Drum & bass artist Phil Robinson lives what some might consider the ideal producer’s life. Working as a private music production tutor, he spends his days in his home studio tinkering with his own tracks, and then using his wealth of knowledge to help aspiring artists better theirs. It’s rewarding, naturally, but also perfectly suits with his prolific workrate. It was way back in 2017 that Robinson released his 100th track as Philth, a name given to him around the turn of the millenium, when his record collection consisted of the kind of dirty tech and neuro sounds popularised by Ed Rush & Optical, Bad Company and Renegade Hardware. It may come as somewhat of a surprise, then, to learn that it was only last month that Robinson released his debut album. ‘Moments In Time’ chronicles a tumultuous period in the UK producer’s life, one where he battled anxiety and depression, and even had to leave his job as a full-time teacher.
The project began in 2016, when, after a particularly fruitful few months of studio time, Ant TC1 — boss of Leeds label Dispatch, where Robinson’s work regularly finds a home — suggested he had enough material to put together a long-player. At the time, Robinson was teaching, gigging, producing and studying for his masters degree. “I was writing my album as coursework, which was great,” he says over Skype. “So for the whole of 2017, I wrote loads of music. And a lot of the stuff, without question, felt like the best music I’ve ever written.”
However, being locked into such an intensive schedule proved unsustainable. Robinson explains how he set himself imaginary deadlines, which ramped up his stress to intolerable levels. “I went into this crazy spiral of overworking where I wasn’t taking any time out and I was trying to work on music seven days a week,” he recalls. It was the increasing amount of public conversation about mental health that saved Robinson. Seeing publications and other artists talk about the issue, he found out about the charity Help Musicians UK’s Music Minds Matter project and sought help.
“So last year was a case of sort of learning to be healthier, basically taking more time off, sleeping like a normal person,” he says. “By the time the music was finished and went off for mastering at the start of this year, I completely reset my relationship with music again, and really remembered that being in the studio was supposed to be the good times rather than the stressful part of my life. ”The result is a deeply personal album that flits between the melancholic liquid jungle of ‘Lost In A Moment’, featuring Becca Jane Grey, the twisted neuro hysteria of ‘Bodyclock’ (named for a time when Robinson “completely fucked” his own by overworking), and the organic serenity of ambient piece, ‘Messages In The Rain’. Not only made with his trademark technical prowess, it’s an album that’s deeply emotive — representative of an artist who has made a name for himself by not sticking to one sound or sub-genre. And, in typical proliferous fashion, the November edition was actually only part one of ‘Moments In Time’, with a second instalment due for February 2020 — so expect plenty more self-explorative d&b ditties in the near future.