Pic: Chelone Wolf

Philth Moments In Time Interview

Philth released the first part of his debut album Moments In Time late last year on Dispatch to widespread acclaim. The album showcases an artist on top of his game and displays the full range of the Philth sound while exploring new depths of emotion and ambient soundtrack-inspired works. With part two out soon we sat down with Philth recently to find out all about it.

You’ve released well over 100 tracks now, so how come it’s taken you so long to release your debut album?
I feel like an album is a very special moment in an artist’s career, especially your debut album. A lot of my early work was written in bursts and made sense to put out as EPs or singles. I didn’t want to rush the natural progress of my career (until last year I also had a permanent teaching job) or try to force myself to do an album too early. It was also important to find the right home for the project, again it had to be organic rather than making an album then trying to find the biggest label.

It wasn’t until I had done two EPs for Dispatch and developed a strong personal and musical connection with Ant that everything fell into place. I became part of a label and crew that represented the sound I love, where I could truly express myself with no restrictions or pressure. When Ant asked me to write an LP in late 2016 I had a catalogue of tracks ready and was given the green light to take as long as I wanted, and be true to myself. The end result is an album that shows everything I love in DnB, and comes from the heart, at a time in my life where I am confident as a musician and ready to step up a level as a DJ and artist.

What can we expect on it?
As mentioned above, the album features everything I love within DnB and, to me, that means deep tunes, soul tunes, classic liquid vibes, darker techstep and 1999 influences, jungle influences, modern minimal cuts. The album is an expression of everything in my record collection, first as a fan then as a working DJ. When I play club sets I try to take the crowd through a range of vibes and I wanted my album to show this. Personally, I don’t like when a DnB artist does an album but it’s just 12 variations of the same style – an album needs to be diverse and I’m grateful that Ant gave me the time and freedom to demonstrate my full range.

Who have you collaborated with on it?
There are quite a few collabs across the two parts of the LP, but they all came about in a very organic way. Most of the sessions involved a carefully planned dinner, a lot of chatting and laughing, and then a few hours of magic catching a vibe in the studio. I only collab with people that I have a personal connection with and all the collaborators are either old friends whose careers have grown with mine or new talents that caught my attention with their amazing voices and have become close friends as we continue to work together. We got a bunch of us together to celebrate Part 1 over food and wine, and there will be more of the same for Part 2 – it’s a family thing.

So, the producers are Facing Jinx, HLZ, Quadrant & Iris, and Wreckless – people I have known throughout my musical journey and will continue to cook, eat and make music with all my life. The vocalists are my close friends Collette Warren and Sense, who I love to work with and are very much on the same page as me… and two relatively new vocalists Becca Jane Grey and Ella Sopp. They both approached me wanting to write some soulful music and their voices and personalities are perfect for my vibes – deep smokey voices and bubbly fun people.

The final collaborators are the visual artists…. London From The Rooftops is a fellow North-London junglist with many mutual friends from the pirate days (shout out to the Origin FM family) and somebody I bonded with at Sun & Bass. When I was ready to work on the art I had no other plans, I met James in Finsbury Park, talked about life for an hour then had a five-minute chat about the album and played him some bits, and he was in straight away. We actually worked on the images together in his studio, choosing the crop from a larger photo, working on the colour balance with me asking how to “make it more orange”.

When we had the image ready, LD Pix stepped in to work on the layout and nailed it with a less-is-more approach to the text and logos. Chris is another good mate, I’ve played for him in Leeds a fair few times and he’s done all my earlier Dispatch art so he understands my musical and visual ethos. I can’t thank these two enough for creating such a beautiful visual package, for me it reflects the music perfectly.

Did you set out with a specific vision of what you wanted to do with the album?
My vision was to not get caught trying to make the ‘perfect banger’ but just to display all my influences as a DJ, and I also wanted to incorporate my love for funk, soul and film soundtracks. Many of the songs on the LP started out as ambient interludes, then suddenly I could hear the funk-breaks and bassline rolling in my head and quickly developed them into DnB tracks. So yeah, I do I feel like I achieved my initial goals – music across my spectrum of DnB, music with widescreen cinematic vibes and emotional depth. I wasn’t expecting to create a double album so that was a big bonus and allowed me the time and space to express the full range of moods. I never compare myself to other artists so I’m very satisfied with the work, it couldn’t be more ‘me’.

