INTERVIEW | Phaeleh
Q. Matt, thanks for taking out time to chat with us. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Did you grow up in Bristol? Has the sound of the city had an influence on your music?
I grew up down the road from Bristol, but have been living here since 2007. I think I had a very eclectic taste in music over the years, so a lot of the Bristol ‘sound’ found its way into my collection. My own sound probably has more in common with the trip hop era stuff like Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky, but I actually think the first Bristol album that had a big influence on me was Breakbeat Era which was released back in 1999. That had a big impact on me due to the combination of live instrumentation and vocals alongside more traditional elements. I still listen to that album quite a lot. It was an exciting time for me as I was leaving the world of playing in bands and becoming more focused on producing and hearing albums like that made me realise that it wasn’t crazy to want to combine playing guitar and things alongside the electronics.
Q. This year marks the tenth anniversary of your first release, yet it feels like there is a strong line that moves through all of your music. Did you start with a concrete idea of the music you wanted to make? Has the music you are interested in shifted over the last decade?
It’s certainly been an interesting 10 years, with the usual lows and highs you’d expect. I never really had an action plan or any kind of personal creative manifesto to follow. I would say there was always a heavy emphasis on melody and evoking an emotional response in the listener. My stuff that pre-dates the Phaeleh years was actually very similar in that approach, it just had much sparser drums and a lot less bass. For me my influences are still the ones I had in the early days of producing, whether that’s Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin or more minimalist composers. I think what’s changed since the early years of Phaeleh is that I rarely listen to any artists in the same corner of the musical spectrum anymore. Going back to 2005 to 2009, the world of dubstep was incredibly inspiring and people were making so much great music that you couldn’t help but feel inspired after coming back from playing shows. I felt a lot more a part of a scene and I think the sharing of music and ideas with people helped fuel a really creative period in my life. I’d say these days I’m a lot more detached and isolated in my process, and if I’m honest, a lot of the stuff people presume I’d like, I really don’t as it doesn’t resonate with me as there’s nothing new or exciting to it. I think as a result I’ve actually gone back to older influences, which may be why my music seems more open ended rather than being as easily pigeonholed as ‘chilled dubstep’. Saying that I do also think the world of Spotify is awesome for finding new music and I find myself being inspired from a production and technical point of view, even if stylistically the music in question couldn’t be further away from my own stuff. The key thing for me is I’m enjoying listening to and making music again, which I wasn’t for a few years from around 2012 to 2016.
Q. If I’m not mistaken, the last time you visited DC was during your 2014 tour when you played at U Street Music Hall. Do you have any recollection of the show or of the city?
Yeah that was the last time I was in town. I do remember both shows I did at U Street Music Hall previously, one was a live thing in 2013 on the main stage and the 2014 show was at the other end in the DJ booth. I really enjoyed both shows, it was a really receptive crowd both times and it was nice to play in a decent venue. I don’t spend a lot of time in the places I’m playing due to flying everyday to the next show, so I tend to remember more random things like the hotel having leopard print dressing gowns rather than anything too exciting.
Q. Over the past few years, you’ve been releasing primarily full length albums. Do you have a preference for working in this format?
I think I’m naturally drawn to working this way as a lot of my favourite bands and artists did it like that when I was growing up, so I just thought that’s how you released music. I didn’t really come at this from the traditional DJ/Producer route where vinyls and EPs were the focus. I think as the dubstep scene quietened down and I was doing more and more releases on my own label, the thought of doing singles and EPs interested me a lot less. I should probably reconsider this as I’d probably be releasing more music as a result, but despite what you might read in the press, I really do believe that albums give people the best opportunity to take listeners on a journey, even if most people just throw a song or 2 onto their streaming playlist. I do also think people respect the effort and dedication it takes to put together an album, and want to support it more as a result.
Q. You are currently touring in support of your latest album, Lost Time. What can fans expect for this tour?
As I hadn’t really toured the States in the first 6 years of doing this, I’d say I’ve always previously just played my tracks. I’m hoping on this tour to still play all the favourites along with some newer stuff, but also factor it into a more traditional DJ set and take people on a dynamic journey and play a lot of tracks that inspired me over the years that they might have missed, due to a lot of the artists not really getting the exposure they deserved at the time. I want to keep each show unique and interesting, as it’s very easy to become formulaic when you’re only playing your own stuff. So people can definitely expect to hear the ‘classics’, it’ll just be presented in a more traditional DJ setup which I’m really looking forward to and know I’ll enjoy a lot more than when I’m just playing my own stuff.
Q. I know that this latest album was just released at the end of last year, but are you at work on any new music? Is there anything you can tell us about what is coming up next?
I sat on so much music, and [am] still writing lots for the next release. The strange thing with Lost Time was that most the material was more than 3 years old by the time the album came out. So even though I’ve got enough tracks made since then to release multiple albums, I’m really keen to get a coherent theme on the go and start the next release with a clean slate. There are definitely a lot of ideas and songs I’m working on at the moment, which I think could end up being the basis of the next release, but I’m taking my time before committing to things. I do think the next album will be out this year, and if I get time I might do a few smaller releases with some of the tracks from the last year or two. It’s always a case of needing more hours in the day, but I’m definitely in the best head space creatively speaking that I’ve been in for a very long time, and talking about and making music is really exciting me again, so I’ve got a good feeling about the next release, even if there’s no specific plan on when it’ll be ready. Aside from my own stuff I think there are a few remixes dropping over the summer, and I may let a few other projects of mine be known as there’s another album that’s been slowly brewing over recent years too, but it’s very far removed from the Phaeleh stuff, so I’m not sure if the fans are ready for that one.