But don’t think this love affair to be one sided. As it happens, there is a growing legion of fans out there who love what it is that Phil K does, just as much as he loves doing it. But what exactly is it that he loves? “It’s hard to put a finger on it,” he replies after a pause. “I know I like a lot of stuff that’s noise-based. And I like a lot of melodic-based stuff. Whether that comes across when I DJ, you’re probably a better judge of that then what I am. It’s really hard to capture on a CD what I do live.”
Yet capture it he does, his last compilation with Dave Seaman, ‘Renaissance presents: Audiotherapy’, is considered by many to be the closest you’ll get to a Phil K live set. While touring and production work have occupied much of his time since then, his upcoming release on the Distinctive Records Y4K series is eagerly anticipated. The series popularity and consistent high quality of compilations from the likes of Hybrid, Tayo and FreQ Nasty have made it a leader in the breaks genre, and Phil K’s contribution continues this tradition. Few Djs could take such a diverse range of tracks and mould it into as cohesive a final product as Phil K’s latest creation, dubbed by some of his fans as ‘YPhilK’.
In all aspects of Djing, Phil K comes across as fearless, unafraid to introduce completely new artists to the world if their tracks fit into his mix. ‘Balance 004’ was the first time many people heard of the now internationally renowned Habersham who, incidentally, features on two of the tracks comprising this compilation (Song of the Lizard and a collaboration with Phil K titled Cloudbrake). Hopefully the futures of virtual unknowns Lusine and Jahcoozi prove to be just as successful. Yet those wanting more information on Jahcoozi and their quirky track Fish better do their own research. “I haven’t got a clue,” he admits. “I just got these records that sounded really funny. I played them during my sets and they worked. So I just kept playing them. And then I thought that one of their tracks would sound good on a compilation because it’s different and not the kind of record that everyone would pick up on.”
Finding quality tracks that dance music fanatics haven’t picked up on is becoming increasingly difficult. A peruse through recent Dj charts, followed by a quick download leaves very little sacred. So what gives a DJ their edge? “It all comes down to taste at the end of the day,” affirms Phil K. “It’s about your taste in music, whether it’s new or old. And the other thing it comes down to is your eclecticism and ability to find all these strange tracks and to try and mix them together. A few years ago it was always about having a smooth mix and playing upfront records. It’s not about having the newest records. It’s about having good and varied taste, and the ability to bring that varied taste together into one set and make it work for a dancefloor.”
A strong supporter of the local breaks scene, previous compilations have featured a rich array of Australian talent including an entire compilation of Australian breaks that was part of DJ Mag’s World Series in 2003, reaching 40 000 people. Y4K is no different, the CD ending with the F.A.R.T. remix of NuBreed’s To Know, followed by Andy Page’s Serpent. “I had been finishing off my sets with those records around about the time I did the mix CD, so they were obvious choices to go in,” explains Phil K. “They’re Australian and it’s that Australian breakbeat sound. If someone from England wants me to do a CD, they expect to have some of those records on there. And I guess if I don’t do it who’s going to? Andy’s records have been on a few Y4Ks now. They’re good records, they sound great and it’s my job to try and bring them to a wider audience. It’s all about getting the word out there and getting the music to as many people as possible.”
Melbournians eagerly anticipating Phil K getting the word out to them personally won’t have to wait long as his Y4K tour sees him playing Room680 in March. While only the third time he will have DJ’d at Room, mere weeks separate it from his last gig there. A rare break in his heavy touring schedule allowed him to join James Zabiela for an unrehearsed, last minute versus set which was always going to become one of the scenes most intensively studied and debated gigs. A quick browse through dance music forums reveals reactions that range from ‘Not my thing. Boys and their toys type affair’ to ‘most amazing set I’ve heard in my life.’ When asked for his take on the gig Phil K states, “Considering the amount of practice we had, which was none, I think it was pretty good. We both had lots of fun and it opens up the possibility of getting together and rehearsing for a week which will obviously make it more exciting. For people who were there for just heads down, banging dance, there were many moments when it wasn’t about that. There was a lot of fiddling and fucking around and noise creating going on. With the DVD players, sometimes the visual aspect is always going to clash with the dancing side as well. It was just a chance to do something different and have a jam. Two people who are kind of technical and love their gadgets, fiddle around for a few hours and seeing what they can do.”
“We could do it again tomorrow and it could be a hundred times better or a hundred times worse. That’s what happened on the night and that’s the beauty of live performance. I’m sure there were points where there was real magic created and there were points that were pretty average. I know that I walked away from it and had a really good think about what I’d like to do if I have another chance to do it and I’m sure James did the same. The great think about performing live is that you learn as you do it and go down roads that you’ve never travelled before, but when you do something in a particular live situation and a whole new road opens up, you think ‘wow if I get another chance I’d really like to go down that road a bit further.’ That’s what the exciting part is.”
While I earlier referred to Phil K as ‘fearless’, and his technical talents remove him from the realm of mere mortals, further analysis shows that he may in fact be human after all. “What drives me the most is the fear of letting people down,” he admits. “Ultimately, people’s expectations are what drives me. I would feel really shit knowing that I didn’t put 100% into something I did. Knowing that people come to see you and expect something special and once you’ve done something for a certain space of time you really need to move on from there. You always want to bring something new for them. I want people to leave my gigs with their expectations not only met but exceeded. And that’s why I am the way I am. I really have this fear of letting people down.