Phaction Joins the Team!
:: Announcement 6/6: For our sixth and final reveal of the forthcoming season, we bring to you the fantastic news that Alexandre Pavlou aka Phaction will be the final piece in our puzzle…
This is an extra special addition for us, being that Phaction is from our home town of Bristol, working from his studio just a few miles from our HQ. As an active and highly regarded member of the local club scene, the Bristol vibe is undoubtedly infused into his thinking – both in his production and DJ sets.
His rise to notoriety within D&B has been both exciting and fascinating to watch. 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 has led on to his own solo EP on Headz already released earlier in the year, plus another wrapped and forthcoming; and also stirrings of an even bigger project with them on the cards…
Alex’s sound has evolved and progressed over the last few years and it’s now starting to show signs of being 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 labelling, but we can say it’s diverse, it’s soaked in soul and it’s incredibly satisfying: it’s Phaction…
Needless to say it’s going to be a very interesting and very inspiring year ahead!
We got the lowdown from Alex in some pre-season questions…
Firstly…welcome to the team! It’s been amazing to watch your continued success and progression over the last few years: ‘Strength to Strength’ is absolutely the right phrase! How has the journey so far been for you? Did you ever feel like from the early days that you were headed in this direction?
Thank you! It’s really a pleasure to be part of this coming season, considering the support and guidance Digital Labz and SG have provided me with over the years – I honestly can say they’ve been the most useful resources in my development – I’ve been utilising your tutorials and samples since pretty much day one of my production journey – so to be able to contribute back into the circle feels serendipitous!
Honestly, its impossible to look back and think that I knew exactly where I was heading from the outset, things have happened quite organically over the years in terms of finding a home for my music. I love the journey production is taking me on… In the first couple years since 2013 I remember coming home from a mentally taxing 9-5, still feeling invigorated to get on the tunes, seeing what new thing could be created that evening/weekend & just knowing deep down that this was a passion that was worth nurturing. Music has always been a big part of my life since age 8, when I learnt the Drums, moving to Bristol for uni and getting into nights/raves and production ignited a new flame and a new avenue to feel and express rhythm & music.
I remember being particularly inspired by a special mix by Total Science (Bukem In Session 2014) – thoroughly recommended – by then I had discovered a musical direction that fitted with where I was mentally and spiritually – signing music to Fokuz & CIA felt just right, and getting to know Smithy opened doors in so many ways. I realised this could be a career path as well as a creative outlet. Signing music to Headz has been a dream come true in many ways, as it’s a wonderfully open minded label creatively, and I’ve been able to go much heavier and darker with my tunes recently (which harks back to my teenage head banging metal phase!)
Looking to the future, my dream is to become a consistent producer in a wide range of sounds like producers such as Perez & Break have achieved, those guys can make almost anything genre wise and still be recognised for their signature whilst tearing the club a new one or bringing hushed silence with their authenticity and execution. Mad respect to individuals like them for showing us what is possible and keeping the bar high!
How long have you been writing Drum & Bass for, and what got you into production in the first place?
I guess I gave some of that away above, but it was in 2013 when I made my first tune properly (it was Dnb from day one) and so its been 6 years now! I started like so many with mixing, playing out, then getting that thirst for making my own material out of hunger for doing things my way, haha! I think when you learn to mix you learn to appreciate tunes intimately, which leads to that curiosity of how they’re made, then you start to peel back the curtain and the new journey begins. You have to be hungry & patient to stick out production though, as I’m sure many would agree with, it’s really not about those instant grats you get with mixing; but very rewarding in the long run.
What’s it like for you to have Goldie as a fan of your music, and also what’s it like to have him mentor you through your EP projects on Metalheadz? Undoubtedly inspiring and surreal!?
Yeah, it is surreal, he’s a nutter in the best possible way, a genius even. So much passion and enthusiasm, brimming with ideas, constantly busy – its the way he’s wired. I always feel energised when we catch up and getting his insight on the new batch of tunes has been very helpful, though I still feel like I have freedom to do what I like creatively. Its a good relationship. Plus our musical tastes outside of dnb overlap a fair bit, for instance I was checking out his classical show on Scala recently and heard him play some Thomas Newman (Film-score composer), I messaged him about it as he’s one of my favourite composers and G rang me shortly after just to chat about it. Its great to have that connection with someone, regardless of who they are. With G though I have special respect, for the journey he’s been on for all these years, his influence in the scene, the wisdom he has to offer to the new generation of artists and his willingness to do so.
What was you first club D&B experience like? Who did you go to see?
