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<12 months ago>

Ant Mulholland

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We Need To Talk About Main Phase

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We Need To Talk About Main Phase

It could be controversial to say that the UK garage scene has reemerged into the underground limelight over the past five years. Many ravers who have followed the scene intrinsically, will know it has played its part in fortifying British dance culture for the last three decades. More recently, its prominence through brands such as Keep Hush, Boiler Room, 23 Degrees and many others highlights the unstoppable wave UK garage and breakbeat culture is currently experiencing. 

One artist who has unquestionably added to this ever-evolving movement is one of Denmark’s finest exports, Adam Schierbeck. Otherwise known as Main Phase, the Copenhagen-based artist is widely known for his dark, two-step, flow within the UK bass scene. He can dip into his armoury and provide a wide range of sounds that accommodate a plethora of underground sub-genres within garage, breaks, and jungle. 

Having started his own label – ATW Records with rising producer Interplanetary Criminal, as well as having notable releases with ec2a, Warehouse Rave, & Hardline Sounds – it is safe to say that Main Phase is becoming a household name within the UK electronic dance community. The last three years have truly been a whirlwind for this multi-talented DJ, and producer. With a busy schedule of summer bookings in the pipeline, we wanted to check in with Main Phase and delve deeper into the facets that have built his career so far.    

Let’s start off by talking about the UK garage scene as a whole. Does it seem to you like there is a resurgence? Or is that the wrong word?

All throughout Europe I’ve seen small collectives and crews popping off. I’ve been doing garage and bass music from very young, I don’t think resurgence, per se, is the correct word. Globally, there’s been this highlight of music that isn’t necessarily super hardcore, but there’s always been a need for a scene that makes the mainstream and underground scenes collide- something for everyone. People have started to get the hang of the scene again, and it’s becoming more welcoming towards everyone. For instance, we are seeing more of the LGBTQ community within the garage scene. Back in the day garage, grime, and dubstep were extremely male-dominated, but I feel like the scene globally is getting where it needs to be. Obviously, the UK has by far the strongest culture, but me and Interplanetary Criminal just played New Zealand and Australia, and it was amazing – it goes to show you what the scene is achieving right now.

Leading me nicely to my next question, how was the New Zealand & Australia tour? Were you surprised by the global reach?   

We did go in thinking that this would be amazing. We were told we could’ve easily stayed for another week, or two, because of the demand- so we knew it was going to be special. But we didn’t know it would be as crazy as it was! The reception was overwhelming. I was surprised by how great it felt to be there. It felt like the UK post-lockdown when everyone was just hungry for a good time. The thing about going somewhere that far is that it feels more special to the audience when you get there – we were in tune with what they were currently listening to, which made this even bigger to them because we’re artists coming from so far away. Especially when you have Interplanetary Criminal with you, one of the pioneers of the scene right now- and me as well in a way. It really goes to show how broad the scene is. 

Sounds amazing! Why don’t we rewind a little and look at how you became Main Phase?

I had a kid and a job, and music was very much on the side – I wanted my music to replace my job. I started to really develop as an artist and I saw that I could make money off of it. It no longer was just for fun. I was in a position where I had these three things in my life, so I quit my day job- allowing me to focus on my family, be a family man and do music full-time. I now had so much time to make new tunes and spend time with my family. I found myself having time off on the weekdays, whilst working on the weekends. I’ve taken it to a place I could never imagine. It’s just been so great ever since I made this decision.

So what influenced you as Main Phase?

I started collecting garage vinyl when I was 14. I was always on Youtube watching Rinse.FM videos. There were places online where I could just be a bystander to the scene, without actually being a part of it. I never went raving, I was never really a part of the scene in that sense. But in some ways, I felt like I was really paying even more attention to it. I was keeping up-to-date with all the tunes and buying all those Rinse.FM mix CDs, from back in the day. I was a nerd when it came to the scene. The main difference for me was that I didn’t grow up with the culture physically around me, so I had to be on top of it through other avenues. For instance, I’d run home from school to catch stuff like the Youngsta Rinse.FM session, and things like that. Back then you really had to dig for this stuff, now it’s way more accessible. In the UK it always seemed like being a DJ, or producer was perceived as being cool. Whereas growing up in Copenhagen it wasn’t.

And looking at where you are now, how do you see yourself within the scene? 

