PHACTION Joins The Team!
It comes with great pleasure to share the news that Alex Pavlou, aka Phaction is back on the SG team for a new season!
It’s always exciting to work with Alex, a super talented guy and made special by the nature of not only being from Bristol too, but also having known him since he used to come to our (Digital Labz) production seminars for years. Watching his rise to fame has been both expected and very inspiring.
With his music being picked up and supported by fellow artists’ such as: Lenzman, Halogenix, Friction, Artificial Intelligence, Total Science, Marky, LSB, and of course, Goldie. This link with the head honcho of Metalheadz led on to two solo EP’s on the label, with both releases earning widespread support from all across the scene.
Alex’s sound has evolved and progressed over the last few years and it’s somewhat indefinable (in the best possible way), we wouldn’t describe him as a liquid artist – although he has some solid roots there. It’s not tech, though there are some stunning aspects of this in his new work. To us, his sound floats above conventional labeling, but we can say it’s diverse, it’s soaked in soul and it’s incredibly satisfying!
We’ve been going back and forth with him for a few months now, designing concepts for his content on this new season, which has been very productive – there are going to be some very special samples being released, and being that Phaction is a tutor of music production, expect some more top draw tutorials too. Inspiring times ahead!
Welcome back! Always a pleasure to be working with you!
(What else is the deep end for…?)
We’ve had a running question in these interviews of asking you guys about the last year, as it’s been so significant: From the onset to the days of now coming out of this, how has it been for you, & do you think there could be anything about this period that actually helps artists’ become closer to their craft, somehow giving energy back to the creative disposition?
Thankyou, it’s a pleasure to be back again!
This year has been a tough one for so many of us, myself included. It’s surreal to think that lockdown was only just beginning during the making of my second tutorial for SG (Organic Bass), it feels like years ago and simultaneously almost no time at all has passed. Since then I’ve spoken with a lot of producers, students and listeners over the past 12+ months, everyone has handled lockdown differently but I think almost no-one has been exempt from the effect it’s had on mental health. From my perspective, playing out live is something I have missed a lot and going to raves would always get me inspired. When you have that feedback loop, hearing your dubs among your peers’ music and feeling that what you’re doing is contributing positively to others, it does a lot for motivation to keep creating. When that’s taken away it can be tough to keep writing like everything’s normal, but I’ve been doing my best!
So on that note I’ve mainly been working on myself and my mental health, taking somewhat of a break from writing music for a good part of lockdown, and having had that break, I’ve been able to better appreciate what music does for me and for the people I share it with. ‘Why is creativity and sharing it so important for us as humans?’. I’ve got so much respect for anyone who is taking the time to learn to produce anything creative, it’s a journey. This lockdown I’ve taught more people than ever and have been grateful to be able to rely on that in the absence of gigs. Thankfully things are returning to normality and I’ve already made it to some events and felt the buzz you get, connecting with listeners and just people in general! There’s a subtle degree of friendly competition between producers when you hear tunes played out too. You hear an envelope pusher get dropped and it makes you want to better yourself and try and reach the levels of those who are constantly mastering and innovating. On that basis, raves are so incredibly important for the evolution of the scene I think. I’ve been super glad to see live streams continuing, massive respect to all those artists doing that over the past year. If there’s one thing this lockdown has taught me I’d say it’s that sometimes you need to miss something to gain perspective on what it meant to you. I’ve also seen a lot of people learning like mad and putting out music, which is so encouraging to see and I salute you all for pushing on! I think from a time and learning perspective lockdown has been a godsend for some, but I’d also say don’t feel too bad if it’s been a tough one either, you will bounce back!
What are you looking forward to most about the coming summer and rest of the year?
Getting to the dance again ofc, seeing old friends and meeting new people again through music, spinning tunes, hearing tunes, sitting in parks in the sun whilst trying not to get burnt. Getting to some car shows (I’m pretty obsessed with cars n engines if you hadn’t guessed by some of the sounds in the pack), BBQ’ing, & seeing people congregate!
So what have you been working on musically, lately?