Is there an overarching concept or thematic motifs that unify the album for you?
The concept to take influence from films was developed further because I was studying for a Masters in composition at the time… listening and researching soundtrack techniques (homework – watch some films) led me to use motifs to link the pieces. So, for example, there is a Rhodes chord on the drop of the opening track ‘Gone’ that comes back on the intro of ‘Bodyclock’ before that track heads in a darker direction. There are other motifs and repeating sounds/patches that link more of the tracks and hopefully develop continuity across the two parts of the LP. I tried not to overdo it, I wanted to create a sense of coherence across the album, but it might not be until the fourth or fifth listen that it really clicks and the links become obvious…

How does working on albums compare with singles?
Albums give you the time and freedom to express yourself, but you also need to learn patience and have to believe in your music with more conviction…. You can write and release a single in a fairly short space of time, get it out there and move on to new projects, but with an album, you’re sitting on tunes for two, three years and need to have faith that your music has staying power. I’ll admit there were times when I second-guessed a few of the tunes, but Ant showed such belief in the project and didn’t cut anything once he’d signed it. So after doing 28 mixdowns, I took a little break where I didn’t listen to any of them at all. Then in the time leading up to the release, I listened to them with fresh ears and I fell back in love with the music. I’m not sure I want to do my next album immediately, but I loved the process of creating a body of work designed to last forever.

What’s the thought process behind the title Moments In Time?
That’s my approach in the studio – get in, close the door, find the spark of inspiration, and chase that vibe to express how I am feeling at that particular moment in time. Then, in the subsequent sessions, I force myself to never change a tune much from the initial vibe. Mixdowns take longer, but the first three hours is where the magic lives so I try to retain that first emotional expression.

So the album feels like a diary of my life in some ways…. During the time I wrote it I’ve been through some great times but also some big personal challenges, including a period where my mental health was poor and I wrote a lot of sad music. I didn’t want to come back to these tunes a year later and change the underlying moods. I wanted to leave it all out there and capture those moments forever.

You’ve released on lots of great labels over your career, why did you release it on Dispatch?
Simple answer – it feels like home and I know I can write and DJ my range of music without second-guessing myself, I can just be Phil. Longer answer – when I was first putting out tunes I started to go out to raves with a sort of research-head on and watched all the label bosses DJ, and Ant was my favourite by far and still is. He plays loads of classics that I also still play, and his dubs are the vibes I wish I had on my USBs! So I knew this was the right label for my sound, and have worked hard first to become part of the crew on merit, and now I’m in a position where Ant and my labelmates are close friends and we push each other forwards. I’m excited for the next five years!

Your launch party in London in December sounded like a special night…
I’ve done launches in the UK and Europe in winter 2019, culminating in a secret London launch with a team of the album artists in a super-intimate venue called AAJA, it’s like 50 capacity. Again it was a family affair, we ate dinner together before the show and most of the artists were there from the first to the last tune. And quite literally a family affair, my Mum and sister were both there and at one point my Mum was in the booth with me dancing – I think she wanted to go b2b!

At all my album launches I’ve tried to represent the album to the fullest. I request longer sets than usual and play deep, dark, hard, soul, jungle, minimal, tech. Plenty of classics as well as dubs, showing both my influences and my future. I opened in London with ‘Raven’ and ‘The Beginning’, and I closed with ‘Inner City Life’. It was one of my favourite sets of my life.

What other forthcoming gigs have you got coming up?
In January I’m taking the album back across the UK and Europe including Leeds, Fabric, Eindhoven, Ulm and Star Warz. There will be a second London launch to celebrate Part 2, with more of the album artists playing, rapping and singing live. Then further down the line, we are working on Australia/New Zealand and the USA. These tours are still in their early stages so if you’re reading this and would like me in your city then get in touch with the Bassic Agency and make it happen… I’ve added Factor 100 suncream to the Aussie rider as a precaution.

Tell us more about your music tuition business…
I worked for almost 10 years as a college lecturer and course-leader. It was very exciting and inspiring to help young people develop their skills and go on to achieve their dreams in the music industry – I am especially proud to have worked with Little Simz in my early years as a teacher, a lovely person and now a worldwide star.

But around a year ago I made the jump to freelance life and 1-1 tuition. Now I teach almost exclusively DnB students, my schedule changes week to week to suit my gigs and studio work, and I’m able to pass on the exact skills and knowledge you need to advance as a producer and as a professional in this scene. The most popular sessions are probably Sound Design or Composing, I’m being paid to teach my students the techniques I’ve developed across my career and it feels great.

In my last years as a college teacher I was so busy with my music career and I was constantly tired, grumpy and ended up getting ill due to stress. Making the switch has renewed my love for teaching and I enjoy every single lesson. I am very grateful to the students putting their faith in me and look forward to helping many more people develop their production skills in the coming years.

Anything else you want to tell us about?
Don’t ever put lamb on pizza. I had it once in a pub about five years ago and Emilio HLZ has never forgiven me. He doesn’t like it when I put Bolognese in pies either. Thanks to everyone who’s supported my album, I’m very excited for you all to hear Part 2!