Photo by Ann K. Hubbard

PHASEONE: A Life in Light

By Josh Levi

As we enter this new decade, it is often hard to look past the looming darkness that seems to hover over our heads.  A country in recession, a seemingly endless stagnant nature regarding mainstream pop culture, and a lack of quality in almost everything can leave a person losing faith.  Thankfully there are certain individuals who have soul, have heart, and overall, a dedication to their craft.  St. Louis’ Phaseone aka Andrew Jernigan has seen and embraced the light over the years by producing a blend combining his love for dub-step bass, emotionally nursing synths, crisp-hop beats, and a whirlwind of whispers.
As an electronic producer, Phaseone has been able to create a buzz by self-releasing his own album Thanks But No Thanks, in addition to cutting stunning remixes of contemporary artists such as Animal Collective, Burial, and Bloc Party.  Dilla & Four Tet comparisons aside, Phaseone has created his own world of sound, exploring the true roots of bass and cascading synths.  Recently featured on the ATL RMX comp (Out Now on Adult Swim & Rockstar Games), Phaseone has exhibited his ability to cut his teeth with the big dogs of the game.  Fresh off the release of his latest mixtape, The Realest Shit I Ever Wrote, I was able to pick Jernigan’s brain and see what life is like in the light. 

MOTH: Looking at your last album and the handful of remixes over the past years (Nite Jewel, Grouper, Animal Collective, Bloc Party), you can piece together your taste for warm emotions, organic composition, heavy beats/bass, and often somber reflection.  Where does the inspiration for such moods come from?  What really gets you going?

I take a lot of inspiration from people I know, and also people I don’t. Being in different parts of the city, being in different cities, thinking about the future, and listening to music.

MOTH: While you can’t deny the powerful marketing from the exposure of a remix, you’ve stated before that you don’t want to be known as a remix artist.  What are the benefits of such acknowledgement?  What disadvantages do you see?

It’s good because people are definitely more likely to check something if it’s a different version of a song they like rather than a different song entirely. And people will remember your name if your remix is good. The disadvantage is that it’s just like anything else you wouldn’t want to do too much of, like songs written at the same tempo, or with the same instruments, or with the same bassline. You’ve got to constantly evolve.

” I can understand wanting to party but the reason people like us put together these nights is solely for playing good music, and a lot of people only care about “the scene” and having their picture taken.”

MOTH: Your self-released album, “Thanks But No Thanks” was released last year for free via the internet.  In a musical world that is constantly being changed by the endless mp3 blogs and streaming sites, how was this move different?  How does this network blur the lines between artist and product?

I put the whole album out for free because I wanted people to hear it. I could have maybe had a label put it out but they would have taken half anyway. No one’s making money from records these days. So many new artists are really guarded about their music and want to start making money as soon as they can. So they’ll hook up with some lame digital distribution label and throw their shit up on iTunes and no one will ever hear it. A lot of people have embraced Internet and blog culture by giving away a song or two to build hype but I figured why not just put the whole thing out there. I love that album but I could make a hundred more songs just like that.

MOTH: Often times the translation from studio production to live performance can, for some, leave more to be desired.  You recently played a live show at Washington University’s Gargoyle.  How did it go?  What made this different from the usual gig?

My live show is basically a real-time reconstruction of my songs with a lot of mixing, looping and programming going on. This most recent one at the Gargoyle was the first since I’ve made some pretty drastic improvements to it.  It’s hard to really know “how it went”; to me it was a complete trainwreck and at the same time it was the most beautifully artistic performance ever. I think I exceeded some of my friends’ expectations so that’s pretty cool.

Phaseone

Photo by Ann K. Hubbard

MOTH: I know that you are a fan of vinyl.  As the state of electronic music accelerates faster and faster towards a completely digital age, what makes the craving for vinyl remain?

For me it’s as simple as getting something for my money. I hate buying mp3s. A piece of vinyl you can take with you. It’s dependable. You can’t lose it if your hard drive crashes. You can show it off once it goes put of print. I think there are enough people who think the same way to keep it alive. I read somewhere that vinyl sales are higher right now than they’ve been since the 70′s or something.

MOTH: As a club DJ, what do you see going wrong in the current club state?

Club owners fucking us over and ripping us off. And not enough people that care about music. If I go out, I’m going where the good music is. I can understand wanting to party but the reason people like us put together these nights is solely for playing good music, and a lot of people only care about “the scene” and having their picture taken.

MOTH: You were featured on the ATL RMX compilation put out last year by Adult Swim & Rockstar Games; a truly fortunate feat considering you share a track list with the likes of Flying Lotus, Salem, Memory Tapes, Prefuse 73. How did this come about?  Have you seen a noticeable difference in the exposure that this has given you?

Actually, not really, i think because there were so many big names attached to the project. For instance, even I couldn’t tell you the names of some of the other producers on there except for the big ones. And some of those guys are my favorite artists of all time, so it was really cool to be apart of it. Adult Swim just reached out and asked me to contribute, and I was all over it of course.

MOTH: What are you working on now?  Where do you see this ship taking you?

I’m working on two different records that sound nothing like any of the other stuff and will probably ruin any chance of a career I have. But it’s what I’m on right now so I have to go with it. The one that’s closest to being completed is called Stealing To Feed Your Family and it’s very tropical and samba-influenced but cold and robotic. I’ll probably put out a ten inch single in the next few months with two of the cuts from that album. Hopefully I can put out that album and the next one, and then reevaluate everything after that. My plans change every week. But I am definitely moving to New York next year.

MOTH: By its own, St. Louis is often viewed as a town full of potential.  Unfortunately we rarely see this potential move past ideas.  A market so ripe is a sad thing to waste.  What gets you motivated to make a name for yourself as a St. Louis artist?  As far as St. Louis is concerned, what interesting things do you see taking off?

The St. Louis noise movement that you’re a big part of is a surprisingly huge thing going on. I couldn’t have dreamed that up, not in this town. There is a pretty diverse rap scene here too. It’s hard for me to identify as a St. Louis artist since my sound and art was developed entirely in my own home and in my head, as apposed to at shows or by playing with other artists. And because I get offered to play out of town more often than I get offered to play here.

MOTH: What have you been bumping lately?  What’s everyone sleeping on right now?

The Toro Y Moi record will probably be my favorite this year. People are sleeping on that. Speaking of sleeping, i slept hard on Glass Candy! The whole Italians Do It Better roster is pretty great actually. And I’m listening to a lot of Curren$y mixtapes. I think he’s my favorite rapper right now. Teebs is writing some really dope tracks out in L.A., some really spaced-out, syrupy hypnotic stuff. Nite Jewel, Rustie, Kano, Aphex Twin…

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