Interview with Dub Phizix

From an interview I did with Dub Phizix for the Manchester MULE:

Dub Phizix is a Manchester based drum and bass artist, so this is not the most political interview in the world. Interesting stuff about the Manchester scene though.

On 19 December Manchester’s own Dub Phizix and Skeptical released Marka. With it’s hypnotic, creepy minimalism and atmospheric groove, it’s clocked up over 400,000 hits on YouTube and become an instant favourite for drum and bass fans. Last week, MULE caught up with Dub Phizix to see what he made of all the hype…

So how did the collaboration between you and Skeptical come about?

We’ve worked together for a little while now. We’ve done a few things on Ingredients, we did a “12 on dispatch and we did some stuff on Critical. So we’ve probably worked together for nearly 2 years: Skeptical is my partner in crime though we’ve only actually been in the studio together once – we’ve made about 20 tunes together – but we’ve only actually sat together once.

What we usually do is one of us will start a tune and send the other the parts. So he might send me five folders and I’ll send him five with the beginnings of a tune – a bit of bass, a bit of drums etc – and it’ll go from there. We’ll take the parts we like, change a few parts, and it progresses like that.

With this tune he sent me a file and it sat there for a bit. Then one night I was in the studio with Johnni and we started working on it. He put the bar on and it was about a four-hour session in the end.  The thing I’ve always liked about working with Skeptical is that if I send him any of my parts, I know the tune is going to come back better than I sent it. He’s gonna add bits, change bits around and all that and it will always improve it. It’s nice working with someone who inspires you and you can trust 100 per cent to make it better.

What inspired Marka?

Nothing specific. On my part, it was just listening to the parts Ash [Skeptical] sent me – the half speed part and the ragga clap – Johnni had the bar and we went from there. We’ve always had one eye on doing something different, but without being too contrived about it. At that point, we thought “this hasn’t been done so let’s try that.” Obviously the lyrics are clash talk so there’s the inspiration for that.

People often make links between your music and film soundtracks. What do you think about the comparison?

Yeah, you’re trying to paint a picture with the music. Not consciously, but, I watch a lot of films and film music is sometimes the best music. It’s not trying to be cool or anything but is purely there to set a mood, and that’s the best kind of music, where you’re trying to generate some kind of feeling, or set a tone. Sometimes it comes from the oddest shit. There’s actually some atmospheric sounds from Marka that come from a weird old Polish film called Seven Days of Night.  I got about half way through and thought, “This is weird but the soundtrack is great!” So I recorded the whole thing in.

What do you think about the reception to Marka?

It’s been mad. It’s more than we could ever imagine could happen. Obviously it’s been great and we’re absolutely over the moon. When we finished it we thought it was just weird and some people might like but a lot of people would probably hate it. The response has been absolutely overwhelming though. We didn’t think you could make a tune with that kind of reach anymore. In a sea of mass promotion where anyone can make something it’s so hard to get noticed so for a tune to take over social media for a day like it did was just mental. It’s all a bit odd because you think that if and when it happens it’ll never happen to you.

It’s like when you talk to older people about how they got their job – they just turned up and asked for it – and it seems like that with some older bands: they just play a couple of shows and they get signed. It seems like a lot more work today.

I used to read that kind of stuff – ‘cause I’ve been doing this 11 years – so I used to think, “How have you done that?” To me that doesn’t seem possible. I’ve been in the same places where you said you’ve been and got a job and I didn’t get a job…am I just shit? But I guess you’ve got to just live with that. I’m quite proud of the fact that I stuck to my guns, I’ve been here all this time, doing it, and finally gotten somewhere.

What do you think about the scene in Manchester?

For me, Manchester is the most inspiring place in the world to be.  We’ve got everything here from musicians, producers, DJs, MCs, graphic designers, great clubs, video people, web designers, press people, PR people, clothes designers. You name it, we’ve got it. The problem is, at least not since the days of Madchester, has the whole of Manchester come together and said “right, let’s get together and do this” probably.

We’re outside of London where all the industry has traditionally been, and being a little city in the North it’s very hard for us to be on that circuit. The only way we’re going to get anywhere is by having our own circuit. Obviously there are some great things up here but now we’re all working together and it’s starting to be a bit more conducive. We’ve got the Estate UK thing, originally Broke N’English’s label, but now it’s a group thing with Skittles, Chimpo and Fox, T man, Sparks, Ellis Meade, myself and James from Example Media at the helm– there’s a really strong little unit there where it’ll be a great thing if we do it properly. At the moment it’s just a bunch of mates trying to support each other but hopefully it could be something bigger if we work hard enough.

What was interesting was that the last mixmag had myself, Skittles, DRS, Strategy, Hit and Run and a few other bits. Someone tweeted something about how strong Manchester was looking at the moment. It’s great that people are saying that but we were thinking “wait ‘til they realise that we’re all the same crew”.

What is it about the city that inspires that sort of thing?

It’s the size partly. Everyone knows everyone. But it’s got a strong musical identity and a rich heritage. The people, the place, the rain, everything – it’s an inspiring place to be. We’ve got so many people as well, so many creeds and cultures, it’s so culturally rich.

Is there much conflict between staying independent versus going with big labels?

I don’t think major labels are something you can turn down because at the end of the day we’ve all got to put food on the table and they can guarantee that. But there’s a certain romance to staying independent. With Marka we didn’t use any of the usual channels. We just put it up on YouTube. I’m quite proud of the fact we didn’t get a remix of a big name, we didn’t go to a massive PR company, didn’t pay tonnes of people to push it in all these different places. It was just a natural thing.

What do you think of the Warehouse Project?

It’s cool for what it is and it puts the city on the map. Some of the acts they have I think are wicked but it’s not totally my kind of thing. I’ve only been there once – make of that what you will…

What should we expecting from you this year?

I’m all over this year. Pretty much every city in the UK, quite a few European dates, festivals over the summer. Check out the fanpage for all the listings. Release-wise is a “12 on Critical Music called Codec with Never beenft Fox on the other side. After that there’s a “12 on Samurai which is a collab’ with Skeptical. One side featuring T Man, the other featuring Sparks. There’s also a number of remixes due and some stuff at different tempos. Again, check the fanpage for details on those as and when.

So who haven’t you mentioned that we should be keeping a look out for at the moment?

For me, Chimpo and Fox are two of the most underrated musicians about. Do yourself a favour and check them out.


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