I’ve been into music for around 15 years now, I’ve gone into all types of genres and scenes — but the Main Phasething marked me going back into garage, I was so in sync with what I was doing. I used all this knowledge I picked up over the years and have put it into my music now, as Main Phase. I do feel blessed to be part of building a scene in which people can flourish. All the groundwork has paid off. All the names in the industry like myself, Interplanetary Criminal, Bluetoof, Dr.Dubplate, Frazer Ray, and so many other amazing artists have done so much for UK Garage through hard work over the course of many years. It goes to show if you’ve got that back catalogue of knowledge and real genuine interest, then that is what makes DJs and producers special. We all came from the same first step and then we went our separate ways to become ourselves, we are still so intertwined — but it takes time to develop. When I made my Main Phase SoundCloud, I remember being way more influenced by the people around me in comparison to the older heads. I was listening to the likes of Soundbwoy Killah (formerly know as Frazer Ray), or some of Interplanetary Criminal’s older tunes. Me and Interplanetary Criminal were always sending tunes to one another. He was my biggest influence, and I know I was one of his. We were pushing each other with this constant back and forth.      

As a Danish-based artist, let’s look at how you established yourself in the UK scene. 

So my first one in the UK was one I did with 23 Degrees, who I’m actually doing my UK tour with now. I’d say that Tremayne, the promoter for 23 Degrees, put myself and Interplanetary Criminal on the map in fairness to him. Every artist in the scene owes a lot to him for making this sound pop. The first one was actually a sit-down rave as we were coming out of lockdown. It had been cancelled twice before I was even able to do it because of uncertainties with Covid. It was at the Old Red Bus Station in Leeds, I’d played abroad under old aliases for different types of events, but this was the first time where I felt I could actually vouch for the music I was playing. I knew I could stand at the forefront and say this is the music I love. The reception was just amazing, it made me feel super proud of being a part of this music. My sense of what I was doing changed, that was the gig that made this change happen.

Your releases have really hit the garage scene by storm! Tell us about some of those

I’d put out my first two EPs on Warehouse Raves weeks before that first gig in the UK. All these amazing labels had been contacting me, and once this gig happened I realised this journey could be something really great. Since then, it’s been amazing. The whole Instinct project was great. The first one came about very quickly, the second one took a bit more time, and then the third one, that’s forthcoming now, is a big one for me because there’s a collaboration with MC Troublesome. It’ll showcase a good range of stuff I can do. Then, of course, the ATW releases have been very special.

As you’ve mentioned ATW Records, you now have your own label with Interplanetary Criminal! How does that feel?

We actually started ATW in lockdown because we were sitting on all this amazing music. We did have labels reaching out that wanted to release some of it. But Interplanetary Criminal and I got talking and thought “Shall we just make a label to put all this music out on? Why not?” We had all these amazing bits we kept sending each other back and forth, so we just made the label. The moment we went from sending stems to one another to actually sitting in the room together and making them, we realised we wanted to do it like this from now on. We’d been building the label so we could release ‘ATW 001’ and ‘ATW 002’ at the right time. We now have some really exciting plans happening. Looking back on it, I can proudly say that the second ATW release was the best speed garage release of the year. 

There are a lot of brands, labels, collectives, and other groups doing great work in the scene right now. As you’re right in the forefront, are there any you want to shout out for their good work?

Lots of radio stations are doing great for the scene, UK pirate radio culture in the UK has always been super important. For example, stations such as Ballamii and Rinse FM. Obviously, you also have Instagram in itself, which has been huge for promoting music. Although, I do have a love-hate relationship with it. There are a lot of Youtube channels that have also been great for promoting music. These tools really give you a sense of what’s going on in the scene. Obviously, again, I’ll shout out 23 Degrees every single time. They put me on the map. Making sure I played shows in the UK that were well-attended. They’re always reaching out to get new,i nteresting people involved. Always making sure that the bill is diverse, giving everyone an opportunity — which I really admire. There are so many other great promoters on the scene right now. Giving a path in the industry for people who aren’t straight males. Of course, you have Keep Hush, Hör Radio, and plenty of others that make live-streaming really important. I think live-streaming as a whole has been a brilliant way for people to access the music they love. It captures the experience nicely.

Favourite places to play in the UK?

Hidden in Manchester, it’s always an amazing time there. It’s the first time I played with Flowdan and Killa P, who I now feel very comfortable playing with. I feel like my best sets have been there. Then, there’s a new spot in Bristol called Greenworks — it’s great. It has a real 90s vibe to it and it’s just outside the city. They have some great people behind it!  I would say Fabric as it’s a very significant venue to play at, even though I haven’t played in room one yet. However, I think I’ve got to go with Venue MOT. It reminds me so much of Copenhagen. It’s so small and intimate. The people there are amazing. The sound system is just great.

Finally, what’s coming up for you this Summer? 

My UK tour with 23 Degrees, it’ll be touching down in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield, basically everywhere. Then big festivals including Glastonbury, Love Saves the Day, and a few others. There are also some European shows in there too!

Follow Main Phase: Instagram/SoundCloud/Spotify

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