Music & Interview
hello Robin. nice to have you for our small interview which is accompanied with an exclusive mix. Let‘s start with your childhood and youth. Where were you born and grew up? When did you get in touch with music the first time? What kind of music did you enjoy being a teenage boy? When did you discover techno?
I grew up in a very small village on the outskirts of Brussels. I was literally surrounded by cows, fields and had one bus a day to go to the nearest city. That was until I hit the age of 15 and both my grandfathers died in the same summer. My parents decided to move near Aalst in order to take care of their mothers who were left all by themselves. You could say I spent the bigger part of my adolescent years in Aalst. I had an amazing and careless youth on which I reflect in a melancholic way. Music has always been a pretty big part of my life. I remember my dad playing the piano for me and my sister when we were kids. He also owned a collection of “strange” synthesizer music which he played during weekends. I didn’t get that kind of music back then and laughed at him. Nowadays the bigger part of this collection is at my place. At the age of about 7 years old I started to take music theory classes and learned how to play xylophone, marimba, timpani, drums and so on for the following 8 years. It was my dream to become a professional percussionist. All of this determined my taste in music in a very wide variety, but it would be a shame not to mention the tons of skate videos I watched when I was a teenager. I got to know the best rock, metal, rnb, hip hop, electronic music etc. through those videos. From The Strokes to Jedi Mind tricks, my 250MB mp3 was something else. My interest for techno is something that evolved along my interest for electronic music in general. Later on I noticed there are a lot of drummers/percussionists who got into techno and it makes kind of sense because you basically do the same thing on another level. By experimenting with rhythms, sounds and textures you create a certain kind of groove and this why I love the genre so much.
(promo pic of Phara)
Your career started with the release of “Next Of Kin” on Black Sun Records in 2016, an album. Usually young artists have to release several EPs before they find a label that “risks” an album release. How came it up to this? Did you try to release EPs before it or was it your wish to start with the album? How did you get in touch with the label? Afterwards you also released EPs e.g. on labels like Planet Rhythm, Stockholm Ltd. and Sonntag Morgen. Is your process for producing an album different from the one for EPs? How does it look like? With which elements do you start the production and what are your inspirations?
I didn’t approach it as an album really, so I consider it more like a kind of “double EP” personally. It’s a compilation of my first steps into making techno. Literally the first techno tracks I ever made using the old faithful Korg Electribe EMX-1 and a MicroKorg alongside Ableton. I sent my demo tracks to a handful of labels including Black Sun and got immediate response, resulting in “the album”. I was super excited because Black Sun is a label that kickstarted a lot of careers (e.g. Sunil Sharpe, Blawan, AnD,…) and it matched my envision for what I had in mind with “Phara”. The labelmanager and head of Ready Made Distribution, Tony, who is pretty known in the Berlin scene appeared to be a very nice guy and gave me the opportunity to get an unknown person’s music out in the form of “an album”. I didn’t know, but later on he told me that Silent Servant took care of the artwork which was the icing on the cake.
(snippets of “Next Of Kin”, BSRLP01)
Apropos productions. You just delivered a remix for Border One‘s EP on Escapism. Do you enjoy working on stuff initially created by someone else? How do you start with remixing? Is/are there any artist/s you would like to make a remix for? Any specific things about the one for BO?
Remixing is one of the hardest things to do for me, that’s why I don’t remix everything. I have to hear in which direction my remix would be going when listening to it from the first time. The main goal is to have fun in the studio and not to force out a “product” that frustrated you most of the time. I generally work a lot longer on a remix than I do on my “own tracks”. I’ve always loved Steven’s productions and even collaborated with him in the past for Rapid Eye Movement so I knew chances were pretty high I was going to like it.
(full stream of Border One’s “Restive” remixed by Phara, ESCAPISM006)
You perform under the moniker Phara. What does it mean? How did you find it?
Named after the most hideous sweatshirt I ever bought in my life. A gold Pharaoh, that was printed all over the sleaves and body. Really gangsta. It was laying on the floor when Black Sun reminded me for the 5th time they needed a name to put on the record. Still don’t know what came to mind when I ordered it, but luckily never wore it.
