Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Philippa. Let’s start with the brand new label you have launched: At Peace Music. Tell us about the meaning behind the title and the decision to start your own imprint?
Thank you 🙂 There is a personal story behind the label name At Peace, of course, but I like the idea of it meaning whatever it needs to mean for people. The decision to start the label came from a few factors.. Really it was about timing – it’s time for all this music I’ve been sitting on to get out into the world.
The debut release is from yourself: Pronoia EP featuring three emotionally charged productions. There is a real sense of musicality weaving throughout the music and I was wondering about the artists who have influenced you most over the years?
Yeah that’s an easy one – I’m heavily influenced by 70s disco and soul (am currently a little obsessed with Leon Ware and anything produced by Chic in the late 70s / early 80s), and Detroit deep house, the likes of Theo Parrish, Rick Wade, Moodymann. I’ve also had a huge long term love affair with Chicago House, and I’m loving the resurgence of quality French deep house right now. I value song writing as a skill – by that I mean an expressed love of melody and harmony, and an understanding of the sweet magic that can come from a properly executed harmonic hook… weirdly I think it’s pretty rare to come across it done well in house music, but with Detroit house there’s often a soul based bluntness – a simplicity – that is super compelling. I also listen to a lot of classical music, and am a big fan of Sakamoto, as well as 20th century French composers such as Ravel and Debussy.
You relocated from your native New Zealand to Berlin a number of years ago. Tell us about that decision and how would you compare life living in the two locations?
I used to describe the feeling of living in New Zealand in winter (European summer) as the rest of the world being at a party you hadn’t been invited to. NZ is an amazing country – at the bottom of the world. It’s geographically isolated. I knew I had to come to Europe to be part of the huge international electronic music scene, and in the end it was an easy decision but a difficult journey. The culture shock was immense, it’s taken years to find my feet. I coped by throwing myself into music production – it saved me. Berlin couldn’t be more different from Auckland – politically, socially, culturally, historically, musically. It’s given me the space to grow and focus – I’m really grateful to have been able to live here.
Can you talk us through how you produced one of the EP’s tracks? From how you created the music, to any favourite pieces of software/ hardware you always like to refer to? And how you like to approach life in the studio?
I’m an early morning music writer – ideally I spend the first three or four hours of the day in music production. I tend to start off with samples, used mostly for harmonic inspiration, and from which chords are built. I draw from jazz, blues and disco mostly.. Sometimes the sample becomes a non-removable part of the tune – but often I pull the sample out completely. Once the actual tune writing has come together I move into vintage studio spaces at the Funkhaus – happily I have access to these amazing studios via the school I teach at.
Been enjoying listening to your recent Mix For Kate amongst others on Soundcloud. Can you talk us through how you put that mix together and about your choice of music for it?
Glad you like it 🙂 The mix was made for a very dear (and inspirational) friend who recently celebrated a significant birthday back home, which for obvious reasons I couldn’t attend. Kate used to throw a party in Auckland many moons ago and I was one of the resident DJs – as such there are classic records thrown into the mix which I knew she’d love, such as Mood II Swing “Do It Your Way”, DJ Sneak’s “Feel Your Body Talkin” and Moodymann’s “Shades Of Jae” – which was a massive record in Auckland back in the day.
How did you first get into producing? And can you tell us about your time teaching music, and what that has in turn taught you?
I’ve DJ’d for over twenty years – having begun in the late 90s – and DJ’ing is a serious passion. But when I got to Europe I didn’t have the 2-4 gigs a week I’d had for fifteen years in NZ, and that space freed me up to focus on music production. I was also teaching at dBs Music, and one of the amazing things about teaching is what you learn – the constant upskilling. There’s no doubt that teaching electronic music production has given me a firm skill base to create from, and I’m really grateful for that. DJ’ing is fun in the moment stuff – the right dancefloor with the right DJ at the right time can be pure unbridled magic.. But music production is a deeper more rewarding long term gift. I’m happiest when I’m productive in the studio, it’s by far and away my favourite thing to do.
What is your favourite instrument? Do you own one?
I own a Prophet REV2. But my fav instrument (whilst not technically an instrument) is probably the voice – which is the focus of the MA in Creative Music Production I’m currently undertaking.. Which I guess is slightly odd – as I don’t use the human voice much with House. Watch this space I guess.