Known for his precarious balancing act between indie cred and electro cool, he's able to cross boundaries fluidly, one minute adding a crisp, crunching studio edge to Bloc Party's guitar-fuelled sound, the next striding onto the dancefloor with the superb Phones project for tracks like 'Sharpen The Knives' on Kitsune.
We tracked him down to talk nu-rave, acid house and the much anticipated album…
You've produced albums for indie bands as well as making electro and house under your Phones moniker. Do you see them as separate entities?
"Originally with Phones I thought I could have an alter ego that nobody would actually know was me, but of course, as soon as people realised that I was producing as well, I think it snuck out! For me, the Phones thing was definitely loaded towards the dancefloor - as much as I can, considering I've never really been a dance music purist. It was more the point at which I thought I'd do something geared towards the clubs."
What do you make of the nu-rave phenomenon?
"I think it's really style over substance. I think there's very little rave about the Klaxons, they sound more like a Discord band called Q and Not U. I think a lot of it's been emperor's new clothes. But then again, I think things like that are always important for kids to identify with, just as I didn't want to, when I was 16-17, identify with rock music or old school punk, I wanted something repackaged in a different form that I could identify with. I think it's just a generation thing, really."
How does industrial music feed into your sound?
"With someone like Adrian Sherwood working with Tackhead and Nine Inch Nails in the same year, there probably is that lineage. But for me, I like lots of different kinds of music. One of the things that I really like about Mark Stewart, for example, is it was just super heavy dub, and in learning my studio trade, I went through a lot just trying to learn a lot from the old reggae dudes and trying to figure out how Lee Perry got the sounds he did, but in a modern context. I have got a taste for synthetic sounds, but I know they can't be applied under certain circumstances - sometimes it's good to go for organic classic stuff. There's definitely elements, bits of Front 242. I guess in some ways I've lifted loads of stuff from Sherwood, but I guess if I'd done it with another band, it might sound industrial or 80s or no-wavey. Production is something that dates very easily, and you can transpose it from genre to genre. Someone like J Dilla did that really well, getting Aphex Twin kind of stuff and mixing it with hip hop and making something totally new."
Your remix of New Young Pony Club's 'The Bomb' has got quite an old school acid feel to it. Is it influenced by this new retro acid revival?
"For me there was so much stuff that happened at the end of the 80s and the early 90s, we were just driven by a genuine love of music. It was like all these people into punk were discovering electronic music with the same vigour that punk had the first time. It was revolutionary - a cultural shift against the government. I think we've come far enough, we've come full circle that we're able to listen to those tracks again and them sound fresh, sound modern. I've been playing fucking Technotronic and S-Express out when I DJ, just 'cos I know, it's so fucking cheesy, but at the end of your set, it's like a universal connector: it leaves people feeling really good. The thing about acid, there was an original energy to the music that meant that despite it being minimal and essentially quite a-musical somehow, if you hear it in a club you just go off to it. I've just been downloading a bunch of Mr. Fingers things and Frankie Knuckles bits and pieces, 'cos it's a reference for something I'm working on. So to some degree, it's just part of a cycle. Maybe in a few years the baggy revival will truly hit us!"
What's happening next with the Phones project?
"The album's been a slow starter. But watch this space. At the moment I'm enjoying writing music with other people, and it's actually been an easier process than writing music on my own, but hopefully that'll help me get rolling for the Phones album. I've got a few more bits in the pipeline."
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