A staple of the Newcastle drum & bass scene, Phobia has been prolific since 2001 writing hard technical drum & bass with floor punishing power. Head honcho of both the Coded Music imprint and Turbulence club night, we touch down with the geordie behind the 1's and 2's...
1. Originally breaking the scene in 2001 on L Double's Flex label, you've steadily worked your way up through the ranks on labels like Critical, Inneractive and Renegade Hardware. In 2008 you launched your own Coded Music label. To date every release has been pretty lethal, can you tell us a bit about what the label is about and how you see the ever changing market in 2010?
Coded is really just an output for my music along with other music and artists I’m feeling. I’d been with Hardware for a good few years and felt I just needed to do my own thing. It was really important for me to have complete control of everything including mastering, artwork, marketing etc so I felt it was time to start my own label. I think the most important thing for me was to have the feel of the label right and have good quality artwork.
Obviously the market has changed massively over the 10 years that I’ve been releasing vinyl, downloads have changed things considerably but also the way that music is consumed. Nowadays there’s a general apathy towards paying for music across the board what with things like You Tube, Spotify, Last FM etc but you have to embrace those platforms and try and move forward.
I would say that 90% of the money in music is in performance now which makes it difficult if you don’t want to be out on the road DJing 2 or 3 nights a week which I think is a real shame as it definitely changes the dynamic of being a producer. Back in the day people like Dillinja, Dom, Photek were full time producers, not DJs and I think that shows in the music they wrote back then, nowadays producers are DJs and having that experience of playing records in a club definitely effects the music you write.
2. As Phobia and as head of Coded Music, you have been working fairly extensively with Jubei, a firm Organic favorite. Tracks like "Coopers Dream" and "Payload" are perfect examples of the functional floor smashers coming out of the camp, harking back to the late 90's techstep heyday. What are the influences that have helped develop and define the Coded sound?
I was a massive Ed Rush & Optical, Ram, Bad Company fan back around 1999/2000 so like a lot of people around my age that is a huge influence, that was when drum & bass was at it’s peak for me – albums like Sleepwalk and Wormhole still to this day remain some of my all time favourite LPs. Moving forward I’ve always loved what Fierce and Quarantine have done so that’s another big influence. Outside of drum & bass I work in a record shop so hear all types of music all day, I’m really feeling people like Ramadanman, Headhunter, Scuba, Modeselektor, Various Production, Redlight loads really all that tends to go into the melting pot when I’m in the studio.
3. Outside of Coded you've been running your club night Turbulence at Digital for 13 years. Running a long term night at the club once quoted by Goldie as the north's answer to Fabric has got to give you an intimate understanding of what works on the dance floors. Does this background lend to your production process in the studio? What has been Turbulence's legacy on you as an artist?
As I was saying in one of the previous questions, it definitely influences the production process. Playing at a night the size of Turbulence with the type of guests we have on, you see what works on a more mainstream scale month in month out. But as an artist I am quite removed from a lot of the acts we put on at Turbulence, not to say that I don’t like the music they play, just that it isn’t the type of stuff I will go in the studio and write. Having said that, you put someone like Break or Spectrasoul on and once I listen to them play I’m itching to get back into the studio, so it works both ways. In terms of a legacy it’s left on me it’s probably that it’s taken 20 years off my life!
4. Newcastle isn't the most obvious place for drum & bass to be kicking off. Often artists will site their habitual surroundings as massive influences on what they do, Derrick May and J Dilla in Detroit, LFO in Sheffield and Krust and Roni Size in Bristol. Can the same be said for Newcastle?
Yeh I mean people don’t realise the history the city has really. The older ones amongst us will remember Hidden Agenda the early Metalheadz artists & Elementz Of Noize. The problem is a lot of people tend to move away but Original Sin (Generation Dub), Taxman, Craggz & Parallel, Sato are all from the local area, and Paul Jubei was living here for a while so there are a healthy amount of producers from here. Whether it influences the music I’m not sure, it’s a small, intimate city with a really nice pace of living and Geordies are some of the friendliest people around so maybe that comes across in the music?! The beauty of it is that everyone knows one another and everyone gets on, no petty beef etc that you might get elsewhere.
5. What can we look forward to coming up for Phobia, Coded Music and Turbulence?
I’ve recently just moved studio, so there is finally more music after a bit of a break. I’ve just finished a remix for Hardware and the next two Coded releases are done and dusted, so just more of the same really – I want to get Coded releasing more regularly but it’s a case of whether the music is ready to go for it and I don’t want to just put things out for the sake of it. The next Coded release is a track by myself, Jubei & Sato called ‘Atlas’ and a track by me and Sato called ‘Jitter’ which should be out by the end of the year.
Turbulence wise we have a really busy next few months with Hospitality, Marky, Rockwell, Nero, Friction, Logistics, Spectrasoul and more all playing at the club so it’s onwards and upwards.