Time to stretch the 1 More Mix musical legs a little and bring some garage flavours into the series…
Cue Phonetix, a longstanding multi-genre fusioneer who’s laid down a powerful blend of his own productions spanning from garage to house to drum & bass.
Vibes from the off, it’s the perfect Friday mix, gently easing us from the grind to the unwind by way of a few cheeky bootlegs, a whole tonne of grooves and even a few loin-girding Rocky Balboa samples.
It’s also a remarkable showcase from a UK artist who’s been dedicated to craft his whole adult life and has been tinkering on the keys since the age of four!
Now more of a self-professed studio nerd than a pianist, Phonetix is behind the longstanding Riddler Records imprint and, in recent years, has recently been fine-tuning his love for jazz and incorporating it into his UKG. Often referred to as Mr Jazz Step, his jazzy alchemy is best experienced on his last album Jazz Step FM and this playlist he regularly updates.
Last spotted on EZ’s NUVOLVE imprint alongside In4mous Goose with the track Crazy, and some very big plans on the label front himself later this year, Phonetix takes time out of an exciting schedule to roll out this mix and chat to us about old school UKG, aliases and sausages in disguise. Listen up, read on, get to know…
Love the mix! Every shade of music that I love is in this mix. Thank you!
Well that’s a relief. I was worried you might expect a bit more drum & bass and more tracks like Warning.
I do love Warning but 1 More Thing is a broad church and I’m into everything you do across the board.
I do like to keep my fingers in as many pies as I can ideally. I love it all, too. And I love making it all.
Absolutely. Let’s go back to your first release. That was 2004 I think?
That was my first release but I’d been dabbling for a few years before that. I was lucky. I had a cousin who played the piano and I was watching her, blown away. I hounded my parents for a piano and was in a very privileged position for them to be able to get one for me and pay for lessons. So I was all over that from a very young age. Then in my teens I was over playing other people’s music and I started composing my own things. It was a very natural progression. I was doing music GCSE and talked to my music teacher a lot and he mentioned Cubase. I was blown away and started thinking about writing music in a different way. Before that I was old school and was writing music with notation. But this was another level.
Yeah. So at the time a relative passed away and I’d inherited some money so I was in a very lucky position to invest in some kit and I built a little studio. I didn’t have a brilliant time at school to be honest so that was my form of escapism. I loved it. I had no plans or agenda besides to have fun creating.
Brilliant. What styles were you making?
I was really into hip-hop at the time. Still am. Dr Dre was a huge influence on me. But around this time garage was coming through and this kid lent me a mixtape. Just a local DJ, nothing special but I was all over it. In 10 minutes it had so many different styles and elements. That blew me away. So I started experimenting with garage. It’s very different now with tutorials and access to information. I was clueless. I remember sitting there with Roland manuals going like ‘how do I do this?’
Haha. So this was early 2000s? That was a golden age for garage. So many flavours in that two-step melting pot!
Absolutely. I remember my first club night, an under 16s in a club called Options that’s now a Prism. I walked in and it was all sweetness and vocals then suddenly this Deekline style breaksy thing came in. I’ve been in love with the music ever since. You’re right. It was a golden age. I think people were more comfortable taking risks back then because more money could be made off vinyl and that’s why we ended up with different offshoots and different sounds. Now there’s less money to make so people are more like to follow a tried and tested route or follow what’s already been successful.
I do prefer it when artists keep me on my toes and release loads of different styles… And do so without going down the alias route!
Oh I’ve had many aliases over the years. I remember a friend who I was working with at the time insisting it was the only way. I was releasing as Robbie T at the time and he said, ‘If I go into a record shop and see a Robbie T record, I’m expecting garage. If it’s another style then it would be like me opening up a Mars Bar and finding a sausage inside.’
Haha. I like that.
I felt he had a point and I did have different aliases for different projects. But after a few years I felt like that had become an outdated mindset. I remember reading a Paul Van Dyk interview and he said he regretted using aliases because it watered down what you do. There are definite pros and cons but my favourite producers are the ones who make all kinds of things so I’ve tried to keep as much things as possible under Phonetix. It’s mainly house and garage but I like to through curveballs out every now and again like, ‘Hey I can make this type of sound, too!’ Variety is the spice of life and all that.
100% And fans can be credited with intelligence, too, I think. Was there a key release or year when you put everything through the Phonetix name?
Up to around 2007 most things were Robbie T, I also released as Wolverine, Soul Master and a few things. I was still learning the craft though, I was never 100% happy with my productions until around 2007/2008 and I thought, ‘Okay, from here on out I’m Phonetix and everything I put to that name has to be of a particular standard, it’s got to pass the car test and make me nod.’
Sounds about right. Most artists I interview would rather delete or forget their first few years of releases as they’re finding their sound. Sounds like you drew a line in the sand and did that.
That’s it. There’s been times where I’ve stepped away because it all got too much for me but something about music keeps you coming doesn’t it?
Haha yeah too true. What’s exciting you about music right now?
