This week sees the release of Phace’s third album: Between
Include his LPs with Misanthrop (both as Phace & Misanthrop and as Neosignal) and it’s actually Florian Harres’s fifth album. But as a truly solo lone operator, it’s his third album after his classic debut Psycho and Shape the Random. And the very first one that he’s undertaken and overseen every single role from artwork to mastering by way of the music itself. As a result Between is the most frank and forthright album Phace has given us to date.
11 tracks in 30 minutes covering everything from wild punky, glitch-addled stompers like Fuck My Speaker and Das Techno to evocative, deep, halftempo excursions such as Lazy Day and Goodbye Struggles, Florian concentrates his range, his musical inspirations, abilities into a high tension one inch punch of an album that fizzes with energy and ideas and just a touch of his wry humour.
It’s his shortest album. It’s his most honest album. It also took him longer than any other album he’s been involved in… But has left him much more inspired in its wake. We interrupted one of his favourite summers in years to find out more.
What is the space between in Between? Between the two lives you lead? Between the past and present?
Yeah you could put it in either of those ways. It’s a transitional album. It’s somewhere between where I come from and where I’m heading and what inspires me these days. Over the years I’ve learnt so many techniques I can now translate my ideas the way I want to, but I can still keep that musical and technical appeal. The technical appeal can’t overweigh the musical side and I think Between is my most musical album so far. There’s still a lot of Phace vibes, the vibes my core listeners will want to hear, but I’ve broadened it out way more.
Yeah an all-out musical Phace album might alienate a lot of fans who got you here. But you need to express yourself and be free. Must be tricky…
Super tricky. Expectations can always hurt. Many times fans have been like ‘hey why can’t you do Psycho style dark stuff anymore?’ I still do those dark dystopian soundscapes once in a while but for me it is by far not the end of the road. I do not want to repeat myself. There’s so much more to what I want to do. It’s tricky not to scare fans away. On the other hand I have to be happy with my art and how I feel in my life. Which, for me personally, is the most important thing. I don’t want to fulfil a scheme or make music for other people’s expectations and not mine. I have to fulfil my own expectations and I want my music to be both surprising and exciting and not samey. Samey stuff bores me, unless it’s techno.
If it feels like a normal job then it loses it magic and fans can hear that in the music anyway
Absolutely! Of course you have your older fanbase from the start but there are also people discovering my music all the time. I don’t want to be responsible for any generation of fans in particular, I just want to give them a reason to dance or to paint their time with music.
Yes! I mentioned this before… There’s a rawness and no-fucks-given vibe to Between. But you actually spent more time on this than other albums, right?
Yeah it was a pretty long road but a dedicated one. I had a rough roadmap drawn out before I started but I took different routes along the way and it took its own life. I wanted it to have that vibe you describe and also have it so you can play it in between other things you do. It can be an album you don’t have to fully focus on to be able to understand, it can happen on the side. But if you listen close you can hear details and different ideas. I wanted to give it that dual role.
A lot of different ideas spring out of the album for me. But the track Obscure is one of my favourites. That dramatic intro and those crazed slap bass wriggles on the fills…
Thank you. It does sum up a lot. I called it Obscure because I didn’t know what the track wanted. It took many different angles before I had it finished. When I sent the album to Noisia Martijn for example really liked that track. I’d never expected that. I love the tune too. When that intro comes in the floor somewhat stops and is listening. I love that shit. I don’t need mosh pits all the time. I love it when people freak out and have a good time, but I especially love seeing people stopping and listening.
So are Noisia the first people you often send music to for feedback?
I have a little crew of friends; Michael Misanthrop, Martin Mefjus and Noisia. I know them for such a long time and I really value their work and experience and speak to them regularly. We are close friends and music isn’t the only topic we talk about… When you work on something for such a long time though, it is essential to look for feedback from people whose opinions you appreciate.
Yeah I’m sure you mentioned the album was going to land last year in previous interviews?
I did. But it took a long time right down to the artwork with the physical design with the puzzle. And when it came to mastering I didn’t want to send it to external mastering so it’s the first record I’ve mastered on my own and have had complete control for from A to Z. I’m happy I went through this process and it’s coming out in September so it lives a little longer.
You have full control!
The whole process went through my hands. It was very intense but I learnt a lot.
You’re a perfectionist aren’t you?
Perfection is just a current situation. I might strive for it but I’ll never reach it. I try to be a little better each day; try to learn something new each day. But yeah if something is bothering me I will do what I can to eliminate that. Even down little millisecond clips or 0.3 db dips. Once I feel I’ve done every single thing I can think of doing then I can let loose.
Have you let loose this summer? Knowing you have an album finished and ready to release must be a nice feeling….
