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Phace – In Good Shape

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Though I try my utmost to make sure the conduction of an interview goes without too much mishap, the course of clear conversation doesn’t always run smoothly. After two aborted calls and a bit of shouting into my laptop later, attempt number three is the charm and, finally, I make my intended Skype contact with Phace. Every day reliance on technology is the norm – but it can still be a cruel mistress. Especially when you need to get shit done. Luckily Phace, aka Florian Harres, has a sense of humor about such things. “Usually it [Skype] works like a charm. But tonight it seems to be a fucking dick.” he laughs in a display of a jovial nature and dry wit that occasionally peppers moments of our conversation. It belies a man who, in contrast, makes such wild, and at times, industrial sounding drum & bass. His new album, Shape The Random, is his third long player under the guise of Phace. More notable is that it’s the first album he’s undertaken completely on his own: 2007’s Psycho was in parts written with former production partner Nicolas Ruoff while 2009’s From Deep Space was a joint effort with regular collaborator and label partner Misanthrop. I ask what the most notable difference is having to do an album alone, from scratch. “Well… I had to do everything on my own,” he says laughing. “The main thing was I needed to decide on everything on my own and I also didn’t have to compromise. Shape The Random is just who I am.”

The album’s title offers a small glimpse into its creation process. “I didn’t have a detailed plan for this record. It was pretty much me sitting in the studio enjoying the moment and feeling inspired to write music – I wanted it to reflect what’s inside my head and I wanted to have fun while writing.” This artistic and creative freedom may have led to more random explorations in the studio. However, Shape The Random is still meticulously coherent as a whole. “At the end of production, when I see the ‘full picture’ and when I put everything together, I have that switch in my head that turns green and lets me know this is how it should be. When you produce an album you’ve got to make sure it’s a piece that works well together and is not just is a cluster of tracks.” For all of Phace’s technical chops, Shape The Random wasn’t only about going for the cleanest or loudest noises possible, but also about how the music makes the listener feel. “I want my music to sound good and fresh, of course. But the idea and emotion the music transfers is as important to me, especially the older I get. I do love the whole technical aspect of electronic music production, but I don’t want to focus only on the technical side; in my opinion a super polished, well executed and impactful track can also sound boring if there’s no musical emotion.”

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Released on his Neosignal Recordings imprint, the music on Shape The Random isn’t the only facet he had to take care of. Doing it yourself means a lot more work going into putting out an album once you’ve completed the musical stage. “I co-own and co-manage the label. So for this LP I needed to work out everything on my own,” he continues. “I’m pretty much responsible for the whole thing. I didn’t just produce the music but also developed and managed the design, the marketing, the production, and and distribution for its release. Of course I do work with specialists in each field who have been extremely helpful, but you first need to define what you are going to do in detail before you can hire an external workforce. Then you have to navigate and course correct. You pretty much have to be on it night and day. It kind of turned my head inside out and probably was the most stressful time in my life – even though deep inside of me I have a thing for managing stuff. It only takes up so much time. I guess that’s the pill you have to swallow when you are a completely self-managed artist and own a record label.” The simplest solution would be to sign everything over to a label, right? They have the resources to handle the small and tedious details so the creatives can continue to create. Phace however thinks that despite all the added extras that come with being a producer and label head, it can be more beneficial come the end result. “I think it’s clever to outsource if you work with people you can trust blindly and share both a like-minded vision and view on things. Running a label means you can make sure everything has the vibe you want it to. I feel like I’m in full control and I enjoy that; sometimes you don’t always feel like doing the whole management work and you just want to be in the studio all day. But generally I don’t really mind it. To me management is also creation and I do like to communicate with people and share experiences. With whatever you do in life, to get a fulfilling result you need to invest both a lot of time and all the energy you have. At least that is how it works for me. And I know after this album and all its touring I can hide away for the rest of the year and not take any calls.”

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A stress for any artist or label, particularly in our internet driven digital age, is the subject of music leaks; this fate was suffered by Phace prior to the release of Shape The Random when finished versions of the album surfaced online. Leaking of unreleased material isn’t new and, rather sadly, there’s an air of inevitability about it. “As a musician it happens to everyone these days. You kind of expect it.” Despite this, Flo looks at the positives of this industry scourge, at least from a producer standpoint. “I was happy that people already had the chance to check it out. Otherwise you might feel shit and think people aren’t interested in it.” he laughs. “But as a label and as someone who put in the effort to manage the whole project, building and financing all products and trying to make it interesting, it was a little weird and not really fair as generally I think music shouldn’t be free.” In a year when Spor released his album via Bit Torrent, giving consumers the option to pay for it or not, and the value of music decreasing due to digital downloading and streaming, I wanted to hear more of his opinion on the issue. “Music is our livelihood. Without that we don’t earn any money and I can’t see the reason why we shouldn’t be afforded to make a living from music. So free music giveaways? It is absolutely fine to give your loyal fans a little something back once in a while, but generally I don’t think it’s the right thing to give away music for free. With things like that and Spotify I think the music industry has started to run itself into the ground.”

Putting all the hard graft of the last year or so behind him now Shape The Random is out for the world to hear, it’s all about change for Phace. “The one thing I don’t like is to stand still or not move forward. I am a restless character. To me, moving forward means change and to leave my comfort zone. What I try to do after I finish such a big project is to break up past  habits and create new challenges; I just overhauled my complete studio and are going to try to do things different. I want to avoid to repeat myself – that’s a boring thing to do.”

With his album out now, we can’t wait to catch him in the flesh July 24th when he touches down in London alongside Misanthrop for a night of choice cuts and serious vibes. Fancy joining us? Grab your tickets here

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