“It’s one big ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRGGHH’,” explains Phil K, the noise he emits perfectly describing the whirlwind touring commitments he finds himself happily burdened by. “Every day it feels like I’m confronted with something different to do and a new challenge to meet. Even though it’s all music and DJing, it’s a different crowd and a different place and I have to win them over with what I do and not compromise. This was my second time in Juarez, Mexico. The first time I went there I ripped the shit out of it and didn’t expect to. I was just like ‘Oh my fucking god! These people are so crazy’. In Mexico City it was the complete opposite. They were much more a standard 4/4 prog crowd and every time I dropped a breakbeat I lost them. Again, it’s a different challenge. So to keep myself interested in situations like that I’d do loads of tricks and loops and really work it rather than just play records I find boring.”
A futurist by nature, perhaps not being an engineer is one of the few things holding Phil K back. Like other mere mortals, he frustratingly has to wait for new technology to be developed before he can continue his advancement instead of simply designing and building it himself. Thus, when Pioneer brought out the DJM 600 mixer, he made it his own, using it in ways that not even its creators had ever imagined. Before long, Pioneer had acquisitioned Phil K’s services to demonstrate their latest DJ technology the world over. For this reason he is particularly looking forward to his upcoming gig at Tokyo’s Womb nightclub. “Tokyo is just another world,” he remarks. “I played at a club called Yellow a while ago, which was five hours in this amazing little room with an amazing sound system. The crowd didn’t know what to make of it to begin with but they gave it a chance and by the third hour there were people trying to jump into the console. The Pioneer crew always come to see me use their equipment when I’m in Tokyo, so I’m in total zen concentration mode. I have to be because it’s about precision and it’s about ‘I’m here to show you fuckers how I rinse your shit out’. Last time I knew exactly where I would be in twenty minutes time. Everything, technically, was nailed spot on. I was so in tune and so focused on what I was doing that it was ninja-style. Hopefully, I can get to that level again in Tokyo, and I have a good feeling about the gig.”
For those who don’t know Phil K, these kind of remarks may seem slightly egotistical. However, this could not be further from the truth. He hasn’t chosen this path for the fame, frequent flyer miles or money (although doubtless the latter is a perk that he appreciates after putting in the hard yards). Purely and simply it is playing and making music that Phil K lives for, and as long as he is able to do this, the rest is inconsequential. Furthermore, if you consider comments like those above to be ‘talking the talk’, rest assured he can certainly ‘walk the walk’. As Dave Seaman puts it, Phil K has “more talent in his little finger than most so called ‘superstar DJ’s’ could dream of in a lifetime,” and as both a DJ and a producer he takes this prodigious talent to its limits. Bending minds just as he bends beats, not only does he challenge himself, but he challenges any open minded listener to not accept the bland, the unimaginative or the reprocessed.
One of the few on a similar plain is James Zabiela who played with Phil K in Juarez. “I’ve never seen anyone fuck around in a set as much as he does,” says an awestruck Phil K. “He is so inspiring. The last half hour we both got up there and just lost it. He was cutting. I was tweaking. It was fucking insane. I remember thinking, ‘How are we making these machines make these noises?’ James and I want to do a lot more stuff together. His girlfriend has been compiling footage and mixing visuals while my whole thing is a going towards the computer world. So hopefully we can get together within the next year and put together something that’s visual, that’s computerized, CD, turntable, live efx unit and just jam. It’s definitely going to happen if he feels half as inspired as I do around him and it will be technical mayhem.”
Much of Phil K’s current tour is in support of ‘The Therapy Sessions’, a double mix CD by himself and Dave Seaman released on Renaissance. Meanwhile, the Melbourne progressive scene is in its own renaissance period, a concept many Melbourne clubbers understand they are part of while others will only realise once it is too late. Names like Luke Chable, Jono Fernandez, NuBreed and Infusion are topping dance music charts the world over and nobody was more a part of the early and continuing development of this sound than Phil K. Throughout the world there are few progressive breaks acts that could say the Hi-Fi Bugs (Phil K’s pioneering breakbeat project with Andy Page), and their opus Lydian and the Dinosaur in particular, didn’t inspire their musical direction to some degree. More recent, and just as important, was the 2003 release of DJ Mag’s World Series of mix CDs with Australia represented by a Phil K breaks set. “There were 40 000 copies of the DJ Mag CD that went out,” he recounts. “While at the time I was a bit too close to the project to appreciate it fully, I look back now and think ‘wow! All these cool Australian artists and tracks on one CD’ and I’m so proud of it. It’s not just a whole bunch of random Australian records put together for the sake of them being Australian, it really works well as a mix. Ten years ago who would ever have thought we could have achieved that? Having the front cover CD for DJ Magazine full of compositions that are all ours and all world class and caving heads in all over the world.”
While his previous commercially released mix CDs such as ‘Sound Not Scene’ and ‘Balance 004’ were widely and lavishly heaped with praise, ‘Therapy Sessions’ is a further step forward for Phil K. Through Renaissance it has been distributed and marketed internationally, despite Renaissance’s involvement being an afterthought. “It was never intended to be a Renaissance release,” explains Phil K. “Dave (Seaman) just wanted to do a mix, and when he worked out everything he needed to do to make it successful, it was going to mean a lot more work on his behalf if he did it straight off his own bat. So he handed it to Renaissance who already had distribution and marketing in place and left us to concentrate on the music. I joined Dave’s agency, Therapy, last year though we’d been friends for a long time. At the time he made me no promises, but said he was doing a CD towards the end of the year and wanted to include me as he thought I could offer something in terms of taking it in a different direction. I didn’t want it to be all about this crazy, mind-fucking music. I mean, it gets there, but I wanted to do it in such a way that it wouldn’t jar too many people and it would introduce them to my sound smoothly. The way I viewed it was that if people can appreciate that mix, if they then choose to book me or see me DJ they will know what they’re in for. If I did something in a Renaissance style I wouldn’t be true to myself so I’d be shitting in my own bed as people would expect me to play that kind of stuff at gigs. So if people don’t like what they hear on my CD, well that’s ok too as they’re not wasting either of our time.”