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The Sound Of: BITE

Merging the steely sonics of industrial, EBM and techno with the colourful tones of post-punk and Italo, BITE has been raising the heat on the dancefloors of Berghain and beyond for five years. Alongside a fierce mix from its catalogue, Niamh O’Connor speaks to co-founder Phase Fatale about hybridised sounds, vibrant artwork and the joy of label nights

“We wanted to showcase this underground electronic music culture that’s running on the alternative side and really push it forward,” says Hayden Payne, aka Phase Fatale. The Philadelphia-born producer, DJ and BITE label co-founder is on a video call from his apartment in Berlin, where his black cat Rozz slinks into view. We’re chatting about the fifth anniversary of BITE, and why he launched a platform for music that “fell between the cracks”. 

One of the reasons was the closure of Jealous God — an EBM, post-punk, techno and noise label co-founded by Regis, Silent Servant and James Ruskin — in 2018, but it wasn’t the catalyst. Payne’s Phase Fatale alias was beginning to take shape back then; he had already released his breakout EP on Ostgut Ton’s sub-label Unterton, and he was — and still is — a resident DJ at Berghain and KHIDI. But he wanted to support his friends, who were making sounds that weren’t quite techno or post-punk, but more of a “mutated” form. He also wanted to add a splash of colour to the visual palette of these genres. 

“Usually with this music, it’s always black and white, and dark and dusty, so I was like, ‘Let’s do something colourful and different. A little poppy, like pop-art almost, and put this twist on it, like everything in pink... or something!’”

Payne co-founded BITE with Florian Engerling in 2018, operating from Berlin, where he has resided for the last 10 years. The label’s bio mentions that it “aims to platform artists who operate outside the conventional preconceptions of techno and are united by an ambition to push the boundaries of electronic music”. Listening to BITE’s five-year V/A compilation, ‘Shedding Skin’, featuring Terence Fixmer, REKA, Ron Morelli, Ireen Amnes, NX1 and more, it feels like Payne has remained true to this manifesto. Each artist dips into shades of EBM, industrial, techno, noise, Italo, experimental and post-punk, with a smattering of spiky melodies, gnarly guitar riffs, leathery vocals and propulsive drums.

Photo of Phase Fatale standing in front of a tall modern building with many windows. He's wearing a black suit jacket and black t-shirt
Phase Fatale. Credit: Dennis Schoenberg

Silent Servant and Phase Fatale co-produced the first ever release on BITE, ‘Confess’, which was followed by a string of records by Teste, Vulkanski, SARIN, OTHR, and Unhuman amongst others, highlighting producers at all stages of their creative careers. It wasn’t until March 2023 that Payne delivered his first solo release on the imprint, ‘Nailed To The Net’. “It was more of a hybrid thing,” he says of the EP. “There’s post-punk on it, there’s industrial, there’s techno on it, so it’s good; it’s kind of filling this hybridisation thing that BITE is about, so I think it really fits there.

Payne’s musical history is similarly “hybridised”. During the ’80s, his father played in bands in New York and worked as a sound engineer, and he introduced Payne to groups like Siouxsie & the Banshees, Front 242 and Depeche Mode. Inevitably, Payne joined coldwave and minimal synth outfits from his teens onwards, including Void Vision, Automelodi, and Dream Affair, where he played guitar, bass and sang vocals. He still records vocals for tracks today; you can hear his commanding lyrics on the EP ‘Ashes’ by New Frames, released on BITE last year.

After seeing minimal wave artist Martial Canterel play for New York’s fabled label and party series Wierd Records in 2008, Payne decided to explore electronic music further, instead of just band projects. Payne started DJing for the event, but techno wasn’t on his radar. Later, while on the road with Automelodi, Payne’s tour manager convinced him to go to Berghain. “And I got it, I really understood where techno comes from — it’s from this post-punk and this industrial scene,” he recalls, referencing how many of techno’s Detroit pioneers took inspiration from bands like Liaisons Dangereuses, Kraftwerk, Nitzer Ebb. “The connection was just so clear, and the environment was just amazing because, in my head, techno before was shitty runways or shitty furry boot raver things,” he laughs. “And this was not my vibe at all.