Above I already mentioned Border One. Since recently you both were announced to join the Voltage Festival agency. I guess you weren’t a stranger to the Voltage family? What is your connection with the festival and what can we expect from it?
Parallel Circuit who started Voltage Festival was the first to contact me and to guide me into the scene. It came to Steven’s (PC) ears I was going to release on Black Sun, so he approached me with the question to join the project as an artist. Voltage already existed before I started to make music under the Phara moniker, but you can say they were there from day 1 for me. All of the artists at Voltage grew alongside each other with a different sound, different methods, styles and identities, though still with a like-minded attitude and vision on music. With the Voltage record label, which launched last summer, it took things to another level. If everything goes well, I’ll be having an appearance on it with a full EP to be released this year of which I’m very excited.
(after movie of the Voltage Festival 2019)
Belgium. For me it is one of the countries were Electronic Body Music was born (Front 242 etc) that had a big influence on the European techno. But there is also a nice “modern” techno scene. What do you think about the New Beat /EBM scene and its influence? How would you describe the scene and situation of electronic music in Belgium nowadays?
Those were the days where Belgium flourished I guess. Our country had its own musical identity and people from all over Europe came here to party 5 days straight in subwoofered Volkswagen Golf cars. Sadly enough I can’t talk from experience, but I must have watched every documentary concerning New Beat and early 90’s Belgian rave by now. The musical relevance and influence Belgium has/had on electronic is incredible. For such a small country you can state we delivered a sure amount of musical heritage throughout the years. In the end a lot of clubs lost the fight with police and the epic era of Belgian nightlife came to an end. Something we recognize nowadays with the pretty recent “temporary” closing of Kompass in Ghent because of a drug casualty. It’s kind of sad how Belgian politics approach these kinds of issues when you compare it to other countries or progressive cities like Amsterdam or Berlin who acknowledge these kinds of subjects and don’t want to hide them by running away or closing them down like it never happened. Nonetheless our shitty nightlife politics, there are a lot of good things happening in Belgium. Everyone knows the big female techno giants, but there’s a lot of fresh talent, ready to be discovered in here. It may sound a little patriotic, but I genuinely hope Belgium will once again get a sound and color of its own but we’re heading for the right direction. In terms of clubbing or festivals there are C12 in Brussels and Voltage Festival who in my opinion don’t follow the herd, but try to book new refreshing things with a strong focus on quality and not quantity. Something we don’t take for granted anymore here.
(promo pic of Phara)
Talking about old and influential music. Please name 10 tracks/records (of any genre) that had a big impact on your music taste. Why are they important for you?
In random order. …
01. Murders by John Frusciante
Catching rails and grinding curbs with an invisible deck. Legendary ‘Girl – Yeah right’ intro.
02. Disco Rout by Legowelt
One of my first loves and all time hero producer.
03. Asphyx by Sterac
Couldn’t have a favourites list without including anything from Steve Rachmad.
04. Idioteque by Radio Head
Classic that still give me the shivers everytime.
05. Narc by Interpol
15 years old and one of my first discoveries as a picky teenager.
06. Turbine by Clarence G
07. Clouds by Gaussian Curve
If I would marry someday, one of these tracks would be the first dance. Amazing (and probably my favorite) album in this world.
08. Flesh by A Split Second
Considered to be the first new beat record ever made by slowing it down by playing it at 33 RPM. Classic.
09. Our Darkness by Anne Clark
There has to be passion.
10. All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix
Almost – Greg Lutzka. Used to bingewatch skatevideos at that time.
(stream of “Our Darkness” by Anne Clark)
We met at Arena last year. How do you prepare your set for a night? Do you follow strictly an idea while playing or do you let it flow? What is important at a club for you to have a good night?
I’m a “let it flow” type of guy. I don’t prepare much, but I make sure I know my music when I play and in which kind of situations it can be used. With nowadays technology it’s very easy for dj’s to download a bunch of tracks and play them all along without any feeling. If you know your tracks and when to make a move throughout the entire set, magical things can happen. That’s what I like about playing records instead of CDJ’s; they make me lazy without wanting or knowing it. Record players keep me connected and focused. I’m sure possibilities are endless with CDJ’s and I saw people like Setaoc Mass really juggling with it, but I don’t feel attracted to it that much. I could name a few criteria to have a good gig like a nice sound system, great lighting and so on, but one of the things I like the most is a booth close to the crowd and not on a silly stage with flashy lights on top of you. I don’t look up at the crowd that often, because it makes me a little bit uncomfortable, but I can assure you that one of the best feelings you can experience as a dj is to feel the atmosphere from an energetic crowd crawling on top of you. You connect in a different way.