I’ve been sketching quite a lot and have plenty of bits gathering in the wips folder. I’ve worked on multiple remixes for labels like Spearhead, Myriad Recordings and Alternate’s new fledgling label, which I’ve really enjoyed. Those are being kept somewhat underwraps for now. I’m sketching for Flexout too as they’d really like to hear an EP from me, and I’d love to oblige so sound design around that aesthetic has been on the brain recently. I’m also doing a lot of sampling and sound design, which is such a cathartic process when you don’t feel so inspired to write tunes. It’s much more like engineering in that sense, mixing your paints, for when you feel like being an artist. Making this pack has been rewarding and got some ideas flowing for sure.
Your last EP on Metalheadz has such a vibe. Such diversity, would you say variety is something you consciously try to do, or is it just how things come out? And that EP really shows off your heavier side From the sick drum work on Deus, and the all round perfect mixdown on Isiah, is ‘heavier’ a flavour we’ll be seeing more of in the near future from Phaction?
I’ll always be a diverse producer man, I could never make one kind of sound and be happy I think. It has to be switched up, and I’m always looking for a new vibe, a new challenge release wise (as mentioned above). But yes, heavy is a direction I’ll frequently venture in contrast to the liquid vibes and possibly some tech vibes too.
Has your creative process changed in recent years, or would you say it’s a constant?
The biggest change I’d say is being willing to put the pre-production time in more than simply writing tunes from a clean slate everytime and winging it somewhat, separating the engineering from the painting is a mantra I’ve started to enjoy living by more over the years, because it saves you time in the long run and you make better quality samples when you focus solely on that task, it can be a bit procedural in some ways but that can be meditative and when you hit a good vibe on a sound/lead/bass you can hear a potentially sick tune in there – that’s exciting. Trying to get that while also arranging is making life harder for yourself from my experience, so try and get out of that mindset if you are in it and see how you do!
What are your top pieces of equipment or software these days? (synths but also other plugins etc)?
Omnisphere, Diva, all the Slate vsts, Ozone, Fab and recently I’ve been enjoying using Ana2 Synth recently (also by the geniuses at Slate!).
In terms of tutorials, your last ones for us were awesome, fresh takes on some classic approaches! In the last couple of years what would you say you have been working on the most or most excited to be sharing with the gang?
It’s still early days for the Flexout project but once I’ve got the tunes to a certain point that I’m happy with, it would be really cool to show some of my creative ideas and how I developed them further into complete works, especially as the label is slightly outside my existing sound palette and comfort zone. I have unheard remixes that I can talk about, and I’d also love the challenge of just creating something from the ground up from samples/synths and vibing with them. A fair few students have asked to see this from me during our lessons so it could be really fun to do for SG!
As an artist yourself , what do you look for personally when working with a great sample of any kind, and can you give the guys a heads up as to what your new pack for us is going to sound like?
I love deep atmospheres and textures, there are plenty of those in the pack. When sampling I tend to look for interesting harmonics and emotional chords and extract those as best I can. Then I try and make hooks out of them and formulate strong calls and responses. That’s a basis for almost everything I’ve written. I’ve been doing extreme stretching and warping samples a lot recently too so you will hear that come across in the pack for sure.
As a DJ what advice would you give to people starting out in club mixing and also starting to play out with their own music?
DJ’ing is the perfect time to hone your tunes, hearing them on the system will tell you whether they are mono-capable, and if they deliver sonically. Try not to feel intimidated by others tunes when you line them up next to each other, there’s always a bigger fish. Let them inspire you to aim high instead, but don’t dwell on ‘not being good enough’. It’s something many producers tell me is an issue for them when they start to play out. Try and learn from the best tune what the differences really are in terms of mixdowns, are your tunes too bright? Too squashed/in need of some dynamics etc. See how the crowd reacts to your tunes, one day you will make a WIP that stands on its own and creates a big impact on the scene, and you will see that when things click, learn what you did right to achieve that. As a DJ, learn to use the Camelot wheel; let a mix become a journey, not just a double drop fest… and have fun!.
So you heard it first!
The new season of Sample Genie begins on 1.7.21. More announcements coming soon!
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