It’s been interesting to see how much underground music is crossing over on daytime radio. Garage is bubbling away on the airwaves all the time and I feel it’s got a healthy year ahead. There’s a lot of scope for those classic sounds we used to hear coming back again. For me as an artist who makes those sounds I’m very excited about that. Artist wise Baker is super consistent and high quality, I work with a lady called Laura Alice who is making some interesting stuff.
There’s a Japanese guy called Shunji Fujii who’s making some fantastically musical stuff. And the jazz-step thing is exciting me full-stop. A lot of people in garage are crediting me with the jazz-step sound right now which is very kind but for me it’s an extension of what Mondo Grosso was doing in the late 90s. He started it with that MG4 album which was a huge influence for me.
I’ve always loved jazz thanks to my grandad who loved it and would play it when I was growing up. Some of my earliest memories are of him in the kitchen dancing to jazz and I remember thinking, ‘I like this vibe’. I always wanted to incorporate jazz into my productions but I felt what I’d been doing before, between 2008-2018, didn’t really lend itself to the jazz influence. But then lockdown hit, I thought, ‘Okay no one is clubbing any more but I’m still making music, now is the time to experiment with the jazzy musical stuff.’
Oh super recent, then!
Yeah it is. It was done on lockdown so you could chill to it on the sofa or in the car. I’d been craving to do it for years but never had the right time. But it clicked. I started making this playlist, and I was focusing on it when I made a podcast called In The Garage with DJ Brainz from Sub FM and I kept on noticing more and more jazz influences in garage. There’s been a great explosion of people making that type of sound. I’m really inspired by it. it’s very musical, you know?
You’re a musical guy! Do you still play the piano much?
I used to all the time but I had an elbow injury a while back which caused some nerve damage and I can’t play like I used to. I have a little dabble from time to time. It’s a nice way to unwind. But I was becoming more and more of a studio nerd and less of piano player anyway.
I hear you. What have you got in store this year?
I’ve just finished a project with MC Cobra. He did some of the vocals on my album Jazz Step FM and he released an album a couple of years back and he came to me a while ago. He’s assembled a collective of artists across the board. He’s got me, he’s got Baker, he’s got Shadow Of Light and Frankly who are on that darker tip. So it’s a really nice and balanced and varied album. It sounds phenomenal, I was mastering it all the other day and had to have a little moment and take it all in. If he released it 20 years ago it would’ve been pure money, I hope he’s able to cut through the noise with it.
So that’s coming out and then, behind the scenes, I’ve joined forces with the guy who runs Strictly Flava and we’ve amalgamated all our labels. We’re setting up a parent label and I’m doing the distribution and all the accounts and admin involved in that.
Oh wow! Sounds big
Without being too negative, we’ve found a lot of labels aren’t treating artists fairly or accounting to them or anything like that so the goal is to create a platform for up and coming artists that looks after them and makes sure they’re paid fairly. I can help with publishing, distribution, PRS.
This sounds awesome. What’s the name of it?
It’s just a tiny bit too soon to say, but yeah we’re really inspired by it. It’s an exciting time.
Very! Keep us posted. So before I go, I’m still stuck on the whole Mars Bar / sausage situation you said earlier. I love a good sausage, so as long as it’s cooked then I might be a bit gassed about that you know.
Depends what mood you’re in though, surely? Sometimes you’re in the mood for some chocolate specifically and nothing else will do. Plus I’m vegetarian these days so it would have to be a veggie sausage at the very least.
01 Phonetix – Somebody To Love [Phonetix]
02 Phonetix & Harsh – Company (Klassic Klub Mix) [Riddler Records]
03 Phonetix & Final Cutt Collective – Beat Maniac [Pogo House Records]
04 Phonetix – Jamming [Pogo House Records]
05 Phonetix – Two Of Us [Riddler Records]
06 Phonetix – Superstitious [Riddler Records]
07 Phonetix – Benito Miguel [Riddler Records]
08 Phonetix – Down On Us [Four40 Records]
09 Phonetix ft. Final Cutt Collective – Blame It On You [Highly Swung Records]
10 Laura Alice & Phonetix – Pretend [Upcycle Recordings]
11 Phonetix – Other Plans [Strictly Flava]
12 In4mous Goose & Phonetix – Crazy [Nuvolve Music]
13 Phonetix – Leaving [Highly Swung Records]
14 Phonetix ft. Harsh & MC Cobra – Losing My Mind (Speed Garage Mix) [Riddler Records]
15 Phonetix ft. MC Cobra – Shock To Ya’ Senses [Riddler Records]
16 Laura Alice & Phonetix – Be OK [Nuvolve Music]
17 Phonetix ft. Brendan Mills – Blue Step [Riddler Records]
18 Phonetix ft. MC Cobra – Do For Love [Riddler Records]
19 Phonetix & BWK Project – No Worries (All Good) [Strictly Flava]
20 Phonetix – Y’all Know Me [Riddler Records]
21 Phonetix – Not Afraid [Highly Swung Records]
22 Phonetix – Get On Down [Downplay Recordings]
23 Phonetix – Thoro’ Warning [Riddler Records]
24 Phonetix – World Of Hurt [Riddler Records]
25 Phonetix – Spirit [Riddler Records]
26 Phonetix – Nasty [Riddler Records]
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