(promo pic of Phara)
Following the question above: do you have some favorite clubs? Some where you wanna play? Please tell us some funny or extreme experiences during your tours?
I still am at the beginning of my career, but I’ve already met so many great people and visited great places because of what I love to do. And for that I am super grateful. We’ll see which places or people I encounter along the road. I don’t know if I can already laugh at the situation that you’re about to hear, but in some kind of way I think it was funny. Murphy’s law at its best. I was invited by the Oecus guys to play at About Blank in Berlin last year. For starters I overslept, missed my flight and had to book an 8 hour train ride to Berlin next to some crying baby. With a slightly negative mindset and a head ache, I arrived in sunny Berlin and met up with some friends. About a week before my girlfriend decided to join us because we hadn’t seen our friends in Berlin for a long time now. She booked a flight, but since it was this last minute she had to get a connection flight in Stuttgart. In the meanwhile I joined my friends for dinner on a terrace, was having a drink and a laugh until my girlfriend called with the message her connection flight got cancelled because of a bad storm. She got stuck in Stuttgart for the night, crying over the phone because she was looking so much forward to see everyone and to have a good time. (Note: she barely cries, but when she does, my heart always shatters in 10 000 pieces, it’s the worst). Slightly depressed, but dazed by my friends’ comforting wines I arrived at About Blank. Didn’t play very well which fed my negative spiral, so I called it a night right after my set. The day after I was planning on meeting up with some friends at Tempelhofer so I took a shower and prepared to leave. All set, I took my bag, looked for my wallet, kept on looking, but eventually never found it. I realized that I had lost it or it got stolen, which meant I got stuck in Berlin without any money, passport, etc. Belgian embassy was closed during the weekend so I couldn’t get a passport to fly back to Belgium. Fed up with everything I decided to buy another train ticket from Berlin to Belgium to leave the next day. The same evening I went out for a drink, got some shots because wine didn’t do the job anymore and walked into a very intimate concert of a wave performance by Laura Krieg. I bought her cassette instantly and it still is one of my current favorites one year later. She appeared to be completely unknown, but she could easily be on a Minimal Wave compilation. After another 8 hour train ride I arrived back home the next day.
(full stream of Phara’s “Velvet V.”, PRRUKBLK044)
Producing & DJing.. for many artists it is difficult to make a living from the money earn that way. Are you a full-time artist or do you also work in a “normal” profession? What was your dream job while being a little kid?
I always dreamt about a career in music when I was a kid. Back then my main focus was to be a professional percussionist, but along the way the dream about making a career in electronic music surfaced from time to time as well. To this day it still is a dream, but I don’t always dare to say it out loud. I keep on doing what I do with more passion and devotion than ever. I just let it happen. I believe that when you’re chasing a career or money in a subject like music you could get into a loop, full of pressure and forced ideas which aren’t fruitful for any creative mindset.
(full stream of Phara’s “Bells” which was released by Voltage)
Already coming to an end. Let us know some of your future plans. What’s coming next? Any nice releases scheduled? Or special performances?
2019 was a pretty calm year when it came to releases. I released the Velvet V. EP on Planet Rhythm which did quite a lot for me frankly. I received so many great reactions to that EP. 2020 will look a little bit busier, starting with my debut on Eartoground February 1st and lots will follow after that. I’m very much looking forward to what this year is going to bring.
Phara’s “Road To Manilla EP” on EarToGround Records
Phara’s “Velvet V. EP” on Planet Rhythm
Phara’s “Rosemany EP” on Projekts
Phara’s “Mind Inside EP” on Planet Rhythm
Border One’s EP “Restive” w/ Phara remix on Escapism
sampler “Zener Diode” w/ Phara track on Voltage
Form And Function