“But in [Berghain], it’s different,” he continues. “It’s gay, it’s hardcore, it’s concrete, it’s industrial, it’s super cool music that sounded, to me, one step away from the music that I liked.” The same vibe applies to the visual element of BITE. Payne praises Florian Engerling and Eloise Leigh, who have designed several brightly coloured and striking BITE sleeves, and talks about communicating ideas to Juan Mendez (aka Silent Servant), who designed the ‘Shedding Skin’ artwork, and drove out to the Californian countryside to find “some guy in his garage” to 3D-print the BITE logo. “Then he did all this crazy stuff with lights and robot mechas model kits,” he says. “And if you really look into it, it has this crazy depth to it, it looks like Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void or something. It’s really cool.”

Petra Flurr, REKA, Phase Fatale & Unhuman @ BITE NITE, Berghain
Petra Flurr, REKA, Phase Fatale & Unhuman @ BITE NITE, Berghain

Looking through the BITE cover art, which ranges from super-sharp to abstract images, we get the impression the visuals are just as important as the sounds. “It creates an atmosphere around the music and that influences the way you hear the music,” affirms Payne, citing Factory Records, 4AD and Warp Records as influences. “With this music, it’s always the same imagery and the same symbolism. I think it’s important to change it and make it colourful and kinda queer, and just add this different perspective on it that makes the music more inviting to people, because actually, the music is super catchy and everything, it’s not dark and hard. I just wanted to open it up to people.”

At 27 releases and counting, the BITE family has evolved. Payne works with a close knit-team, including label manager Daniel and social media manager Max, while he takes care of the curatorial side of things. “You have to let go and give responsibilities to other people,” he says. “You have to learn because it’s your baby and you want to do everything.”

BITE NITE parties add another facet to the label. At the time of our interview, the second showcase in Berghain is in a couple of weeks, with New Frames & Phase Fatale (live), Pablo Bozzi (live), Gael, Neux and Omon Breaker. Punters can expect a “colourful” and “fun” affair rather than a “serious” vibe with people dressed head to toe in black. “You can see that reflected in the crowd, that it’s just characters, and actually, everyone is there to enjoy themselves and enjoy each other.”

While Payne has the usual “are people going to come?” nerves ahead of each event, he needn’t worry. Judging from the flyer for BITE’s upcoming world tour and hearing how “swimmingly well” the previous showcase went at Berghain, it’s clear there is an appetite for this “post-punk, sexy techno” and its sprawling offshoots. “Seeing this physical reality in front of you, that people really enjoy the label, is really cool, because of course people can order records, but there’s a distance; I don’t see people buying the record. But [at the parties], you see a bunch of people celebrating and that’s really cool.” 

Most of all, though, it’s seeing the artists’ reactions. “Releasing records and seeing how happy the artists are and how happy people are to have it — that makes it worth it.”


The Soft Moon ‘Monster (Nørbak Remix)’ 
Teste ‘Loss Leader’ 
Phase Fatale & Silent Servant’ Plastic Motion’ 
Unhuman & Petra Flurr ‘ No Excitement’
OTHR ‘Icarus Dive’
Reka ‘Diving The Innermost’
Soft Crash ‘Spritzkrieg’
New Frames ‘Get Loose’
Phase Fatale ‘Desecrating Vows’
The Soft Moon ‘Face Is Gone (Unhuman Remix)’
Omon Breaker ‘Stinger’
Nastya Vogan ‘Serpenteion’
The Soft Moon ‘Become The Lies (Phase Fatale Remix)’
Ron Morelli ‘OED’
Vulkanski ‘Quitting Discipline’
New Frames & Phase Fatale ‘Inferno’
Pablo Bozzi ‘Last Vision’
Ireen Amnes ‘Lancet’
Alekzandra & Liziuz ‘Go Down’
Teste ‘Lyubov'

Want more? Check out the Sound Of Wisdom Teeth

Niamh O'Connor is a freelance writer and founder of NYXXX, which you can follow on Instagram