Q&A with Phonique, Spinning at the Electric Pickle on Friday Night
With roots in the '90s Berlin underground, Phonique a.k.a. Michael Vater, has gained steady international recognition throughout the 2000's as a DJ/producer with impressive output on top labels like Global Underground, Pokerflat and Dessous. 2008 saw him voted Best Deep House DJ by both the Beatport and Ibiza DJ awards, and he shows no sign of slowing down. Phonique will be making his first-ever Miami appearance at the Electric Pickle (north of downtown Miami) on May 22, for an exclusive DJ set that should serve us an exemplary taste of what's going on in European house music.
We had a chance to catch up with the man on the cusp of his Miami debut and ask him what he's all about.
New Times: You first moved to Berlin and got involved in the EDM scene there in the mid-'90's. How was the scene then, and how has it evolved over the years?
Phonique: The scene in Berlin has been great since East and West Germany came back together. The former East Berlin had so much interesting space available that a lot of bars and clubs popped up there. Also, alot of artists moved here because you didn't have to pay much rent here. Of course the rent slowly went up over the years, but artists are still moving here and the scene seemed to grow since the mid-'90s. Berlin's trademark is that it's always changing and new clubs and bars are evolving. Music-wise it was always more techno, house or jazzy, than hip-hop, drum 'n' bass or electro clash.
When you first started DJing you were known for your "freestyle" open format of genres as diverse as hip-hop and drum 'n' bass. Tell us how you first got into playing music and how you transitioned from what you were playing then to your current deep house style.
Actually, I was into house music from the beginning in 1988. I bought those more common vinyls back in those days (Inner City, etc.) and I started to bedroom DJ around 1992. When I started to DJ at my own parties in Berlin around 1996-1997, I only played the first 2 hours as a warm up DJ as I felt people needed a warm and slower welcome at the parties than it used to be. I always wanted to get people slowly into the mood to dance and party. They should arrive, have a drink and slowly feel the rising energy. The hip-hop, freestyle, and break beats were just there because I really liked to have some nights, every now and then, where it's more about the groove and the feeling, than to just play pure house or techno. Also, I started to play frequently at Berlin's famous Tresor club from 1999 on. The music I played there has always been a more technoish minimal approach to house music. In the end it means I play house music since I started and house music has always been my love. Sometimes I add some other styles to my set, sometimes my house is more minimal, sometimes more disco, but in the end it's all house!
In addition to your accolades as a DJ, you are a prolific producer. What are your influences and inspirations? What is your process in the studio?
Deep house is back, especially in Germany where the scene is normally associated with dark minimal techno. What do you think brought on this new wave of soulfulness in EDM?
What does the future have in store for Phonique?