Absolutely. I’ve enjoyed the roll out of the album, playing shows and festivals, playing the music to people and enjoying the summer. The post-album stage is a nice time to clean up things from the past, organise a new workflow and get things a little more organised again. During finishing stages everything else tends to get a little messy as you focus so hard on getting that one thing right. At the moment I finish projects that were left before the album or I work on new layouts I started while touring. I’m still writing and I’m loving it.
It’s what I do. I know some people have felt empty after an album, like they’ve used up all their ideas. But I feel boosted. Like a level up and have more creative ideas. For me it was a very motivating experience. This year started somewhat weird and I wasn’t in a very good mood but simply worked my way out of the valley.
Have you felt empty after other albums though?
Yes for sure. Shape The Random left me pretty empty. I put in so much effort and it felt like I was very empty. I’d say it took about a year to come back from that. But this time I feel ready. I turn things on and just work on anything. Different ideas, different tempos. It doesn’t have to be drum & bass, it could be techno or anything.
You can hear that in Lazy Day. It’s got a Tangerine Dream vibe to it. It ends too soon. I wanna hear that at 10 or even 12 or 13 minutes!
It’s too lazy to go for that long! It was exactly one of those excursions I just mentioned. I wrote it on a boring Sunday, working around with new synthesisers trying new methods. It’s empty but it’s got this tension, this emotion, it feels a bit melancholic and I feel that breaks up an album really nicely. Things can’t go hard all the time. Sometimes I feel there’s a reputation that I just go hard but I love hitting the reset button so you can build it back up. It’s the same with a DJ set. If you play only hard and samey it all just becomes one soup and nothing sticks out anymore.
Did you have to let go of a lot of ideas to keep that dynamic?
You could say that. I had a lot of fresh ideas end of 2017 so I tried to follow them and let them take their own path. I laid out how the album could be shaped and what tracks I might need to keep the idea of the album. I ended up with 14 / 15 tracks working simultaneously all coming together to create this thing with a life of its own that followed.
So at points you in full control but at others you’re out of control?
Exactly. If you do all your basic preparation and make sure you know which way you want it to go you want it to take, the music is out of your hands at this stage. It takes its own direction and you’re just navigating that. That is actually one of the best moments. When tracks ’write themselves’ so to speak.
Do your homework first, then you can have fun
It’s like at school or like expanding your colour palette as a painter. Once the technical frameset is in place it flows in a way it’s meant to then you have the freedom to just bring tracks to life and not worry about the technical details. And if things take their own random shape it’s cool to follow that.
Terrible question as the new album literally drops this week but what follows Between?
Well I’ve been in the studio with Noisia for the first time in a few years s there’s something coming from that direction after the album.
Hot scoop! Can we mention this?
It’s been played on sets and streams, people have heard it and it’s coming so sure!
Dubplate business. Or as close to dubplate as we get now…
In general it feels like it doesn’t work so much now unfortunately. It feels like if you have a release ready to go then you need to get it out there quick and fast.
That’s sad though man. Dubplate culture was all about preserving the longevity of the music….
I agree. The mystical part is getting lost and things are being sped up even more. Sometimes it feels the whole market is rushing and it’s not as fun. Of course the true underground are going to care about the mystical stuff and wait for those dubs to finally drop but there are so many more people who just want things out now. Electronic music has become a lot more capitalistic in this way. Decisions are made for the business and not for the musical side of things. But the underground is always going to find its own way to get their fanbase clued up and create hype and do their own thing. And of course the commercial side will be watching and pick that technique or sound up. That’s how it’s always worked but not as fast as it does now. It’s all very business driven isn’t it?
Which the opposite what you’re coming from, right? You’ve always struck me as quite anti commercial.
I am. For me music is art and art is always about an interesting idea and about effort that had been put into something and had a lot of time and dedication invested into it. It shouldn’t ever be seen as a product, even though artists have to earn their money to make a living.
I hate the term product. Or using the word content for music.
Yeah it’s like lemonade or something. Totally devalues the soul that’s been put into it.
Couldn’t agree more. Let’s wrap up with a final album question. What was the first track from the album you tried out? And were you nervous?
Yeah of course, I’m always excited and a little nervous to try out any new music. The first one actually was Isolated that’s when it all kinda started and I got into the whole album idea seriously. That’s why I haven’t recorded or streamed any sets recently; I was in the testing phase. I had Isolated, Fuck My Speaker, Das Techno then suddenly all the tracks were ready and I could try new tracks and it all came together and sounded great on different sound systems. That’s when I knew the puzzle had started to come together. It’s been a long road but here we are…
Here we are: Phace – Between is out now