you will be more critical and will not start with 10.000 songs from the beginning.
When do you feel most at peace?
PHON.O: The first 30 minutes after a great and successful set and if I am in holidays without no internet and a switched off phone.
Can you name us a decision you regret?
Phon.O: In 2004 I was asked to do some beats for this stupid German HipHop dude called Bushido. It was good money, but I regret doing it, because I really don't like his attitude and his music.
Can you name us people that should collaborate for a better world?
Phon.O: Oh there are so many combinations, but just one example: The leader of the Hamas and Netanjahu (Head of Israel).
Can you name us 5 things you used to believe!
Phon.O: Puh I never really believed in something, neither a religion nor bigger political or social ideas. There is just one thing I really can remember: When I was a small kid (maybe till the age of 8) I really believed it would be common to fly with spaceships to some planets in the year 2000!
What superpower would you like to have?
Phon.O: I would love to have a really good memory to keep what I learned, like languages, music theory, names of people I met etc.
If somebody gives you a million quid and you have 24 hours to rinse it, what would you do?
Phon.O: I would buy a great studio from somebody who has a nice one and can't say "no" to a million, because I just have 24hours for spending it.
Monkeytown Records Discography