In conversation with one of our favorite techno innovators among the broad spectrum of dystopian, industrial-laden electronics. We have met Berghain & Khidi resident, Phase Fatale, in Milan to briefly take some pictures before his gig at Tempio del Futuro Perduto and for a chat about his musical influences, his “romantic and expressive” project “Soft Crash”, the recent collaboration with The Soft Moon and the 5 years anniversary of his label BITE Records.
Listen to Soundscapes vol.95, curated by Phase Fatale
What is your current state of mind? Where are you answering this interview from?
I have my mind on the Berghain closing set this weekend and thinking what tracks and vibe to play. Feeling in a more classic techno mood. I’m answering from Milan (here for the gig at Tempio del Futuro Perduto).
Why Phase Fatale? Where does your pseudonym come from?
I chose the name from some albums I was listening to while on a European tour with my band. So it comes from the 80s Parisian punk band Ausweis. My first tracks came out on some tape compilations 10 years ago and we needed a name for my new electronic project at the time.
What was the first concert/rave you went to? Whether it’s a band or DJ you went to see.
My first concert was The Cure over 10 years ago. And, one of my first techno parties was Regis and Silent Servant in New York.
How was the first time you came to Berlin? How did you feel as a musician in Europe in comparison to the USA?
I came to Berlin the first time 10 years ago doing a semester abroad when I was in university. I also came together with my Dream Affair bandmate Abby Echiverri then, and we did a few shows in Germany and France. I could see how at that time there was a bigger reception and more potential for our music overseas. However now, there’s a bigger scene on both sides of the pond.
You sometimes talked about the appeal that “darker” music has for you, what did you grow up listening to? And how was the path to arrive where you are today.
I grew up in a musical family so was exposed to different kinds of music at a young age already. I was listening to not just darker stuff but a range of more alternative sounds from shoegaze to coldwave and minimal synth to black metal. I think music that is more melancholic resonates more with me even upbeat as I feel more connected to it. However, I do not consider it dark and am wary of this assumption. It actually gives me energy and happiness, and I think so for others too. Even in all the music I grew up with, there were many electronic elements and direct correlations to the dance music world. Take New Order or DAF for example. So I was always into programming drum machines and synths early on. Then I started to get more into labels like Downwards and such that connected those dots already.
How did you end up being a resident at Berghain? How is it that a New Yorker who played in a post-punk band got to be one of Berlin’s most innovative industrial techno DJs?
It was a natural progression. When I moved to Berlin, a lot of us from the wave scene were doing our parties like Fleisch and then going to Berghain afterwards.
There was a mixture between techno and our music that bubbled up to what people were playing at major clubs. I DJed the first time at Berghain in 2015 and eventually released on their sublabel Unterton in 2017, then Ostgut Ton the next year followed by joining their agency and doing a full album. The club influenced me as a place that pushes forward techno music in a more austere way and created a space in which you can be really free and yourself.
How is your typical day in Berlin? When you are not making music, how do you like to spend your free time?
I don’t have much free time between the label, production, and touring, but I honestly love making music whenever. That rarely feels like work. But otherwise, I like getting deep into cinema or an exhibition or playing something like the new Zelda.
This year marks the 5th anniversary of your label BITE. How did it come about, was it out of necessity to be able to release your own music the exact way you wanted to?
We started the label not just to release my own music, but the main goal was to try to grow the network of artists around me doing cool stuff that didn’t necessarily have a home for their music. It was cutting edge but wasn’t necessarily just techno or just left-field stuff, so then there’s BITE to create a community around. I think after 5 years the label has really found its sonic and visual aesthetic represented in the new VA.
‘Italo body music’ is how you refer to your new music project with Pablo Bozzi “Soft Crash”. To me, seems that there’s a certain melancholy or romanticism and much more than italo-disco infused in this project. How did it all come about and what plans do you have in mind for it?
We released Pablo’s first solo EP on BITE 3 years ago which is when he really defined this italo body sound that he’s associated with. We also both have a mutual love for all things synth-wave and italo and decided to do a project together. It contains characteristics from both of us still with his strong panache for melody and hooks but with a bit harder and more experimental underbelly. It’s definitely romantic and expressive. After our album last year, we have plans for another release later this year.
Can you talk about your recent remix of The Soft Moon to release on the legendary label Sacred Bones, out this spring?
I toured with them years ago opening with my live act and before then we knew each other both playing at Wierd or SXSW. Their music fits the aesthetic of me and the other artists on the label. So when the idea came to do a new remix EP at a happenstance meeting in Warsaw at a gig after their show, we immediately decided to do it. When done right, it’s interesting to combine live elements of subversive guitar and vocals intelligently and stylishly into dance music.
You have a relentless headline tour in 2023 with lots of BITE showcases including Berghain 5 years weekender, passing through Asia, Australia, Europe, US, South America and so on. How are you preparing to this crazy intense schedule?
Being fit and clear helps as there’s more work to do than just showing up at the showcases. We also need to curate the lineup, make artwork, promote and more. Luckily, we have a great team to do the label together and arrange the showcases. And still I always want to find time to work on music as it’s important and therapeutic for me.
Do you think of the people on the dance floor when producing? What is your producing path like? Do you think of a concept or idea before making a track?
If I’m producing a techno track, I do have the dancefloor in mind. Something that fits the groove and sound design to which I would like to dance myself. I also have the idea of the power and frequency spectrum of the PA, especially a powerful one. I want to design a track that moves all the frequencies in the system in a balanced yet strong way creating a sort of immersive and psychedelic feeling even. So I usually have an idea of a certain sequence, rhythm or sound in my head playing. Then I use the synths to translate that into reality.
If you could make a collaboration with anyone in the whole world (dead or alive) who would it be?
Something that you are listening to on loop right now.
Something by HTRK.
Phase Fatale / The Last Everything
Artist: Phase Fatale / @phasefatale
Photographer: Marco Giuliano / @marcogiulianoph
Stylist: Anca Macavei / @ancamacavei
Fashion: A1923 / @augusta1923 & HG.LF / @hg.lf
Location: Tempio del Futuro Perduto / @tempiodelfuturoperduto
Interview: Agustina Passeron / @anit_sugar