For the third instalment of Sound Gallery – where we interview a DJ/producer and request that they curate a mix exhibiting their skill, talent and influences – we spoke to “Energetic Galactic Shiny Electro Pop” artist Phosphene (Adrian Martens) from Pretoria. Lots was covered in the discussion including his influences, the Get Back Home EP, his relationship with Richard Brokensha of ISO and even how many gigs of music he has. Listen to his mix here or click play at the bottom of the page.
The Fuss – According to our ‘academic’ source, Wikipedia, phosphene is “a phenomenon characterized by the experience of seeing light without light actually entering the eye”. Why did you choose to name your solo project after this phenomenon?
Phosphene – It was just one of those buzzwords floating around Tumblr that caught my attention. I like the idea of a concept that people can see but not fully understand. The project I was in before now had the word “phosphene” in it, but once that came to an end I used the moniker for my solo work.
The Fuss – Can you recall the first piece of music that got you really interested in music as a listener?
Phosphene – I would have to say DJ Shadow’s album, “Endtroducing…” got me into electronic music. After listening to it I started identifying the myriad of textures and timbres that can only be achieved through high-caliber production.
The Fuss – Was it the first time you spent money on a piece of music, or a song you can recall a friend of family friend playing for you?
Phosphene – That definitely wasn’t the first time. My mother bought me Antonín Dvořák’s “New World Symphony” when I was about seven years old. I was obsessed with it.
The Fuss – At some stage you went from listening to music to creating music. Is PHOSPHENE your first attempt at creating music or were there any other projects before it?
Phosphene – I had a couple of other projects before this one for sure. When I was fifteen I played bass in a rock band for about a year. After that I had two other collaborative projects, which involved me singing or playing guitar. After all these projects came to an end I decided to start releasing my own music.
The Fuss – What was the initial push that got you interested in making the transformation from a listener to a creator? Was it a specific song or an older brother who showed you fruity loops?
Phosphene – I got a laptop in 2010 equipped with Garageband, it was essentially the only thing I used my computer for back then. About two years later I made the switch to Ableton and it’s the perfect workstation for me.
The Fuss – You have been releasing music sporadically over the past year, and that eventually culminated in the release of the Get Back Home EP. Tell us a bit about the concept, themes and style of the EP.
Phosphene – The entire EP basically serves as a catharsis of the adversities and epiphanies I’ve experienced in this past year. Each song portrays a different emotion I felt at the time that I was writing them. I decided to finally establish it as an EP to establish how I’ve progressed since the embryonic stages of this project.
The Fuss – Richard Brokensha of ISO is featured on Polaris, the third track on your EP. There is an uncanny similarity in the way you two deliver your vocals. What is the relationship between you and him?
Phosphene – I got in touch with Richard a few years ago after an ISO show. He told me he was coaching vocal training so I took him up on the offer. After a lot of practice I was ready to sing over my own music. I asked him if he would feature on my first track and I guess he liked it enough to say yes, great working with him.
The Fuss – Are there any other artists, both internationally and locally, whom you’d like to collaborate with?
Phosphene – At the moment I’m working on another track with Strike in Berlin who I absolutely love collaborating with. Otherwise I’m pretty much open to collaborate with anyone offering sincere and admirable music.
The Fuss – The influence of The Postal Service on your music is quite apparent. What is your favourite record of theirs?
Phosphene – It definitely is. I’d have to say “Give Up” is my favourite album; it captures a unique poignancy and sincerity omitted from most music today.
The Fuss – Going from parallels to opposites – Are there any genres or artists who your listeners would be surprised to hear that you enjoy listening to? Any Scandinavian Metal or Korean Pop on your playlists?
Phosphene – Well I think most people would be surprised to find out I listen to both Deafheaven and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Death metal and J-Pop go hand in hand you know?
The Fuss – Technological advancements have seen a huge increase in the amount of producers on a global scale – Tell us a bit about your production software, hardware and methods?
Phosphene – All of my production is done on my laptop using Ableton Live Suite, a Midi controller, a keyboard, monitors, and a few other bits and bobs. I’ll usually sit down for ten minutes trying to establish a motif, and the next thing I know I’ll be working on a song for hours on end.
The Fuss – How is your production set-up and methods different from your live performances?
Phosphene – When I perform I usually have less gear than when I produce. All I need is my controller, my laptop, my guitar and some excited people.
The Fuss –You have been fortunate to perform both in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Did you notice any differences between the Johannesburg (including Pretoria) and Cape Town audiences and which of the two hold that soft spot in your heart?
Phosphene – I think both places are excellent spots to be for a live performer. I’d have to say Gauteng is my favourite spot. I think Joburg kids like dancing like mad for no apparent reason. It’s fantastic.
The Fuss – What was the first gig you ever played?
Phosphene – The first gig I ever played was at the old Cool Runnings in Fourways in about 2010. I played as PHOSPHENE for the first time last year at Kitcheners.
The Fuss – What is the funniest or not so funny moment you’ve experienced during one of your performance?
Phosphene – Strike in Berlin joined me on stage for my Park Acoustics show for a song, and none of the other microphones were on initially. So we pretty much just awkwardly danced on stage and shared microphones like a hackneyed Pop-Rock group.
The Fuss – Who is throwing the best parties in Gauteng at the moment?
Phosphene – Definitely everything organized by Below the Bassline.
The Fuss – What are some of your favourite (single/album) releases of 2014?
Phosphene – In no particular order; Hyperdub’s 10.1 Compilation LP, Concrete Misery by Sevendeaths, Attachment by Hannah Diamond, The Moon Rang Like A Bell by Hundred Waters, It’s Album Time by Todd Terje, and a lot more. I could go on for ages.
The Fuss – How many gigs of music do you have?
Phosphene – Roughly 20GB.
The Fuss – What is your most played track on your iTunes?
Phosphene – Getting There (feat. Niki Randa) by Flying Lotus.
The Fuss – Will you ever perform at a wedding?
Phosphene – I’m really not sure; I suppose if they would want me to play I’d probably take it!
The Fuss – Tell us a bit about the Sound Gallery mix you have curated for us.
Phosphene – This mix is basically an amalgamation of my original music, songs I like and unreleased tracks. I guess it would be the best example of music if someone were to ask me what PHOSPHENE’s all about. I hope you enjoy it!
The Fuss – What can we expect in the latter half of 2014 from PHOSPHENE?
Phosphene – Probably a hiatus to be honest, I’m working on some rather different music at the moment and I’d just like to see where that takes me.