From Robert Hood to Ricardo Villalobos to Regis—it feels obvious that techno is often richer when artists look beyond its form for inspiration. You can hear this in the techno of Hayden Payne, a New York-born, Berlin-based artist who's set up his creative stall right at the genre's boundaries. As Phase Fatale, Payne draws on music that was mostly made in the 1980s, namely post-punk, industrial and EBM. He's been absorbed in these styles since he was a kid, which is evident when you hear the records he's recently released on labels like Jealous God and Unterton. "The connection between this music and techno is obvious," he says below. "So much of it directly influenced the sounds of techno." Payne's experience playing in bands (Dream Affair, Frank (just Frank), Anasazi) also injects his techno with a gritty swagger, something we get in spades on Redeemer, the album he's releasing this week on Dominick Fernow's Hospital Productions. Crunchy drums, chunky synths and piercing noise abound, with Payne's distressed voice stalking the tracks' shadows. Perhaps it would be a compliment to suggest that it maybe isn't even a techno record.
Either way, Payne's RA podcast is great accompaniment to the album, a fierce 70-minute session that shows why the name Phase Fatale has been increasingly appearing at some of the world's best clubs.
What have you been up to recently?
I've been busy touring throughout Europe with DJ sets and a new live set, which I had been preparing. Also, I'm constantly forming new ideas and sounds in my head for how to approach working on future releases. Watching old Polish sci-fi films, travelling and searching for the right synth definitely help to inspire. After dealing with the torturous heat and summer sun, I'm finally getting ready to enter the studio again.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I started working on this mix a couple of months ago while playing through Asia. I made it in Ableton and finalized the mix in my studio when I got back to Berlin. When I play out, I use the usual mixer and decks set up. By utilizing Ableton this time, I was able to approach this mix in a different way with more layering, effects and filtering.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
While the music in this mix comes from a multitude of different locations and times, I wanted to put a focus on some artists that are truly pushing the envelope of electronic music at the moment, and who are mostly based in Berlin and involved in the real underground. Those that are twisting and mutating techno into new and dark dimensions, which will eventually define itself on its own. Overall, I laid out recent/upcoming tracks along with some all-time favorites of mine to weave together the various connections between "genres" into something that is representative of how I'm playing out. This is music that accurately reflects the extreme and euphoric conditions of dark and hedonistic clubs and the desires and fears of the crowds within them.
Tell us about your new live show. We noticed in a recent video from Tbilisi you were onstage performing vocals.
As Phase Fatale, I've focused on DJing mostly with only a couple of live sets here and there throughout the years. I think finally now is the perfect time to unleash the live aspect of it and to incorporate the album in a new context. I had to find the balance between actual performance and live instrumentation while having just two hands and to still deliver the music as I intend to. Since I was also the singer in my old band and use vocals on many of my productions, I wanted to make my voice a part of the live set as well and break the fourth wall with the microphone and with confrontation. Ideally, the live set takes place in clubs such as KHIDI in Tbilisi. There, the summation of the energy from the crowd, the sound, the design and the mission of the club make for a perfect setting where people can really feel something from it.
Give us an overview of your personal music history. It feels obvious from your releases and DJ sets that you're inspired by music well beyond techno.
My father was involved in the music scene in the '80s, working with mostly post-punk, new wave and industrial bands. Since I was a child, he showed me a lot of this music, and I got really into it. Bands like The Cure, Killing Joke or The Sisters Of Mercy inspired me to learn guitar and bass when I was ten. As a teenager, I became obsessed with it and dug even further and was playing in my own bands. Especially after going to the Wierd parties in New York, still with a fake ID, I heard even more obscure cold wave and minimal synth. There, I also began DJing out a mix of wave, post-punk and industrial that gravitated towards more dance floor sounds. Always for me though, the connection between this music and techno is obvious. So much of it directly influenced the sounds of techno. They both share the same essential elements of mechanical rhythms, cold atmospheres, metallic sounds and dark melodies. In my own music, I try to push those elements through again.
What are you up to next?
The album is coming out later this week, and we will kick it off this weekend at the Hospital Productions 20-year anniversary at Berghain. After that, it's more constant touring and finding time in between to work on music, as well as continuing my residency at KHIDI and curating some nights there. I see this album as the end of a chapter and a beginning of another, summing up my past work and experiences in Berlin while laying the groundwork for new approaches.