It was the likes of Andy C, Sub Focus, Dirtyphonics, Loadstar etc at Motion. Those were mind blowing experiences at the time tbh. In my formative years, long before production days I was really into the main stream high energy dnb – I still am to some extent and that influence still rubs off on my approach in the studio today. My uni mates and I would agree, you never forget your first raves. I went to some mad Dubstep nights too back in that crossover between underground and mainstream explosion (label nights like Hench & Dub Police for instance). Since that time my tastes have matured and I’ve become more grounded in the deeper soulful end of the scene…that said I’m keen to stay open to new musical experiences…I think that’s important. I semi-regularly hit jazz nights around Bristol which are flourishing atm and I like to hang with people who like plenty of music outside of dnb, it can be really healthy for creativity!
What’s your current studio set-up and how has that changed over the years?
So, the setup has changed slightly over the years, but on the whole I am fully happy with my current kit. I’m running 2 systems, a windows desktop and MacBook Pro, both on Ableton. My room is generously treated with custom rockwool panels – those made a massive improvement – that deadened sound you get in the room is quite satisfying! Monitor wise, about 3 years back I invested in a pair of Focal CMS65s, which I think are some of the best monitors that can be had about for a grand, moving from HS-50s and a Sub to those helped massively with mix downs. I run Beyer 990s for open back phones, they are superb, oh and a pair of HD25s which are good for hearing harsh frequencies, sometimes the 990s are a little soft so its good to have them as a 2nd reference. For a time I actually had 2 UAD PCI-E cards in the desktop and spent about 2k on their plugs, but I found myself using the laptop a lot with Fab Filter, Izotope, Plugin Alliance, and various other lesser known plugs that did the job so well, I ended up selling the UAD cards. They are super nice to have, but not essential. I keep my plugs to a minimum now, I once heard Lenzman talk about keeping your options to a minimum in production, it resonated with me and so I simplified my choices and learnt a certain batch of plugs closely. I think that can really help you carve out a sound too, if you’re consistent with a limited number of ‘choices’.
Your music has constantly been evolving over the years, and lately you have taken on a tougher, darker tone in your tunes too. What sparked this new direction, and which tunes really caught your attention to draw you into that sound?
I think I’ve always been burning to make some heavier, darker tunes – I guess once I became confident to do them justice I started going in that direction. One thing I will always aim to maintain is a soulful vibe, even in the darkest tracks! I think its a moods thing too, once I’ve rinsed out some heavy tracks I’ll be in that mood to produce some, the same goes with listening to liquid, cracking on that Enso Tape [Lenzman] made my want to do some smooth soul again more like the CIA EP. That’s why I love this music, there are so many shades and emotions, contrasts and colours, vibes and moods to explore.
Which five tracks by other producer’s really amaze you?
Really tough to list only 5 – there are probably a good 30+ that come to mind that could sit with them. These 5 are tracks off the top of my head I either love to play out or have taught/inspired me in some way.
Break – Hope (ft. Celestine) – This one lifts your spirits like nothing else and is among the greatest break tracks IMO, incredible energy and emotion, an amazingly soulful vocal (from the relatively elusive Celestine) and delicate yet weighty percussion & details in the fills and tops. Stunning, one of my favourites to play out.
Noisia & Upbeats – Shibuya Pet Store – My friend intro’d me to this one recently, damn it is menacing. Production value is ridiculous – I love a good thick saw-wave bass.
Lenzman – Ice Cold Soul (VIP) – This track taught me something back in the day, it made me realise you can create an immense vibe in a track with just a few simple, well chosen & thought out elements. Still on rotation this one.
Culture Shock – Ohrwurm – This guy is one of the most innovate in the scene really, I love the musicality in this track in particular, the richness of the chords, the swung percussion and the organic nature of the bass. Incredible. I can’t help but be inspired by Culture Shock.
Random Movement – Little Treasure – this one for me is a perfect blend of soul, infectious groove and a hint of gullyness low down. Really inspired me this one back in the day…
In terms of studio tutorials what do you think you can bring to the team on this season and what are you excited to help people with / teach them – where do you think your strengths are?
I believe my strengths lie in arrangements, creating a strong groove (using more than just drums), working with samples and finding a sense of cohesion between elements…
lastly, what can our members look forward to in terms of your sample pack? What areas do you feel you can really bring your flavour to?
Push comes to shove my pad game is my forte, haha! Really happy with everyone of these sounds: there are some nice piano licks and jazzy vibes, but also some real darkness too. I think setting a scene and an atmosphere is something I’ve always enjoyed doing – there will be a smorgasbord of flavours in the pack. I’m very happy with the bass I’ve created too (Reeses and 808s), the drum breaks too are sounding tight and diverse, I’ve not held back, inside will be some of my best sounds if I’m honest. Overall I think there will be the tools in here for a producer to create tunes over a very wide spectrum.
SO YOU HEARD IT FIRST! SAMPLE GENIE SEASON No.6 KICKS OF FROM 2 -7-19
Full team: Buunshin / Insideinfo / NickBee / Phaction / Satl / Signal & Abis